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South and east asian countries ntfp network (seann)



Global alliance

In the last issue I reported on the initiative to create an NWFP global alliance. Readers may be wondering if there has been any development since. The answer is unfortunately “nearly nothing”. At the International Conference on Non-Timber Forest Products in Victoria, British Columbia in August 2005, Jim Chamberlain and I introduced the concept in our respective presentations. I believe the idea was supported in general terms by the audience. It was discussed at the ensuing NTFP subgroup meeting of the North American Forestry Commission. Most people agreed that it would be a commendable initiative. For any alliance or partnership to be truly meaningful, I think concrete activities to address common interests rather than simply exchanging information are crucial and these require some funding support. In the meantime, INBAR proposed an NTFP global partnership and held a meeting in Morocco in December 2005. I do not know if the partnership initiative garnered strong support from a wide audience and had an official kickoff. Some people may be a little confused by the two initiatives.

What I personally propose is to join all the forces to create synergy. The name can be alliance, partnership or whatever. ITTO is planning an international workshop on NTFPs in 2007 in collaboration with FAO and INBAR. Could we launch a unified initiative then? There is, of course, lots of groundwork to do, including potential funding.


The first guarantee that you’ll have when entering FAO headquarters in Rome is that you will become hopelessly and utterly lost in it, and the first days you’ll be begging for Icarus’ wings to make your way out of the labyrinth. But after having successfully passed the challenge of assisting a meeting in the A-wing on the second floor while coming from the D-wing’s fourth floor, the sky clears and sitting delighted in the great conference room you think you’ve really made it. Your triumph lasts until the speaker begins and after hearing “FAO’s FOP looking at the impact of the UNFCCC’s CDMs on LUCC” your head starts spinning and you find yourself tangled up again in a maze of confusion.

However, those brave and competent volunteers ready to struggle though the thresholds of acronyms and hierarchies, will find FAO a great place. It’s a place where experts from all over the world come together. It’s a place where you can have lunch on the terrace with a spectacular view of Rome, while hearing conversations in Japanese, Arab and Spanish all around you (although pay attention to the rude seagulls wanting to steal the food from your plate). It’s a place where you can learn about the world’s strategies for fighting hunger and poverty.

As a volunteer at FAO you are guaranteed to have a great and enriching time and it can open doors for you to the world. For example, I worked on FAO’s NWFP programme on synthesizing case studies from all over the world for a global study on how NWFPs contribute to poverty alleviation and this experience stood me in good stead because I now work on forests and poverty alleviation as a JPO for CIFOR in Cameroon. (Contributed by: Marieka Sandker, Associate Expert, Forests and Livelihoods Programme, CIFOR-Cameroon, c/o IITA-HFC, PO Box 2008, Messa, Nkolbisson, Yaoundé, Cameroon; e-mail:

(Please see p. 20 for information on Marieka’s work with CIFOR.)

Non-Wood Forest Products Programme

There have been quite a few changes within the NWFP programme. Paul Vantomme has taken a two-year leave of absence to work with ITTO in Japan, while Sven Walter is now working in Cameroon for FAO as the Technical Adviser of a regional NWFP project (see pp. 71–72 for more details).

However, even with reduced regular personnel, the programme’s current activities cover trade issues and resource assessment guidelines. Information dissemination continues through publications and other media, including translation of our material into French and Spanish. However, because of current resource shortages, we are unable to update our Web page as often as we would like. We hope to address this shortcoming this year.

Evaluation of non-wood forest products information

An evaluation of NWFP information (i.e. Non-Wood News and the NWFP Digest) took place from August to October 2005. A short questionnaire was sent to a random selection of those in our Non-Wood News database. From 2 328 questionnaires sent (either by e-mail or as a hard copy) we received 627 replies (an encouraging 27 percent return). A synthesis of the results follows.

Where are our readers? Replies by region can be seen in the table on p. 70 and were divided equally (50 percent each) between temperate and tropical countries. India is one of the most important users (73 respondents) followed by Cameroon (22).

Responses by region (percentage)



North and Central America


South America








Total responses


Who are you? Seventy-six percent of the respondents to this question were male and 24 percent female. This is an interesting result since NWFPs are traditionally more the domain of women (they carry out most of the collection and use of these products).

Who do you work for? Forty percent of the respondents were from academic or research institutions, 18 percent from NGOs and 14 percent from government or the public sector. A lower share of respondents came from the private sector, mainly from herbalist or agroforestry plantation owners.

Use and impact. Seventy-eight percent use our NWFP information “several times a year”. Information is used for different purposes, e.g. academic activities (projects, theses, scientific proposals, workshops) policy advice; and NGO activities. Sixty percent state that they quote our information.

Satisfaction. Ninety-eight percent of the 516 replies to this question rated our NWFP information as either “very good” (49 percent) or “good” (49 percent).

Strengths and weaknesses. Respondents were asked to list the strengths and weaknesses of our NWFP information products. As expected, readers did not all agree: for some they were too long, for others too brief; users from the academic sector criticized the lack of scientific approach of the articles, while those mostly from communities and NGOs found it excessive. Specific comments include the following:

Non-Wood News


• Very good coverage of non-wood topics around the world and often the only source for this field of research.

• Detailed information and good references to the source material.

• Information source is considered reliable and authoritative.


• It should be published more frequently (maybe in a shorter version). Often news is already out of date when the publication reaches users.

• Difficult to be used for topic-focused search.

• It should be published in the three main FAO languages (English, French and Spanish).

NWFP Digest


• Good overview of what is going on in this field.

• Easy to access and delivered frequently.

• Up to date.


• Message may arrive truncated

• Lacks details and statistical information.

Is coverage adequate?




Don’t know

Total response


81% (389)

9% (45)

9% (45)



70% (329)

10% (46)

21% (98)


Publications of interest

75% (359)

13% (64)

12% (56)


Gender aspects

35% (162)

19% (88)

46% (212)


Indigenous knowledge

57% (275)

24% (117)

19% (90)


NGO issues

38% (173)

21% (95)

41% (187)


Total respondents





Suggestions for improvement. Although many of you were satisfied with the present format and content (“jam-packed with useful information”; “up-to-date news at the international level”; “excellent overview of NWFP news”; and “world vision plus local vision”), the following general suggestions were made: statistics are necessary (based on UN COMTRADE database statistics); fewer pages; pdf format (NWFP Digest); more trade/market issues; a more scientific approach; higher frequency (Non-Wood News), with most suggesting four/year; better format, more pictures.

Importance to continue? Ninety-eight percent thought FAO should continue producing its NWFP information products (78 percent “very important”, 20 percent “important”, with “2 percent quite important”.

How are we addressing your comments? All the comments and suggestions have been reviewed and will be taken into account in future issues. As mentioned in the editorial, there has been an immediate response to the issue of frequency (which many respondents mentioned): Non-Wood News will now be published twice a year. We also recognize that some more work needs to be done on gender aspects and NGO issues (which we are starting to address – see pp. 27–28). We are now also including a specific section on indigenous knowledge (see pp. 15–18). We have included more statistics (see COMTRADE figures on pp. 8–9). In addition, we are currently indexing all past issues of Non-Wood News. This will eventually be available on our home page and will facilitate topic-based research (one of the indicated weaknesses).

Thank you to all those who responded and who willingly offered their suggestions and comments.


Projet «Renforcement de la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique Centrale à travers la gestion et l’utilisation durable des produits forestiers non ligneux» (GCP/RAF/398/GER)

En Afrique centrale, la consommation et le commerce des produits forestiers non ligneux (PFNL) contribuent à la sécurité alimentaire de la population. Les PFNL importants incluent les plantes comestibles, les plantes médicinales et les rotins. La valorisation des PFNL offre une opportunité pour les populations rurales et les autres acteurs concernés d’accroître leurs revenus sur la base d’une gestion durable des ressources forestières. Il a été demandé à FAO de soutenir les pays d’Afrique centrale, d’identifier et de mettre en œuvre des mesures politiques afin de promouvoir la gestion durable des PFNL et la distribution équitable des bénéfices.


• La prise de conscience et la connaissance du rôle des PFNL pour renforcer la sécurité alimentaire.

• Les bases sont établies pour une intégration systématique d’informations sur les aliments forestiers dans les programmes et politiques pertinents.


Le projet «Renforcement de la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique centrale à travers la gestion et l’utilisation durable des produits forestiers non ligneux» contribue à faciliter les actions des gouvernements, des organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) et du secteur privé des six pays d’Afrique centrale (Cameroun, Congo, Gabon, Guinée équatoriale, République centrafricaine et République démocratique du Congo). Il vise à renforcer la sécurité alimentaire dans la région à travers l’utilisation durable des PFNL des forêts denses humides et des systèmes agroforestiers.

Le projet du Gouvernement allemand d’une durée de trois ans (2005-2008) supplémente et appuie le Programme régulier du Service des produits forestiers de la FAO pour renforcer la contribution des PFNL à la sécurité alimentaire et favoriser la création des revenus et l’aménagement durable des forêts en Afrique centrale. Ce projet fait partie intégrante de la stratégie du Département des forêts de la FAO pour le développement «des forêts du bassin du Congo» et ses trois priorités stratégiques d’appui à la gestion durable ces forêts qui sont:

• améliorer les conditions de vie des populations plus pauvres;

• renforcer la coopération sous-régionale;

• renforcer et organiser la collecte et la gestion pour harmoniser les forêts et leurs politiques sectorielles.

Le projet fonctionne dans le cadre établi par la Conférence des Ministres des forêts d’Afrique centrale (COMIFAC) et la Conférence sur les écosystèmes des forêts denses humides d’Afrique centrale (CEFDHAC). Il est élaboré sur les conclusions des précédents projets forestiers tels que ceux du Programme de partenariat Commission Européenne – FAO pour l’Afrique, et en liaison avec les projets régionaux en cours d’agences telles que la Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), l’Organisation internationale des bois tropicaux (OIBT), l’Organisation africaine du bois (OAB), le Centre international pour la recherche en agroforesterie (CIRAF), le Centre pour la recherche forestière (CIFOR), le Fonds mondial pour la nature (WWF) et les ONG locales.

Après la mise en place institutionnelle initiale, une série d’études techniques ont été lancées pour analyser le potentiel des aliments forestiers à la contribution de la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique centrale. Des propositions, des partenaires et des sites pour la réalisation des activités pilotes, afin de tester les approches appropriées pour la production et la commercialisation des PFNL/aliments forestiers, seront identifiés lors d’un atelier régional. Basés sur les résultats de cet atelier, des tests sur le terrain, y compris le renforcement des capacités, sont prévus pour la seconde année/phase du projet. Pendant la phase de consolidation de la troisième année, toutes les conclusions du projet seront validées lors d’un atelier régional, et des actions de suivi seront identifiées.

Ce projet contribue au renforcement institutionnel dans la région, à l’amélioration des connaissances sur les ressources forestières et sur les systèmes de production agroforestiers, et assure une meilleure coordination entre les acteurs gouvernementaux, les bailleurs de fonds et les autres parties intéressées à la sécurité alimentaire et à la conservation des forêts.

Les bénéficiaires immédiats sont les agences gouvernementales et les services de vulgarisation responsables pour la conservation et l’utilisation durable des forêts, ainsi que pour l’assurance de la sécurité alimentaire dans les pays. Indirectement, les populations locales, qui n’ont actuellement pas accès à une alimentation adéquate, ni les moyens ou les connaissances pour améliorer leurs récoltes et leurs méthodes de production/ marketing des aliments forestiers, profiteront des résultats du projet.


• Contributions actuelles et potentielles des aliments forestiers à la sécurité alimentaire en Afrique centrale évaluées.

• Impacts de la gestion forestière sur les aliments forestiers évalués.

• Contribution commerciale des PFNL comestibles évaluée comme moyens de subsistance des communautés locales.

• Elaboration de directives politiques pour la contribution des PFNL à la sécurité alimentaire et à la gestion durable des forêts.

• Série d’actions et de suivi au niveau régional compilées, discutées et validées.

• Résultats du projet publiés et disséminés.

Le statut des activités

Dans la première phase du projet (juin 2005-juin 2006), trois revues régionales techniques sur la contribution des aliments forestiers à la sécurité alimentaire seront élaborées, y compris l’évaluation de: i) la production, la biologie et le risque de surexploitation des espèces forestières comestibles; ii) le contexte socioéconomique, y compris les aspects parité, l’impact du VIH/SIDA et la valeur nutritionnelle et médicinale des aliments forestiers; et iii) la structure légale gouvernant l’utilisation des PFNL comestibles. Les revues seront élaborées sur la base des informations existantes et les sources, à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur de la région, et seront complétées par six études nationales sur l’utilisation des PFNL en Afrique centrale. Par ailleurs, des études complémentaires sont réalisées sur les thèmes suivants:

• étude sur l’impact de l’exploitation du bois dans les concessions forestières et sur la disponibilité des PFNL en Afrique centrale;

• étude sur le cadre politique et institutionnel régissant l’utilisation des PFNL en Afrique centrale;

• études sur l’analyse nationale des instruments politiques relatifs au commerce des PFNL: applications et impact sur la réduction de la pauvreté et la gestion durable des forêts (Gabon, Guinée équatoriale);

• étude portant sur l’exportation des produits forestiers non ligneux et des aliments traditionnels de l’Afrique centrale sur les marchés régionaux et internationaux – état des lieux et stratégies de développement.

South and east asian countries ntfp network (seann)

SEANN was established in January 1995 under the aegis of the Centre of Minor Forest Products for Rural Development and Environmental Conservation, Dehra Dun with the overall objective of dealing specifically with issues related to minor forest products (MFPs) and non-timber forest products (NTFPs), comprising 26 categories of use, including medicinal plants.

The usefulness of SEANN depends entirely on the active participation and responsiveness of its member countries, which are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Democratic Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Viet Nam.

SEANN’s more specific objectives are to popularize the concept and need for NTFP-oriented sustainable forest management; motivate propagation and harvesting methodology of MFP species for income generation; ensure social and economic changes with better utilization of raw NTFPs; prioritize research areas and work out economics of MFP crops (pure and intercrops); promote small-scale NTFP-based enterprises for rural development; investigate/promote improved marketing and trade of NTFPs; document NTFP information; strengthen database networks to ensure identification of site-specific appropriate choice of species for economic growth and environmental conservation; prepare a global directory of NTFP organizations and specialists; and organize meetings/small focused workshops by network members once a year.

SEANN has organized the following five workshops.

• The first SEANN workshop, held in India, evolved a standard MFP/NTFP classification and documentation manual.

• The second workshop, held in India, on evolving mechanisms for NTFP-oriented need-based sustainable forest management resulted in a book entitled Approaches to sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation with the pivotal role of non-timber forest products by Dr M.P. Shiva and Sri S.K. Verma, IFS, published in 2002.

• The third workshop, held in Nepal, focused on community-based NTFP management. Six member countries of the SEANN network, India, Nepal, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated, with delegates from the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia also attending. Topics discussed included: assessment of NTFP resources, constraints of NTFP development, people’s participation in community forest management and policy issues.

• The fourth workshop was held in the Philippines with the theme of non-wood forest products and biodiversity: SEANN agenda for conservation and development in the twenty-first century.

• The fifth workshop was held in Bhutan and focused on the odyssey of natural products.

Any member countries are invited to organize a SEANN workshop in their country in the future.

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