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The World Food Summit
Rome, 13-17 November 1996

Representatives of 186 countries - including 41 presidents, 15 vice presidents and 41 prime ministers - travelled to Rome for the Summit, which was attended by a total of 9,863 delegates, representatives of NGOs, UN agencies and other international bodies, journalists and support staff.

The World Food Summit concluded with the leaders of 186 countries pledging their "political will and common and national commitment" to secure the Summit goal of reducing the number of hungry people in the world by half by the year 2015.

The Summit´s goals were set out in the Rome Declaration on World Food Securityand the Summit Plan of Action, adopted at the opening session on 13 November.

In the Declaration, heads of state and government vowed to achieve food security by cooperating with one another, as well as with UN organizations and NGOs, in a "Food for All" campaign.

The campaign is based on the Plan of Action, which contains seven commitments. These range from sustainable increases in food production, to poverty eradication, access to adequate food, and the contribution of trade to food security.

Of particular relevance for forestry development is Commitment Three of the Plan of Action, which reads:

"We will pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices in high and low potential areas, which are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national, regional and global levels, and combat pests, drought and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture."

More detailed information on the Summit is available in the FAO Home Page on Internet, which can be accessed at the following address:


Technical documents have been collected in a three-volume publication entitled "World Food Summit - Technical background documents"

A publication "Food for all" has also been released on the occasion of the World Food Summit, together with the booklet "Forestry and Food Security". For copies of these documents, please contact:

Sales and Marketing Group, FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome

Trees and forests contribute in many ways to combating malnutrition and improving diets in local communities and rural households. Not only do they directly provide food and medicines, but they also indirectly increase income and improve agricultural production, thereby improving access to food. Hunger and malnutrition would be significantly worse if it were not for the contribution of trees and forests to household food security.

The role of forests and their importance for household food security is one of the main activities of the FAO Forestry Department. Based on its work and experience in this field, the FAO Forestry Department has prepared a number of "Fact sheets" for the World Food Summit. Extracts of two of these "Fact Sheets", which highlight specifically the contributions of non-wood forest products to food security, are reported below.

Forests make a particularly important contribution to the nutrition of the rural poor, who, more than others, are likely to be dependent on trees for a significant part of their income and food supply. Forest dwelling hunters and gatherers, the world's 300 million shifting cultivators, and millions of smallholder and landless households living near forests, in the savannah or growing trees on their farms and compounds depend on trees as part of their survival strategies.

Forest foods can offer vital insurance against malnutrition or famine during times of seasonal food shortage or emergencies such as droughts, floods or wars. It is common for rural households to depend on forest foods between harvests, when harvested stocks have been consumed but before new crops are mature. Women, in particular, count on these resources for supplementary nutrition, emergency foods, fuelwood for cooking and many other important products they need to ensure the nutritional well-being of their families.

Nearly everyone consumes tree foods in one form or another. Innumerable cultivated trees produce food: fruit and nut trees, coconut palms, plantains, olives, and so on. Among the forest fruits that have gained popularity on the world market are avocado, mangoes and guavas. Market forces have galvanized production of these fruits - formerly wild or semi-cultivated forest products - in their countries of origin and have mobilized their spread to other areas.

Many poor households throughout the world grow trees in their home gardens, supplementing their diets with fruits, nuts, edible leaves and other foodstuffs. The fruit of the baobab (Adansonia digitata) far surpasses oranges - famous for their Vitamin C content of 57 mg/100 g of fruit - at 360 mg/100 g, and one variety of jujube (Zizyphus spp.) reaches levels as high as 1 000 mg/100g. Wild leaves contain more riboflavin than eggs, milk, nuts or fish. In Ghana, over 100 wild plant species are valued for their leaves and over 200 for their fruit.

Forest foods are traditionally used to supplement the staple diet, providing vitamins, minerals and protein which are lacking in starch-based cultivated crop foods. People living near forest reserves in Nigeria consume as much as 84 percent of their animal protein in the form of game. Studies in Zimbabwe's Communal Areas suggest that well over 90 percent of households routinely consume insect protein, mostly in the form of termites. Trees like coconut and oil palm provide oils that are essential for cooking and numerous other household uses. Mushrooms and truffles are a vital source of protein, minerals and variety in diets.

One of the main contributions of forests and trees to household nutritional standards is as a vital source of income. This income can be used to buy necessary staples that may be lacking in the home garden. In Peru, a hare hunter can earn the equivalent of US$1 350 a month, compared with a labourer's typical wage of US$100.

Chemicals produced by trees often have medicinal properties that are critical in maintaining levels of family nutrition. For example, the bark of the Khaya senegalensis is used for intestinal problems in tropical Africa, while the Copaiba tree of the Latin American tropics produces an oil used as an expectorant. Folk medicine, which relies heavily on plants, is the standard source of medical treatment for at least three-quarters of the world's people; some analysts set the figure as high as 90 percent.

Forest products also provide important remedies for animal diseases, helping to safeguard livestock production, an important component of human nutrition.

In addition to their direct contribution to food supplies, trees provide habitats for animals, insects and plants that indirectly contribute to human nutrition. Mangrove forests, which cover only about 160 000 km2, are essential to the life cycle of the majority of the world's major commercial pelagic fish species.

The blossoms of forest trees and plants growing below the forest canopy provide a year-round supply of food for bees. Honey is universally valued for its high energy content. Other sweeteners actually extracted from trees include maple syrup and various sugar substitutes (Nypa, tody palm).

Governments and forestry institutions can greatly improve the food security of small farmers and the rural poor through the creation of forest policies and forest institutions that will support the needs of households who depend on trees for a significant part of their nutrition.

(Source: extracted and edited from "Forests and Nutrition" - a Fact Sheet prepared for the World Food Summit, Rome, 13-17 November 1996, FAO)

Cases in point

The per capita consumption of mushrooms during the rainy season in Zimbabwe can be as high as 1.8 kg. The fungi, commonly valued as a meat substitute, supply surprisingly large amount of protein (up to 45 g/100 g. dry weight in some cases) and essential minerals. More than 20 tonnes of mushrooms are gathered and consumed by the 700 000 residents of the upper Shaba area of Zaire every year.

In the Peruvian Amazon, more than 80 percent of animal protein comes from bushmeat. In Botswana, the springhare provides meat equivalent to that from some 20 000 head of cattle. In the USA, non-wood forest products are worth more than 130 million a year in industry revenues and employ at least 10 000 people full-time. The bark of the Western Yew (Taxus brevifolia) tree is harvested in quantities exceeding 350 tonnes a year. It yields the drug taxol, an anti-cancer agent. Formerly a throwaway by-product in the eyes of local foresters, trade in the yew bark now provides an alternative livelihood for an army of local "pickers", including many loggers who were out of work as a result of declining markets in timber and wood products.

The majority of Africa's 25 million shepherds live in the Sudano-sahelian dry zone, where Acacia albida provides 30-40 percent of all livestock feed. (Source: extracted and edited from Forests: much more than wood. Facts Sheet prepared for the World Food Summit, Rome 13-17 November 1996, FAO)

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Iwokrama International Centre, Guyana

The Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development (Iwokrama) was created in March 1996 by an Act of Parliament. Its mandate is "To promote the conservation and the sustainable and equitable use of tropical rain forests in a manner that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general by undertaking research, training and the development and dissemination of technologies". The Iwokrama Act sets aside 360 000 hectares of pristine rain forest to be managed by Iwokrama, half of which as a Wilderness Preserve, the other for sustainable use. Part of Iwokrama's mission is to identify and develop markets for NTFPs. Iwokrama will shortly be conducting a forest inventory for timber on 25 000 hectares of the 360 000 hectares forest and would like to also gather inventory data on a variety of NTFPs (palms, fruits, vines and lianas used for furniture making, etc.). At this time Iwokrama is interested in presence or absence and relative abundance, but later will no doubt wish to get more precise data on supply. Iwokrama needs guidance on NTFP inventorying techniques. Kindly send replies to:

Denys Bourque, Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development
41 Brickdam, Stabroek, P. O. Box 1074, Georgetown, Guyana.
Tel: +592 2-51504; 2-57503 (direct)
Fax: +592-2-59199
E-mail: iwokrama@caribsurf.com

At the Expert Consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (10-14 June 1996, Kotka, Finland), convened by FAO in cooperation with UN/ECE and UNEP and with support from the Government of Finland, a framework for the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 was discussed.

The objectives of the meeting were to agree on ways in which the quality of information already included in the Forest Resources Assessment 1990 could be improved and on how to respond to new information needs. Parameters to be included should meet the conditions of being 1) relevant and useful at international level, and 2) possible to assess with the available data acquisition tools at acceptable cost.

The relevance of non-wood goods and services (NWGS) was among the major topics discussed at the meeting by a specific working group on this topic. Discussions on this topic also considered a draft proposal prepared by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and a voluntary contribution by WWF. The meeting recognized the enormous difficulties of collecting global comparable information on goods and services which are often site-specific and highly diverse in their characteristics.

At the meeting, the following non-wood products were listed:

  1. Food (incl. berries, fruits, sago etc.)
  2. Rubber, gum
  3. Oil palms
  4. Medicine
  5. Chemicals

The following non-wood services were listed:

  1. Recreation
  2. Protection (avalanche, erosion, water, shelter)
  3. Genetic resources and reserves
  4. Tourism
  5. Carbon storage/climate change
  6. Homeland, shelter, living
  7. Jobs, employment
  8. Cultural and spiritual values
  9. Nature conservation
  10. Educational and research possibilities
  11. Income generation
  12. Aesthetic values, scenic beauty
  13. Hunting, fishing
  14. Grazing

The working group recognized that some of these products and services may be overlapping, or incomplete.

It was proposed to combine the NWGS into six major groups (food and medicine, fodder and forage, industrial extracts, protection, social and economic, aesthetic, cultural and spiritual). The number of categories has been chosen to give a balance between providing a good approximation of the total picture and not making the research over-complicated for either the correspondents or end-users.

On the question of whether only quantitative data is to be acceptable, or if qualitative data should be accepted as well, it was found by the group that it is likely that very few countries will have quantitative data available. Some judgement of qualitative data will therefore be necessary, and since there is a high demand for information regarding NWGS it was recommended that qualitative data must be accepted. For each major group a short description of the details and importance of each NWGS should be given.

In order to allow comparisons between countries, an indication of the relative and absolute importance of NWGS (taking into account both economic and non-economic values), changes in supply and demand, and indications of quantity (quantitative figures if available, e.g. production levels, volume, area, visitor numbers, etc.) and value supplied, must be provided. Acquisition of information will be via questionnaires, existing data (such as that already collected by FAO and IUCN) and, if possible, through the use of consultants.

The meeting also recommended that these issues be further discussed by the FAO/ECE team of specialists on NWGS, and that suggestions be made, drawing on FAO/ECE's own experience in this field.

For more information, please contact:
Klaus Janz, Senior Forestry Officer
Forest Resources Division, Forestry Department, FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39-6-52255137

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How should non-wood forest resources be inventoried? How can the inventory be integrated with the more traditional forest inventory? How can both inventories be integrated with new technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) technologies? How should current inventory practice be modified to meet the needs of the next millennium?

This brief note cannot provide detailed answers to all these questions but explores a few of the issues and suggests some possibilities.

Traditional forest inventory for wood products is changing. The ever increasing cost of carrying out the field work for such an inventory means that inventory design is becoming increasingly complex statistically in order to meet precision requirements with reduced field work. The traditional wood-based inventories are becoming more adept, utilizing complex designs and remote sensed imagery. Inventory of non-wood forest resources is not as simple. There are a myriad of products and many of them are sparsely located spatially. Adopting the same techniques as for wood-based inventories is unlikely to provide an efficient non-wood inventory in the future.

Traditional forest inventory has often relied on a stratified random sampling design. This was considered more efficient (statistically and economically) than systematic sampling as it enabled the establishment of plots at varying levels of intensity depending on the stratification used.

However, there is generally insufficient time in an inventory project to carry out the stratification before starting to establish the field inventory plots. The solution in many inventories has been to carry out a systematic field sample recognizing the inefficiencies, but also recognising the practicalities.

The advent of GIS technology means that more alternative stratifications are often possible, and can often be defined quickly. Systematic sampling has the advantage of allowing post-stratification sampling. It also allows for new remote sensed imagery to be used to generate a new stratification at any time and, given that field inventory takes so long to complete and is so expensive, this too suggests that systematic sampling might become more common in the future.

GIS allows for the imput and use of any stratification, and it is the obvious way to store spatial data. Thus the trend will be for a field inventory not to store any spatial information, apart from plot location, plot shape and plot size. Then, when interfacing the GIS with the Field Inventory System, the stratification stored in the GIS can be used to determine which plots fall in which strata, and a list of plots in each strata is prepared. This plot list is then used to summarize the plot information. All this sounds good, but it has some potential problems. How can this work when the subject being inventoried is discontinuous and the polygons of interest are too small to be readily mappable? An example is the mangrove forest, such as the Sundarbans Reserved Forest in Bangladesh, where there is a narrow band of Nipa Palm (Nipa fruticans) along most water channels, the band varying from 0-10 m wide. Mapping is almost impossible and the GIS cannot be expected to store the spatial information with the required resolution and precision. But Nipa Palm is certainly an important non-wood resource, it can be managed sustainably, and the total area can be very large.

One solution is to establish plots of varying size, such as concentric circular plots on the systematic sampling point, allow these to be subdivided into different sub-strata such as water, Nipa, trees, grass, bare land, etc., and then to store this information in the database. The GIS can then be used for stratification and for the preparation of plot lists in each strata. The strata may be quite large. Then the plots can provide an estimate of the proportion of each forest type within the strata so that estimates can be made of the total area of a very discontinuous resource. Plots can be systematic or random, even stratified random, provided that the intensity of plot establishment is constant across strata. This will facilitate post-sampling stratification.

There are obvious gains if the field inventories of non-wood and wood resources can be carried out at the same time. The challenge is to ensure that the integration is efficient and appropriate for the forest estate being inventoried. There should be increasing cooperation and communication between people inventorying the different products, for only then can the best trade-offs be found and the most efficient inventory design found.

(Contributed by: Dr Jerry Leech, Forestry Systems, G.P.O. Box 1632, Mount Gambier S.A. 5290, Australia.
Tel/Fax: +61-87-256516.
Email: jleech@dove.mtx.net.au.)

An important contribution to the issue on inventory NWF resources can be found in the World Bank document written by C. Peters "The ecology and management of non-timber forest resources", 1996. WB Technical Paper N.322. See also under "Publications of interest"

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In a recent book edited by Viana, V., Ervin, J., Donovan, R., Elliott C., and Gholz., H. "Certification of forest products: issues and perspectives", published by Island Press, Washington, D.C. in September 1996, a chapter is devoted to the certification of NWFPs.

The following extracts from that chapter intend to present the major points discussed by the authors and report the examples given. Much of the main discussion and the examples given in the chapter really point to the clear evidence of the benefits of sound marketing based on guaranteeing a product's safety, quality, consistency, etc.

Certification initiatives for NWFPs developed later than those for timber certification programmes. Part of the reason is that there was greater concern from the public about the unsustainability of wood products than of NWFPs.

Economic motivation for the development of certification initiatives for NWFPs include (1) higher market share, especially in industrialized urban centres; (2) higher premium prices, especially for "gourmet" products; and (3) higher per unit value of NWFPs compared to timber.

Current initiatives for NWFP certification

A group of Brazilian NGOs, research and government institutions, and the executive secretariat of IMAFLORA (Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agricola), with support from Cultural Survival Enterprises, the agroextractivist Cooperative of Xapuri, and Rainforest Alliance, are developing standards for the certification of Brazil nuts and rubber in Brazil and Bolivia (see also Non-Wood News 3). These standards will be used as a basis for other certification initiatives in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, where they may be expanded to cover other products such as palm heart, chicle, and pine resin.

In the Western United States, a number of regional NGOs and forest products marketing specialists are evaluating the certification potential of various NWFPs including mushrooms, evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), salal (Gaultheria shallon), Christmas boughs (various species of conifers), yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). One organization in particular, the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy (RIEE) is focusing its research efforts on the education and training of NWFP harvesters. After this, RIEE plans to conduct ecological research on individual species, hoping to establish comprehensive NWFP harvest standards.

In the northeastern United States, labelling of maple syrup has been regulated by the State of Vermont's Department of Agriculture for 45 years. This certification system provides an interesting example of a state government labelling which has ensured quality control of a forest product and willingness on the part of consumers to pay premium prices for labelled products. Other initiatives concern certification of organic products, with which certification of NWFPs sometimes overlaps. IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), accredited certifiers, are implementing standards for maple syrup, commercially cultivated mushrooms, and wild-harvested edible and medicinal plants, some of which are forest dwelling species. The Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), the world's largest international certifying body of organic products, is also implementing standards. For example, OCIA-member NWFP producers must prove that all wild-harvested plants come from pesticide-free forests under active management plans. However, no harvest standards for individual species of wild-collected plants are in place, although local chapters are free to draft specific NWFP standards as long as they meet with OCIA approval. (Source: Viana, V., Ervin, J., Donovan, R., Elliott, C. and Gholz, H., eds). 1996; Certification of forest products: Issues and perspectives. Island Press, Washington, D.C.)

Environmental motivations include: (1) unsustainable harvest of many NWFPs, including endangered species; (2) environmental impacts of intensive production systems replacing wild population-based management systems; and (3) environmental benefits of promotion of diversified forest management. Socially driven motivations include: (1) benefits of increased revenues to producers; and (2) reduced economic risk resulting from diversified production systems of NWFPs.

The authors discuss also some key issues that need to be addressed in the development of certification programmes for NWFPs.

Intensity of management. The intensification of management systems of NWFPs to increase competitiveness with alternative land uses can result in conflict between economic returns and environmental quality. Increasing the density of desirable species often results in a lower biodiversity and conflict with other forest uses and values, such as wildlife habitat protection.

Natural forest NWFP production systems versus plantation systems. Several authors have questioned the productive potential of NWFPs in natural forests based on claims that domestication would eventually drive them out of business. There are many examples of products that are more competitive in wild or semi-wild conditions than in domesticated plantations. One example is ginseng (Panax spp.) production, which is much more valued from natural stands than from plantations. Other examples include some ornamental plants that are difficult to cultivate, vines, and so on. Also, in many instances, traditional peoples have developed forest management techniques that resulted in semi-wild populations of trees and animals with greater productivity, broader environmental benefits, and greater appropriateness to low capital availability, such as the Dayak in Indonesia (see also Non-Wood News 3).

Poor scientific basis for NWFP management: For many NWFP species, knowledge of the basic aspects of their population biology remains unknown or incomplete, even for widely marketed NWFPs. This type of information is critical, not only for certification but also for developing alternatives to increase the productivity of NWFPs. The low productivity of NWFPs can be related, to a significant extent, to the scanty research on the biology and management of those species.

Sustainability analysis of NWFPs. Certifying NWFP management systems requires different approaches to the sustainability analyses used for timber production systems.

Other NWFP labelling initiatives. Certification of NWFPs must be differentiated from certification of organic products. In fact, consumers need to be able to distinguish NWFPs that are purely organic from those that are also environmentally and socially sound.

Public education and marketing of NWFPs. The public perception that one can harvest NWFPs and still "keep the forest" should facilitate the development of certified NWFP markets. However, public reaction to the need for certification is mixed. In 1994 for example, the Rainforest Alliance conducted interviews with major producers, importers, and retailers of rattan products for the US market. These interviews suggested that the market for certified rattan products would be minimal, unless a major public education effort took place to inform consumers of the negative impacts of many unsustain-able rattan sources. This scenario can be true for other NWFPs.

Equity issues. As commercialization of NWFP has increased, it is not always clear if the economic benefits have been equitably shared with harvesters, or that adequate resources have been invested in improving the ecological aspects of NWFP management. Some companies, like Cultural Survival Enterprises, the Body Shop, and Ben and Jerry's have made commitments to equitable and ecologically sound commercial NWFP development. However, even for these well-meaning companies, mechanisms are not always in place for ensuring that local people are adequately compensated, and that environmental control on production is in place.

Subsistence communities and cultural integrity. Profit motivation is often foreign to subsistence communities, and the introduction of such a concept via NWFP marketing may prove perilous to traditional social structures. Protection of these social structures, and protection of the products relied upon by these cultures from exploitation by outside forces, pose major challenges for certification.

Chain of custody for NWFPs. NWFPs create special problems for certification from a chain-of-custody perspective. NWFPs are often collected from a widely dispersed resource base, and many opportunities exist, in theory, to mix products from a certified production area with products from non-certified operations. This contamination can occur at any step in the processing of NWFPs. Certifiers, therefore, must give greater attention to the chain-of-custody issue. (Source: Viana M., Pierce, A., Donovan, R., 1996. Certification of non-timber forest products, in Viana, V., Ervin, J., Donovan, R., Elliott, C., and Gholz., H., (eds 1196). Certification of forest products: Issues and perspectives. Island Press, Washington, D.C.)

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