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Use of non-wood forest products by village communities in Sri Lanka


Introduction
Non-wood forest products
Present status of collection and utilization of non-wood forest products
Patterns of NWFP collection
Major issues and recommendations related to development of NWFPS
References


H. M. Bandaratillake
Conservator of Forests, Sri Lanka

Introduction

The island of Sri Lanka has a land area of about 6.5 million hectares. Topographically, the country consists of a highland area in the south central part of the island which rises to about 2,500 metres, and lowland plains which surround it. The climate is tropical and maritime. Three major climatic zones can be recognised based on the rainfall pattern: the wet zone (over 2,500 millimetres per year), the intermediate zone (1,900-2,500 millimetres per year) and the dry zone where dry conditions prevail from May to September (below 1,900 millimetres per year). The natural vegetation follows the pattern of the country's climatic zones. In the wet zone, tropical wet evergreen forests form the climax vegetation type. From the southwestern lowlands, the vegetation gradually changes as it reaches the central mountains. At elevations of 1,000-1,500 metres, the natural vegetation is classified as sub-montane evergreen forest, and at still higher elevations, as montane evergreen forest. The characteristic natural vegetation of the dry zone is tropical dry mixed evergreen forests. The natural vegetation in the intermediate zone is moist semi-evergreen forest.

The rapid population increase in Sri Lanka over the past few decades has had its impact on the country's natural forest -cover. The closed-canopy forest has diminished at an alarming rate, and at present it is estimated to be only 23.8 percent of the country's land area. In the densely populated wet zone, the closed canopy forest is in a critical state, and represents only about 8 percent of the land area. The rate of deforestation in the country during the last few decades has been estimated to be around 45,000 hectares per annum.

Currently, Sri Lanka has a total population of 17.4 million. About 78 percent still live in rural areas. An estimated 30 percent of the rural population utilise some kind of non-wood forest product (NWFP), and about 4 million people in Sri Lanka derive some benefit from NWFPs. However, until recent times, the economic value of a forest was considered primarily in terms of the value of the timber or fuelwood which the forest could supply. Resources were allocated primarily for the development of timber resources, with little attention paid to NWFPs. Thus, the thousands of plants and animal species which provided goods and services for the benefit of millions of people (particularly those living close to the forests), were ignored. According to a recent study carried out in Sri Lanka, the value of NWFPs from lowland rain forests has been estimated to be US$ 300 per hectare per year. These NWFPs provide a diverse array of materials which enrich and enhance rural life and also provide employment and income for rural people.

Non-wood forest products

According to the FAO (1991) definition, NWFPs include all the marketable or subsistence goods and services obtained from forests other than timber and fuelwood. However, in this report, emphasis will be given to non-wood forest goods rather than services. The major categories of NWFPs covered by this report are:

· Bamboo
· Rattan
· Medicinal plants
· Edible plants
· Wildlife for meat
· Kitul products (products of Caryota urens)
· Bees' honey
· Shifting cultivation (Chena cultivation)
· Grazing

This report is based primarily on the findings of a bamboo and rattan research project implemented by the Forest Department (198487); a study on the traditional uses of the forest carried out by the Forest Department in collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 199293 and socioeconomic surveys carried out in wet zone forests by the University of Peradeniya, in collaboration with the Forest Department and IUCN. This report does not include the collection of water, resins, gems, clay, stones and minerals etc. from the forests.

Present status of collection and utilization of non-wood forest products

Rattan

The uses of rattan range from construction material for housing (wattle and daub houses) to raw material for furniture, kitchen utensils and rope. Rattan is one of the most important raw materials for cottage industries. At present, the rattan industry operates on a commercial basis in 13 out of 25 administrative districts in Sri Lanka, but production has declined recently due to shortages of raw material. According to surveys conducted in formulating the Master Plan for Handicraft Development in Sri Lanka (1987), about 2,100-2,200 persons earn their primary family income from the rattan craft industry. This figure, however, includes only those persons who earn over one third of their income through the craft. Full-time and part-time workers are nearly equal in number, as are males and females. Table 1 provides information on income and employment distribution in the rattan industry.

Some workers are engaged only in the cottage industry production, while others work in all stages of production, from collecting raw materials to processing and selling rattan products. A third category of workers includes gatherers who only collect raw material, either for their own subsistence consumption or for sale to other crafts workers.

A study carried out by the Forest Department (Epitawatta, 1994) indicates that in almost every village near the wet zone forests, between 20 percent and 60 percent of villagers collect rattan, for commercial purposes, or for their own subsistence consumption. This situation is different in the dry zone where the collection of rattan is confined only to certain areas. In some dry zone areas (e.g., Dimbulagala), more than half of all villagers earn substantial income from rattan collection and cottage industry production.

Table 1. Income and employment in the rattan industry

District

No. of workers

No. of families

Full-time

Part-time

Income

M

F

M

F

Gampaha

20

-

20

-

-

-

main source, low

Ratna-pura

30

-

-

55

15

5

fair

Galle

20

-

19

-

-

-

reasonable

Matara

10

7

-

-

10

-

substantial

Kurunegala

150

40

60

20

60

10

fair

Badulla

60

8

-

-

20

40

inadequate

Monaragala

60

-

10

30

10

10

substantial

Hambantota

10

8

-

-

10

-

small

Polonnaruwa

600

-

250

186

80

84

good

Puttalam

160

15

50

30

50

30

significant

Batticaloa

900

600

105

165

255

375

remarkable

Vavuniya

150

25

9

45

6

90

supplementary

Total

2170

700

528

481

501

604


Source: De Zoysa and Vivekanandan (1991)

In Sri Lanka, rattan comes primarily from 'the natural forests. Of the 10 native rattan species widely used in the rattan industry, three are large-diameter species and the others are small diameter. Table 2 lists these different species, along with their distribution in the country.

The main marketing channels for rattan products are handicraft and furniture shops in major cities in the country. Due to their small-scale production, craft workers lack capital and very often depend on middlemen for marketing. Sri Lanka earns foreign exchange from exporting rattan products to six or seven countries. In 1986, Sri Lanka earned US$ 50.000 from both bamboo and rattan products. However, at present, export of bamboo and rattan products is negligible because quality has declined.

Table 2. Native rattan species and their distribution

Species

Diameter

Distribution

thambotu wel (Calamus zeylanicus)

2.5cm

Wet Zone

sudu wewel (Calamus ovoideus)

2.5 cm

Wet Zone

ma wewel, wanduruwel (Calamus thwaitesii)

3.5 cm

Wet and intermediate zones, (Dry zone - Ritigala only)

heen wewel, kola hangala (Calamus pseudotenuis)

1.5 cm

Wet Zone

kaha wewel, ela wewel (Calamus rivalis)

1.5 cm

Intermediate and wet zones

Calamus delicatulus

1.0cm

Wet zone

heen wewel, Polonnaru wel, pirambu (Calamus rotang)

1.0cm

Dry Zone

kukulu wet (Calamus didltatus, C. radiatus, C. pachystemonus)

0.5cm

Wet Zone

Source: De Zoysa and Vivekanandan (1991)

Bamboo

Bamboo is another group of species utilized in daily life by people throughout the country. In addition to its major use as a construction material, bamboo is used in the production of furniture and domestic utensils such as baskets and ornamental items. In the construction industry, bamboo is used for scaffolding and for construction of temporary structures, water lines, and fences. Bamboo is very effective in reducing stream and river bank erosion, and is commonly planted for this purpose.

According to surveys carried out during the formulation of the Master Plan for Handicraft Development in Sri Lanka (1987), the number of workers engaged in bamboo craft production is fewer than those engaged in rattan production. Table 3 shows employment and income levels in the bamboo industry.

Five species of bamboo are commonly used in Sri Lanka. Three are native, and two are introduced species. Both native and cultivated species provide raw material for the bamboo industry. Traditional production of basketware, bamboo flutes, ornamental items etc. is based on native species, while the two introduced large-diameter species are used primarily as wood substitutes in the construction industry. The three native species (bata species) grow primarily in natural forests in the wet and intermediate zones. Distribution of these species is shown in table 4. The two introduced bamboo species, common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) and giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus), are found primarily in non-forest areas such as home gardens, road sides and river banks.

Unlike rattan, the bamboo industry does not totally depend upon natural sources, but the percentage of bamboo harvested from natural forests is unknown. The number of villagers involved in bamboo collection and cottage industry production is generally lower than for rattan. In wet zone areas, 10 to 50 percent of villagers are involved in this activity. Since the natural distribution of bamboo species is confined only to the wet and intermediate zones, people living in the dry zone are generally not dependent on this industry.

Table 3. Income and employment in the bamboo industry

District

No. of workers

No. of families

Full-time

Part-time

Income

M
F
M
F

Gampaha

220

100

33

143

4

40

main source

Kalutara

40

10

10

30

30

-

substantial

Ratnapura

90

-

10

20

30

30

poor

Galle

15

10

2

3

6

4

insignificant

Matara

120

100

-

-

-

120

reasonable

Kandy

60

-

5

35

5

15

supplementary

Kegalle

20

-

-

15

-

-

inadequate

Kurunegale

120

30

40

10

60

10

fair

Badulla

5

-

-

-

5

1

supplementary

Total

690

250

100

230

260

104


Source: De Zoysa and Vevekandan (1991)

Table 4. Native bamboo species and their distribution

Name

Diameter (cm)

Distribution

Bata (Ochlandra stridula)

1-2.5

Wet zone lowlands

Bata (Davidsea attenuata)

1-2.5

Wet and intermediate zone mountains

Bata (Pseudoxytenanthera manadelpha)

1-2.5

Wet and intermediate zone mountains

Source: De Zoysa and Vevekanandan (1991)

Products from kitul (Caryota urens)

Kitul (Caryota urens) is a multipurpose tree species found in natural forests and home gardens in the wet and intermediate zones, at altitudes between 200-1,500 metres. This species provides a variety of popular products, of which the sap is the most important. Kitul sap is the base for local beer (toddy), treacle and jaggery. Treacle and jaggery are sugary substances which are used in preparing a variety of traditional sweets. Hence they have a good market throughout the country. Kitul sap is obtained by tapping the inflorescence. The sap is heated to produce treacle and jaggery. In producing toddy, the sap is fermented with natural yeasts. Other non-wood kitul products include the sago-like pith, which forms a valuable food, and kitul fibre which is obtained from the leaves.

Kitul tapping has a long history in Sri Lanka. There is even a special cast (hakuru), who make their living from kitul tapping and jaggery making, but also generate a large proportion of the rural economy.

There are two main kitul-tapping areas in the state forests. The largest is in the southern and south-western part of the country (Ratnapura, Gal le and Matara districts). Smaller clusters are found in the central highlands (Kegalle and Kandy districts). As kitul is a wet zone species, no kitul-related activities are found in the dry zone. The kitul palm reaches maturity and bears flowers after about five or six years. Tapping is seasonal as the sap is produced mainly in the rainy season. The peak production times are from August to March. The income generated by villagers from this activity is sufficient for their normal livelihood. Although some engage in this work as a part-time occupation, many others regarded this as a full-time job. Around 2030 percent of the villagers in the wet zone engage in this activity as a source of income. In most of the wet zone forests, kitul products generate over 70 percent of NWFP income for village communities. The average value of kitul products from lowland rain forests (in the wet zone), is around US$ 200 per hectare per year. Table 5 indicates the income from kitul products in some selected forests in the wet zone. Both men and women participate in kitul tapping and processing. Men tap the inflorescence and collect the sap, while women boil the treacle and produce the jaggery.

Though production is localised, there is a high demand for kitul products all over the country in both rural and urban markets. The marketing structure of kitul has not been studied well. Products are marketed either through middlemen or directly by producers. One of the basic problems in marketing jaggery and treacle is the lack of quality control measures. Kitul toddy marketing has been seriously affected by current legal restrictions. As a result, toddy is either consumed by the tappers or sold secretly in villages. Kitul products are not exported at present.

Table 5. Income from kitul products in wet zone forests

Forest

Extent (ha)

Ave. income from forest (Rs/ha/year)

Income from kitul (SL Rs/ha/year)

% income from kitul

Dellawa

3,394

13,085

9,260

70.7

Eratne-Gilimale

4,920

17,564

15,749

89.6

Kalugala

2,892

10,479

2,399

22.8

Bambarabotuwa

4,540

15,675

13,741

87.6

US$ 1 = SL Rs. 50

Edible plants

Until the early years of this century, rural communities in Sri Lanka relied heavily on the forests to meet their requirements for food. Since then, this reliance has declined for a variety of reasons, including the introduction of commercial crops, depletion of the forest cover and the influence of modernization. Today, the role of edible plants may not be very important at the national level, but quite a large number of people who live in the vicinity of forest areas still depend on the forests for some of their food needs. According to a recent survey, a clear link between major vegetation types (forest types) and food collection habits has been identified. In the intermediate and dry zone forests, collection rates are high (65-70 percent of households), while in montane zone forests, far fewer people collect food from the forests (20 percent of households). Distance from the forest is also a significant factor in the collection of edible plants.

There are two major groups of edible plants edible higher plants and fungi (mushrooms). Most of the parts of edible higher plants such as roots, tubers, bark, leaf, flowers, fruits and seeds, are used as food.

Mushrooms

Mushroom collection is a country-wide activity in every forest type, but there is considerable variation in the types of mushrooms found in the natural forest. In the wet zone, kamal hathu and aturahatu mushrooms are common. In the dry zone, indololu and several other types are common.

Generally, mushrooms are collected by villagers for domestic consumption only. Collection for sale is very rare.

Edible higher plants

· Yams - Surveys show four major types of yams are collected. These are: katuala, gonala, jamburala and hiritala (Dioscorea spp). The katuala yam is the most common. Harvesting yams from the forest for domestic consumption is an island-wide activity.

· Fruits - Fruits of goraka (Garcinia cambogia), madu (Cycas circinalis), beraliya (Monochoria hastata), hal (Jateria copallifera), gal siyambla (Dialium ovoideum) and wood apple (Feronia limonia) are consumed as both fruits and vegetables.

· Seeds - Dried seeds of mee (Palaquim grande) are used for extraction of edible oil.

Many other food items collected from the forest are consumed as vegetables or fruits. Some of them (seeds) are used for extraction of edible oil. Some of the more common edible forest plants are listed in table 6. Most foods are used for household consumption, although a limited number of items, in limited quantities, are sold in markets.

Medicinal plants

In Sri Lanka, the use of medicinal plants obtained from the forest dates back many centuries. Even today, medicinal plants play an important role in the indigenous medical system, especially in rural areas. The flowers, roots, bark, and leaves of numerous forest plants are used to cure a variety of health problems. Medicinal plants are collected from the forest for both domestic use and sale. Medicinal plants are used mainly in the indigenous system of general medicine, osteopathy and for treatment of snake bites. Medicinal plants are also used in native veterinary medicine.

Shops selling indigenous medicines and herbal preparations are common in both rural and urban areas. These shops supply most of the native medical practitioners and their patients who do not have access to forests to meet their own requirements. The shops purchase material from collectors or middle men on a wholesale basis.

Table 6. Common edible plants gathered from Sri Lankan forests

Local name

Latin name

Aralu

Terminalia chebula

Bulu

Terminalia belerica

Ela-batu

Solanum xanthocarpum

Embilla

Antidesma zeylanicum

Ambul-pera

Psidium gaujava (A wild form of)

Bada, Amu

Paspalum scrobiculatum

Bedunru

Polypodium quercifolium

Damba

Syzygium assimile

Dan

Syzygium sp.

Desa-ala

Alocasia indica

Divul

Feronia limonia

Diya-habarala

Monochoria hastata

Diya nilla

Klugiaa notoniana

Gal-annasi

Ananas comosus

Galsiyambala

Dialium ovoideum

Goraka

Garcinia cambogia

Geta-kola

Hedyotis auricularia

Gona-thampala

Amaranthus sp.

Habarala

Alocasia macrorrhiza

Hatawariya

Asparagus racemosus

Hathu (Bimmal)

Fungi

Heen-bovitiya

Osbeckia octandra (Medicinal)

Himbutu

Salacia reticulata

Iramusu

Hemidesmus indicus

Kara

Canthium coromandelicum

Katu-ala

Dioscorea pentaphylla

Kebella

Aporosa lindleyana

Kekatiya

Aponogetova jacobseuii

Kiri-ala, Gahala

Colocasia esculenta

Kiri-anguna

Wattakaka

Kiri-madu

Merremia umbellata

Kitul

Caryota urens

Kohila

Lasia spinosa

Kok-mota

Ariocaulon sexangulare

Kos

Artocarpus heterophyllus

Kurundu

Cinnamomum zeylanicum

Lenatheri

Areca conciina

Ma-dan

Syzygium cumini

Madu

Cycas circinalis

Maha beraliya

Shorea megistophylla

Malithiya

Woodfordia fruticosa

Maran

Syzygium zeylanicum

Miyana (Fern)

Polygonum chinense

Mora

Euphoria longana

Mussanda

Mussanda frondosa

Nelli

Phyllanthus emblica

Palu

Manilkara hexandra

Paththara-werella

Blechnum orientale

Pera

Psidium gaujava

Polpala

Aerva lanata

Ranawara

Cassia auriculata

Siyambala

Tamarindus indica

Thebu

Costus speciosus

Thora

Cassia thora

Thumba karawila

Momoridica diocia

Uguressa

Flacourtia ramontchi

Wal-del

Artocarpus nobilis

Wal-laula

Chrysophyllum sp.

Wali-damba

Syzygium umbrosum

Weera

Drypetes sepiaria

Wel-ala

Dioscoarea alata

Wel-kohila

Syngonium podophyllum

Wel-penela

Cardiospermum halicacabum

The largest volume of medicinal plants collected, and the highest family incomes from the collection of medicinal plants, have been recorded from the savannah forests in Bibile. In this area, the average family income from the collection of medicinal plants represents around 70 percent of the total income derived from the collection of NWFPs, and over 60 percent of the villagers are involved in this activity. In most other areas of the country, family income derived from the collection of medicinal plants is very low and the involvement of village people ranges from 20 to 55 percent. A list of some of the important medicinal plants which are obtained from the forests by village communities are given in table 7. Medicinal plants from Sri Lanka are being exported to a large number of countries and the value of these exports in 1993 amounted to US$ 2 million.

Wildlife meat

According to the current Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, hunting of any animal in wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, and hunting of protected animals in other forests, is prohibited. Despite these legal restrictions, recent studies show that villagers in peripheral areas still use wildlife meat to supplement their diet. Thus, wildlife meat is an important source of protein in the diet of poor people in rural areas. The percentage of villagers who engage in hunting is greater in the dry zone (about 50 to 60 percent) than in the wet zone (about 6 to 10 percent). More than 80 percent of the villagers engaged in hunting, hunt either for family consumption or for sale. Others hunt to protect their crops from wild animals. Villagers use two methods of hunting game - guns and traditional methods. Hunters use shot guns, muzzle loaders and trap guns. Traditional hunting methods include various types of traps and hunting dogs. The method varies with the type of animal being hunted.

Some common species hunted in Sri Lanka are listed in table 8. The most common animal hunted in all regions is the wild boar. Other animals commonly hunted in the dry zone are spotted deer (Axis axis), sambhur (Cervas uriscolor), porcupine (Hystrix indica) and monkey (Macaca sinica). Some common species hunted in Sri Lanka are listed in annex II. In general, small animals such as monkeys, giant squirrels, porcupines and jungle fowl are consumed by villagers. A high proportion of large animals like wild boar, sambhur and deer are sold. There is a very high demand for wildlife meat in urban areas. However, it has been reported that many of the large animals, other than wild boar, are threatened with extinction due to hunting. In some areas, the numbers of monkeys and deer are declining rapidly. Careless use of fire to trap animals is a serious problem, particularly in the dry zone. Large areas of forest and forest plantations are destroyed every year as a result of forest fires started by hunters.

Grazing

Rearing of cattle has been a traditional practice in Sri Lanka, and in the past almost every farmer owned cattle. Cattle were used for farming, as a source of milk and as a free source of natural fertilizer. Since the 1 960s, as a result of the introduction of tractors for ploughing paddy fields, there has been a decrease in the demand for buffaloes.

Despite this trend, most of the villagers, particularly those in remote areas, still use buffaloes for agriculture and they consider cattle-rearing an important domestic activity which is economically beneficial to them. Villagers living in the vicinity of forests still use the forests for grazing their cattle.

Table 7. Medicinal plants obtained from the forests of Sri Lanka

Local name

Species name

Ankenda

Acronychia laurifolia

Aralu

Terminalia chebula

Babila

Sida spp.

Bimkohomba

Munronia pumila

Bo-mi

Litsea chinesis

Bulu

Terminaliam belerica

Diyamitta

Cissampelos pareora

Derana

Dipterocarpus glandulosus

Dummala

Shorea oblongifolia

Enasal

Elettara repens

Eramusu

Hemidesmus indicus

Gammalu

Pterpcarpus marsupium

Hatawariya

Asparagus falcatus

Hodo ala


Ingini

Strychnos potatorum

Jatamansa

Nardostachys jatamansi

Jayapala

Croton tiglium

Kadumberiya

Diospyros melanosylon

Kaduru

Cerbera manghas

Karapincha

Murraya koeniggi

Kohomba

Azadirachta indica

Kolon kola

Pogostemon heyneanus

Kon

Schleichers oleosa

Kothalahimbutu

Salacia reticulata

Kumburu wel

Caesalpiinia bonduce

Lumuwila

Bacopa monniera

Munamal

Mimusops elengi

Na

Mesus ferrea

Navahandi

Euphorbia tirucalli

Nelli

Phyllanthus emblica

Nika

Vites negundo

Polpala

Aerva lanata

Ranawara

Cassis auriculata

Sananda

Aristolochia indika

Weniwel

Coscinium

Table 8. Some common species hunted in Sri Lanka

English name

Local name

Latin name

Mammals




Flying fox (giant fruit bat)

Ma wawula

Pteropus giganteus


Toque monkey

Rilawa

Macaca sinica


Purple faced leaf monkey

Wandura

Presbytes sinex


Scaly anteater/pangolin

Kaballewa, Eya

Manis crassicaudata


Porcupine

Ittawa

Hystrix indica


Bandicoot

Urumiya

Bandicota indica


Giant squirrel

Dandu lena

Ratufa macroura


Flying squirrel

Hambawa

Petaurista pataurista


Mongoose

Mugatiya

Herpestes smithi


Spotted deer

Tit muwa

Axis axis


Sambhur

Gona

Cervus uniscolor


Munt jak/barking deer

Olumuwa

Muntiacus muntjak


Wild pig

Wal ura

Sus scrofa


Mouse deer

Meeminna

Tragulus meminna


Civet cat

Urulewa

Viverricula indica


Palm civet

Uguduwa

Paradoxurus hermaphroditus

Birds




Spotted dove

Alukobeiya

Streptopelia chinensis


Green imperial pigeon

Mahaneela goya

Ducula aenea


Green pigeon

Batagoya

Treron pompadour


Ceylon jungle fowl

Wali kukula

Gallus laffayettii


Ceylon spurfowl

Haban kukula

Galloperdix bicalarta

Reptiles




Land monitor lizard

Thalagoya

Varanus bengalensis

Cattle rearing is carried out in both the wet and dry zones. According to a recent survey carried out by the Forest Department, there are marked differences between these two regions in terms of the annual average income each household derives from cattle rearing. In general, cattle owners in the dry zone earn higher incomes than those in the wet zone. Average annual income from cattle in the dry zone is around US$ 300 to 800 per household; in the wet zone annual income is less than US$ 100. The main reasons for this difference are as follows:

· In the dry zone, as result of shifting cultivation, large areas of secondary and degraded forest are available for cattle grazing. In contrast, less grazing area is available in the wet zone.

· The average number of cattle owned per household in the dry zone is higher than in the wet zone (due to availability of grazing grounds).

· Due to seasonal patterns of agriculture, most farmers in the dry zone are not fully involved with agricultural activities throughout the year. Hence, cattle rearing provides them with a steady source of income.

For the reasons given above, the number of households engaged in cattle rearing is higher in the dry zone (30 to 40 percent). In the wet zone, cattle are reared mainly as draught animals and as a source of fertilizer. One of the significant features in the southern part of the dry zone (Rhuna), is the sale of milk products, particularly curd. This curd is in high demand in urban areas.

Cattle grazing has an adverse impact on forests, especially in the dry zone. In the wet zone, grazing also causes damage, but only to peripheral areas of the forest. As a rule, cattle do not go far into the forest due to the steep terrain and the presence of leaches.

Despite the adverse impact of grazing in the dry zone, farmers are still able to collect posts, poles and creepers from the forests for construction of their cattle sheds.

Agricultural encroachment and shifting cultivation

Forest clearance for subsistence agriculture has been practiced in Sri Lanka throughout the ages by people living in the vicinity of forests. Three broad categories of subsistence agriculture are practiced in forest areas:

1. Forest clearing for cash crops.
2. Clearing of wetlands and water logged areas (deniya lands) for paddy cultivation.
3. Shifting cultivation (chena cultivation)

Of these, the most important is shifting cultivation. This is one of the oldest agricultural systems in Sri Lanka. Now considered a destructive agricultural practice, sifting cultivation is largely confined to the dry and intermediate zones of the country; while most forest clearing for cash crops (including deniya lands) occurs in the wet zone.

Many villagers living in the peripheral areas of wet zone forests, encroach on forest land to cultivate cash crops in order to supplement their incomes from existing cultivation. Due to strong law enforcement to protect the forest, villagers take great care to avoid detection by forest guards. The average size of encroachments is around 0.5 to 1 hectare and the main use of these lands is to develop homesteads or to cultivate crops such as tea or cinnamon. Usually it takes about 2 years for a farmer to derive income from newly-encroached land. The average income per hectare of tea in these forest encroachments has been estimated to be about US$ 140 per month; while a hectare of cinnamon yields about US$ 600 annually. These forest encroachments for tea and other cash crops are very significant in some parts of the wet zone. People in such areas are not dependent on the forests for NWFPs other than for firewood and kitul tapping. Hence, encroachment rates in these areas are high because people have little alternative interest in the forests. At present, encroachments in wet zone forests are not confined to subsistence needs as was the case several decades ago, but are now motivated by a desire for monetary gain.

In some locations, forests in the wet zone contain water-logged lands in valley bottoms (deniya lands), which are naturally suitable for paddy cultivation. In most areas where "deniya lands" are found in close proximity to villages, they have been taken over for paddy cultivation. The average size of these encroachments is between 0.25 to 0.5 hectare. While some of these deniya lands have been leased out to farmers by the Forest Department, others are cultivated illegally. Due to excessive damage caused by wild animals, the net return from cultivated deniya lands is generally low when compared with normal paddy cultivation. To reduce the damage from these lands are sometimes fenced, using poles and posts obtained from the surrounding forests. Some of the valley bottom lands (deniya lands) which are fairly well drained, are used for growing betel nut. Betel has a good market in villages and adjacent townships. According to a survey carried out recently, villagers in some areas of the wet zone (Akuressa) get an average annual income of US$ 100 per hectare from betel cultivation. Hence, it is a good source of forest-related income for villagers which enhances the rural economy.

The traditional system of shifting cultivation (chena cultivation) involves the clearing and burning of forests, followed by the sowing of seeds. Although shifting cultivation is legally prohibited, it continues to be practised throughout the dry zone. There is a very strong sociological stimulus for chena cultivation in the culture of rural people. The villagers involved in this activity feel compelled to cultivate a chena plot because their families have done this for generations, and their life would not be complete without it. Clearing and demarcation of shifting cultivation sites, cultivation methods and harvesting practices are tied with traditional, social and cultural norms in areas where chena cultivation has been practiced. It is customary to select chena sites for groups of farmers or farmer families. The average chena holding per cultivator varies from between 1 to 2 hectares, depending on the number of farmers. Clearing of the site is a group activity in which all the farmers participate. During the clearing of sites, suitable posts and poles are collected to build watch huts. The crops cultivated in shifting cultivation sites are paddy, chillies, gingerly, finger millet, mustard, maize, pumpkins, tobacco, onions, groundnuts and tomatoes.

Usually every plot contains some cereals and vegetables for home consumption.

Most farmers cultivate chillies, mustard or tobacco as major cash crops in shifting cultivation, but usually every plot has at least a small area of chill) for domestic consumption. There is no problem marketing these crops, as there is a high demand islandwide. According to the results of a recent survey, farmers engaged in shifting cultivation derive their highest income from chillies and tobacco. The average annual family income from shifting cultivation has been reported to be US$ 100 per hectare in the wet zone, and US$ 200 to 400 per hectare in the dry zone.

Patterns of NWFP collection

A wide variety of NWFPs are collected by villagers living in the vicinity of forest areas.
Generally, collection is undertaken by the entire family - men, women and children, who sometimes working individually and sometimes as a group. This pattern of collection varies with the activity and the area. Usually, kitul tapping and hunting are done by men. Collection of medicinal plants, edible plants, bamboo, rattan and the practice of shifting cultivation is undertaken by all members of the family, but men usually predominate. Table 9 indicates distribution of work among family members in collecting
NWFPs from selected forests in the wet zone.

The number of visits made by family members collecting various NWFPs varies with the activity. The maximum number of visits to the forest recorded in the wet zone was for kitul tapping - over 150 visits per year. Next in importance are visits for collecting medicinal plants, edible plants, bamboo and rattan, which account for an average of 4 to 10 visits per year. The number of visits for shifting cultivation range from 80 to 120 visits per year.

Table 9. Distribution of work (percent) in collecting NWFPs from wet zone forests, Sri Lanka

Activity/product

Men

Women

Children

Edible plants

50-70

20-40

5-15

Kitul tapping

95-100

-

0-5

Hunting

100

-

-

Resins

60-90

5-20

0-10

Medicinal plants

60-70

10-20

5-10

Rattan

50-80

10-30

10-15

Bamboo

90-100

-

0-10

Bee honey

80-100

0-5

5-25

Drinking water

20-30

50-70

10-20

Source: Forest Department/IUCN (1994)

Table 10. Average number of NWFP collection activities by forest type

Forest type

Climatic region

Number of activities

Tropical wet evergreen forests

Wet zone

3-7

Tropical wet evergreen forests

Intermediate and wet zone

4-6

Montane evergreen forests

Montane zone

1-3

Savannah forests

Dry zone

3-8

Tropical dry mixed evergreen forests

Dry zone

4-8

Source: Eptita watta (1994)

Generally, villagers are involved in collection and use of a range of items from the adjoining forests for household consumption or sale. The number of items collected varies from family to family, and from village to village. Marked differences also exist among different forest types and climatic regions. The highest average number of collection activities per family (4 to 8) was recorded in the tropical mixed evergreen forests in the dry zone and the least number (1 to 3) was recorded in the montane zone (table 10).

Major issues and recommendations related to development of NWFPS

Major issues

Lack of policy OH NWFPs

At present, no clear policy objectives have been established for NWFPs, their utilization or development. As most NWFPs are not marketed, their value has not been recognized. Therefore, the economic importance of this sector, especially its importance to the rural economy, has been ignored by policy makers. Thus, the actual benefits of forests are under- valued and resources allocated for NWFPs are inadequate considering the thousands of plant and animal species which provide goods and services for millions of people.

Shrinking resource base

The natural forest cover in Sri Lanka has been reduced from 44 percent in 1956 to the present 23.8 percent. A direct result of this reduction is the shrinking of the natural resource base for NWFPs. On the other hand, population growth and various other factors such as poverty and unemployment have aggravated social problems, particularly in rural areas of the country. Under these circumstances, it is normal to expect increasing pressure on the NWFP resource base.

Inadequate knowledge

Because little attention was paid to NWFPs in the past, knowledge on the subject is quite inadequate. Information on the resource base, utilization, processing, marketing, income generated and future demand should be obtained. This information is essential in developing strategies for managing, processing and marketing of NWFPs.

Seasonal variations in supply

Compared to wood products, inability to secure a steady supply of NWFPs due to seasonal variations and other factors, is a major constraint in developing markets for NWFPs or their related products.

Multiple use management of forests

Existing forest management plans do not provide adequate emphasis on multiple use management which would include NWFPs. This is particularly important in protected areas (about 40 percent of the natural forest area) where resource utilization has been restricted (i.e., national parks, Strict Natural Reserves, Nature Reserves, Sanctuaries, etc.).

Traditional nature of NWFP utilisation

Extraction, processing, production and marketing of most NWFPs are carried out in traditional ways, using traditional equipment and methods. Further, the suppressive caste system is associated with utilization of some NWFPs. (e.g., kitul tapping and rattan)

Lack of supportive services

Compared with traditional forestry, agriculture and industry, the NWFP sector has developed few supportive services. These services are needed if the sector is to achieve its full potential.

Recommendations for the development of the NWFP sector

1. There is an urgent need for forestry to meet the immediate and future needs of growing populations without causing damage to the natural resource base. Sustainable utilization of NWFPs opens up one of the paths for such development through multiple use of forest resources. This in turn leads to better prospects, especially for rural communities.

2. Forestry policies should recognise the importance of NWFPs in the forestry sector. Legislation and forest management plans should be formulated accordingly, with adequate resources provided for the development of this sector, including research, education and extension.

3. Existing legislation governing forest resource utilization should be revised, especially laws related to protected areas, in order to permit multiple-use management in such areas. This includes the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and the National Heritage and Wilderness Area Act.

4. Since the existing knowledge on NWFPs is poor, it is necessary to establish a database on silvaculture and agronomic information, employment, income generation, marketing and economics. Current forest inventories are confined to timber and wood species, but future inventories should also cover NWFPs.

5. Conservation of existing species of NWFPs and their habitats and ecosystems is necessary to maintain the resource base for present and future use.

6. Technological improvements in extraction, processing and production of NWFPs are necessary for development of this sector. Rural industries which use NWFPs should be promoted through guaranteed supply of raw materials and marketing facilities.

7. Establish suitable institutional arrangements to enhance the coordination with other sectors such as agriculture, industry and indigenous medicine etc.

References

De Soyza, N.D., and K. Vevekanandan. 1991. The bamboo and rattan cottage industry in Sri Lanka: livelihood in danger. Forest Department. Battaramulla, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Epitawatta. 1994. Traditional use of forests, report of the national survey. Forest Department/IUCN. Sri Lanka.

FAO. 1991. Non-wood forest products. the way ahead. Forestry Paper 97. FAO. Rome.

Forest Department/IUCN. 1994. Socio economic survey of the 13 Wet Zone forests. University of Peradeniya for IUCN and Forest Department. Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry. Colombo.


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