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9. Research and extension

Involving producers in problem-solving research
National research efforts
National extension services
Consortiums for research and training
Scope for regional and international research
Some priority research areas
Gender-sensitive research and extension

For further reading

In this chapter and the next, the focus shifts from local producers' activities to the kinds of technical support, infrastructure and policy that can meet their needs. These two chapters are thus intended primarily for researchers and policy-makers, and describe approaches by which they can collaborate with local producers to improve forest management.

Although research on non-wood forest resources and products is growing, this field still receives little support in most national institutes. In an informal survey in the Asia-Pacific region, less than 4 percent of forestry researchers cited NWFPs as an area of their specialization (Nair, 1995). Less than 17 percent of 137 research institutions responding to a separate FAO survey in that region cited NWFPs as a priority area of research. Among institutions working on non-wood products, coverage is extremely skewed toward major international commodities.

The scarcity of research resources dedicated to non-wood resource management makes it essential to involve local producers in focusing on the most urgent problems and the search for technical solutions. This is an opportunity for innovative partnerships between researchers and producer - clients, and among government agencies, NGOs and the private sector.

Involving producers in problem-solving research

Collaboration between local groups and supporting agencies starts by clearly recognizing that local producers are the clients of research and partners in managing the resource. Scientists conducting research on rural areas should make it a point to consult with rural people to identify problems or priorities. In this regard, researchers can facilitate discussion, but should be attuned to producers' points and refrain from imposing their own professional interests. (See "For further reading" on rapid rural appraisal, following Chapter 3.)

Scientists should also review the literature for existing research findings that might relate to the communities' problems, and identify gaps where small-scale studies could lead to potential solutions. In situations where the priorities are socio-economic in nature it could be beneficial to involve sociologists and economists in defining research problems and approaches.

In building the researcher-producer collaboration, producers should be involved in data collection and analyzing observations (for example, in harvest assessments as in Chapter 2). Public-private coalitions can help supply communities with support services for building local capacity for adaptive research, and influencing policy decisions.

Technical support should aim to build local capacity to the point where local groups can conduct their own studies on topics that serve their interests (see text box 9.1).

National research efforts

Adaptive research depends on high-quality support from national and sub-national research institutes. The resources dedicated to research related to NWFPs are extremely limited. The research that is underway can be generally categorized as (Nair, op. cit.):

• status surveys to gauge the understanding, uses and availability of various products (including ethnobotanical studies);

• technology development studies for better production (including domestication of commercial species), utilization and processing;

• socio-economic studies, including marketing.

Text box 9.1: Local research capacity in Canada

In 1982, the Makivik Research Laboratory in Kuujjuac, Arctic Quebec, came about as a result of the Inuit Land Claim Settlement. Its objectives were to:

• develop indigenous scientific capacity for conducting wildlife research and management, incorporating local knowledge;

• collect, analyze and disseminate relevant scientific and technical information to Inuit communities;

• provide a base for training Inuit communities in wildlife research and management;

• provide an information centre on environmental and wildlife research and management issues.

Now called the Kuujjuac Research Centre, it monitors subsistence and commercial fisheries, conducts community harvest studies to record individual hunters' takes and assesses populations of salmon, ducks and caribou. The centre produces management manuals in English and in the local language. Staffed by non-Inuit scientific instructors and Inuit manager/technicians, the centre has trained young Inuit to conduct field measurements, laboratory analysis and map-making.

Inuit-conducted field surveys of eider duck have produced valuable information on environmental impact and seasonal changes in patterns of wildlife harvest. Study results are entered into a computer-based geographic information system (GIS). Current information technologies are well-suited to such local research efforts.

Many developing countries could benefit by sharing with Inuit researchers their expertise in capacity-building and local research (Poole, 1989; 1993).

Of these, socio-economic studies tend to suffer most neglect, with market research severely lacking. Information on trading channels and pricing at each stage in the chain - information which would greatly enhance producers' bargaining power - is rarely available. Because of this, many developing countries forfeit a sizable advantage to industrialized countries that import raw materials.

National research bodies should seek to address other imbalances in the current research situation, including (Nair, 1995):

neglect of traditional sector. Research agendas tend to be determined by national economic development goals (vs. actual local use). For NWFPs, this can skew research away from sustainable systems for local subsistence and local markets;

over-emphasis on commercial products and under-emphasis on sustainable production systems. Most research has understandably focused on improving commercial production, often using the model of the plantation system. However support services could better appreciate all options and resource potentials if the goal were a more self-sufficient rural system that optimizes subsistence with marketable surplus;

lack of problem-solving orientation. Research tends to focus almost exclusively on increasing production. As a result, much national research neglects producers' important questions, such as: How to best manage forest resources for multiple uses? How to select best alternative from processing options? What dynamics affect product markets?

lack of linkages between institutions. This results in unnecessary duplication of research and under-utilization of research findings.

12. Wild animal farming can provide off-farm income to farmers, like in the case of this deer farming in Thailand. (Photo: M. Kashio)

13. Mangrove ecosystems are habitat for a great variety of marine life, and provide many NWFPs. (Photo: C. Chandrasekharan)

14. In drylands of Northern Peru, the leguminous species Prosopis pallida is also an important source for honey production from its flowers (Photo: T. Frisk)

15. Local management for NWFPs has increased the diversity and distribution of products like in the case of durian, in West Sumatra. (Photo: de Forests)

Research organizations need clear goals for assigning priorities. Such a priority system should employ criteria of usefulness of research results and responsiveness of it to problems perceived by producers.

Responding to farmers' problems and their complex trade-offs requires more cross-disciplinary thinking. It also requires more linkages like those fostered through the consortiums described below.

For research findings to be more applicable, they need to be available to the communities that need them. Local-language abstracts and manuals are essential to reach rural audiences. Short radio and television programmes can also be cost-effective ways of communicating with rural groups (Mody, 1991).

National extension services

At one time, forest services in many countries had mainly an enforcement role. Foresters protected state-owned forests and this was done through a system of fines and penalties. Now, however, foresters in some cases have assumed the role of extension workers, helping farmers to adapt technological innovations from research.

This shift is improving the relationship between forest services and rural communities in many countries. In this new role, foresters work with communities as partners and advisors in forest management, rather than as adversaries. Foresters are becoming extension workers also in agroforestry, which previously was left neglected in between agriculture and forestry.

Besides technology transfer, forestry's rapid evolution has involved field foresters in documenting indigenous technologies, developing new technical solutions with farmers, communicating policies and resolving land-use conflicts. Field foresters now need to understand disciplines that earlier generations of foresters did not, including anthropology, economics and conflict resolution. When forestry projects began using terms like people's participation and community organizing, neither forestry officials nor villagers knew what they meant (Shrestha, 1993). Table 9.1 shows several ways of providing the needed training for foresters in the area of NWFPs.

This gap between what forestry training schools have traditionally offered and what field foresters now need creates a tremendous challenge and some confusion. In this transition, non-wood products have generally suffered neglect, but the transition itself signals better prospects that rural producers will receive the type of technical support that non-wood forest enterprises require.

Training centres, such as the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre in Thailand, are equipping field foresters with new tools of rapid rural appraisal and techniques for conflict resolution and market research. These skills make them better able to support the range of activities involved in developing all forest resources, including non-wood products.

Table 9.1: Suggestions for enhancing forestry education and training in NWFPs

Education/Training Level



Increase the areas of specialization to include NWFP topics and interrelationships

Promote research related to NWFPs in universities

Support multidisciplinary approaches and programmes in specializations

Encourage pre- and in-service specializations in NWFP areas

Pre-Service Professional/ Managerial

Incorporate relevant NWFP topics

Establish facilities for teaching NWFP-related subjects, including materials, improved methods and qualified teachers

Widen the base for student selection, allowing diverse skills into forestry

As part of instruction, incorporate NWFPs in planning and policy analysis at the sectoral level and in studies related to inter-sectoral linkages

Technical and Vocational

Establish new facilities for training in aspects of NWFP management and utilization, and for specific products in the area

Improve existing facilities in polytechnic institutes and forestry schools, incorporate courses on NWFPs

In Service Professional/ Managerial

Upgrade training to keep up with technical and methodological developments

Refresher training

Technical and Vocational

Short training programmes on specific aspects of NWFP or technology related to

specific non-wood products

Retraining in the use of tools and techniques

Extension and Public Information

Strengthen the system of extension and information dissemination including materials and methods related to conservation and sustainable development, cultivation and management, harvesting, processing, marketing and trade of NWFPs. Target groups include rural producer groups, processors, trading organizations and academic community

(Chandrasekharan, 1993)

National programmes in countries such as Zimbabwe and Indonesia are addressing the gap between conventional training and practical needs in collaboration with NGOs that have experience in providing training in these areas (see text box 9.2).

Consortiums for research and training

Consortiums of public and private institutions have emerged in recent years as powerful forces for linking rural producers to the technical information they can use to better manage their natural resources.

These consortiums have emerged in various ways. In the Philippines, the Upland NGO Assistance Committee (UNAC) resulted from a 1990 meeting of organizations on Problems and Issues of Upland Development. Member groups included NGOs, professional organizations of business people and lawyers, four university institutions and a government agency. The discussions at the 1990 meeting identified three major priority areas for upland farmers: agroforestry (including technical information, transfer of skills and financial resources), land tenure, and marketing (including producers' organizations and post-harvest technology). These three areas became the basis for UNAC's agenda. UNAC's members identified their relative strengths for training, information and research support. The lawyers association developed training for NGOs on landtenure issues; the business people's foundation provided training in entrepreneurship and management.

In addition to collaborative research and training, UNAC provides a forum for grassroots dialogue with government officials. These activities, coordinated by UNAC, received funding support from international development agencies (Bañez, 1992).

The consortium approach has also proven successful for supporting community-based wildlife management in Zimbabwe (see text box 10.2) and elsewhere.

As they develop, these consortiums sometimes discover the need to create provincial or state subgroups to provide training to communities and groups far from national centres. The state or provincial level is the crucial one for policy and programme implementation. It is also the level where ecological differences can be clearly recognised (Haeruman, 1995).

Scope for regional and international research

Collaboration among neighbouring countries can give a boost to national and private research. This collaboration can:

• distribute the cost of research among the client countries;
• reduce duplication of research effort;
• foster collaboration in other areas, such as policy readjustment and communication of results.

Regional centres of excellence could emerge from among existing research institutions. With supplemental resources from donors and member governments, these can develop regionally appropriate inventory methods, processing techniques and/or market research studies. They could also be focal points for North-South transfer of sophisticated technologies, such as those used in bioprospecting for pharmaceutical products in Costa Rica (FAO, 1995).

International research centres in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have a mandate to work through regional research networks. These could delegate regional studies to national research institutions based on a review of each institution's relative strengths. International development agencies should seriously consider support for such networking arrangements.

International organizations could support non-wood forest resource development by:

compiling and disseminating, directories of available databases on non-wood forest resource development (including marketing and processing) and environmental dimensions;

funding research on methodologies for internalizing environmental costs and benefits of developing forest resources, and for conducting cost-effective inventories of plant and animal resources, as well as ecotourism options;

refining policy guidelines and policy-related linkages, including efforts for classifying NWFPs in international systems of statistics and systems of national accounts.

A number of industrialized countries are providing specialized bilateral technical and networking support for NWFP development (Doran, 1995).

Text box 9.2: In-service training for foresters in Indonesia:

Perum Perhutani, a State Forest Enterprise' manages forest areas in Java, Indonesia. It also manages many non-wood enterprises that produce silk, turpentine, medicinal extracts and honey. In the mid-1980s, Perhutani recognized the need to link forest management with improved opportunities for nearby communities. Perhutani launched a programme called Java Social Forestry, which involves communities more actively in forest management through forest farmer groups. Forest farmer groups work with field foresters to improve community self-reliance and income.

In launching Java Social Forestry, the Indonesian government had to grapple with the obstacle of earlier forest-use conflicts between Perhutani and communities. In 1986, Perhutani engaged a national NGO, Bina Swadaya, to provide training for its field foresters in community development. The courses instructed field foresters in rapid rural appraisal and design of community projects. Other courses for forest farmer groups, forest guards and foremen, and administration assistants covered topics of organizing farmers' groups for self-sufficiency, community motivation and management procedures (Yuniati, 1993).

Some priority research areas

Latin America

While priorities for technical support and research vary with local needs, the following general priorities emerged at the international Expert Consultation on Non-Wood Forest Products held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in January 1995 (FAO, 1995):

• develop mechanisms for involving local producers/stakeholders in planning, implementing and monitoring research on NWFPs. These should reward local technical know-how and facilitate its refinement;

• document and disseminate fast disappearing local knowledge of non-wood resources;

• conduct inventories of non-wood forest resources and practices governing production, processing and marketing;

• increase product quality through better harvesting, processing and handling, and identify opportunities for local processing;

• study management systems and their environmental and socio-economic impacts on local communities;

• improve methodology for valuation of all benefits of NWFPs and their trade in informal and formal markets;

• pay more attention to socio-economic, cultural and spiritual issues associated with NWFPs in all areas, including marketing and technology;

• communicate research findings to producers and other interested parties in local-language formats.

For better research-policy linkages, market researchers, for example, need a clear idea of policy - makers' priorities and should review these in an iterative way. Empirical tools of rapid appraisal can make market studies more situation-specific and valuable for policy (Vosti and Witcover, 1995).

At the Expert Consultation in Indonesia, the following emerged as important regional needs (FAO op. cit.):


• Conduct research on local (formal and informal), national and regional markets;

• study technologies for improved natural regeneration and sustainable cultivation of key species identified through assessments of community perceptions, biological amenability and market demand;

• translate research abstracts and relevant manuals into local languages for use by local producers;

• use geographic information systems (GIS) to map resource patterns and to coordinate research;

• in Asia-Pacific (and other regions), an overriding equity issue is the need for greater local involvement in decisions on resource management. Policy research should address means for gaining greater local participation in these decisions and implementation, including tenure policies.

Some of the plant species of regional importance for NWFPs in Asia-Pacific are Artocarpus heterophyllus, Acacia catechu, A. nilotica, Aegle marmelos, Azadirachta indica, Bambusa spp., Calamus spp., Ceiba pentandra, Cinnamomum spp., Dendrocalamus spp., Diospyros melanoxylon, Juglans regia, Madhuca spp., Morchella spp., Moringa oleifera, Nephelium lappaceum, Nypa fruticans, Parkia speciosa, Pinus roxburghii, Pterocarpus spp., Shorea robusta, Tamarindus indica, Terminalia spp., Toona ciliata and Zizyphus spp. (Durst et al., 1994).

Latin America

• Forest products harvested from the wild have been subjected to international market boom bust patterns, causing destruction of resources and cultures. Improved classification of these products can facilitate better marketing studies at the national and international levels;

• develop more appropriate harvesting and processing options for adding value locally, perhaps through South-South cooperation;

• ethnobotanical studies should further explore the region's rich indigenous knowledge systems as a basis for integrated, sustainable management of non-wood forest resources.

See Table 7.3 for a partial list of important NWFP species in Latin America.


• Conduct research on grazing/pastoral and wildlife systems, which are particularly important in the region;

• the fragility of semi-arid ecosystems in Africa make it important for research to improve strategies for avoiding risk, both economic and environmental;

• Africa has a proportionately larger rural population than other regions, reliying more on subsistence uses of NWFPs than on marketing the products. Research studies should recognize this in assigning priority;

• research should not assume privatization of resources, as common property regimes are widespread in Africa.

Some of the plant species of regional importance for NWFPs in West Africa are Afzelia spp., Alchornea spp., Anacardium occidentale, Brachystegia spp., Ceiba pentandra, Cola spp., Elaeis guineensis, Ficus spp., Garcinia spp., Irvingia gabonensis, Gnetum spp., Maesobotrya spp., Monodora spp., Parkia spp., Pterocarpus spp., Tamarindus indica and Terminalia spp. (Falconer, 1990).

Gender-sensitive research and extension

Research and extension efforts can show greater impact if they consider the effect of gender on activities related to NWFPs. If a programme's design gives full weight to gender considerations, its implementation will more likely support women's actual roles as NWFP producers, processors, traders and household food providers. For instance, women often notice pest and insect damage earlier than men, who are sometimes involved only in harvesting and planting (Stoney, 1992). In that case, a programme that aims to improve monitoring of plant health would show best results if it identified women as a target group.

Gender-sensitive research can also help to select species or cropping systems that minimize additional drain on household resources. In noting desired plant traits, plant-breeding programmes should seek the preferences of women and men, and understand who is responsible for harvesting, processing and trade (see text box in 3.2).

Designing gender-sensitive research requires researchers to be aware of cultural barriers to women's participation in research studies. For example, restrictions on male field workers' ability to interview rural women frequently makes it necessary to employ female researchers and extension workers. Other constraints usually dictate that the NWFP activities where women participate mostly take place close to the households. Training in participatory research is more effective when carried out in a village (Stoney, op. cit.).

Gender-sensitive research also benefits researchers by making their findings more applicable. Research managers, however, should ensure that researchers receive more immediate incentives for any added time and costs involved (Warren, 1992).


• In view of the scarcity of research resources, it is especially important that research on NWFPs:

• involve producers in clearly defining research problems;
• focus research on problem-solving; and
• communicate results to the target rural groups, in local language.

• Establish collaborative modes of consortiums and centres of excellence for interdisciplinary research and reduced duplication of effort.

• Customize in-service training and improve forestry curricula to provide field foresters and other extension workers with the skills they need to work with communities and producer groups.

• For results that are applicable for rural target groups, ensure that studies take the gender issues into account in design, data collection and analysis. This requires training and appropriate incentives for the staff involved.

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