2 Major factors impeding or facilitating development


2.1 Factors impeding development
2.2. Factors encouraging development
2.3 Problems of marketing



2.1 Factors impeding development


The development of NWFP has been impeded in the past by a number of factors, some of which appear to be either social or political in origin.

2.1.1 In many cases prejudices among both government functionaries and the population at large within the developing countries favour western style products over indigenous ones. Commodities from wild sources are either socially unacceptable or are considered technologically inferior because they were used by one's less sophisticated forbearers (Sène 1985). Such prejudices can persist even when the western-style product can be clearly seen to be environmentally or otherwise unsuitable. Such changing tastes and preferences are especially true for food products.

An education programme using the mass media could seek to overcome these prejudices and create a national pride in the utilization of natural resources. Competitive pricing and quality control are also important factors in ensuring continued acceptance of natural products.

2.1.2 Government personnel is often unwilling to assume responsibility for efforts to strengthen areas of lesser apparent priority to the national economy. Although individually NWFP often make a minor contribution, collectively they often represent a large proportion of the rural economy, and can add significantly to export revenues. However, when costed individually, they may also appear to require a disproportionate amount of effort to develop and market.

Improvement in valuation of the social and economic benefits to be derived by rural communities and industries following better utilization of NWFP needs to be stressed, as well as strengthening of decentralized rural institutions and enterprises.

2.1.3 Government personnel and urbanized communities may lack sympathetic appreciation regarding the importance of NWFP to the rural population. Development plans and projects that affect such products and resources may be devised without consulting the rural communities involved, leading to possible rejection of measures to be undertaken.

The advantages of NWFP to the rural communities and the need for their involvement and adequate consultation must be emphasized before the start of any project.

2.1.4 There are prejudices by both field workers and scientists in investigating and developing what may be considered minor natural products requiring unsophisticated analysis. Scientists in developing countries who have received advanced training in the West often find it demeaning to undertake relatively basic research, often based on nothing more than intelligent observation and selection rather than genetic engineering. The major exception to this generalization is the search for new biochemicals, which requires advanced scientific screening, linked with adequate ethnographical observations.

The growing international concern for biodiversity and protection of endangered gene pools may stimulate scientists to have greater pride in their countries' natural resources and to appreciate their value to the community. Such pride should be engendered through forestry training and extension with the help of the mass media.

2.1.5 There is a lack of detailed basic information on resource availability, yield, quality, preparation and utilization for most of NWFP and their relevance to the local rural economy, let alone any consideration of their potential value to the national economy.

The creation of natural resources data banks should be encouraged, attention given to the collection of information for the adequate valuation of their economic contribution, and assistance given on the sustainable development of these resources.

2.1.6 The full potential of a product may not be recognized often because of insufficient exchange of knowledge between countries, for linguistic or political reasons. For example, although the baobab is widely distributed throughout Africa, people in the individual countries where it occurs probably would recognize less than a dozen usages for its products. Yet, when these uses are considered over the entire distribution range of the tree, they number more than fifty.

Baobab trees provide sustenance and shade

There is clearly a need for more and better distributed monographic treatments of potentially useful species; specialists under contract are one means of achieving this, but project outputs may include public information and extension, demonstration and exchange as means of overcoming this constraint.

2.1.7 Few academic institutions provide instruction in NWFP, economic plants or ethnobotany. These are multidisciplinary subjects, a knowledge of which is essential for any development programme involving NWFP.

The training programme within academic institutions and short-term training courses for responsible forestry officials and rural development planners should be considered.

2.1.8 Information sources on NWFP within the developing countries are generally poor. Even where journals are available, there are very few dealing specifically with NWFP3. Other articles are to be found scattered through a wide range of publications so that major libraries in the biological sciences need to be consulted when seeking information. 4

3The major plant journals are Economic Botany, Journal d'Agriculture Traditionelle et Botanique Appliquée, and Travaux d'Ethnobotanique et d'Ethnozoologie; others, such as A Ouarterly Journal of Natural Products (formerly known as Lloydia) and the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, deal with medicinal plants.
4Further references to the literature on NWFP may be found in Wickens (1990).

The available textbooks are largely concerned with plants that either are or are soon to be commercially exploited. However, important studies at the species or subject level have been published as monographs or reports by FAO, IBPGR, UNIDO, WHO, ILCA, ICRAF, GTZ, US National Academy of Science, etc. Wildlife, with its greater popular appeal, is better documented than plants.

Encouragement should be given to preparing regional and/or national textbooks. Developing country professionals should be informed of the availability of abstracting services solely for the benefit of the developing countries that may facilitate access to ephemeral ("grey") literature on NWFP, such as ILEIA, ODI Social Forestry Network, etc.

2.1.9 The utilization of NWFP was largely predetermined by earlier colonial exploitation patterns when many tropical countries were governed by Europe. Under the various colonial systems only a few key species were selected for export and thereby determined cultivation and research policies. In some cases the market advantages that such crops obtained were due to the disproportionate amount of research that they received compared to less-exploited crops of similar or possibly better potential.

Shifting research resources toward those neglected products that have promising potential may provide significant economic dividends, but may require a long-term commitment.

2.1.10 The relative prosperity of the early 1960s meant that many traditional NWFP, e.g. plant-based pesticides, were discarded in favour of western-style products (see 2.1.1 above). The elder generation that knew of their usages may die without first handing down their knowledge. Furthermore, much of the relevant information that was recorded during the colonial period is no longer readily accessible within the country concerned, although often still available within the former colonial power.

Information retained by the colonial metropolis needs to be extracted and made available to the countries concerned. Attempts should also be made to record and document the traditional usages known to older generations before their knowledge is lost forever.

2.1.11 Potential uses of NWFP may have been discarded, either because the appropriate technology was not available or the economic climate was not propitious. In other cases, where the species has been introduced, the appropriate source material (provenance) was not selected.

Unfortunately such failures tend to discourage further ventures due to discredit.

Discarded usages need to be revised in the light of present-day technical and economic viability.

2.1.12 Utilization of NWFP may, in some countries, be either hindered or prevented by restrictive forestry legislation, sometimes even to the extent of forbidding the harvesting of dead wood, wild fruits, etc.

Such restrictive legislation requires amendment. Customary laws and taboos should be assessed regarding potential conflicts with formal legislation

2.1.13 World market forces have encouraged increasing concentration on a limited range of raw materials in the belief that uniformity is more efficient than diversity. This puts increasing pressure on developing countries to concentrate on staple products.

Fortunately there is a growing awareness of the inherent dangers in using restricted germplasm and monoculture. Nevertheless, there is still a need to increase this awareness further through education and the mass media.

2.1.14 It is not generally appreciated that NWFP demand a multi-disciplinary approach by biological and social scientists5. Even palaeo-scientists and historians can contribute. For example, the rediscovery of the use of penicillin by Flemming earlier this century could possibly have been made much sooner if greater attention had been paid to the writings of Pharaonic Egypt where the use of a penicillin-type mould is recorded.

5See Appendix A for the function and interaction of some of the disciplines that might be involved in developing plant products.

Training programmes need to be strengthened and a greater interchange between the social and biological scientists encouraged. Furthermore, acces by industrialists and entrepreneurs to information on market potential for new forest products should be improved.

2.2. Factors encouraging development


The development of NWFP in developing countries has mainly received encouragement from deteriorating internal and external economic factors, and from efforts to conserve tropical forests and biodiversity.

2.2.1 Worsening domestic economic condition and balance of payments crises have meant that many developing countries can no longer afford certain imports and have been forced to consider a greater use of their own natural resources. Synthetic pesticides are an example of costly imported products that now need to be replaced by local plant pesticides (see 2.1.10 above).

Training programmes for national forestry officials in opportunities for product development should be encouraged. For example, Zambia's Forest Department has, after training at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, created a data bank on NWFP in order to advance their utilization.

2.2.2 There is a growing realization by some governmental administrations that a segment of local communities is dependent on non-wood forest resources for their wellbeing and that the use of such resources can provide a steady improvement in their living standards.

Publicity should be given to success stories to encourage further development.

2.2.3 There are new market opportunities being created by the green movement in the western countries, especially in their demand for herbal instead of synthetic pharmaceuticals. Recent efforts to link forest product sales with rainforest conservation have stimulated demand and improved prices for some goods. Profits are being reinvested in community development projects by groups such as Cultural Survival, the Body Shop, Conservation International, etc. (May 1990).

These opportunities need to be identified and developed.

2.2.4 New ethnic markets are sometimes created by the migration of peoples, such as the Jewish community from Morocco to Israel; their preference for argue oil from the wild Moroccan endemic, Argania spinosa, has stimulated its introduction for domestication in Israel.

Such demands need to be identified and met.

2.2.5 The ever continuing search for new biochemicals for pharmaceuticals and industry has been stimulated by the urgent need for a cure for AIDS. Drugs for treating cancer and the necessity for strategic alternatives for rubber and sperm whale oil are part of ongoing research programmes underway for decades.

Strengthening the national institutions in the developing countries is recommended so that they too can become involved in the search for new biochemicals and pharmaceuticals and benefit from their development. Such participation should ensure intellectual and provenance property rights and standards for payment of royalties to the country of origin of genetic resources.

2.2.6 It is increasingly being realized that the world has become dependent on fewer and fewer staple resources, especially for food, and that there is an urgent need to diversify in order to avoid the possible consequences of panendemics.

As mentioned in 2.1.13, even greater awareness must be encouraged through education and the mass media.

2.2.7 The ever increasing global population and the occupation of the more hospitable land have created a need for the better utilization of less hospitable areas. New NWFP, adapted to such environments, are often necessary as a basis for regional resource development. This is particularly true for the arid, semi-arid and saline regions of the world, but also for the humid tropics.

Strengthening of national institutions is required to encourage greater research and development in the utilization of NWFP in these less hospitable regions.

2.3 Problems of marketing


Although complex, the problems involved in NWFP development from identification through manufacturing are relatively simple compared to those of marketing at the local, national or international level (Wickens et al. 1989).

2.3.1 There must be a niche in the market waiting to be filled, either by replacing an existing commodity by something that is superior and/or cheaper, or supply a demand that has until now been unfilled.

The price structure for a product must be such that the provider, merchant and buyer are all reasonably satisfied, without the middleman making an excessive profit at the expense of the provider.

2.3.2 Expanding production to enter new markets can cause problems for the producer. The unprofitable time lag during which stocks have to be increased, so as to meet the quantity demanded by the new market, can be beyond the financial resources of the individual supplier. In general, the more expensive the processing required, the greater the volume of throughput needed to keep costs at a reasonable level. Although increased production by the community will create an increased demand for labour, this will be offset by any increased efficiency in processing technology needed to maintain competitiveness.

2.3.3 Monopsony (few buyers) should be avoided, to ensure that competitive market conditions prevail. At the outset in product development, however, it may be necessary to protect domestic producers by restricting imports of substitute products, provision of export financing, and technical assistance.

2.3.4 Trade restrictions between nations may prevent exports, or internal politics may prevent the introduction of a new product if the producers of an alternative product are disadvantaged. Lobbying by the pro-animal life lobby may also reduce the market for wildlife products. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) protects a number of species, although continued existence of clandestine markets continue to threaten extinction.

2.3.5 All these marketing factors need to be considered together. For example, conservation pressure groups seek the substitution of sperm whale oil by jojoba oil, or similar plant substitutes. At present the production of jojoba is too small and the price too high for sperm whale oil to be entirely supplanted in industrial uses. An increasing number of more efficient large-scale plantations will undoubtedly reduce the price but, as a corollary, almost certainly will also imply that small-scale producers will be unable to compete. Many developing countries will then find jojoba uneconomic as an export crop and must seek alternative internal markets with their cosmetic industries. They then will be faced with the decision whether to restrict imports of substitutes to bolster national jojoba producers. Such protection can have a perhaps unwanted side-effect of stimulating domestic entrepreneurs to invest in more efficient production practices, also marginalizing small producers.