Often there is a tendency to associate forests with trees and timber production only. Other products, such as bamboo, cane, oil, fibre, floss food, fodder and medicinal plants, are sidelined as merely "Minor Forest Produce," or MFP. Some so-called MFP, however, is economically even more valuable than timber. Moreover, its social and cultural values also add to its importance.
Forestry development, through people's participation programs, is both an important objective and strategy of the Royal Government of Bhutan's Seventh Five-Year Plan. These programs are expected to improve rural people's understanding of the importance of forests and, at the same time, contribute to improving their daily life. Classical forestry models that look at trees alone may not provide the necessary incentives to trigger wide response from the people. Social forestry models must provide quick and attractive economic returns. MFP, particularly medicinal plants, has a tremendous potential as cash crops, and it can often be grown alongside numerous tree species.
In Bhuta's past development activities, unfortunately, MFP as the name suggests, has been accorded less attention than it deserves. Such knowledge as does exist is limited. This ignorance of MFP's value and potential prevents us from reaping the full economic benefits from our vast storehouse of genetic resources. We are not yet sure how to harvest produce from the forests on a sustainable basis. The technology for cultivating such resources has yet to be adequately explored. It is hoped that the change in nomenclature, from MFP to non-wood forest products, will not only give MFP a better image, but also lead to the development of these important resources. The first step in doing this was to review existing information and compile a comprehensive document as a reference base of all local knowledge. A committee was set up for just this purpose. The committee then submitted this report. I am happy to say that their work has surpassed expectations and I am extremely pleased witch the results.
I congratulate the committee on producing its excellent document within such a short period. This report has greatly improved our knowledge and should act as a catalyst for further development.
Forestry Services Division
The Royal Government of Bhutan
Rugged terrain and lack of roads hinder the marketing and trade of non-wood forest products in most parts of Bhutan.