Forest-dependent communities have always recognized the importance of NWFPs in their everyday lives – whether as food, shelter or medicine. Over time, recognition of the importance of NWFPs in poverty alleviation and knowledge of the multiplicity of uses and benefits deriving from NWFPs have grown steadily and many NWFPs are now traded at all levels: locally, regionally, nationally and globally (although figures on this trade are often unorganized, missing or incomplete, e.g. on bushmeat).
The Special Features section in this issue of Non-Wood News emphasizes the economic importance of NWFPs and provides information on economic benefits at the local level (see the Siberian Pine Syrup Project pp. 5–6) through to the global level (see trade figures on pp. 8–9).
Traditional knowledge is a significant aspect of NWFPs, touching as it does on issues of benefit-sharing, bioprospecting and biopiracy, all of which have been covered extensively in this issue (see p. 15). Information on NGOs working with NWFPs has also been included, but we would like to hear more about NGO activity at both the grassroots and international level so please continue to send us your contributions.
Coverage of products in this issue ranges from the versatility of bamboo (used equally successfully to build houses or produce T-shirts) to the extensive use of medicinal plants worldwide. There is information on products from both tropical and temperate forests, as well as from the vast boreal areas. NWFPs exist in all regions of the world and consequently the Country Compass section is particularly rich, with information from 34 countries.
Information dissemination and networking are key aspects of today’s knowledge society – both of which have always been important aims of Non-Wood News. In 2005 we carried out an auto-evaluation exercise in order to improve our service and to give you an opportunity to make suggestions and comments. Over 600 readers completed our questionnaire (see pp. 69–70 for full results) and we were delighted that so many of you took the time to share your ideas. Thank you for such an excellent response.
This issue has started to reflect some of your suggestions and to address your comments – the most important of which regarded frequency: a vast majority wanted Non-Wood News to be issued at least twice a year (with many keen to see it as a quarterly newsletter). Accordingly, we will now be bringing you two issues yearly, which we ultimately hope will lead to a shorter and more streamlined product.
In conclusion, while many of us are not part of forest-dependent communities, we are definitely part of a wider global NWFP community. Our aim with Non-Wood News is to continue to disseminate knowledge on NWFP activities from all societal levels around the world in order to raise the profile of NWFPs and emphasize their importance – economically, ecologically and socially.
Non-wood forest products (NWFP) are goods of biological origin other than wood, derived from forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests. Non-timber forest products (NTFP), another term frequently used to cover this vast array of animal and plant products, also includes small wood and fuelwood. However, these two terms are used synonymously throughout this bulletin. Other terms, such as “minor”, “secondary” or “speciality” forest products, are sometimes used to keep original names and/or titles.