In the past decade, a variety of methodologies have evolved for assessing rural community needs quickly and with their participation. These include Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), and Diagnosis and Design (D&D). A number of excellent references explain how to use these information-gathering tools (see "For further reading").
These usually start with a background search of available literature from local government offices and other sources, such as research institutes. Studies that appear unrelated to non-wood products may still describe important local values concerning the forest or people's access to it. For example, a study on the impact of a pulp and fuelwood plantation in West Africa contained local people's complaints of reduced availability of forest produce and listed the most important types: bushmeat, chewsticks, canes, poles and other housing materials (Falconer, 1990). Studies of nutrition, land tenure and agriculture can provide valuable indicators of local forest use.
This background search is usually followed by a combination of household and/or group interviews or surveys and mapping exercises. A survey in six Asian countries asked households to list the forest species they used, rank the species by preference based on their use-value, and list the different plant parts used (Mehl, 1991). Households can further help by keeping weekly estimates of the products they consume and sell, in quantitative terms.
Text box 3.2: Women's involvement in processing in Brazil
Acre, women have responsibility for processing all plants
intended for human and animal consumption: foods,
beverages, spices, medicines and animal feed. Women in
the area have refined skills in managing and exploiting
some 150 species. Plants for food include wild and
domesticated fruits and nuts, and field and garden crops.
Processed products range from jams, chocolate and cooking
oil, to coffees and herbal teas. The women use over 50
plants for medicines. Pest repellents also come from the
forest. Both men and women make baskets, brooms, hats and
other craft products. More than half of a group of women
interviewed replied enthusiastically that if a market
existed, they would make time to regularly prepare items
for sale (Kainer and Duryea, 1992).
markets and prices can help to indicate what non-wood resources
are important. Where local market information systems
exist (see Chapter 7), they may, with some adjustments, help to
gauge local harvest rates for key products. Market figures alone,
however, do not supply the full picture. In Zaire, studies found
that most small game was traded or exchanged locally or consumed
within the household and not recorded (Redford et al.,
The importance of women's concerns
Other indicator groups
For an accurate picture of local resource use, forest managers should identify the groups that depend most on the resource and monitor their use as a sensitive gauge. To optimize equity and stability, the managers should also consider how proposed activities would affect these groups.
Despite the fact that women tend to depend more on non-wood resources for household use and income than men, they frequently have less voice in resource management decisions than men, and their priorities are often overlooked. In Latin America women have large roles in hunting using certain technologies (nets, basket traps and poison fishing) but not in others; in some societies, women are the ones to identify and track animals (Redford, op. cit.). Assessments of local NWFP use should recognize these variations and make a special effort to include women and address their needs.
Other groups that tend to rely heavily on forest products for food and other subsistence needs include (FAO, 1989):
the landless poor, who often depend on common property resources for fodder, fuel, handicraft materials and other needs;
forest dwellers and shifting cultivators, who frequently lack secure land tenure and are squeezed out when pressures increase on forest resources;
small-farm families, who may lack resources for subsistence production, and who experience declining fertility and shrinking farm-size through inheritance;
pastoralists and herders, who are vulnerable to droughts and encroachment by cultivators and government programmes;
young children, who depend on forest snacks for certain vitamins.
identifying these vulnerable groups and the non-wood resources on
which they rely, forest managers can anticipate and prevent (or
reduce) conflicts and shortages caused by changes in forest
For major marketed products, subsector analysis helps in understanding the commercial processes at work. A full subsector study can take a month or more to complete, but parts of it can be done in several days and provide useful information on local market flows.
A full subsector analysis uncovers a range of information, including (ATI, 1995):
the local market's main functions, technologies, participants and product flows;
a summary of participants and alternative channels for product flows, and trends among channels;
regulations and policies that influence local product flows;
the number of enterprises that market a product, sales value amounts, employment levels and increase in product value at each stage.
Text box 3.3: Adapting assessment methods: the example of mangroves
Assessing resources and how nearby communities use them is a site-specific task. Resources range from desert oases and semi-arid savannas to montane forests, from herbs and vines to wildlife. Resource managers must adapt the assessment methods to suit the local species, ecosystem and human environment.
Mangroves and other wetlands, for example, present a unique set of conditions for management and are subject to different pressures than land forests.
In mangroves, non-wood activities such as fisheries often generate much more income than timber harvests. Mangroves can also create income through algae cultivation (for example, for export) and producing salt from evaporating seawater (FAO, 1989). Mangrove products include tannin for leather curing, medicines, honey, vinegar, cooking oil, wildlife and fermented drinks. Mangroves contribute to local food security particularly through their support of coastal habitats for fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, cockles and molluscs. They also provide plant - borne food, such as nipa palm fruits, and high-protein fodder from Rhizophora leaves.
Pressures unique to mangrove ecosystems include land reclamation efforts, destructive and unmanaged construction of fish and shrimp ponds, and harvesting for fuelwood and poles. Mangroves are also very sensitive to pollution from urban wastes, food-processing industries, power stations and dam construction.
To manage mangroves effectively, a manager needs to know the dynamics of water bodies and forest cover. Assessment of mangrove ecosystems and their products requires more interdisciplinary collaboration than for dryland forests. This makes it especially important to clearly define data needs before starting to collect them.
general types of data needed are still the same as
described in Chapter 2 (resource biology, socio-economic
information, existing and future demand, and operational
and institutional information), but mangroves involve a
variety of particular trade-offs. For example, there are
socioeconomic trade-offs between fisheries and timber
harvests. Additional logistical considerations include
river transportation and pond or canal construction
Subsector analysis starts by defining the product's end market. In the case of rattan, for example, end market products could be furniture and handicraft for both local and export sale. After identifying the main end markets, the analysis should describe each step from growth to harvest to final consumer; this sequence is known as the product's value chain (ATI, op. cit.).
The analysis identifies the participants at each stage (collectors, processors, government agencies, NGOs, traders, market agents, etc.). For each stage, it lists all steps involved: What is required to complete each stage? What set of skills, equipment, and capital? Which participant performs which step?
information from this part of a subsector market analysis is
combined with the results of the rapid assessment of subsistence
use, a picture emerges of (1) who collects and uses NWFPs
locally, (2) who gains by them and (3) a rough estimate of what
quantities are involved.
Few, if any, forest resources are entirely unmanaged. Even where the forest appears undisturbed, some form of management is probably taking place. For example, the Kayapo Indians of the Amazon basin plant species along forest paths and in natural forest openings for food, medicine, building materials, dyes and insect repellent. Damar forests in Sumatra, Indonesia, appear quite natural but have been managed for generations to obtain damar resin and other products.
In many cases, local forest management has increased the diversity of forest species for non-wood products. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Dalat communities have broadened distribution and increased the abundance of products, including illipe nuts (Shorea spp.) and fruits of durian (Durio zibethinus), rambutan (Nephelium spp.) and mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), as well as a timber species, Eusideroxylon zwagerii. In Brazil's eastern Amazon, in the Ilha das Onças, people have maintained a variety of fruit and latex species as well as wood-producing species (Reds, 1995).
cases, local management strategies build on basic practices such
as: selective weeding around valued plants; enrichment planting,
and occasional selective harvesting of timber species to open the
canopy and stimulate seedling growth. These elements form a sound
basis for sustainable forest management (see Chapter 4). To learn
what management practices exist in an area, prospective forest
managers should interview older local people and forest dwellers
(both men and women), spending time with them in the forest.
Assess how communities near the forest already use the forest resource for non-wood products, and the influence of local cultural, spiritual, social and economic values. This helps to fully account for existing demand and prevent over-harvesting. It also helps to identify the types of improvements most likely to succeed locally.
For this assessment, examine household subsistence uses. Review background materials and use rapid appraisal methodologies to gauge the priority household uses.
Gauge the importance of NWFPs in local markets, for example using subsector analysis. This method helps identify who sells, who buys, and how the products flow through the market.
Investigate local management systems for the resource. Interview older villagers, forest dwellers and forest medicine providers to uncover information on how people use these products. These systems can include selective weeding around valued species, enrichment planting of these species in the forest and selective felling. Even where the forest appears unmanaged, local management systems can be important and offer keys to sustainable management.
Look for indicator groups within the community - people who especially rely on NWFPs - in order to understand people-resource dynamics. This allows a manager to monitor forest health and that of nearby communities.
Ensure that women's interests and preferences receive full weight in plans for forest management, in recognition of their role in product collection, processing and marketing.
sound understanding of the biological resource and its
relationship to the human environment, the forest manager or
community is ready for the next step - identifying opportunities
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