Recently increased attention has been focussed on the potential importance of non-wood forest products (NWFP) toward meeting rural communities' needs for food, fiber and forage, as well as essential sources of cash and better income. The value of such products to forest-dwelling peoples underlines the importance of efforts to conserve and manage natural and planted forests. Such resources provide a range of products and services, and their potential contribution to income generation has too long gone unnoticed by the development community.

This recognition of the possible role of national forestry development strategies has led the FAO Forestry Department to embark upon a series of concerted activities to encourage NWFP development through technical assistance activities in member countries.

Thus the Department has established the post of Forestry Officer (Non-Wood Forest Products) in the Forest Products Division, with responsibilities to oversee the initiation and coordination of programmes and projects in this sector. The Tropical Forestry Action Plans in various stages of preparation in over 80 nations include consideration of NWFP priorities and activities, following a consistent set of guidelines.

The present publication, prepared by Dr. G.E. Wickens of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, is intended to serve as a broad guide to issues and potentials regarding NWFP development.

As "The Way Ahead" emphasizes throughout, NWFP development must by necessity comprise a multidisciplinary approach, for which task there must be devised close lines of collaboration both within FAO itself, and between FAO and other organizations, both international and national, governmental and non governmental. Efforts to strengthen common programmes toward sustained use of NWFP should be encouraged, as one among many approaches for the conservation and wise use of forest resources.

C H. Murray
Assistant Director-General
FAO Forestry Department