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Non-wood or non-timber?

I have the deep feeling that there is a profound misunderstanding over the term WOOD or NON-WOOD.

In my opinion you are dealing with NON-TIMBER instead of NON-WOOD.

I have met FAO people in Rome in order to underline in which field we are working. In fact we are working over two-thirds of the total wood production in the world but not on TIMBER PRODUCTS.

We are working on the most valuable part of the trees: THE BRANCHES perceived as having no value and assessed by you as being a non-wood product.

Please have a look at my article prepared for the World Bank.

(Professeur Gilles Lemieux, Groupe de Coordination sur les Bois Raméaux, Département des Sciences du Bois et de la Forêt, Université Laval, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada.
Fax: +1 418 656 5262; E-mail: gilles.lemieux@sbf.ulaval.ca)

(Please see Prof. Lemieux’s article on p. 26.)

Reply from Dr Wulf Killmann, Director, Forest Products and Economics Division, FAO

Agreeably the borderline is sometimes difficult to draw. However, here are some definitional items.

Timber: wood prepared for use in building and carpentry (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 1999).

Non-timber forest products include all products from the forest except timber. That is, they also include wood for wood fuels (ending up in fuelwood and charcoal).

Non-wood forest products: the term excludes all products made of wood from the forest, i.e. for carpentry, house and ship building, and wood fuels.

About 50 percent of all trees felled worldwide are burnt as wood fuels. Any statistics on non-timber forest products would have to include per definitionem wood fuels, which would totally distort the values of traditional NWFPs such as berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants, fibres, nuts, fruits, gums, latex, leaves, roots and tubers, rattan and bamboo, only to name a few.

Therefore, FAO in its description of the subject-matter decided purposefully for the term non-wood forest products, and against non-timber forest products.

Wood fuels are dealt with separately by FAO.

(Wulf Killmann, Director, Forest Products and Economics Division, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Fax: (39) 06 5705 5137; e-mail: Wulf.Killmann@fao.org)

Request for contribution of articles for special issues

COMFORPTS plans to publish two special issues of the International Journal of Forest Usufructs Management (half-yearly) during 2006 and of MFP News (quarterly newsletter) during 2006 and 2007 on the following themes.

For the International Journal of Forest Usufructs Management (JFUM).

• Non-timber forest products-based enterprises (June–December 2006).

For MFP News.

• Gums and resins for trade (July–September 2006).

• Pollution-retarding NTFPs (October– December 2006).

• Edible and non–edible fatty oils, to avoid their imports (January–March 2007).

• NTFPs for improvement of soil and ecology (April–June 2007).

• Fodder and forage, fibres and flosses (July–September 2007).

• Policies and legal issues on rights and privileges for the collection and production of NTFPs from forests (October–December 2007).

For more information, please contact:

Ms Alka Shiva, Managing Editor, Centre of Minor Forest Products For Rural Development and Environmental Conservation, HIG 2, No. 8B, Indirapuram, GMS Road, PO Majra, Dehra Dun 248171, India. E-mail: shivamfp@nde.vsnl.net.in

Comments from our readers

“Thanks for your excellent work which helps us constantly to look for new ideas and their application in Peru.” (Rainer Schulte, Peru)

“The bulletin is always very informative, full of interesting news, contacts, etc. – really a great initiative.” (Vera De Cauwer, Namibia)

“Recently I received your excellent information bulletin Non-Wood News Vol. 12 March 2005. Thank you very much for providing this worldwide view on NTFPs to a local practitioner.” (Marc G.A.C. Smits, Nicaragua)

“The publication is excellent and I am certain that this good work delivers many benefits to poor people and cultures across the world. Keep up the good work.” (Binai Lama, Bhutan)

Non-Wood News serves as useful material to our library clients.” (Remedios E. Abing, Philippines)

A selection of comments received through the evaluation exercise (see pp. 69–70)

• More should be written on non-wood fibre esp. crops like Kenaf which is environmentally friendly. However a lot has been written on other crops which would be useful to other scientists. Good job!

• The section “special features” and “the publications of interest” are of interest to me. However, there is a lack of quality reference material, say a research paper on a current topic of global interest.

• Absolutely brilliant publication with information that is hardly anywhere obtainable. Useful both for practical application and as a reference source for educational and campaign purposes. Thanks!

• There is insufficient highlight on the impact of NWPFs on livelihoods and on communities.

• An annual copy is too long a gap; some information might lose relevance.

• Little information about NWFP processing technologies, little information about NWFPs of boreal forests.

• La périodicité est très large et accentue l’information sur la recherche médicinale.

• Very concise and extremely informative. This publication is quite suitable for general community use as well as an educational source.

• Comprehensive information, global research findings presented in a concise form; sometimes too generalized and lacks focus.

• It is broad based and seems to strive to present “on the edge” uses vs. traditional uses.

• I really like some case studies. But I think it will be very valuable to always include information on funding opportunities, trainings, scholarships, internships and so on.

• It focuses on a very important field, which has been under-estimated for decades; it tries to get feedback from the readers and others in the world. Its weakness is that it remains +or- passive.

• If the Publications of interest part could be thematic, it would be of more interest for me.

• Produce información valiosa pero es información muy resumida.

• More emphasis should be laid on actual field projects.

• We would love to see more information on sub-Saharan countries in Africa.

• It has lots of good articles from reputable authors/organizations. The column layout is a little bit difficult to read and some articles have no English translation.

• Broad up-to-date compilation, short informative articles. It can be difficult to use for topic-focused search.

• It covers almost all NWFPs around the globe which is remarkable.

• The briefness of the contributions is a strength and a weakness (one would not read longer ones, information often not detailed enough for citation, but contact to authors resolves this problem).

• I think the news is extremely useful in the form it is presented and I don’t see any weakness with it but only information that could be utilized for the benefit of rural farmers.

• A large amount of information on many different NWFPs, how they can be used and marketed and country information. Probably the great difficulty lies in extending this information.

• The articles are good, but some are not complete publications. If complete publications could be published then it will be excellent.

• Keeps us informed on what is happening on NWFPs. On the other hand, because of the limitation of space, much information is superficial.

• It gives very few addresses of donor organizations, something highly needed by the poor subsistence peasant farmers.

• Country compass is useful ... the layout is strong, I have no criticisms other than I wish it would come more than once a year (though I recognize the costs and time involved).

• Too much emphasis on NWFPs in forest ecosystems with little attention to those on arid and semi-arid lands.

• More information needed on medicinal plants in forests and their sustainable extraction models, the conservation of understorey plants in forests is not receiving enough attention.

• Forces: valorisation et diffusion du savoir sur les plantes. Faiblesses: informations scientifiques sue les plantes présentées.

• Lack of information on economic aspect of NWFPs and the importance of NWFPs to national/international development.

• Tener la información ordenada por temas: plantas medicinales, utilizadas en cestería, en alimentación, especies vegetales subutilizadas, bioinsecticidas. Orden por continentes y países.

• It carries information not readily available elsewhere but is silent on issues of practical benefits of research outputs. Action research is meaningless if it cannot change the lives of the deprived.

• It gives a good overview of all FAO activities related to NWFPs. However, when looking for a specific product, no alphabetic order of product or country is provided.

• I really enjoy reading Non-Wood News. It is so informative and readable and gives useful information. I find it very valuable.


If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they can change the face of the earth!

African proverb



Traditional knowledge of Non-Wood Forest Products

Traditional knowledge of the multiplicity of uses and benefits deriving from NWFPs is passed on from one generation to another. Forest-dependent communities have always recognized the importance of NWFPs in their lives – whether as food, shelter or medicine.


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