Non-wood forest products for rural income and sustainable forestry
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Appendix 4.4.4


F. Padovani 1/
FAO Forestry Department


Statistics are about quantities and magnitudes. They are used in communicating information, keeping records and making comparisons. Forestry sector statistics should cover all aspects of the activities of the sector. The information may be needed for many different purposes, both by people within the sector and from outside.

In this presentation, four implicit characteristics (what, where, how, when) of the definition of an elementary statistical unit will be discussed in some detail.

Aspects about who produces forestry statistics on non-wood forest products (NWFPs) and why they vary from country to country according to national infrastructure and priorities. This paper attempts to encourage the appropriate authorities to take necessary initiatives to reinforce existing infrastructure or to create one for collecting and disseminating needed statistics.

In the wake of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the priorities in forestry statistics are:


When people use statistics, they very often use them to make comparisons. The following examples (see figures in Annex 1) come from the section "Non-wood forest products" in the FAO publication Statistics today for tomorrow 1961-1991, 2010 (Annex 1).

The comparisons may be between different products, as in Figure 2, which compares natural rubber production value of Brazil compared with palm hearts production value of Brazil. The comparison may be between the same product in different places, as in Figure 5, Rattan Export Value of Indonesia compared with rattan export value of the Philippines and Malaysia. Or the comparison may be between the same product in the same place at different times: Figure 4 compares cork export values of Portugal with each five-year period since 1948.

If a comparison is to be useful, we must know what are the products being compared, where they come from, how they are measured and when. In the graph on gum arabic (Figure 6):

the product and the activity have been named (What?): Gum Arabic, Exports
the place has been named (Where?): Sudan
the units are stated (How Measured?): metric Tons, US Dollars
the time for which the export statistic is recorded (When?): 1980, 1981,..... 1990

Examples of other aspects of a comparison will be covered in other papers.


When we speak of a product, we are talking about an object or thing which has been produced, harvested, processed, manufactured, and/or delivered to a household enterprise or market.

In the example above, we considered very few forest products other than wood: naval stores, natural rubber, palm hearts, cork, rattan, gum arabic. Some of these are large collections of products. For example, natural rubber exports may include natural rubber latex, whether or not pre-vulcanized and natural rubber (other than latex). Naval stores may include CTO/DTO, rosins, salts/esters, other rosin derived, turps, pine oil, other terpenes, terpene resins, etc.

When we are involved in the sale of a product, much more detailed specifications have to be considered, including the species and quality of the material. The total volume of gum arabic exports includes the volume of all types and all qualities.

Different systems of statistics show different degrees of detail. The important thing to recognize is that any statistic must be accompanied by a definition if it is to be useful for comparison with other statistics.

We hope to look at the major classifications and their definitions in more detail during this Expert Consultation in order to start to systematize NWFP activities involved, as well as identify major NWFPs, with the aim of establishing a framework, a structure and definition of basic statistical information.

During the regional expert consultations on NWFPs held in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, attempts were made to identify and classify NWFPs. Later, a deeper analysis was done at FAO headquarters of other international classifications (see the theme paper by Chandrasekharan).

It is worth mentioning the few examples of reporting Forest Products Other than Wood statistics at national and provincial level as part of their national yearbooks, e.g. the countries of Brazil, Chile, Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan and Tanzania.


Statistics may be collected at a particular location in a country, for example, by province or region. The total for the country is the sum of data for provinces producing the product in the country.

The FAO international statistics gathered attempts to obtain estimates of the total for each class in any country. In the examples shown in Annex 1, the statistics were stated as the exports of a country. The assumption is that they include all exports of the product from that country.

Questions may be asked for products recognized outside a country:

This question of coverage may be very significant in the case of domestic production (e.g. honey production, bushmeat, roots), where market does not mean a modern supermarket but a local market where the local product is brought and the local people purchase their daily needs.

When we speak of location, we should know from what type of land the products are gathered (see Annex 2 for their definitions).

Finally, are there accurate records or estimates for all of these types of land?


FAO international statistics use the metric system. National statistics may have their own measurement units and measurement conventions. As long as these are accurately known, they may be converted to FAO standard units.

Production and trade statistics are recorded in many countries in weight units: kilogrammes or tonnes. For appropriate products, these may be approximated in cubic metres using standard conversion factors.

The FAO standard for value is the United States dollar.

National currency units are converted to US dollars using current exchange rates published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


The concept of time varies in different cultures. In statistics, it is an essential parameter which must always be clearly and well defined. For example, the FAO Yearbook of Forest Products presents statistics for the calendar year January-December. Some countries or companies maintain their statistics on fiscal or financial years, or according to different calendars. Where monthly data is available, the calendar year data can be calculated. Where countries supply data for a different time span, it may be necessary to accept this as the best estimate of calendar year data. For purposes such as marketing and trade, monthly data are important.

When we are speaking of analytical, econometric, sectorial studies, the clear time subdivision into past, present and future is a must. Often if data compilers do not observe that distinction, the resulting message is very confused, and people using the results sometimes do not recognize the difference between real observed data and projections. This leads inevitably to decisions not based on facts.


The responsibilities of a forestry statistical office in the production of traditional forest product statistics should be expanded also to include NWFPs. In doing this, the following should be recognized:


We assume that facts and statistics are essential in an individual's decision-making process, to reach an effective decision. In addition, other resources and skills required include knowledge of the problems, specific experience, analysis, judgment to finally reach concrete decisions and credibility which will allow to build consensus at the local, national, regional and global levels.

With a share in the decision-making process dedicated to facts and statistics, and a well-established statistical information system, decisions can be reached and defended.

To find answers to questions of the importance of a product to a society, etc., we must recognize that realistic information has a cost. National institutions will only collect and contribute information if it has value to themselves.

In Figure 3 of Annex 1, the relationship between Uncertainty and Cost of Statistics over Time is reported. The two phenomena are reciprocal, but they are not linearly related. The cost of statistics grows linearly, but the uncertainty decreases asymptotically, never reaching zero. Each agency must identify for itself the optimal point on the curve.


FAO data is your data in the sense that the annual data published by FAO is the result of an agreement among all United Nations member countries. Everybody agrees that there is a very large number of NWFPs, and it may not be practical or feasible in the immediate future to collect formal statistics on all or even many of them at the international level.

For 17 years, from 1954 to 1971, the Forestry Department of FAO collected and published Forest Products Other Than Wood in the Yearbook of forest products statistics. For that period data were collected on production and export quantity and export value. The following note used to be reported for Forest Products Other Than Wood:

Statistics on forest products other than wood are difficult to collect in all countries, and the reported figures are therefore likely to fall short on total production, and perhaps also of total trade. For this reason it is not possible at the present time to estimate regional or world totals from the statistics given. But today, publication of inadequate information on NWFPs will not be appealing to people who use this data. Therefore, if any selected product is to be included important production and trade must be available, e.g. India and China data for bamboo.

Just to restart the publication of statistics, focus initially should be on the important products which have a long tradition at the international level e.g. cork, materials for tanning, materials for plaiting, natural gums, resins and lacs; vegetable oils; essential oils, and waxes.

For specific NWFPs important to specific groups concerned with a narrow range of products, international statistics could depend on the willingness of different groups to contribute to a collective presentation.

During the regional expert consultations on NWFPs held in Bangkok, Arusha and Santiago, and in the Seminars on Forestry Statistics held in Bangkok, Thies and Santiago, broad guidelines were suggested by the working groups as part of their recommendations for improving statistics. All participants at this meeting are invited to provide their views and suggestions.


Information is a valuable resource. The work of FAO on forestry statistics is an important contribution to the work of countries in improving their information of forests and the contribution of the forestry sector to national and rural economies. Adequate information is essential for a clear understanding of the problem, and for the formulation of sound policies and programmes in order to implement sustainable development in a way that ensures the conservation of our valuable heritage of forests and secures the benefits of their products and services for people of all countries.



(Figures 1 to 6)
Note: Figure 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 reprinted from Statistics Today for Tomorrow, 1961-1991, 2010. FAO, 1993.
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6


Agricultural Land includes arable land, land under permanent crops and permanent meadows and pastures.

Arable: Land cultivated under temporary crops (double-cropped areas are counted only once), temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens (including cultivation under glass), and such land temporarily lying idle.

Permanent Crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy the land for long periods and need not be replanted after each harvest, such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber; it includes land under shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, but excludes land under trees grown for wood or timber.

Permanent Meadows and Pastures: Land used permanently (five years or more) for herbaceous forage crops, either cultivated or growing wild (wild prairie or grazing land).

Forest and Other Wooded Land: Land under natural or planted stands of trees, whether productive or not and exceeding 0.5 ha in extent. It includes areas occupied by roads, small cleared tracts and other small open areas within the forest which constitute an integral part of the forest.

Other Land: Includes unused but potentially productive land, built-on areas, wasteland, parks, ornamental gardens, roads, lanes, barren land, and any other land not specifically listed under: arable land, permanent meadows and pastures, land under permanent crops, forest and other wooded land.

Trees Outside the Forest includes trees on:

Source: "Toward a common framework for world forest resources assessment" _______________________

1/ Forestry Officer (Statistics), Forestry Policy and Planning Division, FAO, Rome.

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