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9. NWFPs for poverty alleviation: research issues
P.P. Bhojvaid
[12]


ABSTRACT

For most of the world's rural households, NWFPs (non-wood forest products) provide essential food and nutrition, medicine, fodder, fuel, thatch and construction materials, mulch and non-farm income. These products are particularly important in relieving the 'hunger periods' in the agricultural cycle, and in smoothing out other seasonal fluctuations. Sustainable management of NWFPs, therefore, can provide employment during slack periods of the agricultural cycle, and provide a buffer against risk and household emergencies. Poor households in forest fringes in particular, depend on these products for their livelihood because they usually have more access to the forest than to other resources. Furthermore, for the same reason - greater dependence on open-access forests and, for lack of other options women usually rely more than men on NWFPs for household use and income. In many places, women are responsible for the household activities that involve forest-based foods and medicine, as well as fuelwood. In this respect NWFPs are particularly important to women, addressing their needs for food security and nutrition. Moreover, in local, national and international markets, forest foods and medicines contribute substantially to national economic growth. NWFPs are therefore important to three main groups; namely (a) rural populations (the largest group) who have traditionally used these items for livelihood social and cultural purposes; (b) urban consumers (a smaller group, but growing faster), who purchase these items; and (c) traders and product processors, whose numbers in the NWFP sector increase as urban markets for these products grow. However, not much attention has been paid to various research needs to examine the sustainable management of these products for rural development. The paper highlights these research needs, which are essential to achieve sustainable NWFP management leading to poverty alleviation of forest dwellers and also identifies the changing roles of research institutes, forest managers and training institutes in light of these research needs.

INTRODUCTION

At the national level, India produces more than enough food to feed its people, but regional disparities leave a significant segment of the population without access to adequate nutrition and basic services. Official data show a reduction in the number of rural people living below the poverty line, however there are pockets where poverty is concentrated, particularly in remote rural areas where the level of development is low. Labour migration from these pockets to economically productive areas is an increasing phenomenon. Populations living close to fringes of forests - the ecosystem people are one such category of masses, which have been reported to be poor. Furthermore, a number of tribal communities, in different forests of India have a long tradition of growing and using NWFP plants. However it is also true that these species do not result in adequate remuneration to these communities, which is not commensurate to their sale price in national and international markets.

Non-wood forest products have attracted considerable global interest in recent years due to increasing recognition of their contribution to household economies and food security, to some national economies, and to environmental objectives such as the conservation of biological diversity. Some 80 percent of the population of the developing world uses NWFP for health and nutritional needs. Several million households world-wide depend heavily on these products for subsistence consumption and/or income. At a local level, NWFPs also provide raw materials for large scale industrial processing, including for internationally traded commodities such as foods and beverages, confectionery, flavours, perfumes, medicines, paints or polishes. Presently, at least 150 NWFPs are significant in terms of international trade, including honey, gum arabic, rattan and bamboo shoots, cork, forest nuts and mushrooms, essential oils, and plant or animal parts for pharmaceutical products. However, all over world these commodities are characterized by inequitable distribution of usufruct, which is biased towards national and international traders.

It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that in spite of all the current analysis, discussion, and debate, several basic questions related to the ecological, socio-economic and technical aspects of non-timber forest products sustainable management have yet to be addressed. For example,

The discussion in the previous section clearly indicates that NWFP management and trade are regulated by forces such as market, industrial demand, tribal needs, international pressures, forest management and government policies. Therefore, a successful management strategy for NWFP species should involve these economic, ecological, social and environmental inputs. An effort based only on ecological considerations such as creation of ex situ and in situ conservation areas or reserves without addressing the socio-economic, and technical issues is not a viable option. The present paper is intended to address the interaction of such factors and provides suggestions for the sustainable management and conservation of NWFP species.

RESEARCH ISSUES

The sustainable management of NWFP resource essentially must take into account the ecological, economic and socio-cultural sustainability aspects.

Ecological Sustainability

Inventory

Resource inventory and assessment of NWFPs is a problematic area. Inventory has often been restrictively understood as a listing of species (both of economic and environmental values or importance). In fact, the inventory besides listing of species must always consist of the actual state of occurrence, density and potentially harvestable quantities per unit area with reference to a specific management unit of a forest. The inventory must also prescribe the safe harvesting limit of each species that is being extracted or is likely to be harvested.

Given the current status of scientific knowledge, reliable information is not available on the total resource availability of any of the NWFP species, not even of such species that are being extracted on commercial scale. In the absence of any such information/data, therefore, it is not possible to achieve sustainable management and monitoring for the development of the NWFP resources for subsistence use and trade leading to poverty alleviation of forest dwellers. Therefore, a greater emphasis has to be given to address these issues, before NWFP based forest management can be realized successfully.

Table 1. Production of non-wood forest products during 1987–2000

Products
('000 tonnes)

Year

1987-88

1988-89

1989-90

1990-91

1991-92

1992-93

1993-94

1994-95

1995-96

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

1999-2000

Sal seed

21.29

23.81

54.58

0

0

0

0

18.53

27.62

87.51

12.58

57.78

78.74

Bidi leaves

505.53

531.5

556.04

0

0

0

0

542.76

322.16

112.25

744.35

384.94

400.81

Canes

1.61

6.26

42.6

0

0

0

0

65.14

345..38

5.02

2.1

18.69

2.02

Resin

98.32

105.59

117.59

0

0

0

0

88.23

169.24

26.02

18.34

14.35

0.96

Gums

13.82

4.09

1.39

0

0

0

0

21.1

3.04

3.56

1

2.14

2.42

Lac

9.11

68.97

1.06

5.77

6.01

8.28

7.28

9.07

0.1

0.08

0.75

0.02

0.31

Drug and spices

12.05

11.49

18.66

26.53

62.81

23.33

18.16

21.57

59.78

41.21

62.7

0

0

Grass and fodder

304.49

332.47

119.98

1021.95

161.79

421.62

113.34

74.91

64.06

62.98

418.53

213.85

45.78

Tanning material

20.22

23.4

22.4

20.27

20.42

8.39

11.52

10.46

8.35

19.06

4.93

0

0

Others

318.44

229.7

68.58

0

0

0

0

10039.27

7782.12

111.91

197.94

69.94

165.95

Bamboo

642.38

829.76

1934.59

660.12

754.64

721.34

455.4

822.63

632.54

1186.05

3629.79

1119.67

1261.86

Total national production

1947.36

2337.64

2937.47

1734.64

1005.67

1182.96

605.7

1171.67

9069.01

1655.65

5093.01

1881.38

1958.51

Source: Data modified from Indian Forest Statistics Report (ICFRE), 1987, 1996, 2000 and 2001.

Conversion Table

Weight of standard bag of Bidi leaves: 40 kg

Canes: Kaps =

1 billet, 1 bundle = 50 billet

Resin: 1 blaze (Lip and Cup Method) = 1 kg, (Rill Method) = 3 kg


1 billet = 3.65 metre, 1 running metre = one-metre billet

Bamboo: 1 Notional tonne = 2400 running metre

Weight of one-metre piece = 0.5342 kg

Weight of 1000 clums of bamboo = 1 tonne

Grass and fodder: 1 bundle = 35 kg

At Forest Research Institute (ICFRE) Dehradun some studies have been conducted on the resource assessment of few NWFP species, especially the medicinal plants in Garhwal Himalaya as well as the Shivalik hills of Haryana in India. Forest Survey of India has also taken lead in resource quantification of NWFP resources in the country. In the absence of any standard methodology for assessing the resource quantitatively and also due to the fact that realization of such an inventory has to be updated time and again, this venture becomes not only time consuming but a very expensive proposition. It is, therefore, suggested that at the beginning of this process the field knowledge of the local communities may be utilized under JFM (Joint Forest Management) programmes for assessing the extent of resource, its abundance and density in the project areas and identifying such areas for potential extraction of the produce.

Auto-ecology and syn-ecology

Another aspect that requires consideration for sustainable management is the need for an integrated ecological approach to achieve sustainable management of the NWFP resource. It is well known that plant species in any given community coexist and interact in such a fashion that the resources of a microclimate are optimally utilized by all the components of the community. However, very limited information is available in the literature on these auto-ecological and syn-ecological interactions with regards to NWFP species. Therefore, it is possible that removal of one species may disturb the dynamics of the others and vice versa and subsequently may affect the existing community equilibrium. Greater scientific inputs are, therefore, desirable in this direction. The local communities, especially living in and around the forest areas, have adequate indigenous knowledge of maintaining the ecosystem on sustainable basis. This traditional knowledge treasure could be effectively made use of by the Forest Managers in developing site-specific programmes for assuring ecological sustainability of the ecosystem and planning wise use of the resources for the community interests and involvement in forest management simultaneously.

Production of NWFP

It is a well-accepted fact that 60 percent of the NWFP production in the country is traded as unrecorded removal. Further, the data on recorded and unrecorded removal or extraction of NWFP is neither systematic nor structured. However, in recent years, there has been proliferation of studies aimed at estimating their contribution to household income, consumption and employment generation potentials and opportunities. The production data for this paper has been essentially modified and adopted from Forest Statistics Report (ICFRE, 1987-2001) and pertains to only the recorded removal of NWFP from different state forests of India (Tables 1 and 2). It is clear from these tables that the increasing or decreasing trends of production reflected therein cannot be relied upon as indicators of sustainability of forest ecosystems or production. For example sudden increase in production of Sal seeds during the years 1997, 1999 and 2000 - could be due to exceptionally good seed years, which is characteristic to many tree species, while a lower resin production could be due to availability of imported resin, which is much cheaper than that extracted from national forests. In general, however, the trends for removal of medicinal plants show a continuous increase over the period under reporting (1987-2000), while there is a recorded decline of gums, resins, canes, lac and tanning material during the years. In order to solve this problem, it is suggested that for recording NWFP production from forests the active participation and help of local communities under the JFM programmes must be sought. The state forest departments may also take serious efforts in recording the production with the computerization of its establishment.

Sample plots

Since NWFP represent removal of specific plant parts to whole plant, different range of values will represent sustainable limits. The cyclic nature of flowering, fruiting, seed production and sporadic nature of distribution of species further complicate the issues of estimation of production potentials etc. Establishment of sample plots is required in various management units in different forest areas for determination of potential production of various NWFPs and for the estimation of sustainable harvest limits, which can be used without impairing the natural regeneration of the species. These plots may be monitored on long term basis with the active help and cooperation of the local communities and research institutions.

Table 2. Trends of export, import and demand of medicinal plants

Medicinal
plants
000' MT

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

1999-00

2001-02*

2004-05*

Export

32.88

37.23

37.98

36.62

NA

NA

Import

4.18

3.00

4.66

4.19

NA

NA

Demand

NA

97.79

106.45

120.82

160.54
GR** (15.1)

272.62
GR** (16.7)

Total

37.06

138.02

149.09

131.63

160.54

272.62

* Projected

** Growth rate

Source: Demand study for selected medicinal plants, Vol-1 (a), 2001-2002, Centre for Research Planning and Action, New Delhi

Sustainable harvesting limits

Majority of the NWFP species especially the shrubs and herbs are largely extracted by destructive harvesting. This aspect is very critical not only for the regeneration/sustainability of the resource in the long run but also for ecological stability and sustainability of the ecosystem. Collectors of NWFPs are usually illiterate and are not conversant with the scientific methods of harvesting. Research institutions can play a key role in creating the awareness by the respective states amongst the collectors as well as the forest staff by supplying the scientific information on how to harvest different species on non-destructive basis. More often the local people are far more conversant with the identification of various NWFPs especially the medicinal plants existing in the area than the foresters. This knowledge of the local communities can be used in training the forest staff to effectively manage and prevent the pilferage of these vital resources from the project areas by unauthorized agencies and individuals. These efforts will also bring in the mutual understanding between the local communities and the forest staff, which in fact is a key issue in assuring the success of JFM activities. Research institutes can help the state departments to further train the forest staff in identification of various NWFP species by organizing a need based training courses.

Resource augmentation

Another important aspect of ecological sustainability is augmentation of the existing resource. Various research and development institutions have recently developed the techniques for mass multiplication of a number of NWFP species especially the medicinal plants. These technologies can be effectively utilized by states to undertake restorative and enrichment planting of the degraded forest areas for augmenting their existing resources.

Economic Sustainability

It is a fact that the success of any NWFP management is predominantly dependent on the economic returns to the stakeholders (local communities). The programmes must ensure equitable distribution of economic proceeds from various NWFP items to all members of the forest community. In order to make the programme more successful and economically vibrant, technical inputs like grading, preliminary processing and value addition of the produce using local or simple energy efficient technologies are required. Many research and development institutes have developed simple and effective techniques and tools to this effect. For example, solar or drum dryer techniques of drying the NWFPs, extraction of dyes from forest biomass waste and bio-fertilizers has been developed recently by various institutes. Research organizations thus can play a significant role in value addition of the NWFPs to ensure better economic returns to the stakeholders. Moreover, such institutions can help the states to develop technologies to suit their local or regional needs. Further, these institutions can also help in developing product development and quality control mechanisms to ensure competitive marketing of the produce. These initiatives would bring in stability in the current uncertainties of marketing the produce and facilitate conversion of the sporadic income through NWFP into a regular sustained income generating activity and thereby assuring better community involvement in the management programmes as well as enhanced economic returns and development of the stakeholders.

Socio-cultural Sustainability

In order to build a strong and sustainable partnership forest management must take into account the issues of human sensitivity in terms of local needs of the people, their specific cultural and traditional norms, rituals and beliefs. It must be borne in mind that ecological and environmental issues are although of prime importance for the resource managers, it is the economics that is more important to the community participants. Therefore, it is also important to use the wisdom and knowledge of the local communities with respect to specific species that would give more efficient methods in terms of sustainability of the resources and ensuring greater community participation. This wisdom, however, must be amalgamated with the scientific inputs to achieve the desired results. Local communities can be trained and actively involved in the collection of seeds and other planting materials, nursery development and production of planting stocks etc. As such due emphasis must be placed on capacity building of people at all levels. In this context, the scientific knowledge gained by research institutes can be effectively used to train the local communities in various aspects of cultivation, nursery establishment and production of planting stock, non-destructive harvesting and collection, processing and value-addition of NWFPs.

APPROACH

The studies on the aspects explained in preceding section should aim to assess the current status of database, resource inventory, harvest and management systems, marketing aspects, interest and perception of various stakeholders, utilzation and processing, and finally national and international trade and policy issues of these species. The SWOT should succeed this, ETOP analysis of these various aspects involved in the sustainable management of NWFPs. The main aim of the study should be to suggest modifications and improvements in the above mentioned socio-economic, ecological and technical aspects of NWFP management.

DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVE

The long-term development objective of the studies should be: "to contribute to the conservation of national forests and enhance the well-being of local communities and people in India through the sustainable management, use and development of non-wood forest resources by local people".

TARGET GROUPS

The research should address the (potential) needs and concerns of institutions and people whose policies, programmes and actions are affecting the management, use and development of Non-Wood Forest Resources. They can be grouped in four:

IMMEDIATE OBJECTIVES, OUTPUTS AND ACTIVITIES

The immediate objectives of the research projects should be:

CONCLUSION

Discussion in the previous sections has identified various ecological, environmental, technical and socio-economical aspects, which need to be addressed comprehensively by developing organizations and research and training institutes. Moreover, there must be a clear-cut delineation of the duties and responsibilities of all the stakeholders to ensure an effective implementation of the NWFP management. Role definition is thus very important and must be addressed seriously. Further, collaboration may be required in different stakeholders due to overlapping nature of NWFP management, harvesting, value addition and marketing aspects (Table 3).

Figure 1. Components of sustainability of NWFP for poverty alleviation.

Table 3. Role identification of the Forest departments, local communities and research and development organizations leading to NWFP sustainable management and poverty alleviation

Stakeholders activity

Forest departments

Local communities

R & D institutes

Protection and augmentation of resource

-

-

-

Resource quantification

-

-

-

Determination of harvest limits

-

-

-

Harvesting of resource

-

-


Grading and processing


-

-

Product development


-

-

Marketing

-

-

-

Capacity building

-

-

-

Legal issues

-


-

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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[12] NWFP Division, Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, India; E-mail: padam@icfre.org

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