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GUM ARABIC - LIFE IN A SATURATED MARKET

IVAN HOLMES
Agrilab, Tylas, Rievalx, York,
North Yorkshire Y06 5LH
United Kingdom

 

Acacia senegal is an amazing tree. It grows where almost nothing else will survive, provides fodder, enriches the soil with nitrogen and provides gum arabic, an extraordinary harvest which can bring security to the fragile existence of people in the arid lands who depend on livestock or dry-land farming. Gum arabic is a unique and natural product which is very important to the food and pharmaceutical industries but it is much more important as an arid lands resource. It provides real and sustainable benefits to the environment and the people of those regions.

There is a growing range of industrial alternatives to gum arabic. More are possible through fields such as genetic engineering, but gum arabic is still the best. Being a natural product is a selling point which should keep gum arabic at the head of the field for a long time. As an industry we have a collective interest in promoting gum arabic and presenting it in a form which gives little desire or funding to replace it with synthetic or other products.

The pattern which has brought gum arabic usage down from 70,000 tonnes in 1960 to a low of 25,000 tonnes in the early 1990’s is now familiar. The domino effect of drought, shortage and high prices leads to reduced demand. Reduced confidence is shown as, each time prices return to former levels, usage fails to recover, users having found alternative products and are unwilling to change back. It is obvious what damage the cyclical trends in the gum arabic market do. User confidence is damaged further by the effect of casual, opportunist collectors in some countries. They compete fiercely when prices are high, often supplying low-quality adulterated gums at a time when users are willing to accept them. Then, when prices reduce, collection ceases leaving the end-user and the pastoralist collector equally disillusioned.

Building Customer Confidence

  1. Reliable supply
  2. Stable prices
  3. Pure unadulterated product
  4. Traceability - guarantees of good working practice.

At this point in time there are gum arabic stocks built up throughout the world to last for up to 2 years. It is probable that we will not see a large increase in prices for many years. As a result the user is gaining new confidence in price and supply. There are encouraging signs of recovery in the market. The user is now in a powerful position and can demand the things he/she wants.

Probably the most important of those things is purity. It is so fundamentally important that we present gums which are not adulterated with gums of another type or species. Gum arabic is increasingly used as a technical product. It is often blended with other gums or materials to produce precise ingredients for food and pharmaceuticals. The variability which has sometimes been normal in the past is no longer acceptable. The vast sums of money which go into developing new product lines demand that ingredients must be of a relatively invariable nature. If gum arabic is to be in that category every one right down to the collector must be committed to the supply of a pure and unadulterated product.

Users also want traceability and guarantees that ensure they receive a product which does not expose them to risk. There are increasing problems from micro-biological organisms such as E. coli and Salmonella. Residues of chemicals or other things are equally unacceptable. Clean baskets, sacks, transport and storage conditions can go a long way to ensuring reasonable levels of safety. Producers who adopt and can guarantee good working practices will have a more saleable product.

How does a country like Kenya achieve these things? Kenya is a very small producer but has the potential to satisfy rich markets and can increase current levels of production.

There must be some co-operation between all those involved, leading to the development of a standard for Kenya gum. Any certification scheme should be tough enough to deliver consistent standards to build customer confidence and promoted to deliver real benefits for its members.

The aim should be:-

  1. to develop standards which guarantee clear, graded and unadulterated gum of each separate type or species; and
  2. to enforce a code of practice which ensures;

If this can be achieved, it should be possible to see the differences in Kenyan gum not as a disadvantage which incurs a discount on market price but as an advantage which attracts a premium.

The world is of course littered with marketing boards and authorities which have failed to protect their product often through too much bureaucracy and very often through a belief that they can dictate to the market. We are in a world where there is a surplus of most commodities, where the customer is King. The fundamental rule is listen to the customer because he will only buy from people who are committed to improving his business.

I would like to conclude by saying that Sudanese Kordofan has been an incredibly successful product over the years. The way is open for other countries to develop gums from different species and different regions with different qualities. These can complement Kordofan and provide the customer with an increased range of technical products for an increasingly technical world.

As producers we should keep things as simple as possible:

Anyone who can achieve this I think has a healthy future in gum arabic.

 


CHEMOTAXONOMIC ASPECTS OF GUM EXUDATES FROM SOME ACACIA SPECIES

GASPAR S. MHINZI and HILLARY D.J. MROSSO
Chemistry Department, University of Dar es Salaam,
P.O. Box 35061, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Key Work Index - Acacia, chemotaxonomy; gum exudates, properties

 

Abstract

Although Acacia drepanolobium and A. malacocephala are regarded as being closely related botanically, analysis of the specimens of their gum exudates confirm that they are indeed two distinct species. The properties of the gum exudate from A. senegal var leiorhachis differ from that obtained from A. senegal var senegal (widely accepted as the source of commercial gum arabic) by being much more viscous and having higher proportions of insoluble gel fraction and nitrogen contents. However, the properties of the gum exudates from A. seyal var seyal and A. seyal var fistula are quite similar and it is justifiable to retain them as variations of the same species.

Introduction

Morphologically, A. drepanolobium and A. malacocephala plants are very similar and it is almost impossible to distinguish between them on the basis of herbarium specimens alone. The only difference that can be appreciated in the field is that they flower at different times of the year. Burtt (1942) considered them as two distinct species and made an interesting distinction that A. malacocephala flowers in the later dry season, the flowers disappearing in the first rains, whereas A. drepanolobium flowers in the rainy season.

The species A. senegal is extremely variable. Acacia senegal var. senegal itself shows a wide range of variation in terms of indumentum, armature, flower size and general habit. Acacia senegal var. leiorhachis differs from A. senegal var senegal solely by its glabrous inflorescence axis, a difference considered as a minor variation by (Brenan, 1959). Acacia senegal var kerensis also seems not to be uniform but its bushy habit is the most distinctive in the field. However, the status of these variants of A. senegal is quite uncertain (Brenan, 1959). It is not yet known whether they represent a response to an unusual habitat, exceptions in an otherwise normal population or just distinct local races.

Acacia seyal var fistula has a greenish white smooth bark, with 'anti-galls' and grows commonly on black cotton soil on the plains. Acacia seyal var. seyal, on the other hand, has a reddish bark, without 'anti-galls' and occurs commonly on the hills (Brenan, 1959).

Acacia drepanolobium, A. malacocephala, A. seyal var. fistula and A. seyal var. seyal, belong to Bentham's series (Bentham, 1875) Gummiferae whereas A. senegal var. senegal and A. senegal var leiorhachis belong to the series Vulgares.

The use of analytical data to provide chemotaxonomic evidence to distinguish between closely related varieties of species has been suggested by some workers (Anderson and Brenan, 1975; Anderson and Weiping, 1990). This paper presents the physicochemical properties of gum exudates from the above-named species (except A. senegal var. kerensis) and presumably will contribute in underpinning the identity of the various closely related species.

Results and discussion

The physicochemical data for the samples are summarised in Table 1. Acacia gums are known to be highly soluble in water unlike other tree exudate gums (e.g. gum karaya) which are not completely soluble in water and form highly viscous solutions or suspensions at relatively low concentrations (Anderson and Street, 1983; Gliksman and Sand, 1973). The gum exudate from A. drepanolobium is almost completely soluble in water (CWIG, ca. 0.4% w/w) whereas its close relative, A. malacocephala possesses a substantial amount of insoluble gel fraction (Table 1). Nitrogen content is considered as one of the very useful parameters in distinguishing gums from different species (Anderson, 1976; Anderson, 1977). In fact, JECFA (JECFA/FAO, 1990) introduced the specification for nitrogen content (0.26-0.39% w/w) in the definition of gum arabic to ensure identity and purity of the gum. However, gums from some closely related species analysed in this work have been found to differ significantly with respect to this parameter. Thus, the nitrogen contents of the gum specimens from A. malacocephala found in this work are significantly higher than those of A. drepanolobium gum (ca.0.30%) (Table 1). Likewise, the specific optical rotations and acid equivalent weights (AEW's) of the gums from A. malacocephala ad A. drepanolobium are remarkably different. However, the methoxyl contents and the total ash levels of the gum samples from these two species are fairly similar.

In general, the properties of gums from A. malacocephala and A. drepanolobium are substantially different. Therefore, although A. malacocephala and A. drepanolobium are regarded as being closely related botanically, the properties of their gum exudates confirm that they are indeed two distinct species. Accordingly, in order to provide an unambiguous identity for the two species, it is recommended that some properties of their gum exudates should be included in their taxonomic description.

Table 1 shows that the AEW's and total ash levels of the gums from A. senegal var. leiorhachis and A. senegal var. senegal are similar. However, apart from these two parameters, the overall impression is that these two species produce gums with different properties. For example, there is a notable different in terms of solubility. The gum from A. senegal var leiorhachis is far less soluble than that from A. senegal var senegal. Acacia gums with a high proportion of insoluble gel are known to be more viscous than those with a low proportion of insoluble gel(Phillips et al., 1980). Therefore as expected, the viscosity of A. senegal var leiorhachis gum is significantly higher than that of A. senegal var senegal at the same concentration Table 1). A similar observation has been reported for gum ghatii(Jefferies et al., 1977). In this work A. senegal var senegal has been found to have a more negative optical ration (1, -25:II, -26). Since A. senegal var senegal is the most prevalent variation of Sudanese A. senegal (Anderson et al.,1983), the value of -35 for optical rotation assigned to Sudanese gum arabic (Anderson et al.,1983) is presumably the of A. senegal var senegal gum. The differences between values obtained in this work and the literature value (-30) (Anderson et al., 1983) might be due to variation between the exuding A. senegal trees as reported by Devaluate et al. 1993, who recorded a wider range of optical rotation with a minimum of -25 and a maximum of -62. The optical rotation values of A. senegal var. leiorhanchis gum are comparable to those reported for Sudanese A. senegal gum (-30) (Anderson et al.,1983) but significantly lower than that of A. senegal var kerensis gum (-35) (Chikamai and Banks, 1993).

Table 1: Physicochemical properties of gum exudates from some Acacia species of the series Vulgares and Gummiferae

Parameter drepa mala sese sele seya sefi
  Ia II I II I II Ib II Ia II I II
Moisture % w/w 10.7 14.4 13.2 13.4 15.0 14.1 13.8 15.3 15.0 14.0 14.2 13.4
Ash % w/w 2.0 1.6 3.0 2.3 4.5 3.8 4.2 5.2 3.0 3.5 3.2 2.6
Acid insoluble matter % w/w 0.20 0.35 1.88 0.73 0.88 0.60 0.30 0.21 0.30 0.78 0.65 0.60
CWIG % w/w 0.30 0.43 5.88 3.43 1.57 1.83 8.90 15.67 0.20 0.70 2.70 0.35
HWIG % W/W 0.30 0.40 3.92 2.96 0.96 1.23 2.10 4.03 0.10 1.06 1.70 0.30
Ca (g/100g)c 0.66 0.53 0.68 0.59 0.72 0.43 0.75 0.74 1.01 1.06 1.78 0.77
Mg (g/100g)c 0.09 0.05 0.08 0.05 0.29 0.02 0.17 0.15 0.15 0.09 0.08 0.08
Na (g/100g)c 0.08 0.03 0.13 0.03 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.0l 0.02 0.01 0.04
K (g/100g)c 0.19 0.10 0.28 0.11 0.98 0.09 1.09 1.35 0.20 0.20 0.18 0.17
Methoxyl % w/w 0.81 1.02 1.12 1.10 0.17 0.26 0.30 0.27 1.22 1.29 1.21 1.43
Nitrogen % w/w 0.30 0.32 1.67 0.84 0.33 0.28 0.44 0.48 0.13 0.07 0.21 0.18
   Hence, Protein
   (N x 6.25)
1.88 1.94 10.44 5.25 2.06 1.75 2.75 3.00 0.81 0.44 1.31 1.12
[ a ]D In H2O, deg +101 +104 +70 +86 -25 -26 -50 -55 +54 +53 +54 +56
Viscosity (centipose)  
       100 gl-1 4.0 2.9 4.73 5.33 4.61 2.90 33.69 79.22 8.98 6.00 7.32 5.70
       150 gl-1 9.5 5.8 11.06 11.04 9.44 6.14 64.18 181.8 18.83 13.87 19.25 15.39
Optical density 0.18 0.06 0.14 0.10 0.06 0.06 0.19 0.07 0.09 0.08 0.12 0.27
Tannin %w/w 0.33 0.40 0.42 0.48 0.28 0.52 0.37 0.44 0.31 0.59 0.29 0.51
Acid Equivalent Weight 2263d 2607 1615 1940 1575 1922 1583d 1703 1424d 1423 1284 1812

KEY: drepa= A. drepanolobium, mala = A. malacocephala, sese = A. senegal var senegal, sele = A. senegal var leiorhachis,

seya = A. seyal var seyal, sefi = A. seyal var fistula. a Some of the data are from ref.(Mhinzi and Mosha, 1995). b Data from ref. (Mhinzi and Mrosso, 1995) except Na. K

and AEW. cCorrected for moisture content. dData frorm ref. (Mhinzi and Mosha, 1993).

 

The cationic compositions (Table 1) of A. senegal var senegal and A. senegal var leiorhachis gums are quite similar; Metal ion content in plant material is thought to be a function of the composition of the soil on which the plants grow (Anderson and Wieping, 1990; Anderson and Morrison, 1989; Anderson and Weiping, 1990). Thus, their levels are not very useful as chemotaxonomic markers in identifying different Acacia species. The nitrogen contents and specific rotation values of A. senegal var leiorhachis gum found in this work are similar to those found in A. senegal var kerensis gum (Chikamai and Banks, 1993) reflecting a close relationship between the two varieties of A. senegal. Acacia senegal var senegal gum has been found in this work to have a slightly lower level of nitrogen.

The existence of the Acacia senegal complex is well known. the notable differences observed in this study between the properties of the gums from A. senegal var. senegal and A. senegal var leiorhachis amplifies the need to incorporate selected analytical data as chemotaxonomic evidence in distinguishing some closely related Acacia species.

Another pair of gum specimens we have compared chemotaxonomically, in this work, are those from A. seyal var. fistula and A. seyal var seyal. The former can readily be distinguished from the latter as it possesses a greenish white smooth bark, with 'anti-galls'. Acacia seyal var seyal, on the other hand has a reddish bark, without 'anti-galls'. Table 1 shows that these two varieties produce gums which have similar properties. Thus, the values of specific optical rotation, methoxyl content, total ash and viscosities of the gums from these variants of A. seyal are quite similar. It is concluded, therefore, that in general the properties of A. seyal var seyal and A. seyal var fistula gums are similar and it is justifiable to retain these two species as variations of the same species.

Experimental

Origin of samples - The gum samples were collected by the authors from central Tanzania in the following locations:

1. A. drepanolobium I
II
78 km from Dodoma on the Dodoma to Singida road.
12 km north west of Dodoma Town.
2. A. malacocephala I
II
15.4 km West of Singida town along the Singida-Mlandara road.
As above
3. A. senegal var. senegal I
II
63 km from Dodoma on the Dodoma to Morogoro road
As above
4. A. senegal var leiorhachis I
II
37 km from Morogoro on the Morogoro to Dodoma road.
As above
5. A. seyal var seyal I
II
162 km from Morogoro on the Morogoro to Dodoma road
As above
6. A. seyal var fistula I
II
91 km West of Singida. Mlandara village.
22 km from Dodoma on the Dodoma to Kwamtoro road.

Botanical vouchers for each of the species were also collected and deposited in the Herbarium, Botany Department, University of Dar-es-salaam. Confirmation of the species was obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew, UK).

The detailed experimental methods for all the parameters have been described previously (Mhinzi and Mrosso, 1995).

Acknowledgements - We thank NORAD and SIDA for financial support and Mr. Frank Mbago, of the herbarium, Botany Department, University of Dar es Salaam for the identification of the Acacia species.


References

Anderson, D.M.W. (1976) in Iranex S.A. (Editor), Gums and Hydrosoluble Natural Vegetable Colloids, 4th Int. Symp., Paris, p. 105.

Anderson, D.M.W.; Kew Bulletin, 32(3), 529 (1977).

Anderson, D.M.W. and Brenan, J.P.M. (1975) Boissiera 24, 307

Anderson, D.M.W. and Morrison, S.A. (1989). Food Hydrocoll., 3(1), 57.

Anderson, D.M.W., Morrison, N.A., Weiping , W. (1983) . Food addit. Contam., 7, 303.

Anderson, D.M.W. and Street C.A. (1983). Talanta 30 (11),887.

Anderson, D.M.W. and Weiping, W. (1990) Food Hydrocoll., 3(6), 475.

Anderson, D.M.W. and Weiping, W. (1990). Biochem. Sys. and Ecol. 18(6), 413.

Bentham, G. (1875) Trans. Linn. Soc. 30, 335.

Brenan, J.P.M. (1983) Manual on Taxonomy of Acacia species, FAO, Rome.

Brenan, J.P.M. (1959). [Hubbard, C.L. and Redhead, M. (Editors)]; Flora of Tropical East Africa - Leguminosae: sub-family Mimosoideae, Crown Agents for Overseas Government and Administration (London).

Burtt, B.D. (1942). Journ. Ecol. 30, 96.

Chikamai, B.N. and Banks, W.B., (1993). Food Hydrocoll., 7(6), 521.

Duvallet, S., Fenyo, J. C. and vendevelde, M.C. (1993) Food Hydrocoll., 7(4), 319

Glicksman, M. and Sand, R.E. (1973) in Whistler, R. L. (Editor); Industrial Gums: Polysaccharides and their Derivatives. 2nd Ed., Academic Press, New York, p. 197.

JECFA/FAO (1990) Food and Nutrition Paper No. 49, Rome.

Jefferies, M., Pass, G., Phillips, G.O. (1977) J. Sci. Fd Agric., 28, 173.

Phillips, G.O., Pass, G., Jefferies, M. and Morley, R.G. (1980) in Neukom, H. and Pilnik, W. (Eds). Gelling and thickening Agents in Foods, Foster Publishing Co. Ltd., Switzerland, p. 135.

Mhinzi, G.S. and Mrosso, H.D.J. (1995). Food Chemistry, 54(3), 261.

Mhinzi, G.S. and Mosha D.M.S. (1995). Discovery and Innovation. Manuscript in press.

Mhinzi, G.S., and Mosha D.M.S. (1993). Jour. Chem. Soc. Pak., 15(4), 269.

 


FAO'S GLOBAL PROGRAMME ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF NON-WOOD FOREST PRODUCTS (NWFP’S).

PAUL VANTOMME
Forestry Officer (Non-Wood Forest Products)
Forestry Department
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
Rome, Italy

FAO and how it works

Established in 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), is the UN largest technical agency and is among the world's leading international agriculture, forestry and fishery technical development organisations. Today FAO has 174 member governments (including Kenya), a comprehensive regional representation structure (e.g. Ghana, Accra is the Regional Office for Africa; and in Zimbabwe, Harare is the sub-regional office for Southern and East Africa), a physical presence in more than 100 countries, and at its headquarters in Rome, a cadre of specialists in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and related disciplines. The fact that FAO houses under the same roof, all the major disciplines related to overall agriculture development puts it in a unique position with respect to the pursuit of holistic agricultural and agro-industrial development programmes, including those related to the sustainable production of Non Wood Forest Products (NWFP’s) such as those discussed at this meeting.

The primary roles of FAO are to serve as:

1) a neutral forum for policy dialogue (including international governmental meetings for example on agricultural/NWFP’S trade, on natural resource management and conservation issues),

2) a source of information and knowledge (technical information on products, methodologies and statistical data on production and trade on agriculture, forestry and fishery products),

3) a provider of technical assistance (field projects to develop/introduce new products or technologies, to assist governments in institutional capacity building, etc.).

Each of these roles offers ample opportunity to advance the cause of NWFP’S through a more sustainable management and utilisation of all forest resources.

How FAO deals with NWFP’s

To understand what FAO is doing on these products, we must first recognise that there exist two main categories in producing them:

1) Products which are fully domesticated and which can be cultivated by farmers as agricultural cash crops, such as some spices, medicinal plants, aromatic oils (geranium oil), mushrooms.

This group of plants is covered by several units of FAO's Agriculture Department, such as the 'Industrial Crops Group', which deals with the industrial production of plantation crops for major edible oils, medicinal and aromatics and food additives. The Agriculture Department has accumulated over the years a wealth of information on the production and development of these plants and their products, and which can be accessed through FAO's publications catalogue or via interment at:
<http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FaoInfo/Agricult>.

2) The second group contains products which are gathered from (wild) sources in forests or other related land uses. This large group of plant and animal products is part of what we call "Non-Wood Forest Products" (NWFP’S) at FAO (also called minor forest products, non-timber forest products and special forest products); and fall under the responsibility of FAO's Forestry Department.

For these products, which are used as human food or as food additives, the Food and Nutrition Division (of FAO's Economic and Social Department) is providing technical information and assistance regarding food quality control.

Further information on the nutritional use of given NWFP’S is available on their website at:
http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/ECONOMIC/ESN/NURI.HTM

This paper focuses on the role of FAO's Forestry Department as it's activities in this field may be lesser known.

The FAO Forestry Programme is unique among international organisations. FAO's Forestry Department is in fact among the largest and oldest international forestry units of its kind with a broad and comprehensive charter that addresses all forests and all forest products in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary way; this is done in a manner which recognises that environmental protection and economic development are mutually dependent.

FAO is a major source of information on the world's forest resources and forest products. Currently, FAO undertakes a global forest assessment every 10 years, highlighting forest cover, deforestation and forest degradation. We work collaboratively with many countries on this. In addition, we make use of satellite imagery and other means of obtaining accurate data. We are now developing a detailed plan for assessment for the year 2000.

FAO also regularly provides information on production of wood products, trade and capacity statistics; regional and world forestry outlook studies; and forest sector studies. FAO will also attempt to broaden the range of statistical data to include non-wood forest products and to undertake long-term strategic outlook for the forest sector on global and regional scales, taking into account impacts on forests from other sectors, such as population, agriculture, energy and mining.

FAO is also a major source of information on forest science, technology and practice. It develops and facilitates the exchange of technical information, often in multiple languages, on the environmental, economic and social dimensions of forestry including, the protection and management of forests and other natural resources; rehabilitation of degraded or marginal lands; tree planting, especially in a land-use context; enhancing the value, efficiency and environmental soundness of harvesting, utilisation and marketing of wood and non-wood forest products; and policy analysis, planning and institution strengthening.

A good example of the information provided on technology is the work in community forestry, which is one of FAO priority activities. For a number of years, FAO has been pioneering work on the social dimension of sustainable forest management, with a focus on self-reliance and participatory approaches involving local communities. Through this community forestry initiative, FAO stresses decentralised planning, communal management of forests and tree resources, conflict resolution among user groups, equity issues, the role of gender, and the contribution of forests, trees, and NWFP’s to food security and nutritional well-being.

FAO's Forestry Department has published many publications on the issues dealing with sustainable forestry development. However, its flagship publication is the "State of the World's Forests", a report published every two years, which is providing a comprehensive overview of the status of the world's forests and its products (including NWFP’S). More detailed information regarding FAO's activities and publications can be obtained at its web site:
http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/FORESTRY/forestry.htm.

FAO's Forestry Department programme and publications on NWFP’s

Three main activities make up our programme on NWFP’S:

i) Information gathering,
ii) partnerships and
iii) technical assistance.

i) Information gathering:

Successful implementation of programmes on NWFP’S require comprehensive, quality information on the plants themselves, the forest ecosystems in which they grow, on their harvesting and processing practices and on the marketing and trade aspects of these products. The collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of such information world-wide has been a priority of FAO from the very beginning.

Essentially, we provide three types of information, namely;

In our NWFP’S work programme, we have two types of publications:

a) the "Non Wood Forest Products Series": which are in-depth technical documents on specific NWFP’S or issues. Examples of already published issues with particular relevance to this Conference, are:

Copies of some of these publications are put on display for your information.

b) the "Non Wood News" bulletin: which is a newsletter published yearly by FAO of approximately 60 to 80 pages compiling all relevant information on ongoing activities dealing with NWFP’S world-wide, and for which text contributions are made by readers themselves. The bulletin links some 1400 people, institutions and agencies which are involved in one way or other with the promotion and development of NWFP’S.

The newsletter is available on internet (from issue No.. 3 onwards) at:
http://www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/forestry/nwnews/default.htm

ii) Partnerships

Although FAO is an intergovernmental organisation, and as such its main line of communication is with our member governments, it also needs to receive a welcome input from a broad range of interest groups, including the private sector, universities, forest industries and non-governmental organisations representing environmental and developmental interests. There is need, therefore, to ensure collaboration and to avoid duplication of effort so that skills and resources are most efficiently utilised.

To increase awareness on NWFP’S and strengthen national collaboration at the regional level, FAO's Wood and Non-Wood Products Utilisation Branch (FOPW) has organised three regional expert consultations. The first was for Asia and the Pacific Region in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1991, the second was for Anglophone African Countries, held in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1993; and the third was for Latin America and the Caribbean, and was organised in Santiago, Chile, 1994.

Two global expert consultations have also been organised. A 'Social, Economic and Cultural Dimensions of NWFP’S', was organised in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1994; and an "Inter-regional Expert Consultation on NWFP’S', was organised in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 1995. During 1997, a workshop was organised by FOPW on: 'Medicinal, Culinary and Aromatic Plants in the Near East', in Cairo, Egypt, from 19 to 21 May.

For 1998, an 'Expert Consultation on NWFP’S in the Congo Basin', is planned to be held in Cameroon. In addition, preparations have started for expert consultations on 'NWFP’S from Boreal Forests' and on 'NWFP’S from the North American Region.

Especially related to FAOs networking activity on NWFP’S, is the identification, through a questionnaire of all interested partners involved in one way or the other with the development and promotion of NWFP’S. The results of processing this questionnaire will lead to the development of a global Directory on "Who is Who" in the field of NWFP’S (including government, private sector, universities, funding agencies, etc.) Later on this Directory will also serve as a base to further develop FAO’s statistical knowledge on global production and trade figures on NWFP’S.

iii) Technical assistance

To help put into practice policies and technologies on NWFP’S management, production and commerce, FAO offers technical assistance to all member countries. The objective of such assistance is to strengthen national capacities to effectively plan and carry out the full project cycle of improving or introducing new products and or techniques for NWFP’S development in a sustainable manner. Technical project-level assistance covers most dimensions of sustainable NWFP’S development, but with emphasis on resource protection and management, information gathering and processing, improved people's participation through community forestry, and institutional strengthening.

At the project level, FAO is currently active in some 250 forestry technical assistance projects in 90 countries, in which for many of them NWFP’S activities are an essential component. Financial support for such projects comes from a variety of sources including FAO, but especially from donor governments, the United nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank and others.

Conclusion

Developing and implementing sustainable production and conservation of NWFP’S, with rigid product quality control, efficient marketing and equitable distribution of benefits to all concerned along the full chain from the producer till the consumer, is a key component for a successful programme to achieve more sustainable management of the forest resources, including better conservation of their biodiversity.

FAO, by serving as a neutral policy forum, a source of technical information and by assisting countries in field projects, can do a great deal to help with the successful development and sustainable production of NWFP’S.

 


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