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Appendix 4.3.3


P.K.R. Nair and F.D. Merry 1/
University of Florida, Gainesville


In the past two decades, agroforestry has been vigorously promoted and researched. Often called a new name for a set of old practices, agroforestry is recognised as a promising land-use technology and an interface between agriculture and forestry, especially in the developing countries of the tropics and subtropics. With recent research, the principles underlying age-old agroforestry practices are gradually being understood, and improved practices introduced.

The scientific foundation of agroforestry is the multipurpose tree (MPT) (Young 1989; Nair, 1990 and 1993). Naturally, most efforts in agroforestry have placed a heavy ? sometimes exaggerated - emphasis on the MPT. Dozens of MPTs have been identified, with about 50 being actively promoted, and about a dozen receiving most of the attention in agroforestry today (Nair, 1993; MacDicken, 1994). Two important attributes of MPTs are their ability to produce multiple products, from one or more plant parts, and their ability to provide benefits and services that may be intangible but nonetheless environmentally significant. Soil improvement and microclimate amelioration are two principal service benefits.

Among the many recognised products and benefits of MPTs, most agroforestry projects are oriented towards the production of fuelwood and fodder (e.g. Kerkof, 1990). Very little has been done to exploit the non-wood forest products (NWFPs) in agroforestry systems. Considering that agroforestry places a strong emphasis on smallholder, low-input, multiple-output systems and many of the trees and other species that produce NWFPs are amenable to integrated management, agroforestry as a land-use approach and NWFPs as an output are closely integrated. Thus it is somewhat paradoxical that the role of agroforestry in the promotion of NWFPs has not been examined in any detail so far. This little-studied, but extremely promising subject is the subject of this paper.


It can be argued that because MPTs have a central role in agroforestry systems, and because the emphasis of MPTs is on non-wood products and services, most agroforestry systems deal inescapably with non-wood forest tree products. But the concept of NWFPs is such that the "dominant" tree products such as fuelwood, fodder, and charcoal that have received the major share of attention in agroforestry and social forestry are excluded from this category (although, botanically, some of them are "non-woody" in nature). For example, the definition of NWFPs that has been proposed for this Consultation is "NWFPs include all goods of biological origin, as well as services, derived from forest or any land under similar use, and exclude wood in all its forms" (Chandrasekharan, 1995). This focuses attention on the forest products that have hitherto received little attention, and encompasses all tangible products other than timber, fuelwood, fodder, and charcoal, derived from forest and other similar land-use systems (Chandrasekharan, 1993). Common NWFPs include food and food additives; fibre and flosses; phytochemicals and aromatics; oils; resins, and other exudates; and decorative articles. Products such as fodder and latex are also included, although for this paper prominently commercial species such as coconut and rubber are excluded.

The ensuing discussion is based on the concept of NWFPs outlined above. A detailed discussion on what does - and what does not - constitute NWFPs is beyond the scope of this paper.


Conceptual Similarities and Contrasts

NWFP extraction, as practised today, shares several features with many agroforestry practices. Both agroforestry and NWFP extraction are predominantly subsistence practices; they make minimal use of costly external inputs, but heavy use of human labour; and each has location-specific characteristics. However, there are also subtle differences between NWFP production and the practice of agroforestry. First, agroforestry systems are, generally, more intensively managed, with a higher degree of species domestication, than most NWFP species. Second, agroforestry systems place emphasis on not only the productive role of their woody components, but also of their protective roles such as soil amelioration and environmental protection. This need not necessarily be so in the case of NWFP species. A third difference is that although agroforestry is often described as an interface between agriculture and forestry, most agroforestry practices are on the so-called agricultural and marginal lands and some in the buffer zones around forests, with very little or no agroforestry in the forests. NWFPs, with some notable exceptions are extracted mostly from forest and/or marginal land, with relatively lesser quantities from agricultural lands.

Identification of such similarities and contrasts between common agroforestry practices and NWFP extraction can help in examining opportunities for integrating NWFPs and agroforestry systems. By placing NWFPs in a production system context, this may also help explore new benefits of NWFP species. Before pursuing such an analysis, we will briefly review the nature of NWFPs.

Nature of NWFPs

All the available literature on NWFP production deals with one or more of the following topics in decreasing order of abundance:

Thus, information on the quantity and value of these products are either non-existent or unreliable and most are estimates. Considering that NWFPs represent a hitherto ignored area of scientific and academic interest, this state of affairs is not unexpected. Many of the species are known for their multiple products; therefore, it is not realistic to group the NWFPs plants strictly into any definite classes. Nevertheless, some sort of grouping and classification is required for further discussion. The commonly reported NWFPs (and the species that produce them) can be grouped under two broad categories: i) food and food derivatives, and ii) raw materials.

Food and Food Derivatives

The role of forestry and trees in food production and food security has been well recognized (FAO, 1988; 1992). Although fruits and leaves are the most widely used parts of most of the edible NWFPs, there are reports of all other parts (such as bark, stem, calyx, and even roots) of some trees being used as food or food derivatives. Table 1 lists a variety of food products that are obtained from various trees in Africa. Kainer and Duryea (1992) identified more that 150 species of wild and domesticated species of plants, including many trees, that are exploited by women in the extractive reserves in Acre, Rondonia, Brazil. As mentioned earlier, several other such lists are available from different parts of the world often based on location-specific studies, rather than on a regional or country-wide basis. Also, the lists are usually species-oriented, rather than production-statistics-oriented.

Table 1: Some examples of indigenous multipurpose trees used as food sources in Africa
Tree Species
Major Uses
Main Food Treculia africana

Parkia biglobosa

Edible fruit, kernels, fuel, pulp for paper industry
Edible seed, fodder, timber, fuel, fertility drug
Food Supplement Garcinia cola
Afzelia africana
Edible seed, chew sticks, snake repellent
Fermented leaf as vegetable
Condiments Xylopia aethiopica
Monodora myristica
Tobacco substitute
Nutmeg substitute
Leafy Vegetable Pterocarpus milbaedii
P. santalinoides
P. soyauxii
Edible leaf, dye, camwood
Edible leaf, fodder, boundary line
Edible leaf, timber, religious
Fats/Oils Elaeis guineensis
Butyrospermum paradoxum
Oil, wine, thatch, mulch

Kernel oil, edible fruit

Fruits Spondias mombin
Vitx doniana
Fruit, jam, jelly, fodder
Fruit, fuel, timber
Jams/Jelly Chrysophyllum albidum Fruits, tools, religious
Drinks Raphia hookerii Wine, mats, raffia, piassava
Masticatory Raphia nitida Chew sticks, fodder, fence
Fodder Moringa oleifera
Canarium schweinfurthii
Edible flowers and leaves
Edible leaves and fruits

Source: Nair (1990).

A special mention needs to be made here of the importance of fruits and fruit trees in NWFPs. Each major geographical/agroecological region is bestowed with a wide range of such species, some of which though quite important locally, are seldom known outside that region.

The Regional Research Network of Tropical Fruit Trees (TFT) in Asia and the Pacific (established under the auspices of the International Centre for Underutilized Crops-ICUC, Switzerland, and the Commonwealth Science Council-CSC, London, U.K.) conducted a survey on the extent of TFT utilization in the Asia Pacific region in 1993; the top ten species identified were Mangifera indica, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Musa spp., Psidium guajava, Zizyphus mauritiana, Syzygium cuminii, Litchi chinensis, Emblica officinalis, Annona squamosa, and Aegle marmelos (Non-Wood News, FAO, Rome; Vol. 1, March 1994). Most of these species have been included in the list of more than 30 fruit trees described by Nair (1993) as components of agroforestry systems. It is also interesting to note that the above survey did not show such TFTs as durian (Durio zibethinus), Longan (Euphoria longana), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), and papaya (Carica papaya) that are common TFTs (as well as components of agroforestry systems) in the Asia Pacific Region. Good accounts of several indigenous fruit trees of Africa and Latin America, especially of the Amazon region, are also available (FAO 1983; 1986 a).

Raw Materials

In the absence of a better definition, all non-edible NWFPs are considered as "raw materials". These include such diverse products as aromatic oil, browse, cosmetics, dye, fibre, fodder, fuel, gum, ink, insecticide, latex, masticatory, mat, medicine, mulch, oil, polish, resin, stimulant, tannin, thatch, and varnish. There are reports of various trees producing these and other products; but, even more significantly, there might be innumerable other NWFPs produced by trees in different parts of the world that have not been reported in scientific and technical literature.

NWFPs in Agroforestry Systems

Because of the descriptive nature of most NWFPs and agroforestry literature, it is difficult to make a quantitative assessment of the extent of NWFPs use in agroforestry systems. ICRAF's global inventory of agroforestry systems during the 1980s, which provides the most comprehensive account of agroforestry systems in developing countries, lists 380 perennial woody species reported as components of existing agroforestry systems and their main uses in different regions (Nair, 1989: Appendix III; pp 642-655). Since then, several more reports dealing with specific sites/regions have also become available (Kainer and Duryea, 1992; Anderson et al., 1991; Cunningham, 1993; FAO, 1992; Clement, 1991; Clement and Villachica, 1994; Leakey and Maghembe, 1994). Most of the available reports describe systems where NWFP-yielding plants are grown in association with commercial tree crops. Examples include rattan, (Calamus spp.) under rubber in southeast Asia (Weinstock, 1983; Godoy, 1990), medicinal and aromatic plants under and other timber species (FAO, 1986 b), a variety of domesticated and semi-domesticated palms in association with a number of cultivated woody or herbaceous species in many parts of lowland humid tropics (Johnson, 1984; Johnson and Nair, 1984), and a large number of indigenous fruit trees in association with agricultural/forestry species in the forestry-agriculture interface (Nair, 1993). These reports identify a number of localized, under-exploited tree species that produce NWFPs in a variety of ecosystems and outline the potential for their improvement through agroforestry; some reports also deal with the soil-improving potential of some such species (e.g. Fernandes et al., 1994). The reports re-emphasize two points that have already been made:

1. NWFPs have a major role in many indigenous agroforestry systems; and

2. Agroforestry offers a viable approach to realizing the potential of several under-exploited NWFPs.


Chandrasekharan (1993) has identified a large number of issues related to the development of NWFPs; these are summarized in Table 2. This table would seem to suggest that nothing goes right or proper for NWFPs at the present time; and perhaps it is rightfully so. However, these issues are so general that agroforestry need not/cannot be employed as a strategy for addressing them. On the other hand, there are certain issues for which agroforestry can be the best or a viable approach. In the following section we will examine some issues of NWFP development that need to be addressed on a priority basis. First, the issues that can be addressed through agroforestry or be benefitted from agroforestry experience will be discussed. This will be followed by identification of issues that are common to development of both NWFPs and agroforestry; but agroforestry experience to date does not have as significant a contribution to make in the resolution of these as of the previous group of issues.

Inventory of NWFPs in Agroforestry Systems H3 14

A serious hindrance to NWFP development is the lack of authentic and reliable statistics on the classification, production, and value of NWFPs. Product grouping followed in statistical reports and the aggregation of products in International Standard Trade Classification (ISTC) makes it impossible to separate out NWFPs by specific products and sources. Many NWFPs fall under the category of "vegetable materials and vegetable products". For example, all edible nuts are grouped together such that this category is dominated by such important items as cashew, groundnuts, and almond. Similar situations exist for other groups of other products as well (e.g. oils, fibres, fruits, and so on). Because of this, even if statistical data on NWFPs are available,they cannot be reported adequately under existing data reporting systems. This is somewhat similar to the data reporting systems for plantation crops such as black pepper, cacao, cashewnut, coffee, oil palm, and rubber in agroforestry systems. A "solution" to this problem was found by reporting data on mono-crop and mixed-crop stands of these species separately. While sole stands account for most commercial production of these crops, mixed-crops are mostly in smallholder agroforestry systems (Nair 1983, 1993).

Table 2: Constraints and areas of action for the development of NWFPs
Areas of Action
- Neglect of scientific management and conservation strategies

- Inappropriate and unsustainable harvest methods

- Lack of land-use planning

- Lack of integration in forest management

- Lack of processing and storage facility

- Potential competition from domesticated or synthetic sources

- Lack of clear policy support and bias against NWFPs

- Lack of research and technology development for NWFPs

- Poor data and statistics on NWFPs

- Insufficient incentive for sustainable management

- Assessment of NWFP resources by appropriate categories

- Enhance planning for integrated forest management

- Domestication for forest conservation and improved production

- Improve pre and post-harvest techniques

- Increase value-added processing at local level

- Stabilize supply for local and international markets

- Improve database on NWFP species and products

- Strengthen research and enhance technology transfer

- Augment supporting institutions

- Access international assistance

Source: Adapted from Chandrasekharan (1993).

Thus, production and area statistics on these crops in agroforestry systems are now available. The situation of NWFPs is slightly different from that of plantation crops in that they (NWFPs) are seldom, if ever, produced on a commercial scale or in single-crop stands. However, agroforestry inventory methods can be applied to NWFPs, and there is an urgent need to compile the basic statistics of NWFPs.

Classification of NWFPs

In order to make systematic efforts in the improvement of NWFPs, it is essential that there should be a logical classification scheme. As mentioned above, NWFPs are currently being identified in long lists of product categories. However, the plant parts that yield these diverse products, the management attention, harvesting regime, valuation criteria, and several other factors are all different for different products. A classification scheme should be devised to group the products according to common characteristics or action-oriented parameters. This will then enable us to devise appropriate development strategies for each group of products. For example, the development strategy for the fruit and food-producing plants could be different from that of raw material-producing plants. There is an advantage in choosing biological characteristics rather than agroecological factors as the first set of criteria for such a classification, because of the application of these characteristics over wide regions. Ideally, the inventory data should lead to the selection of broad-based criteria. In the absence of such data bases, available information suggests that characteristics such as plant morphology, nature of products, frequency and method of harvesting, and type of processing needed, could be taken as some such criteria.

Here again, the experience from agroforestry-systems development provides a valuable example. Based on the inventory data of agroforestry systems, a classification system was developed for agroforestry systems (Nair, 1985), which then become the basis for further developments in agroforestry.

Domestication of NWFP-Yielding Trees

NWFP-yielding trees are, almost without exception, non-domesticated species. One of the most urgently needed tasks in NWFP development, therefore, is the domestication of promising, under-exploited species. Given that "domestication" is a somewhat qualitative term (as discussed earlier), it may not be possible to set exact standards for domestication. However, some general strategies can be considered.

In the long evolutionary history of plant domestication, annual or other agricultural crops vastly outnumber tree crops. Although our knowledge of the evolution of the tree crops is, with a few exceptions, still rather poor (Simmonds, 1985), we are now far more conscious of the importance of trees, than we were a couple of decades ago. Several tree crops have been domesticated to varying extent and are being commercially exploited, however, two recent success stories are oil palm (Elaeis guianeensis), and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis), both supported strongly by commercial plantation industries.

The NWFPs that are now only gathered have to become domesticated if they are to survive in appreciable quantities. The domestication process involves several stages of organised scientific efforts, as discussed by Leaky and Newton (1994). These are characterization, germplasm exploration, vegetative propagation, genetic selection, and incorporation into a sustainable land-use system. Leaky and Maghembe (1994) have identified four groups of wild trees that could be domesticated for NWFPs/agroforestry:

The first two of these are of special interest in the context of NWFP domestication, as mentioned previously.

Since tree domestication by breeding is a long and slow process, vegetative propagation and clonal selection that have been developed for tropical trees are particularly promising techniques in this context (Leakey et al., 1990; Leakey and Newton, 1994). In some instances these techniques are already in practice (Okafor, 1978; 1980). The ideotype concept, originally proposed by Donald (1968) is an approach that has been successfully applied to cereal-crop improvement, and is being increasingly talked-about in the genetic improvement of agroforestry tree crops (e.g. Dickman and Gold, 1994).

An important point here is that the NWFP domestication process and sustainable use have to be strongly linked with social and cultural characteristics of the people. All plant domestication efforts are linked to economic needs for the products of such plants. This is especially true in regard to NWFPs. Additionally, cultural and social values, and indigenous knowledge of the local use of species are key issues in NWFP domestication. Realistic assessment may be made of these values, and the information will need to be integrated into the strategy for domestication.

Genetic Conservation

Domestication and conservation of genetic resources are two issues that need to be considered jointly. Characteristically, domestication leads to substantial decline, and in some cases, total extinction of the wild populations. Both domesticated and wild populations may coexist for some time, but eventually the wild sources will be lost. Several species that currently coexist in their wild and domesticated forms (e.g. timbers such as pines, spruces, and eucalypts; sugar and starch (sago) palms; and various fruit, nut and drug plants) will probably survive ? if they do at all ? only in cultivated forms. This conjecture is based on the fact that the wild forms that may have given rise to the cultivated forms of such commercially important tree crops as breadfruit, citrus, coconut, and mango are either non-existent or unknown (Simmonds, 1985). such a situation should not be allowed to happen in the case of today's NWFPs.

The importance of conserving genetic resources is well known. However, a point that needs special emphasis is the potential effect of selection pressures in the process of domestication. Given that most NWFPs give diverse products, it is certain that they must have already experienced diverse selection pressures during their evolution, including natural selection for growth and survival, followed by selection for adaptation to new habitats and ecological conditions, and semi-natural selection for survival and adaptation to specific socio-cultural circumstances. Our efforts to domesticate these plants for specific products may cause them to develop in forms that are high in certain traits and low in, and eventually devoid of, other traits (as has happened in several agricultural species). In other words, the wild forms of NWFPs could be lost forever.

Agroforestry offers a very good opportunity for avoiding such a danger and maintaining genetic conservation. Since the emphasis of agroforestry systems is not on the output of a single commodity but on the total output from the systems, semi-domesticated NWFPs can be integrated very well into agroforestry systems, and thus could be genetically conserved. In other words, NWFPs have to be developed for situations that are non-conventional for forestry; and this approach is implicit in the concept of agroforestry.

Valuation of Products

In most cases the value of NWFPs may be underestimated for a number of reasons. For example, many products do not enter commercial markets as they are consumed locally in markets characterized by a lack of definite periodicity and site; some product are exchanged for goods in a non-monetary fashion; and small quantities are traded by several individuals. The weakness of extractive reserves as an economically viable activity for producing the necessary monetary benefits and social incentives has been well brought out in a number of studies from the Amazon region (e.g. Browder, 1992). In a recent study of harvest of Aquilaria malaccensis and Cinnamomum mollissimum in Malaysia, LaFrankie (1994) reported that the current extractive harvest was not economically feasible and that increasing the density of harvestable products could be a possible strategy for NWFP management. In reviewing the recent estimates of the opportunity cost of NWFP extraction in primary forests, Godoy et al. (1993) noted estimates ranging from US$ 0.75/ha/year for experimental caiman farming in Venezuela (Thorbjarnarson, 1991) to US$ 420/ha/year for a complete inventory value of the forest in Iquitos, Peru (Peters et al., 1989). Other activities that were considered in that report included such diverse ones as medicinal plants in Belize, net present value of cultivated rattan in Indonesia, valuation of wildlife in Venezuela, management of domesticated elephants in southern India, and extraction of semi-wild cacao, açaí (Euterpa oleracea), and rubber in Brazil. Admittedly it may be inaccurate to compare and contrast these range of values because of the wide assortment of products and locations considered. The fact remains that valuation of NWFPs is difficult, variable, and there are no standard procedures.

In this aspect also, parallels can be drawn between NWFP extraction and agroforestry practices. Valuation of hard-to-quantify goods and services has been a major obstacle to realistic assessment of agroforestry systems. For a long time, ex-ante analyses involving conventional economic evaluation procedures of benefit/cost ratio, net present value, and internal rates of return had been adopted. Now, with field data from actual agroforestry projects becoming available, these methods are currently being refined and adapted for agroforestry situations (e.g. Sullivan et al., 1992, Ramírez et al., 1992). A similar approach would be useful for NWFPs as well. Furthermore, as Chopra (1993) and Saulei and Aruga (1994) have pointed out, the value of NWFPs must be measured in both market and non-market terms.

Conventional agronomic concepts of valuation of intercropping efficiency through measures such as land equivalent ratio (LER) and its analogue income equivalent ratio (IER) have been considered but found unsuitable for agroforestry valuation (Nair, 1993). As an improvement over these, Johnson (1994) has developed a heuristic model of whole-farm efficiency index based on efficiency evaluation of biological, human, and monetary factors, and the model has been applied to an evaluation of the multistorey agroforestry homegarden systems in Jamaica. Such comprehensive evaluation procedures may not be immediately applicable to NWFP valuation, but the valuable experiences that are being gained from agroforestry studies will certainly be applicable to NWFP systems in the future.

Ecological and Economic Harvest of NWFPs

There is the opinion that NWFPs present an opportunity to increase the extractive resource value of forests (Peters et al., 1989) in a sustainable manner. However this statement, an issue that must be carefully considered, is the centre of some contention. Richards (1993) states that it is unlikely that extractive reserves will play an important part in the sustainable resource management of the Amazon, citing Browder (1992), Anderson (1992), Homma (1992), Cleary (1992), and Torres and Martine (1992) in support of this claim. Godoy and Lubowski (1992) describe the schools of thought on the sustainability of NWFPs as divided among those who believe that indigenous populations actively manage the forest for long-term production and those who believe that the traditional extractive processes are unsustainable and that an increase in the demand for the products will lead to the degradation of the resource base.

There is growing concern that the harvest methods for NWFPs are unsustainable (Godoy and Bawa, 1993; Ganesan, 1993). Increased marketing and attention to NWFPs has in some cases led to their destruction (Wilkens, 1991). For example, in Central America evidence of unsustainable harvest is shown by the over-tapping of chicle latex from the Manilkara zapota in Belize under the high level of demand during the years 1930-1950 (Alcorn, 1994). The latex is harvested from trees with 20 centimetres diameter and larger by a series of angled cuts connected to a central, vertical channel. The lateral cuts intersect the vertical approximately every 40 centimetres, and can be cut to a height of 30 meters. The tree needs three to eight years to heal and as many as five tappings have been recorded (Alcorn, 1994). This indicates that there is potential for long-term production with correct management but also the potential for damage through over use. However, because the market for chicle has declined dramatically the current harvest level is in fact sustainable (Reining and Heinzman, 1992). Indicators of the importance of the market in determining whether the extraction methods are ecologically sound.

Hall and Bawa (1993) also point out that many harvest methods are not ecologically sustainable giving an example of a 78 percent decrease in bamboo yields in the Tamil Nadu State of India, and cite several other authors giving examples of unsustainable harvest of NWFPs. Thus, in addition to the economic issue related to the harvest of NWFPs the biological sustainability must be evaluated. Hall and Bawa (1993) describe extractive sustainability as harvest that has no long-term detrimental impact on the resource compared to non-harvest natural population. This may be described as an ethnoecological approach to understanding the potential products from the rain forest (Toledo et al., 1992), which attempts to consolidate the ecological requirements for resource maintenance and human needs.

Perhaps this is one area in which agroforestry experience may not have much to offer to the development of NWFPs. Sustainability is a corner stone of the foundations of agroforestry of agroforestry; this means that all agroforestry practices should ensure long-term production without degradation of the resource base on which the production is dependant. Ecological harvesting of agroforestry components is therefore implicit in the concept of agroforestry, and destructive harvesting of agroforestry components has not surfaced as a serious issue.

Marketing of NWFPs

Markets for NWFPs can be differentiated into two categories: 1) the local markets and cottage industries; and 2) the industrial and/or export markets. In many instances, the dynamics of local markets are not well understood (Pendleton, 1992). Other problems in local markets include periodic flooding of products which drive prices down especially significant for products that have low elasticities of demand, and high levels of substitute products (Pendleton, 1992). Local markets present an important source of rural income (Padoch, 1988) and cottage industries will improve marketability of the products (Okafor, 1991). As examples of potential commercialization of edible products from African fruits Okafor (1991) lists jams and jellies from Irvingia gabonensis; fruit juice from Dalium guineese, Tamarindus indica, and Parkia biglobosa; and confectioneries, soup mixes and non-alcoholic beverages from Treculia africana. However, in the case of a strong product demand, the problem may arise when cultivators or extractors specialize to fulfil the market needs, leading to situations of risk due to dependence on one product as a primary source of income.

International/export markets are often fickle and yet demanding in products availability and quality. When producing or collecting for the export market, the products must meet the requirements of 1) reliability of supply; 2) consistency of quality, including regulated size and appearance; and 3) transportation costs and sanitation conditions, that are far more stringent than for local markets.

Clay (1992) lists 11 general principles for the development of NWFPs in the markets of North America and Europe. These are:

These issues of marketing of products are common to agroforestry and NWFPs. Although it is an important issue, the experience in agroforestry is not substantial enough to provide a definitive guideline to be followed for NWFP development.

Policy and Institutional Support

When considering the use of a NWFPs as an input to an industry there are two aspects of market integration that must be considered: (i) the markets that the product faces, whether domestic or international, and (ii) fulfilling the market requirements without depletion of the resource. The rattan industry serves as a useful illustration of some of the issues related to the judicious development of NWFPs as raw material inputs to industry. Rattan (Calamus spp.) is a valuable NWFPs with an estimated worldwide market for the unprocessed cane in excess of US$ 160 million and US$ 2.5 billion for furniture (Whitehead and Godoy, 1991). Rattan presented an example of tremendous potential economic returns for rural people as shown by Godoy (1990) who describes the internal rates of return for green and processed rattan in Indonesia as 21 and 22 percent respectively. However due to the attraction of these economic returns from rattan harvest the extraction levels, in many cases, have become unsustainable. Governments from the four major suppliers of rattan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand have responded with legislation aimed at both protecting the resource and encouraging value-added processing in the country of origin. Although designed with good intention, the policies are having some deleterious effects, which include depressing rural income (Safran and Godoy, 1993). Furthermore, as these policies restrict the supply of raw material, causing world prices to rise, substitute sources and products become more attractive (Whitehead and Godoy, 1991).

The implication is that if a NWFPs is to compete on the international market it is subject to the unpredictable price movements that accompany this market. This is also true for smaller domestic markets and thus careful consideration must be placed on the markets and market stability if investment is to be encouraged in industries based on NWFPs.

Some lessons can be learned from the experiences in agroforestry in this area as well. It is well recognized that institutional and policy support for agroforestry programme implementation is as important as the biological performance of the promoted technologies. In many countries, programme implementation is hampered by the lack of supportive policies and institutions (Chew, 1989; Mercer, 1992; Gregersen et al., 1992). In most literature, the components of policy frameworks for agricultural/forestry development projects are presented as a uniform set of factors and issues, but the importance of each of these factors will vary by location and situation. Based on a case-study evaluation of two large-scale agroforestry projects in Ecuador, Follis and Nair (1994) identified land tenure, extension and research support, marketing and pricing situation, and credit availability as the key policy issues in the study areas. While access to land was found to be a major constraint to programme implementation in the Ecuadorian highlands (Sierra), it was not so in the lowlands (Oriente). Therefore, as noted by Follis and Nair (1994), universally applicable procedures for agroforestry-related policy analysis are not likely to evolve owing to the strong location-specificity of the practices. This could be true in the case of NWFPs as well; the situation could be compounded by the near-total neglect of the importance and value of NWFPs in the existing agricultural and forestry policy framework in most countries.


Guidelines can only be developed on the basis of accumulated experience and data, but development experience and quantitative data on production and value of NWFPs are lacking. This appears to be a vicious circle. In order to overcome this dilemma and move forward, we need to make some strategic planning and embark on a realistic and relevant action programme. As mentioned earlier, the situation is similar to what it was when organised efforts in agroforestry started about two decades ago. In the circumstances we will explore how and to what extent the experience from agroforestry can be used to initiate the efforts in NWFP development.

The major role of NWFPs in many indigenous agroforestry systems, and the potential role of agroforestry as an approach to NWFP development have already been identified. The accumulated experience in agroforestry has been analyzed to establish some strategies for NWFP development. In this section, these issues and strategies will be presented in an agroforestry perspective, which will serve as a starting point towards preparing detailed guidelines for NWFP development through agroforestry. This is attempted in Table 3. It needs to be emphasized that a paper of this nature must limit its efforts to mere presentations of issues and ideas. Elaboration of research protocols and action agendas for various items is the next step.


NWFPs are a group of under-exploited, but potentially promising resources, which could become an integral component of sustainable forestry in many developing countries. In this sense, there are close similarities between NWFP production and the practice of agroforestry. NWFPs have a major role to play in many indigenous agroforestry systems and agroforestry offers a viable approach to realizing the potential of several NWFPs. Many of the problems and issues that hinder NWFP development are similar to those faced by agroforestry development when organised efforts in that direction started about two decades ago. It is therefore prudent to draw upon the experiences of agroforestry development while initiating serious efforts in NWFP development.

Systematic and scientific efforts need to be undertaken in a number of critical areas of NWFP development. These include:

Table 3: A tentative basis for preparing guidelines for development of NWFPs through

No. Issue Suggested Action Agroforestry Options/Experience
1. Lack of quantitative data on production and values of NWFPs Inventory of NWFPs  Experience from agroforestry can be used to develop a comprehensive plan for a systematic inventory; can be organised on the basis of pilot studies from selected regions.
2. Diversity of issues, species, and social conditions necessitate a scheme for coordination and prioritization of development programmes Classification of NWFPs according to validated criteria  Agroforestry experience is quite relevant. Once the issues, products, and conditions are grouped, efforts can be focused on representative examples of each. A multiple-matrix type of classification scheme will need to be considered.
3. Multiplicity of species and products Identification of most promising NWFP species in specific ecological and socio-economic strata Again, the procedure that has been adopted in agroforestry would be relevant. Special attention will need to be focused on the most promising species: e.g. rattan, fruit trees, and palms in humid lowlands; Acacia spp., Adansonia digitata, Borassus aethiopum, and Vitellaria paradoxa in Sub-Saharan Africa; and Acacia mearnsii, Alianthus spp., Alnus spp., Ficus spp., and Robinia pseudoacacia in tropical highlands.
4. Most NWFP species exist only in "wild" forms Species domestication and improvement This involves a long drawn-out process with slow, time-consuming procedures. Some of the procedures adopted from agroforestry/tropical fruit tree development can be made use of: e.g. germplasm collection and evaluation, vegetative propagation, and clonal selection. The ideotype concept could be applied and "model" species for specific categories of trees that yield certain types of products could be developed; social concerns need to be taken into account. 
5.  Poor and erratic yields from NWFPs Development of appropriate management techniques This is an area in which agroforestry techniques are most relevant. Experience in agroforestry and NWFPs shows that NWFP species are components of agroforestry systems in most places. The low-input, integrated, multiple-output nature of agroforestry offers excellent opportunities for incorporation of NWFPs as components of new and improved agroforestry systems. A whole host of plant management and manipulation techniques need to be developed for integrating little-exploited and promising NWFPs into agroforestry systems.
6. Available genetic resources need to be conserved Genetic conservation Combined systems such as agroforestry (as opposed to monocultural systems such as plantations) offer the best scope for the conservation of genetic resources. In situ conservation will be a preferred strategy, and this can best be accomplished through agroforestry.
7. Harvest methods of most NWFPs are destructive Development of sustainable harvest methods Agroforestry is mostly a managed system involving domesticated plants with the harvest of most agroforestry products conducted in a sustainable manner. While developing harvest methods of NWFPs, example of sustainable harvests of agroforestry products could be taken as relevant models. 
8. There is considerable loss of products due to poor pre- and post-harvest techniques Development of efficient pre-and post-harvest techniques for NWFPs The examples from managed agroforestry systems are relevant in this case also. An important step in improving harvest and processing techniques would be to modify the current method of extractive "harvesting" to more managed types of harvest techniques. The effect of post-harvest techniques on product quality and storage will also need to be investigated.
9. Product valuation methods are weak or non-existent Establish norms of value-added transformation, so that more of the final product value is captured in the region/nation concerned This is a concern common to agroforestry as well; less work has been done in this aspect of agroforestry development. As NWFPs become components of agroforestry systems the established norms of agroforestry-product-valuation might be applied to the newly developed NWFPs as well.
10. Market structure is weak, and there is no assured supply of products Build reliable market mechanism for assured supply of NWFPs Agroforestry experience does not have much to offer in this context; one reason is that agroforestry products are either "basic needs" that are consumed locally or are well-established commercial products such as coffee and cacao, for which efficient market-supply mechanisms exist. However, this is also an area of concern for some agroforestry products.
11. There is no coherent policy for NWFP development in most countries Policy reform to recognize the value, importance, and need for developing NWFPs on a sustainable basis The agroforestry experience is quite relevant in this context. Compared to the situation that existed about two decades ago when agroforestry was a non-entity, today most countries have recognized, at least in principle, that agroforestry is a viable approach to land management. Concerted efforts by technical experts, policy planners, and non-governmental and donor agencies are needed for such a development.
12. Institutional infrastructure for NWFP development is non-existent Build up institutional capability within existing forestry and agricultural set-up to deal with NWFP development Again, drawing from experience of agroforestry development, it will be prudent to organise NWFP development units within existing bureaucracy rather than trying to start new structures for NWFPs. 
13.  There is no research support for NWFP development Develop an efficient and competent research support system for NWFP development Understanding the principles of agroforestry and employing these principles for improvement of such systems or developing new ones was the strategy for agroforestry development. Experience to date shows that this strategy has paid off well. Efforts to develop NWFPs are unlikely to succeed unless they are based on sound principles. As is the case with agroforestry, the effort should be on applied rather than fundamental research. Scientific evidence that is available in the relevant areas of biological and social sciences needs to be synthesized for their application to solving or addressing NWFP issues. A sound research strategy should include procedures to address the 12 issues outlined earlier (and other potentially important ones). Research protocols and methods that are appropriate for each issue/topic could then be developed by groups of disciplinary experts. A central, coordinating entity (such as ICRAF for agroforestry) could be the nerve-centre for these research efforts.

While addressing these issues of NWFP development, agroforestry experiences can help in three ways:

1. The procedures, methodologies, and criteria that have been developed for agroforestry can be applied with necessary modifications and adjustments. For example, research methods and procedures encompassing biophysical and socioeconomic characteristics are now available in agroforestry for systems inventory, component characterization, field experimentation and data analysis, biological manipulation of components and systems, economic evaluation, and policy evaluation.

2. Operational procedures for species domestication, product valuation, and holistic evaluation of systems are also available.

3. Because of the high emphasis that is implied on the system's rather than the component's performance in agroforestry systems, these systems could provide excellent opportunities for species domestication and genetic conservation of NWFPs.

Exploiting these procedures, methods, opportunities, and experiences of agroforestry will greatly facilitate systematic and rapid development of NWFPs.


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1/.School of Forestry Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville,
Florida, USA.

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