Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

An introduction to selected FAO programmes related to non-wood forest products

Leo Lintu
Forest Products Division, FAO
Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy


This paper highlights the main features of three major programmes of FAO, the activities of which are closely related to the development of the non-wood forest products sector. The programmes are the Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) Programme, the Agroforestry Programme, and the Forest Products Marketing Programme. Several other programmes of FAO also contribute to the work on the development of non-wood forest products, both within the Forestry Department and in other departments of the organization.

Non-wood forest products programme


Non-wood forest products (NWFP) have featured in FAO's programme in one or another for several decades. In the early stages, they were handled as `minor forest products' and the emphasis given to them was relatively minor as well. Recently, however, recognition of the significant environmental, economic and social roles of NWFPs have brought them into sharper focus. This development has also been helped by the emphasis on the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources and by the growing consumer interest in natural products.

NWFPs received notable attention at UNCED in 1992, which brought them to the interest of the authorities. Much of the new interest is, however, yet to be transformed into commensurate and consistent action.

FAO invigorated its programme on NWFPs some five years ago and allocated specific resources for the activities related to them. The NWFP programme is currently implemented under the Wood and Non-Wood Products Utilization Branch in the Forest Products Division.

The work carried out under the NWFPs programme of FAO has concentrated on increasing the awareness of their importance, identifying the most relevant issues related to the development of the NWFP sector, and initiating action to collect relevant information. FAO, as an organization with a mandate for global forestry, is also trying to coordinate the activities carried out by various public and private organizations in this area. On the technical side, the main emphasis of FAO's work is focused on resources, including NWFP resource management, harvesting, and marketing to secondary processing industries or final users. Until recently, the programme has concentrated mainly on the development of NWFPs in the tropical areas of the world.

Specific activities carried out recently include organizing meetings, preparing publications, establishing contacts, developing collaborative arrangements and partnerships, and promoting the NWFPs programme in general.


FAO has organized and held four regional expert consultations on NWFPs (two for the Asia-Pacific region and one each for English-speaking Africa and the Latin America and the Caribbean region). These meetings were held jointly with other organizations, for example, the Africa meeting was co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Science Council, while US Forest Service co-sponsored the Latin America meeting. In January 1995, an Inter-Regional Expert Consultation was held in Indonesia which brought together specialists from all the tropical regions. Other meetings were held by utilizing the resources of the FAO regular programme with support from other agencies and forestry field projects. Reports of all the above meetings have been published and copies are available from FAO.


The NWFPs programme has also published a number of studies that have been prepared by consultants with funding from the FAO regular programme or outside sponsors. The documents include material that highlights the importance of NWFPs in general (e.g., `NWFPs-the way ahead' and `More than wood-special options on multiple use of forests') or in specific regions or countries (like the Mediterranean region, the Amazon region, Viet Nam, Tanzania). Also included is an overview of the international trade of NWFPs. There are also a number of monographs to describe specific NWFPs (i.e., `Nutmeg and derivates', `Flavours and fragrances of plant origin', `Gum naval stores: turpentine and rosin from pine resin', `Natural colourants and dyestuffs', `Gums', `Resins and latexes of plant origin', `Edible nuts', and `Tropical palms'). Finally, the programme publishes a newsletter, Non-Wood News, with a frequency of approximately one issue per year. It was launched in 1994, so at the moment two issues have been published (although the first issue is now out of print). The third issue is with the printers and is due to be available for distribution in March this year. Non-Wood News provides an open forum for all readers to exchange information, contacts, announcements of programmes, etc. Its present circulation covers 600 individuals or institutions involved in NWFP activities around the world. Non-Wood News is also accessible through an Internet address - faoinfo/forestry/nwnews.

Furthermore, there are other publications on more general production and trade issues that have come out recently in the NWFP Series, i.e., `NWFPs for rural income and sustainable forestry: general principles and approaches', `Multiple-use forest management guidelines for the production of NWFPs', `Income generation from NWFPs in upland conservation', and `Trade restrictions affecting international trade in NWFPs'.


Successful development of the NWFPs sector means a multidisciplinary approach. Many of the problems associated with the development of this sector are social, i.e. related to the general development of forestry communities. The NWFP programme closely collaborates with a number of interested and involved parties. FAO's NWFP programme has maintained contacts, exchanged information, provided comments, reciprocally attended meetings, etc. These include both UN organizations dealing with specific aspects of NWFPs, like UNIDO, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, UNEP and ITC, as well as other international and regional organizations like IUCN, WWF, CIFOR, ICRAF, WRI, ATI, CS, IIED, IDRC, ICIMOD, CATIE, UK/ODA-NRI, Royal Botanic Gardens-Kew, New York Botanical Garden, Commonwealth Science Council, and Oxford Forestry Institute.

Within FAO, this collaboration involves keeping close contacts with all the divisions of the Forestry Department and a number of other divisions (Plant Production and Protection, Agricultural Services, Land and Water, Food Policy and Nutrition, and Statistics). Within the Forestry Department, the Agroforestry, Community Forestry, and Forest Products Marketing Programmes have been closely involved in supporting the development of the NWFP sector.

FAO has regional offices in all the main geographic regions where there are regional forestry officers, whose contribution to the NWFPs programme is also significant. They organize specific regional meetings on the topics and prepare and publish related studies.

Future activities

Future NWFPs activities in FAO will be guided by the recommendations of the 1995 Inter-Regional Expert Consultation on NWFPs held in Indonesia. The Consultation specifically requested FAO to:

These recommendations were considered by the 12th Session of the Committee on Forestry which is the main policy-formulating body on forestry matters in FAO, in March 1995. It urged FAO to undertake the necessary follow-up action and to develop a centre of excellence in the area of NWFPs.

Relating to the recommendations made by the Indonesia Expert Consultation, several initiatives in which FAO is collaborating are taking place outside FAO. To give a few examples: the IUCN has expressed interest developing a framework policy for NWFPs. WWF and ATI would also like to be consulted in this. UNIDO has expressed interest in collaboration in the implementation of field projects on NWFPs. FAO has been asked by WHO to comment on their model monograph of widely used medicinal plants dealing with some 35 plant species.

NWFPs are increasingly gaining worldwide interest, not only in the tropical areas of the world. There are initiatives under development in the boreal forest zone, where NWFPs are seen as of major importance in multiple-use forestry, social development of forest-based rural communities, advancement of sustainability, maintenance of biodiversity, protection of environment, and relations towards the general public.

It is foreseen that NWFPs will remain on the forestry agenda at both national and international levels for quite some time to come.

Agroforestry Programme

FAO's activities in agroforestry are approached from several different perspectives and disciplines: forestry, various types of farming systems (crop-based, animal-based, or mixed-production systems), resource management (soil and water conservation, watershed management) and for particular agro-ecological zones (uplands and mountains, arid zone). It is also treated in a holistic way through farming-systems research and development.

An interdepartmental working group on agroforestry has been established in FAO to ensure in-house coordination and communication between different departments and several divisions in FAO. The activities of various departments and divisions are discussed in a paper presented at the ICRAF-FAO Inter-Regional Meeting on Agroforestry Research, Development and Education for Africa, Asia and Latin America, held at ICRAF, Nairobi, in May 1994.

While agroforestry is diffused throughout FAO, the Forest Resources Division of the Forestry Department provides an institutional home in FAO for a programme that deals specifically with agroforestry development. This programme explores issues related to the role of trees in agricultural systems, and the relationships between forestry and agriculture in changing land-use patterns. The programme focuses on the contributions that agroforestry can make to the livelihoods of farmers, sustainable agriculture, natural resource conservation, and food security. The programme does not have a specific focus on the development of non-wood forest products in agroforestry systems but has encouraged the production of various types of tree products (fruit, nuts, fibre, fodder, etc.) for use by the farm household or for generation of cash income.

The objectives of the programme are to increase awareness and technical knowledge about agroforestry and to strengthen member countries' capabilities in agroforestry development. To date, these efforts have been largely through the field programme. At any one time, FAO supports between 20 and 30 field projects in developing countries focused on agroforestry, or with an agroforestry component. These projects include pilot activities for agroforestry development in a particular area of a country, strengthening of institutions, training to improve knowledge of agroforesty systems, efforts to improve research capacities and the development of extension methodologies and materials.

FAO also supports two regional agroforestry networks, the Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Network (APAN) consisting of 11 countries, and the Technical Cooperation Network in Agroforestry for Latin America and the Caribbean, consisting of 18 countries. These networks promote the sharing of information on agroforestry technologies, research and education programmes, and participatory methodologies of agroforestry planning and implementation. The networks have also organized training courses and meetings and have published various documents. The networks are working to attract international financial support for agroforestry programmes in their respective regions.

The Agroforestry Programme is currently working on improved planning of agroforestry activities, development of a framework for assessing the sustainability of agroforestry, improving economic analysis of agroforestry systems, and incorporating marketing considerations into agroforestry planning. In conjunction with the latter, the Agroforestry Programme collaborated with the Forest Products Marketing Programme and the Community Forestry Programme to develop a document, `Marketing in forestry and agroforstry by rural people' (see annex).

Forest Products Marketing Programme

The Forest Products Marketing Programme supports, as part of its activities, the work of the NWFP programme. The objective of the Forest Products Marketing Programme is to contribute to the conservation and rational utilization of forest resources, to increase economic and social benefits from the forestry sector and to improve the equitable distribution among the participants in these activities.

Its basic strategy is to develop and strengthen marketing in the forestry sector through: (1) raising awareness of the benefits and importance of efficient marketing, (2) improving the information base, (3) increasing institutional support and capabilities, and (4) improving current marketing practices.

Specific activities include preparating marketing studies, implementing surveys on the needs for marketing training, supporting training activities, preparating case studies and other training materials, strengthening and setting up marketing information systems, organizing meetings, providing backup for field programmes and projects, etc.

Funding for coordination and development of the programme is included in the regular programme budget of FAO. External funding is needed mainly for carrying out specific activities under the programme.

As the programme covers all forest products, only a few examples of NWFPs can be cited: `A case study on marketing of Brazil nuts' and `A compendium of computer-based databases of relevance to forest products marketing'. There are also case studies on marketing of wood fuels, for example, `Case study on marketing of wood fuels in Senegal'. Jointly with the Agroforestry Community Forestry and NWFP Programmes, the Forest Products Marketing Programme has participated in the preparation of a document, `Marketing in forestry and agroforesry by rural people'. A condensed description of the document is appended as an annex to this paper.

Specific importance of this conference to FAO's NWFPs and other related programmes

1. We expect to get from this conference some clearer idea of the magnitude and types of demand for NWFP for various end-uses, to be able to inform the countries of their production potential.

2. This conference offers FAO an opportunity to give information about-

its role in trying to link in a coordinated manner the various parties interested in the implementation of diverse activities, to avoid duplication of efforts and unnecessary wastage of scarce resources.

the database that FAO intends to develop of institutions dealing with NWFPs. This will also indicate any other databases that these institutions may have available.

the preliminary work that FAO has done to develop a product classification for NWFPs. This will enable delegates to contribute to its further refinement, whenever it will be done, specifically concerning the products that are of direct relevance to their sectors of NWFPs. The eventual aim of all concerned is, of course, to try to produce a useful classification system, naturally within the limits of the international system of statistics.

3. It provides an opportunity to distribute relevant FAO documents, which are also available from FAO in Rome.


Introduction to `Marketing in forestry and agroforestry by rural people'

Rural people practice forestry either as individuals or as organized communities. They comprise forest dwellers and other forest-dependent people who harvest and extract wood and non-wood forest products from the forests, and farmers who practice agroforestry. The forests and farm lands which they use are either owned by them or they have user's rights to these resources.

In several instances, the forest dwellers and farmers live close to the subsistence level and therefore produce mainly for their own and family consumption. They are therefore not accustomed to extensive trading of their products to outsiders. Whenever they have some excess production, above their own requirements, it is sold in the local market place or to middlemen. Farmers and other producers of wood and non-wood forest products, who have stable excess production would benefit from improved organization of their marketing activities.

The development efforts among forest dwellers and farmers practicing agroforestry aim at increasing their income. It has been noted that many of these activities have concentrated on the development of a resource base and the production systems, without much attention being paid to the development of marketing. A balanced development of forestry and agroforestry systems presumes, however, that all the basic functions from resource management, through raw material harvesting and processing to marketing, get equal and sufficient attention to function in harmony. By making these people more directly involved in marketing of their products, their ability to claim a fairer share of the economic benefits created through forestry and agroforestry activities can be secured.

In order to draw attention to the importance of marketing and to respond to expressed needs for its better understanding in forestry and agroforestry systems, FAO has prepared a document on `Marketing in Forestry and Agroforestry by Rural People'.

The aim of this document is to increase understanding of the importance of marketing and of how marketing influences the design and management of forestry and agroforestry systems. The document highlights the main features of forest products marketing and marketing management and advises on the steps to be taken in introducing the marketing function in forestry and agroforestry systems.

The document has been written primarily for use by extension workers, community leaders, NGO staff and other field practitioners. Its objective is not to be a `how-to-do-it' guideline, but rather to increase the interest in marketing and to stimulate awareness of the basic elements involved. Some guidance is, however, given to field practitioners on how to get started when introducing marketing into forestry and agroforestry systems. This document will need a series of guidelines on specific aspects like: How to do marketing at the field level; How to train people for the marketing function; How to set up marketing information systems; and How to carry out marketing studies. Some of these guidelines have been identified, but others would still need to be prepared.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page