Non-wood forest products for rural income and sustainable forestry
Previous pageTable of contentsNext page


In recent years, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) have attracted considerable global interest. This is due to the increasing recognition that NWFPs can provide important community needs for improved rural livelihood; contribute to household food security and nutrition; help to generate additional employment and income; offer opportunities for processing enterprises; contribute to foreign exchange earnings; and support biodiversity conservation and other environmental objectives.

The International Expert Consultation on Non-Wood Forest Products which met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 17-27 January 1995, considered the relevant aspects relating to the development of NWFPs.

The Consultation observed that the different roles and contributions of NWFPs are complementary to each other. This complementarity can be enhanced through community participation. It would call for clear policies and improved technologies.

The Consultation further noted that: NWFPs can prove to be an important key to the sustainable management of forest resources; sustainable management and harvesting of NWFPs especially of those occurring among the biological diversity of natural forests is extremely complex; their post-harvest treatment involves complex technology; variation in the level of processing of NWFPs is considerable with corresponding variation in process technology; marketing of non-wood goods and services of forests calls for higher level of capabilities; quality standards for internationally-traded NWFPs tend to be rigid; sustainable management and utilization of NWFPs are highly demanding on scientific knowledge, statistical information, technology, skills and research support. It acknowledged that the development of NWFPs is a challenging field, because it involves a fundamental change in the approach to ecological, socio-cultural, technological, trade and institutional issues associated with forestry.

The Consultation urged that concrete actions should be taken for realising the potentials fo NWFPs. In that regard, it underlined the need for: managing NWFPs as part of total ecosystem; rational use of biodiversity including biodiversity inventories and information management; ensuring "eco-efficiency", social equity and sustainability. These have to be achieved through rational policy measures and strategies, economic incentives, cost-effective technology and community participation.

The Consultation discussed the issues to be addressed and actions to be pursued for promoting NWFPs, in terms of the following broad areas: socio-economic benefits, processing and marketing, resource management and environment, and institutional considerations including definition and classification.

In most countries, no policies specifically govern the management, harvesting, processing and marketing of NWFPs. This results in lack of adequate and appropriate provisions for: community participation including tenurial rights and incentives, usufruct rights, investment and involvement of private sector, credit facilities, regulations relating to processing and trade, evaluation of social and environmental values and establishment of relevant standards. The Consultation strongly felt that there is need to develop a general policy framework on NWFPs suitable to serve as a model to be adapted by countries and integrated into their national forest policies.

The Consultation took note of the fact that the value of non-wood forest goods and services are not adequately quantified or recorded. This has resulted in NWFPs being given much less importance and priority than they deserve by planners and decision-makers. The lack of a proper classification of NWFPs harmonised with the existing system of product and activity classifications also makes it difficult for developing a statistical system for these products and thereby to gain recognition in the system of national accounts. For this purpose the scope of NWFPs was proposed to be defined as "goods of biological origin other than wood, as well as services derived from forests and allied land uses".

There is also paucity of information of non-statistical nature: distribution of resources, kinds and variety of products, their potential uses and values, harvesting and production technology, production and trade options, product demand and prices, market chains, research activities and results and so on. There is no adequate mechanism for disseminating available information within and among countries. The Consultation stressed the need for better information and for mechanisms to facilitate free flow of information. In this connection, it is necessary to recognize and assimilate the existing traditional sources of knowledge on NWFPs, their uses and management.

Increasing information flows requires action at all levels: local, national, regional and international, including development of methods and mechanisms for collecting, analyzing and comparing information as well as strengthening of existing systems.

An important aspect, which the Consultation considered in this context, was the rights of countries over the value of information on biological and chemical diversity of forests. It strongly felt that there is need to protect the right over the information (for example, resulting from chemical and biological prospecting), as is the case of other intellectual properties. Sovereign rights over biodiversity have been recognised internationally by the 1992 Biodiversity Convention.

The need for providing an appropriate value for environmental and socio-cultural functions of forests is equally important. Economic gauges alone are not adequate for planning sustainable use of NWFP resources. The Consultation agreed that economic objectives must be developed in conformity with the larger context of ecosystem and community dynamics.

The Consultation identified an important basic requirement for sustainable management of NWFP resources, i.e. organised participation of local community in decisions and actions on management and use of these resources. Effective participation would call for improved support services such as extension and credit, coherent policies and strategy measures and access to information and resources. Government agencies, NGOs, credit institutions and the private sector can all help to facilitate informed and organised participation.

Another important requirement relates to research and technology development relating to the different aspects of NWFPs such as resource development, domestication of species, conservation measures, environmentally sound harvesting, product development and processing and marketing and trade.

The Consultation underscored the need for strengthening research capabilities in countries as well as establishment of research networks for exchange of research results and experience. South-South and North-South collaboration needs to be promoted for research and development of NWFPs. The Consultation also identified several priority areas.

Lack of institutional capability is often a major constraint to NWFP development and weaknesses in the interrelated aspects discussed above is a symptom of an underlying lack of institutional capacity. Institutional strengthening involving clear policies, rules and regulations, development of skills, improved strategic planning, organisational systems and structures, decentralisation of activities and mechanisms for committed participation was flagged as an area requiring urgent attention.

Based on intensive discussions, the Consultation made recommendations addressed to government policy-makers, international organisations, donor agencies, NGOs and financial services, in order to: enhance socio-economic benefits of NWFPs; promote their sustainable management, marketing and utilization; improve scientific knowledge, technology and skills relevant for developing NWFPs; develop appropriate policies and strategies to support their development; improve and expand basic statistical and other information on production, value addition, and trade in NWFPs; enhance institutional capabilities; establish networks for exchange of information; introduce rules and regulations to promote decentralization of resource management through active community participation; establish other institutional mechanisms, including access to resources and credit; and strengthening research capabilities.

The Consultation, in its recommendations, specifically requested FAO, in collaboration with other relevant agencies, to:

It further requested international funding and technical assistance to support new initiatives in the area of NWFPs, and looked forward to exciting new developments. The Government of Indonesia indicated interest in establishing a facility for international exchange of information on NWFPs, with international support.

The Consultation concluded that, within an overall strategy of sustainable forest management, NWFP activities hold potential for local livelihood improvement and maintenance of forest ecosystems, as well as economic growth. Realizing the opportunity requires long-term commitment by everyone.


N. 1: Hon. Djamaloedin Soeryohadikoesoemo, Minister of Forestry, Government of Indonesia,opening the Expert Consultation in the traditional style by striking the gong.

N. 2: Participants at the Expert Consultation.

Previous pageTop of pageNext page