1 FAO: Involvement in non-wood forest products

1.1 Definitions
1.2 Past involvement

1.1 Definitions

1.1.1 "Wood products"

The distinction between wood and non-wood products is ill-defined. In the present context "wood" refers to round wood, sawn timber, wood-based panels, wood chips and pulp, and usually involving commercial enterprises as well as the domestic use of unfinished poles for construction purposes.

1.1.2 "Forest"

The term "forest", as used here, embraces all the natural ecosystems where trees and shrubs form a significant component. Here "forests" range from evergreen rainforest to desert, although in the latter the trees and shrubs are confined primarily to oases and waterways. In certain areas, plantings of non-wood forest products (NWFP) on farmlands constitute chief supplies available for household consumption or sale (eg., bamboo in Bangladesh; forage species), or have potential as sources of supplemental income (eg., medicinal herbs; mushrooms). In these cases, coordination among NWFP and agroforestry activities is required.

1.1.3 "Non-wood forest products"

Non-wood forest products (NWFP), as used in this report, refers to market or subsistence goods and services for human or industrial consumption derived from renewable forest resources and biomass, bearing promise for augmenting real rural household incomes and employment. The products include the use of plants for food, beverages, forage, fuel and medicine (Table 1.1), animals, birds and fishes for food, fur and feathers, and of their products such as honey, lac, silk, etc. (Table 1.2) and the services of land for conservation and recreation (Table 1.3). These tables may be considered to form a preliminary basis for the classification of NWFP.

Forage, in the sense applied by FAO usage (Ibrahim 1975), includes "all browse and herbaceous food that is available to livestock or game animals". Thus forage includes NWFP that sustain such animal populations.

Fuels derived from wood or NWFP are not considered in this report, although there is an overlap of interests where biofuels have as secondary products tar or chemicals useful to industry. Similarly, handicraft products derived in part from wood are included in this report, as they are insufficiently covered by other FAO branches.

Table 1.1 non-wood plant products


wild, domesticated, semi-domesticated plants, useable weeds, fungi, etc. and their edible roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, shoots, flowers, fruits, seeds, etc. to provide cereals, vegetables, edible fats and oils, spices and flavourings, salt substitutes, sweeteners, rennet substitutes, meat tenderizers, beverages, cordials and infusions, thirst quenchers, etc.


food for livestock and wildlife, including birds, fishes, and insects such as bees, silkworms, lac insects, etc.


drugs, anaesthetics, salves, ointments, lotions, purgatives, etc. for both human and veterinary use.


for hunting, ordeal poisons, hallucinogens, pesticides, fungicides, etc. Note, some may have a pharmaceutical potential, especially as anaesthetics.


essential oils for cosmetic and perfume industries (international market highly specialized and vulnerable), unguents, incense, etc.


non-edible fats and oils, naval stores, waxes, gums and latex, dyes, tannins, biochemicals for plastics and coatings, paints and varnish industries, etc.


cloth, matting, cordage, basketry, brooms, stuffing for pillows, cork, etc.


wood for handicrafts.


aesthetically pleasing plants for horticultural and amenity planting, cut- and dried-flower trades, etc.

Table 1.2 wild animal products1

1Note: Some Wildlife Products are Protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).


meat, hides, skins, furs, wool, hair, horn, bone, pharmaceuticals, etc.


meat, eggs, feathers, edible nests, guano, etc.


food, fish oil, feed protein, etc.


food, skins, shell, toxins, pharmaceuticals.


edible invertebrates, plant exudates (manna), honey, wax, propolis, silk, lac, etc.

Table 1.3 Services Functions of Forest Lands


Grazing, browse, shade and shelter for domestic livestock and wildlife, etc.

Soil improvement and protection

green manure, humus, N-fixation, soil stabilization, shade, shelter, hedges, etc.

Protected Areas

non-consumptive use by such tourism/recreation use as wildlife viewing, photography, bird watching, etc. i.e. eco-tourism carried out in National Parks, Wildlife sanctuaries, etc.
consumptive use by such recreational activities as hunting, shooting, fishing, insect and plant collecting, etc. carried out in hunting reserves and similar areas where such activities are permitted/promoted;
aesthetic, scenic and historic sites are some of the additional "tourist attractions" which may be present in protected areas and add to their value, rather than a source function of forests.

1.2 Past involvement

1.2.1 FAO collaboration with external agencies

The Forestry Department has been involved in several relevant conferences, symposia and other meetings in collaboration with other agencies, which have included discussion of NWFP as tannins, cork, furfural, rosin, camphor, turpentine and edible fungi2. The emphasis has historically been on the better known, commercial NWFP rather than those of more domestic importance to the local communities, such as food plants and handicrafts. The latter has, however, been increasingly addressed through the programme of the Community Forestry group during the past few years.

2See, for example, FAO/ECA/BTAO (1965), ECE/FAO (976a, b, 1982, 1988), FAO/ECE (1978), FAO, ECE, FINNIDA (1987) and FAO/Instituto Italo-Latino Americana (1980) for relevant conference proceedings.

The recognition of the need for community involvement has led to a number of projects with SIDA, such as a community study in the Republic of Korea on mushrooms (FAO/SIDA 1982). More recent collaboration includes a useful series of Community Forestry publications where the role of NWFP in the community is discussed and analyzed (FAO/SIDA 1989a-e), as well as the final report on the first FAO/SIDA expert consultation (FAO/SIDA 1989f). In a similar vein, a major FAD/WHO/UNICEF effort is the organization in 1992 of a conference on Human Nutrition, in which NWFP are one of the focuses for their role in food security and nutrition.

Training courses have also been organized in conjunction with DANIDA (FAO/DANIDA 1985) on dune stabilization, a subject which also included forage plants.

Joint studies involving government institutions include a series on forest fruit trees that involved cooperation with the Silvicultural Research Institute, Lushoto, Tanzania (FAO 1983), Forest Research Institute, Laguna, Philippines (FAO 1984) and the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia, Manaus, Brazil (FAO 1986).

FAO has also provided technical cooperation for a WHO/IUCN/WWF International Consultation on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants held at Chiang Mai in 1988, as well as providing joint sponsorship with UNESCO/MAB for the International Round Table on Prosopis tamarugo Phil. held at Arica, Chile in 1984 (FAO 1985).

However, FAO has not been in evidence in other projects or meetings that have taken place to discuss critical NWFP, such as those conducted by UNIDO on the fruit resources of Balanites aegyptiaca or on medicinal plants (UNIDO undated). Neither does FAO appear to have participated in UNSO/ITC's discussions on the marketing, production and management of gum arabic (UNSO/ITC 1983).

Other potential areas for inter-agency cooperation include work with other international organizations concerned with NWFP, such as ILCA and ICRAF on browse species, or with WHO on medicinal plants, and both IBPGR and UNIDO on conservation of genetic material.

1.2.2 Past involvement within FAO

Past involvement in NWFP within FAO crosses departmental lines owing to sometimes arbitrary distinctions that are made between what are considered to be forestry, agricultural and horticultural subjects; similarly vague boundaries also exist among other international organizations as well as within and between national agencies.

Thus, although the growing and felling of trees for timber would appear to be indisputably the responsibility of the forester, and to be logical to expect forest resources and forest management to be his responsibility, yet these assumptions are not always ascertained in practice.

The responsibility for the management of wild tree resources varies from country to country, possibly due partly to the training and interests of the foresters, but probably more to internal politics. Thus, in the Sudan Republic, gum arable, irrespective as to whether it is obtained from the wild, plantations or fallow, is a forest responsibility. By way of contrast, the Brazil nut, which is almost entirely harvested from the wild, is the responsibility of the agriculturalist. The wild Jessenia and Oenocarpus oil-producing palms of Latin America are similarly regarded as agricultural (FAO 1988). On the other hand, the mandate of some forestry departments even extends to all forms of wildlife, such in Chile, where CONAF's interest even extends to the barren salt flats of the Atacama Desert and the conservation of flamingoes as well as an interest in reptiles.

It is no wonder that in an international organization such as FAO there should be grey areas regarding the division of responsibility. Thus, the Forestry Department, as part of its programme for the promotion of appropriate forestry enterprises, has investigated the impact of rural enterprises as vicuna management in Peru (FAO 1985) and the management of captive crocodile for leather (FAO 1989). It is possible that such studies may have received some input from other Departments, although this is not always apparent.

Examples of such cooperation include a major project funded by IBPGR and executed by FAD/FORM, on Genetic Resources of Arid and Semi-Arid Zone Arboreal Species for the improvement of Rural Living (1978-1985), originally involving eight countries. This project, continued since 1985 under the auspices of the FAO regular programme, has expanded to include over 30 nations, having as its focus fuelwood in combination with NWFP.

Other cases include the Fishery Resources and Environment Division's report on the utilization and management of mangrove resources (FAO 1987), written with the collaboration of the Forestry Department. Advising governments regarding suitable management of the mangrove ecosystem for the production of fishery resources and both wood and non-wood products can only be done if there is such collaboration between the two Divisions.

Most of the work involving NWFP is of interest to some other Departments and should not be carried out in isolation; this dictum applies equally within the Forestry Department, where, for example, Community Forestry is especially relevant to our understanding of how people can make more adequate use of the forest's natural resources, and Forest Resources are essential to ensure development and suitable management of this resource base (see Chapter 5).

Fodder is an essential non-wood forest product in Nepal