Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) have always played a central role as a source of income generation in community forestry throughout the world. Between 1996 and 1998, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) commissioned the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study (APFSOS) which resulted in a comprehensive examination of forestry development issues and perspectives in the region. A key topic investigated during the APFSOS was the future prospects for developing NTFPs in the region. The study concluded that increasing commercialization of some NTFPs will result in larger-scale exploitation and cause considerable depletion of the resources. Domestication and cultivation of these NTFPs on a commercial scale are unlikely to succeed as few have proven to be economically feasible. The study further pointed out that policy-makers have failed to identify and focus on the few NTFPs that have the greatest importance now or that demonstrate considerable promise for the future. This paper examines the issues faced by decision-makers in the development of NTFPs in a holistic manner and stresses the need for a comprehensive policy on NTFP development.
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) have always played a central role as a source of income generation in community forestry projects throughout the world. In recognition of this, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently commissioned the Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study (APFSOS). The APFSOS involved a comprehensive examination of forestry development issues and perspectives in the Asia-Pacific region. One of the key topics investigated during the APFSOS was the future prospects for developing non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in the region (Mittelman et al. 1997).
Several significant conclusions emerged from the APFSOS:
There will likely be increasing commercialization of some NTFPs, resulting in larger-scale exploitation.
Current trends indicate that the natural stocks of some commercially important NTFPs may be considerably depleted in the near future due to inadequately regulated harvesting and increasing market demand for popular species.
Domestication and cultivation on a commercial scale are unlikely for most NTFPs; only a few have proven economically dynamic, with a number of problems arising from the small-scale nature of their production, processing and marketing.
The importance of subsistence use of some NTFPs will likely decline as alternative products and alternative sources of income emerge; increasing prosperity may reduce the number of people whose livelihoods depend on NTFPs.
A variety of factors may cause the disintegration of traditional systems for managing and using NTFPs.
Commercialization of NTFPs with high potential for economic exploitation will increasingly be controlled by powerful interests, often at the expense of forest-dwelling people unless specific policy measures are taken to favour local people.
A major constraint to date may well have been a failure to identify and focus on the few NTFPs that have the greatest importance now or that demonstrate considerable promise for the future.
This paper examines the issues faced by decision-makers in the development of NTFPs in a holistic manner and stresses the need for a comprehensive policy on NTFP development.
THE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM
Wollenberg (1998) provided a framework based on the enterprise system (Figure 1) to show how key relationships are affecting an enterprise and the information flows required for adaptive decision-making. Her model includes a number of refinements to those proposed by Lecup et al. (1998) and de Jong and Utama (1988).
Figure 1. Forest product enterprise development and information flows
The first addition assumes that the enterprise is situated within the household economy (or a set of household economies) and that it can coexist with other enterprises and economic activities that are pursued by members of the household. Secondly, the household economy and enterprise activities are influenced by other stakeholders. These stakeholders may include other forest users, governmental agencies involved in other developmental projects, and groups that have a stake in forest resources. The forming of alliances with these stakeholders can lead to reduced competition for forest resources and also the transfer of knowledge and technology. Thirdly, it incorporates an adaptive decision-making loop to the enterprise system. The process is based on information drawn from feasibility assessment and monitoring and evaluation activities. The final addition involves the assignment of priority areas for the collection of information especially those pertaining to social, forest and market conditions.
Wollenberg (1998) further identified three major areas that need improvement:
methods that are better adapted to the complexity of forest enterprise systems;
methods for assessing the role of institutions in NTFP development; and
methods that more fully incorporate villagers perspective.
Indeed, there is very little information concerning the methods for assessing institutions and the strategies for establishing them. Because the enterprise system approach is focused at the enterprise level, it therefore does not provide the necessary means to address this issue. In fact, it assumes that the institutional establishment is already in place. There is a need to have a national policy on the development of NTFPs and this will provide the direction and guidelines with regard to the types of NTFP that should be given priority. Furthermore, the funding requirements and sources of funding available for NTFP development also need to be identified. The enterprise system is not able to deal with this issue adequately and certainly not at the macrolevel.
There is a need to address NTFP development in a holistic approach and the enterprise system is only a subset of the whole framework. This calls for the development of a blueprint and national action plan for potential NTFP development. The Malaysian-Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) Herbal Products Blueprint approach can be adapted and used to develop a national action plan which outlines the actions needed to be taken in the short, medium and long term. The overall outline is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Approach to the development of a national action plan for NTFPs
ESTABLISHMENT OF A NATIONAL NTFP DEVELOPMENT BODY
The presence of political will and government commitment are two major prerequisites for the successful implementation of any national project. The role of institutions and their establishment to assist the development of NTFP project is a major area as identified by Wollenberg (1998). The establishment of a national independent body to steer the development of NTFPs will provide the necessary focus to kick-start the process. Ideally, the body should be headed by a high-powered official drawn from the public sector (the Science Advisor to the Government or similar ranking person). Membership should be drawn from the public sector (relevant ministries involved in trade, resources, community development, science and technology, etc.), universities, research institutions, the private sector (businessmen engaged in NTFPs and related sector) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The national NTFP body will be guided by the Prospecting Committee which is set up to evaluate the developmental potential of NTFPs. The Prospecting Committee can draw on the expertise from the public sector, universities, research institutions, the private sector and the NGOs to carry out a preliminary assessment of potential NTFPs. At the preliminary assessment stage, the committee should concentrate at a broader level rather than on individual species of NTFPs. Assessment could be carried out based on the following NTFP category:
food and health food products
food flavouring and dyes
cosmetics and toiletries
The above is not a comprehensive list and may be expanded depending on the individual country. A major problem that is likely to be encountered at this stage is the lack of adequate data for a proper assessment to be made. de Jong and Utama (1998) pointed out that the evaluation process is an iterative process and information that is not available at the time of evaluation may be obtained at a subsequent date. As such, the preliminary assessment serves only as a guide to the selection of a sector/species of NTFPs and should be re-evaluated later when more information is available.
The preliminary assessment should cover global trends and future directions of demand for each particular product sector. The screening models shown in Figure 2 (a combination or all three) could be used. The screening models could be carried out with the assistance from the public sector, universities, research institutions and NGOs.
ESTABLISHMENT OF INTEREST GROUP
Once the preliminary assessment is completed, the Prospecting Committee will decide on the selection of the sector with the most potential for development. Having identified the sector, an Interest Group (IG) should be formed to carry out a more detailed evaluation of the sector. The IG members should be drawn from the public sector, universities, research institutions, NGOs, and some of those from the private sector, especially those who are involved in the relevant industries (e.g. those involved in the herbal industry who should be invited if the sector covers medicinal plants and health food products). A strategic analysis of the sector should be carried out and this may involve the following: core competencies analysis, SWOT analysis, Porters diamond analysis, AMANA product/market matrix and value chain analysis.
BLUEPRINT AND NTFP DEVELOPMENT ACTION PLAN
The Blueprint should be opened to the public for comments and suggestions before finalizing on the action plan. The action plan should consist of actions that need to be taken and the agencies or parties who should be responsible for executing it. Furthermore, the actions should be classified into short-, medium- and longterm basis.
The Blueprint and NAP should include the following:
organisation(s)/institution(s) that should be established;
how much funding is required and when;
where the potential sources of funding are coming from;
domestication of NTFPs through agroforestry project and contract farming;
processing technologies required and how they should be acquired;
identifying the processing, marketing and distribution chain;
identifying existing related business enterprises and their roles in developing the NTFPs;
defining policies and regulations that are required to ensure that NTFP development is sustainable;
financial incentives that should be provided;
identifying all existing government agencies that should be involved and their roles.
IMPLEMENTATION OF NTFP DEVELOPMENT
Once the NAP is in place and endorsed by the government, the implementation phase can commence. The optimum number of enterprises in each sector of the NTFP development project should be identified to ensure that there is no excessive competition within the sector. At this stage the modified enterprise system as proposed by Wollenberg (1988) can be used in the setting up of the enterprises identified.
REGULATIONS AND POLICIES RELATED TO NTFP EXTRACTION
While it is important that a NAP is in place for the development of NTFPs, it is also pertinent that appropriate policies and regulations related to NTFP extraction should also be in place. In Malaysia, the extraction of any forest produce from the permanent reserved forest (PRF) or state land is governed by the National Forestry Act (NFA) 1984. NTFP extraction is thus subjected to the rules stipulated in the NFA.
NATIONAL FORESTRY ACT (NFA)
The National Forestry Act (NFA) 1984, stipulates that all forest produce situate, lying, growing or having its origin within a permanent reserved forest or state land shall be the property of the state authority except where the rights of such forest produce have been specifically disposed of in accordance with the provisions of this Act or any other written law. Section 15 (1) of the Act further provided that no person shall take any forest produce from a permanent reserved forest or a state land except under the authority of a license, minor license or use permit; or in accordance with any other written law.
As such the use or extraction of NTFPs from the forests (from PRF or state land) can only be carried out under a minor license or use permit. Notwithstanding this, any member of an aboriginal community (as defined in the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954) may collect any NTFPs (exempt from requirement of a minor license or use permit) for the purpose of providing food for himself or his family. The Forestry Department has interpreted this Act liberally and has allowed the Orang Asli to collect rattan and other forest produce for sale.
SUSTAINABLE USE OF NTFP RESOURCES
In Malaysia, the strong government endorsement (political will) given to the medicinal plants industry is a major prerequisite to ensure the successful development of the project. However, currently the Forestry Department does not monitor the collection of medicinal plants from the forests. Although the NFA stipulates that all collection of forest produce must be regulated and that a minor license is required for such activity, the Forestry Department has not enforced it. The reason is that there are so many NTFPs that are collected from the forests and most of them are collected in such small quantities that it would be practically uneconomical for the Forest Department to monitor or regulate them.
However, in the case of tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia), which is traditionally collected for traditional medicinal purposes, its demand has sky-rocketed in the last few years due to new product development. Tongkat ali is now being used extensively for the production of tonic health drinks packaged in aluminum can in modern factories. This mass production approach leads to a high demand for tongkat ali. In the process of extraction the whole plant is uprooted and only the roots are used. This is a destructive process and given the high demand there is now a concern that tongkat ali may be overexploited and could eventually lead to its extinction. The Forestry Department has started to identify and protect areas in reserved forests where the plants are found in large quantity.
Because of the earlier lack of attention given to this species and for that matter to many other NTFPs, there is very little information regarding the amount of such resources and where such resources are located in the countrys forests. Although it makes economic sense not to overregulate especially when the demand is relatively small, the authority should be quick to regulate NTFPs when the demand increases dramatically. In this regards, there is a need to at least maintain a minimum amount of information on the more important NTFPs that are used by the local communities. This at least should include where these resources are usually collected.
FUNDING MECHANISM FOR NTFP RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
To ensure successful implementation of a programme there must be adequate financial resources allocated to it. In this respect, the Malaysian Government allocated a sum of RM1 billion to research and development (R&D) in the Seventh Malaysia Plan (1996-2000) and increased the allocation to RM1.6 billion in the Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001-2005). The R&D funds are distributed through the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas (IRPA) programme, the Industrial Research and Development Grant Scheme (IGS), Malaysian Research and Development Grant Scheme (MGS) and the Demonstrator Applications Grant Scheme (DAGS), all managed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE).
Although NTFP R&D is not specifically signalled out in the R&D programme, it nevertheless provides a source of funding to such researches. A special allocation of RM35 million was given to a partnership programme with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Programme (MMBPP) capitalized on the platform technologies available at MIT and Malaysian expertise in tropical agroforestry and plant biology to develop high value-added palm oil products and herbal-based natural products (EPU 2001). The research on tongkat ali between the FRIM and MIT is funded through the MMBPP and this includes human resource development.
The presence of a holistic and systematic approach to NTFP development is clearly lacking at this juncture. Current methodologies deal exclusively at the enterprise level and fail to address the macrolevel. The MIGHT approach can be used to develop a national action plan for NTFP development. A holistic approach can be achieved by integrating the MIGHT and enterprise system approaches. This approach clearly spells out the role of all the stakeholders (public and private sectors) over a specific time frame. Thus, the national action plan provides the institutional guidelines that could lead to the successful development of NTFPs in community forestry projects. This must also be supported by the allocation of adequate funding and appropriate policies regarding the development of NTFPs.
The author would like to thank the Asia Pacific Association of Forestry Research Institutions (APAFRI) for the financial support given to attend the Asia Pacific Regional Workshop on "Forests for Poverty Reduction: Can Community Forestry Make Money?" in Beijing, China.
de Jong, W.A. & Utama, R. 1998. Turning ideas into action: Planning for non-timber forest product development and conservation. In E. Wollenberg & A. Ingles, eds. Incomes from the forest - methods for the development and conservation of forest products for local communities, Chapter 3, pp. 43-56. Bogor, Indonesia, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
EPU. 2001. Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-2005. Economic Planning Unit, Prime Ministers Department, Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Lecup, I., Nicholson, K., Purwandono, H., & Karki, S. 1998. Methods for assessing the feasibility of sustainable non-timber forest product-based enterprises. In E. Wollenberg & A. Ingles, eds. Incomes from the forest - methods for the development and conservation of forest products for local communities, Chapter 5, pp. 85-106. Bogor, Indonesia, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
MIGHT. 2001. Malaysian herbal products blueprint. Draft report for the development of the herbal industry in Malaysia. Malaysian-Industry Government Group for High Technology.
Mittelman, A.J., Lai, C.K., Byron, N., Michon, G. & Katz, E. 1997. Non-wood forest products outlook study for Asia and the Pacific: towards 2010. Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. Working Paper No: APFSOS/WP/28. Bangkok, Thailand, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
NFA. 1984. National Forestry Act 1984 (Act 313). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, International Law Book Services.
Wollenberg, E. 1998. Methods for assessing the conservation and development of forest products. In E. Wollenberg & A. Ingles, eds. Incomes from the forest - methods for the development and conservation of forest products for local communities, Chapter 1, pp. 1-16. Bogor, Indonesia, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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