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Semi-domesticated crops and mini-livestock - an integrated approach

Since 1994, South American and European researchers have been undertaking research and assessment work around Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas, Venezuela. The research involves evaluating various environmental impacts in one area of savannah and forest cline, which was in a process of converting to savannah owing to various factors such as urbanization, fire, grazing and increasing pressure from horticulture. The objective was to develop simple and reliable sampling tools to analyse the area and aid people in suggesting sustainable management options for the various impacts.Researchers then examined how different ethnic groups use local resources, particularly non-conventional small animals, mini-livestock and semi-domesticated crops. A database was set up on these plants and small organisms, especially insects. Many terrestrial invertebrates, including at least three different species of earthworm, are eaten by various ethnic groups, often out of choice. Experimental trials were carried out on some insects such as palmworms (Rhynchophorus palmarum), raising them on different media both in fields and laboratories. This nutritious snack is eaten in certain periods of the year and can represent an important supplement of fat, proteins and vitamins for local villagers. People from Alcabala Guajibo often gather the worms in addition to palm leaves and fruit.

Other interesting varieties of semi-domesticated plants are also harvested, either in the forest or in gardens. Two types of "tomato", Solanum sessiliflorum and S. stramonifolium, were collected and trials have started on germination, leaf and fruit composition, biological characteristics of flowers and pollination strategies. Studies and local dissemination trials are also under way on a tree of the Annonaceae family, Duguetia lepidota, which produces delicious fruits. (Source: ETFRN News, No. 24, June-August 1998.)

For further information, please contact
Mr Maurizio G. Paoletti,
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Padova, Via U. Bassi 58/b,
35121 Padova, Italy.
Fax: (+39) 49 8276300/8072213;

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Accurate information on the status, use, trade and conservation of non-timber forest products is critical to their sustainable management and conservation. The past few years have seen an explosion of information management and communications technology. This has provided numerous opportunities for faster and more effective integration and use of information and expertise to achieve conservation and development goals.

Twelve international conservation programmes and organizations have formed a global partnership to harness these opportunities - the Biodiversity Conservation Information System (BCIS). Members of BCIS agree to support environmentally sound decision-making and action affecting the status of biodiversity and landscapes at all levels by cooperating in the provision of data, information, advice and other services. The following BCIS members represent a broad spectrum of conservation information and experience: BirdLife International, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Conservation International, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, International Species Information System, IUCN Environmental Law Programme, IUCN Species Survival Commission, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, The Nature Conservancy, TRAFFIC, Wetlands International and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. (Contributed by: Ms Teresa Mulliken, TRAFFIC International,
219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 3PT, UK.)

For more information, please visit the BCIS Web site at:

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The Netherlands Government filed a suit with the European Court of Justice in a bid to cancel a directive over the patenting of biotechnological discoveries, the economics ministry stated. The EU Life Patents Directive, which came into being in July [1998], permits the patenting of biotechnological discoveries, such as the genetic manipulation of plants and animals as well as the technical methods used to change the organisms.According to the ministry spokesperson, the Netherlands Government, which voted against extending biotechnological patents to plants and animals, filed an appeal seeking to nullify the directive on legal grounds, claiming that it violated international treaties and basic human rights.The challenge was hailed by pressure groups. "The existing European Patent Convention works fine. It grants patents on real biotechnological inventions, but excludes patents on, for example, plants and animals. ... There is no need to change this," Thomas Schweiger, Secretary-General of the European Campaign on Biotechnology Patents, said in a statement, adding that many believe the directive is immoral, unethical and in violation of several international treaties. (Extracted from: Press release, Agence France Presse,
19 October 1998.)

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The Centre for Resource Education, based in Hyderabad, India, is an NGO working on environment and development issues. It has developed a documentation centre, including a slide and photo bank, which is used by journalists, students and research scholars, teachers and academicians, as well as NGOs and government officials.

The centre is working on watershed development projects, rural development, rural youth counselling, agricultural improvement and rural technology services through a network of small NGOs, and has been collaborating with the government at various levels in training programmes and project implementation. In addition, the organization has been involved in the environmental curriculum for the open education stream, schools and regular universities.

For more information, please contact
Mr B.V. Subba Rao,
Centre for Resource Education, 201 Maheshwari Complex,
Ma-Saab Tank Crossroads, Hyderabad,
AP 500 028, India.
Fax: (+91 40) 3312891;

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A Chinese congressman has spoken out against the production and export of disposable chopsticks. Production has increased to such a level in China that it is literally "eating" into the country's forest reserves.
Cai Shiyan, a delegate from Tianjin, denounced the fact that every year China exports 20 billion chopsticks, i.e. four billion m3 of wood, to Japan alone. The Chinese agency, Xinhua, has disclosed how this tendency is unsustainable and harmful. In fact, says Cai Shiyan, only 13 percent of Chinese territory is forested and, at present, China stands at the 121st position in the world's reforestation per caput league. In Heilongjiang region, for example, out of 40 forestry zones 12 are now virtually treeless. He added that in China there are over 300 factories producing disposable chopsticks, mostly for export. Wood, the primary material for this industry, is becoming scarce.
This situation is further aggravated by the fact that, owing to the rise in the standard of living, the quantity of wooden chopsticks used every year in the home market (with its 1.2 billion inhabitants) is increasing. (Source: Il Messaggero, 8 March 1998.)


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The African pear (Dacryodes edulis), or safou, is greatly appreciated in the humid zones of tropical Africa both as a food and as a means of providing a useful income from commercialization. Nevertheless, despite its socio-economic importance, the African pear has not been the subject of further scientific investigation and research for its improvement and development.

With this in mind, researchers working on safou decided to set up the African Safou Network (ASANET) to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences on African pear and other new vegetable oil sources. The constitution of the network includes articles on its creation and headquarters, objectives, membership, organs and functions, resources, amendments and final provisions.

To achieve its objective, ASANET's activities include: research on topics aimed at removing constraints to the farming of African pear and other vegetable oil sources; exchange of plant material among members in line with legislation requirements in various countries; fostering the dissemination of established results and creating conditions for the emergence of new producers utilizing modern techniques; training; and organization of conferences and other fora for discussion. (Source: C. Kapseu and G.J. Kayem. 1998. Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on African Pear Improvement and Other New Sources of Vegetable Oils. Presses Universitaires de Yaoundé, Yaoundé, Cameroon.)

For more information, please contact:
Mr César Kapseu,
Département de Génie des Procédés et d'Ingénerie,
ENSAI, PO 454, Ngaoundéré, Cameroon.

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Worldwide publication of scientific and technical information takes place at such a rapid pace that isolated researchers often find it almost impossible to keep abreast of recent developments in their speciality. The effects have been the occasional duplication and overlapping of work efforts and associated financial losses. Researchers need effective tools for keeping themselves updated and for publicizing the results of their own work; this is as true in the case of the African pear and other oil plants as with any other information.

Database management system software can help solve the problem of ineffective dissemination of scientific information. One example is the CDS/ISIS version 3.07 distributed by UNESCO, which allows for comprehensive document description and effective bibliographic control. CDS/ISIS can generate databases with 32 000 entries of 8 000 characters each, roughly equivalent to the contents of five typed sheets of A4 paper.

The database to provide information on African pear and other oil plants already contains 119 references from 91 authors. Each entry contains an abstract, if available, and can be accessed using any of the following parameters: name(s) of author(s), subject keywords, date and place of publication, etc.

An analysis of the topics covered by the various references shows that very little work has been done on genetic improvement of species, entomology and plant protection. On the other hand, considerable work has been published on physiochemical aspects, biochemistry and nutrition, which account for half of the entries. Works on agroforestry and technology come somewhere in between. Similarly, division by type of plant shows that the African pear predominates (50 percent), followed by cotton (15 percent) and palm (9 percent). (Source: C. Kapseu and G.J. Kayem. 1998. Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on African Pear Improvement and Other New Sources of Vegetable Oils. Presses Universitaires de Yaoundé, Yaoundé, Cameroon.)

For more information, please contact
Mr Emmanuel Tchoumkeu, Bibliotheque Centrale,
Université de Ngaoundéré,
PO 454, Ngaoundéré, Cameroon;
Mr César Kapseu,
Département de Génie des Procédés et d'Ingénerie,
ENSAI, PO 454, Ngaoundéré, Cameroon.


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According to the Washington Convention of 1973 (Protection of Plants against Extinction), efforts are necessary to domesticate a large number of medicinal and aromatic plants collected in the wild. It is a matter of avoiding the extinction and overuse of indigenous plants, on the one hand, while ensuring their availability and quality assurance, on the other.

In the course of two subsequent projects sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OEAW) and the German Agency for Technological Cooperation (GTZ/PROTRADE) during 1991-96, several wild-growing medicinal plants indigenous to Guatemala were investigated with the aim of obtaining basic information for domestication: Lippia alba, L. dulcis, L. graveolens ("Mexican oregano"), Eryngium foetidum, Dorstenia contrajerva, Tagetes lucida (pericón), Petiveria alliacea and Smilax sp. This included studies of the natural habitat, collection of vegetative and generative material, experiments on plant propagation, investigation of cultivation concerning variability of plant material and the influence of different environmental conditions, such as light intensities, climate or method of cultivation.

In the case of Lippia alba, L. graveolens and Tagetes lucida, different chemotypes could be detected. The different populations of Lippia dulcis of Guatemala do not vary remarkably from each other, but they do differ from populations of other countries, such as Mexico, especially concerning the essential oil composition.

There were great variations, especially in growth, using different growing sites as well as different light intensity treatments. These results have to be taken into consideration when domesticating the plants, in particular for economic reasons. The composition of the essential oil of the plants investigated, however, does not show any particular reliance on a variable environment.

The agricultural studies were carried out in cooperation with the National Scientific Institution (Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícola - ICTA) and chemical studies were carried out at different universities in Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), a private institution, and Universidad San Carlos (USAC), the national university of Guatemala.

The importance of this kind of investigation should be kept in mind in order to sustain the conservation of endangered plants and furthermore to control the quality and biodiversity of natural and domesticated medicinal and aromatic plants. (Based on a personal contribution by: Dr Ursula Fischer.)

For more information, please contact
Dr Ursula Fischer, Institute for Applied Botany,
University of Veterinary Medicine,
Veterinärplatz 1, A-1210 Vienna, Austria.
Fax: (+43 1) 250773190;

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Le processus de domestication entrepris par le Centre international pour la recherche en agroforesterie (CIRAF) a pour but d'identifier et d'améliorer les espèces végétales à grand potentiel agroforestier, en tenant compte des besoins du paysan et de la demande. Ces espèces sont sélectionnées d'après un critère de priorité selon lequel le principal concerné (paysan) identifie l'espèce la plus importante dans sa vie quotidienne ainsi que les traits qu'il voudrait voir améliorer. Le matériel ainsi amélioré sera mis à la disposition du paysan pour la reproduction en masse suivant les techniques de multiplication végétative. Parmi les espèces prioritaires identifiées dans la sous-région de l'Afrique centrale et occidentale on trouve: Dacryodes edulis, Garcinia cola, Ricinodendron heudelotii, Irvingia gabonensis, Chrysophyllum albidum, Pausinystalia johimbe et Prunus africana. Les deux dernières sont des plantes médicinales en voie de disparition à cause des méthodes d'exploitation très destructives.

Dacryodes edulis est une burséracée oléagineuse dont les fruits, très appréciés en Afrique centrale et occidentale, alimentent un marché régional considérable. Sa pulpe, très riche en huile (plus de
50 pour cent de son poids sec), lui confère de grandes potentialités d'utilisation dans l'industrie alimentaire et cosmétique.

Prunus africana, rosacée arborescente des forêts d'altitude et Pausinystalia johimbe, rubiacée des forêts denses sempervirentes, sont deux plantes largement exploitées pour les vertus thérapeutiques de leurs écorces. Les extraits de P. africana sont utilisés pour le traitement de l'hypertrophie de la prostate et d'autres infections urinaires. On estime à près de 3 500 tonnes la quantité d'écorces exploitées chaque année pour près de 220 millions de dollars EU. La yohimbine extraite de P. johimbe est un alcaloïde puissant utilisé à l'échelle locale et internationale pour le traitement de l'impuissance sexuelle chez l'homme.Malgré l'importance que ces espèces occupent dans la vie des paysans, elles ont fait l'objet de peu d'attention pour l'amélioration génétique. La méthodologie développée par le CIRAF vise à améliorer lesdites espèces en utilisant les châssis de propagation. Le bouturage sous châssis de propagation est une technique simple convenant aux paysans à faibles revenus. Cette caisse en bois munie d'un couvercle et recouverte de papier plastique transparent maintient une humidité élevée et une intensité lumineuse modérée favorables au bon développement des racines des boutures. Le châssis de propagation, entièrement fabriqué à l'aide de matériel local, ne requiert ni électricité ni eau courante. Ainsi, il est bien adapté en milieu rural. L'application de cette technique à D. edulis, P. johimbe et P. africana donne des résultats assez satisfaisants avec plus de 80 pour cent de boutures enracinées pour chacune de ces espèces. La formation des paysans à ces techniques (bouturage, greffage et marcottage) s'opère avec succès à Abondo et Nkolfeb, deux villages au sud du Cameroun. Enfin, l'application de cette technique permet d'espérer en des lendemains meilleurs pour le paysan qui pourrait ainsi sélectionner et améliorer ses propres arbres fruitiers, assurant son équilibre alimentaire et une source de revenus permanente par la vente des produits sélectionnés.

Pour plus d'informations, contacter:
M. Zac Tchoundjeu,
CIRAF, BP 2123, Yaoundé, Cameroun.
Télécopie: (+237) 237440;

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This special report on non-wood goods summarizes country reports on the status of such goods and services in the following seven countries: Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Quantitative information is provided on non-wood goods (food, fodder, plant products, etc.), environmental services (protection, water, global climatic effects and biological diversity), and social and cultural services (hunting and fishing, leisure and tourism, aesthetic and scenic values, cultural and spiritual values, scientific and historic values).

The study was carried out by the Team of Specialists on Non-Wood Goods and Services of the Forest convened under the auspices of the FAO/ECE Joint Working Party on Economics and Statistics. The study shows that considerable data exist on non-wood goods and services, often in sources unfamiliar to conventional forest resource analysis. While the quality and comparability of these data vary considerably, they are sufficient to give a good picture of the status of non-wood goods and services in the above countries. The team's experience in the field of non-wood goods and services was also an important input in the formulation of the FAO/ECE Temperate and Boreal Forest Resource Assessment 2000, which will be published in 1999. Work will also be used to analyse the replies received to this global survey.

One of the team's major findings is that commitment of time and resources at the national level is an essential prerequisite to improving international data on non-wood goods and services. The final report was prepared by the team leader, Ms Linda Langner [see under Publications of Interest for the complete reference of the study].

For more information, please contact
Mr C.F.L. Prins,
UN Commission for Europe, United Nations,
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.
Fax: (+41 22) 917 0041;

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The centrally funded Forestry Research Programme (FRP) of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) initiated a project at the end of 1998 on biometrically preferred methods for assessment of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), covering both static inventory and dynamic production as well as harvesting records.

A position paper will summarize the methods currently in use, indicating the biometric problems of these methods. The position paper will be used for a restricted call for proposals to manage the research project itself, which will commence with an international meeting (to be organized by the European Tropical Forest Research Network - ETFRN) for NTFP assessment specialists. The project will run for several years and will test the most appropriate assessment systems (and determine their costs) for all the main tropical and subtropical NTFPs.

For more information, please contact
Mr John Palmer, Manager,
Forestry Research Programme-DFID, Natural Resources International Limited (NRIL),
Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime,
PO Box 258, Chatham, Kent ME4 4PU, UK.
Fax: (+44 1634) 88 3937;

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The ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) is native to China and is the sole survivor of the ancient family Ginkgoaceae. In China, it is traditionally cultivated both for timber and its seeds, while outside China it is valued chiefly as an ornamental and shade tree. Recently, however, it has been extensively planted for its fern-like leaves which have valuable medicinal properties; in fact, the leaves and seeds contain biologically active substances used for the improvement of cerebral and peripheral blood circulation.As the developed world has started to appreciate the medicinal properties of this natural product, so the demand for dried ginkgo leaves and seeds has increased. The ginkgo leaf-processing industry is booming and nearly 200 processing enterprises have been set up in China with an annual production valued at US$250 million. In some rural areas, ginkgo cultivation is becoming one of the most vigorous industries with approximately 170 000 ha planted and 13 000 tonnes of seeds harvested annually. This provides an economic opportunity for poor farmers in rural regions where poverty alleviation is a government priority.

Ginkgo seed plantations can provide good economic returns. Trees usually set fruits from five years of age and, when in full production, can produce 15 kg of seeds per tree annually. The prices of ginkgo leaves and seeds have increased dramatically during the past decade owing to the limited supply and new product development. In the local market, seeds are sold at US$507 per kg and dried leaves at US$1.50 to $2 per kg. Income from one hectare of ginkgo plantation can support three households in rural areas. In addition, leaves and fruits harvested from large remnant natural trees can also be profitable.

However, appropriate technologies need to be developed in order to improve and sustain yields, and the industry needs careful management policies. As part of a research project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to improve policies and technologies which will benefit rural people in degraded areas, the Chinese Academy of Forestry, in partnership with local institutions, has carried out marketing studies and is researching management technologies to increase leaf production. The project aims to increase foliage output of leaf-producing ginkgo plantations using an optimal cultivation model comprising selected cultivars, improved propagation techniques and silvicultural management. (Source: CIFOR News, No. 17, December 1997.)


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There are alternative ways of collecting sweet materials - nectar, honeydew, manna, plant sap - from plants without the intervention of honey-storing insects such as bees, honey wasps, honey ants, or without the use of hives.

Sweet substances are sometimes harvested directly from certain plants, especially in regions without native honey-storing insects (the Americas outside the tropics, New Zealand and parts of Australia) and where there are plants with much accessible sugar; for example, there are some plants which contain sap with a high sugar content, and there are flowers of some other plants which secrete copious nectar. Also, on certain trees, in both temperate zones and the tropics, sweet honeydew is excreted by plant-sucking insects feeding on the sap.

Nectar is actively secreted by nectaries, and other materials are produced as a result of the plant being "wounded": honeydew and manna, after certain insects have pierced the plant tissues, and other materials after people have wounded the plant, usually by tapping trees or cutting stalks. Sweet fruits and roots are not considered in this article.

In New Zealand, nectar is freely secreted by certain flowers, for instance Knightia excelsa, Metrosideros excelsa, M. robusta and Phormium tenax. The nectar is often sucked directly out of the flowers by mouth. For later use, nectar would be collected by tapping picked flowers lightly on the side or rim of a gourd bowl. Maoris used nectar from Metrosideros excelsa to treat inflamed throats. Similarly, flowers of Grevillea excelsior on Elcho Island off the north coast of Australia are so full of nectar in August that they ooze. Aborigines use this nectar to make a mead-type drink.

There are other examples of nectar being collected and used by local people: from the Indian butter tree (Madhuca butyraceae) in many parts of Nepal; the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) in North America; flowers of Protea melifera in South Africa in the 1880s; and the flowers of Combretum smeathmannii in Nigeria, which are sucked by children.

After piercing the tissues of their host plants, certain aphids produce honeydew. This is then collected by bees, wasps and ants and, where possible and accessible, also by humans. The chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) in the Himalaya has very long needles which become covered in honeydew in some areas. In Himachal Pradesh, India, women have become skilled in collecting honeydew into bowls and the needles are sucked by children.

Manna, or crystallized honeydew, is produced in certain circumstances on some plant species when water evaporates from the honeydew. The manna may solidify into a whitish mass as on larch (Larix decidua) in the French Alps. It is also produced in dry deserts and mountain steppes. Sweet crumbly white manna, said to be exuded from the bark of the river or manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis), was eaten by Australian aborigines. Manna production has also been reported from insects feeding on other species of Eucalyptus in Australia.

Sap is the direct source of sugar most widely harvested from plants and in many regions is the main source of sugar for humans. Sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) is cut to obtain the sap and sugar is then extracted. Indeed, cut stalks of sugar cane are still widely sold for direct consumption by chewing. Various species of palm are also used for sugar extraction. Sap is extracted by tapping the tree or plant with some sort of sharp device, then it is either consumed fresh, evaporated down into sugar or fermented and distilled into alcoholic beverages such as wines, toddy, etc. (Source: Bee World, 78(3): 108-114, 1997.)

For more information, please contact the author,
Ms Eva Crane,
Woodside House, Woodside Hill,
Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
SL9 9TE, UK.


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Ce programme vidéo a été réalisé en Afrique par la Sous-Division des opérations (RAFR) du Bureau régional pour l'Afrique (RAF) et le Groupe de la communcation pour le développement, au sein du Service de la vulgarisation, de l'éducation et de la communication, en collaboration avec les services nationaux de la conservation des forêts, de la recherche et de l'enseignement forestiers. Le programme a été produit dans le cadre du projet d'appui en matière de formation et de développement de la foresterie rurale. Les photos ont été prises au Sénégal, au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Niger.

En Afrique, le rônier (Borassus aethiopum), est connu sous le nom de «mère des arbres» ou de «sentinelle de la savane».

Haut palmier qui peut atteindre jusqu'à 20 m de hauteur, il est originaire des plateaux éthiopiens et sa dispersion dans les zones semi-arides et subhumides d'Afrique est due en grande partie aux migrations des éléphants.

C'est une espèce à croissance lente (30-40 cm par an) dont le bois n'est exploitable qu'au bout de 40 ans et plus. Mais, entre sa huitième et quarantième année, on peut déjà vendre ses fruits, ses feuilles et ses pétioles.

La transformation des produits tirés du rônier est une source de revenus pour la population locale: à part le bois, utilisé dans des applications diverses, les feuilles sont utilisées pour les toits des cases, pour la fabrication de cordage, nattes et grands paniers, alors que les pétioles fournissent des fibres utiles pour l'artisanat, et même du bois de chauffe. Enfin, son c_ur est un légume délicat et ses fruits sont appréciés tant par les hommes pour leur pulpe, sucre ou vin, que par les animaux. Le rônier possède aussi des vertus médicales multiples (racines et sève).

Le programme vidéo realisé par la FAO fait partie d'un effort pour mettre en _uvre une stratégie d'information et de vulgarisation pour l'utilisation durable des peuplements de rônier, qui s'adresse aux utilisateurs de l'arbre, principalement les agriculteurs, pour que ceux-ci deviennent réellement les principaux acteurs de la conservation de cette ressource.

Pour des copies de la vidéo, s'adresser au
Groupe des ventes et de la commercialisation, FAO,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome, Italie.
Télécopie: (+39) 06 5705 3360;


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The ongoing Sustainable Forest Management and Conservation Project in Malaysia, with technical cooperation from the German Government through its overseas Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), entered its second phase in October 1997. The perspectives, objectives and expected results of Phase II were discussed at a workshop held at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Kepong, in February 1998.Malaysian Timber BulletinThe overall project concept is to support the transformation of the forestry sector from traditional sustained-yield timber production to a new multiresource and ecosystem management system, including sustainable production of other forest outputs such as water, non-timber forest products (rattan, bamboo, medicinal plants, resins and dyes), as well the enhancement of forest protection functions and biodiversity conservation.. Phase I dealt with this conceptual approach. Various activities were undertaken in a pilot area of 108 000 ha of forest in Terengganu, including forest management systems, silviculture, forest planning and counterpart training. These experiences could be used to extend activities to the whole country, improving the national capacity to practise sustainable forestry. Human resource development was an important focus of project efforts to ensure that local counterparts benefit from technology transfer and gain enough expertise to enhance effectivenessForest management will be improved further in Phase II in efforts to achieve the ITTO Objective Year 2000. New activities will include the development of monitoring and evaluation system guidelines for forest management systems and refinement of the Malaysian Criteria and Indicators. Prerequisites for the human resource programme will be implemented, including the training of trainers. Refined silvicultural practices will be applied and the forest management plan carried out in selected areas. Phase II is scheduled to end in September 2000. (Source: Malaysian Timber Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 1.)


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The Rainforest Alliance, in cooperation with USAID, has launched a feasibility study to examine the conservation and development potential of NTFP certification. The project will address ecological, social, economic and chain of custody issues associated with the certification of NTFPs, and will examine the ways in which certification can contribute to sustainable forest management.

Efforts to certify NTFPs have concentrated on a few species, such as Brazil nut and palm heart. The range in NTFP products and markets, and the ecological complexity of many NTFP species, makes certification more problematic than for timber.

This project will build on the network of Rainforest Alliance collaborators working with NTFPs in Central and South America. In conjunction with these collaborators, the project will investigate the feasibility of certifying NTFPs through a process which includes: field-testing draft guidelines and indicators; compilation of information on the ecology, marketing and management of selected NTFP species; and assessment of the conservation and development benefits and limitations to the certification of key products.

The project includes three phases:

1. Guidelines and indicators. The first phase involves drafting guidelines and indicators at a generic, class and species-specific level. Generic guidelines will address NTFPs as a category. Class indicators will be developed based on the plant part extracted: vegetative structures (leaves, whole plant, bark and root); reproductive propagules (fruits and seeds); and exudates (latex, resin and oils). Species-specific guidelines will use, or be based on, previously drafted guidelines, such as those for Brazil nut and palm heart.

2. Field studies and assessments. In the second phase of the project, guidelines and indicators will be field-tested in four to six pilot sites. In addition, ecological, economic and sociocultural information will be collected through the use of a checklist/questionnaire, the active participation of local harvesters, botanical experts and NGOs, and a review of the literature. Given the short duration of the project, the input of local experts will facilitate an improved range and depth of information with which to assess sustainability criteria and indicators. Much of the detailed information necessary to develop sound guidelines (harvesting techniques, management, a plant's life cycle characteristics) has not yet received formal study, so collaborations with local harvesters, resource managers and field botanists are critical to gathering in-depth information on species management and ecology.

3. The manual. The third phase of the project will result in a practical field manual on NTFP management, marketing and certification. The manual will address general issues associated with NTFPs, and will draw on site- and species-specific information gathered during the field studies to illustrate key lessons learned. The advice and input of a range of international experts will also be integrated into the discussion. The manual will be drafted and formatted in an accessible, illustrated form for easy use, and will be disseminated to local community groups, NGOs, companies and government departments. Completion is scheduled for mid-1999. (Source: ntfp-biocultural-digest, Vol. 2, No. 41, 18 October 1998.)

For more information, please contact
Ms Patricia Shanley, Project Director:;
Mr Abraham Guillen, Project Coordinator:; or
Ms Sarah Laird, Research Associate:


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Falls Brook Centre, an environmental community-based organization in New Brunswick, Canada, is working on a new project on NTFP certification. For this project, NTFPs include all products other than timber that can be harvested from a forest for subsistence and/or trade.

Forest product certification is a voluntary market-based approach that provides consumers with an independent assessment of the management practices of a forest operation. The Certification and Marketing Program will build on the work of the International Analog Forestry Network, a group of community organizations that have been working together since 1995 to apply the principles of Analog Forestry design to their work with local producer groups. Analog Forestry is a type of complex agroforestry that mimics the structure and ecological functions of the natural forest as closely as possible while taking into account the crop production requirements of the farmer who manages it.This programme is aimed at identifying common areas within current ecological and fair trade certification systems as they relate to NTFPs and exploring means of harmonizing criteria leading to the sustainable harvesting and marketing of NTFPs. Falls Brook Centre will collaborate with existing certification organizations, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in this endeavour. The programme seeks to involve a broad cross-section of partners so as to avoid any overlap with or duplication of existing initiatives.Falls Brook Centre is currently conducting research and documenting existing criteria from organizations that are involved in certification initiatives ranging from timber and non-timber products to organic agriculture and fair trade. The project will also work with consumer groups to raise awareness of the impacts of trade practices, to promote certified products and to identify potential markets. The research project will map the extent and nature of existing certification systems and will be used as a baseline reference document in future activities.

For more information, please contact
Mr Patrick Mallet, Program Coordinator,
Falls Brook Centre,
Rural Route 1,
Hartland, New Brunswick E0J 1N0, Canada.
Fax: (+1 506) 375 4221;


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An important goal of the WWF/UNESCO/Kew People and Plants Initiative is capacity building. This is carried out through training courses, supervision and funding of researchers in key areas and the production and distribution of manuals and other publications. Most of their work focuses on capacity building in ethnobotanical methods at the interface between conservation and local communities. As part of this programme, low-budget videos are being produced with the aim of introducing researchers, conservation professionals and protected area managers to specific resource management issues, and the approaches and ethnobotanical methods used to investigate them.

A recent video, produced by Tony Cunningham (Regional Coordinator, WWF People and Plants) for the People and Plants Initiative, is "Saving the wooden rhino" which outlines the ethnobotanical methods of Kenya's woodcarving industry.

For more information, please contact
Dr Alan Hamilton, Plants Conservation Officer,
WWF-UK, Panda House,
Weyside Park, Catteshall Lane, Godalming,
Surrey GU7 1XR, UK.
Fax: (+44 1483) 426409;
or through the People and Plants Web site:


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The Plant Resources of South-East Asia Foundation (PROSEA) has the following objectives: to compile, review and summarize the existing wealth of information on the plant resources of Southeast Asia for education, extension, research and industry; to build and maintain a computerized databank on the plant resources of Southeast Asia; to publish information on plant resources in an illustrated handbook; and to support additional activities and enhance the dissemination of the above information. Set up in 1985, the geographical scope of the programme covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam.

Programme activities are implemented by the PROSEA Network Office in Bogor, Indonesia, and the PROSEA Publication Office in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The Network Office coordinates the six country offices and the Publications Office organizes the publication of the handbook. All these bodies are closely linked to a counterpart institution in the respective PROSEA countries.

Information is made available through: the databank; publications (bibliographies, the handbook, CD-ROMs, etc.); dissemination material (development of education and extension materials, translations into national languages); and training courses for information personnel and to sensitize potential users.

Given the number of plant species in the region, 20 commodity groups have been distinguished. The most important forest-related commodity groups include: edible fruits and nuts - PROSEA 2; dye- and tannin-producing plants - PROSEA 3; major commercial timber trees - PROSEA 5(1); minor commercial timber species - PROSEA 5(2); lesser-known timber species - PROSEA 5(3); rattans - PROSEA 6; bamboos - PROSEA 7; auxiliary plants - PROSEA 11; medicinal plants - PROSEA 12; plants producing exudates - PROSEA 18; and ornamental plants - PROSEA 20. The groups are covered in their respective volumes and work is prepared by subject specialists and edited by an expert editorial team.

The handbook presents a unique survey of plant resources in Southeast Asia and will probably serve as a basic reference work for many years. The work has broken with tradition in that focus is given to lesser-known plant species rather than to a small number of well-known plants. The basic information generated by PROSEA is vital for developing sustainable land-use systems. In this respect, information on lesser-known timber species will aid national sustainable forest management strategies.

Finally, particularly relevant to NWFPs was the signing of an agreement between PROSEA and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) on the implementation of Project PD 38/97 Rev. 1 (F), "Books and Databank on the Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of South-East Asia: Volume 12(1), Volume 12(2) and Volume 12(3) within the PROSEA Programme, Stage 1". The project will be implemented over three and a half years as from April 1998. (Source: ETFRN News, No. 23; PROSEA Newsletter, No. 20.)

For more information, please contact
Mr Edu Boer, PROSEA Publication Office,
Wageningen Agricultural University (WAU),
Haarweg 333, PO Box 341,
6700 AH Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Fax: (+31 317) 482206;


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The informal collection and marketing of many non-wood forest products often mean that little attention is paid to quality. Furthermore, many products are still restricted to small local trade. However, quality determination is important for those products which are marketed and processed on a wider scale. In such cases, agreed quality control standards are essential to any development of trade in such products, particularly on international markets.

A paper presented at the International Expert Workshop on Non-wood Forest Products in Central Africa, held in Cameroon [see under Special Features for more information on this workshop], traces the development of quality control standards for ogbono, kernels from Irvingia gabonensis and Irvingia wobolu in West and Central Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Ogbono is used as a soup thickener in West and Central Africa and also to make dika cake in Central Africa, especially in Gabon. More uses are being developed, such as the pharmaceutical grade fats (oils) that can be derived from the kernels.

The objective is to provide a good starting point in the process of quality standardization for these commodities in order to generate organized and international trade. Government support and the collaboration of international bodies such as the European Community will be instrumental in these efforts. Improved trade will also help the socio-economic conditions of the farmers who produce the commodity.

Top-down quality classes (A, B, C and D) have been suggested for ogbono. Grading classification was determined by the following quality factors: kernel size, thickness of kernel, oil content, colour, maturity and the extent or absence of blemishes or damage (from pests, mechanical origins, fungi, etc.). These factors were derived from the response of various farmers, wholesalers and consumers in southern Nigeria, where ogbono is traditionally and extensively consumed. (Source: CENRAD paper presented at the International Expert Workshop on Non-wood Forest Products for Central Africa, Limbe, Cameroon.)

For more information, please contact
Mr D.O. Ladipo, Centre for Environment,
Renewable Natural Resources Management, Research and Development (CENRAD),
PMB 5052, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Fax: (+234 02) 241 2694;


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In the United States, a variety of NWFPs are derived from forests; some have already developed markets (e.g. mushrooms, medicinal plants), while a few have moved into more formal production systems.

The National Agroforestry Center, in cooperation with Cornell University, is sponsoring the National Assessment for the Potential for Growing Speciality Products in Agroforestry Systems. The purpose of this study is: to understand what is already developed or being developed in the field; to put together a national resource database on the subject; to find out where research energies should be placed; and to form a picture of the regional variations in these efforts. (Source: ntfp-biocultural-digest, Vol. 2, No. 15.)

For more information, please contact
Mr Wayne S. Teel,
Route 1, Box 62, Keezletown, Virginia 22832, USA.
Fax: (+1 540) 432 4449;
e-mail:; or
Ms Louise Buck, Fernow Hall, Cornell University,
Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


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The Rainforest Forum Northern Bavaria is a non-profit organization that was founded in Germany in 1991. The organization has a regional focus on the Pacific islands, namely Papua New Guinea and Melanesia. Current activities include the conduct of environmental awareness campaigns in both Germany and Papua New Guinea and the market-oriented development of NTFPs as an incentive for rainforest conservation by adding economic value to the forest, thereby generating income for the local population. Utilization of NTFPs has for centuries been an integral part of the traditional livelihood strategies of indigenous people in Papua New Guinea.

Three years ago the Siassi Environment Foundation (SEF), supported by the Rainforest Forum Northern Bavaria, initiated the sustainable use of galip nuts (Canarium indicum) on the island of Siassi. Income earnings from this project will finance small community projects and provide school fees for the children. Other activities, carried out by several village communities, include the development of a certified ecotimber production, using a community-owned portable sawmill and the promotion of ecotourism.

For more information, please contact
Mr Klaus Schilder, Managing Director,
Rainforest Forum Northern Bavaria, Mittlerer Neubergweg 10,
D-97074 Würzburg, Germany.
Fax: (+49 931) 85265;


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Malaysian rubberwood was the focus of Azimuths, a monthly television magazine currently broadcast in more than 180 countries. The video was produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The documentary traces the development of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) since its introduction into Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century. Successful adaptation meant that before long the Asian plantations overtook those in Latin America in both size and yield. Currently, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia jointly produce 75 percent of the world's natural rubber and this industry has made a significant contribution to economic growth in these countries. New commercial applications of rubber tree products have enhanced their value even further. After years of painstaking R&D, the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) discovered that the wood from the rubber tree, commonly known as rubberwood or heveawood, is a good material for manufacturing wood products, including joinery and furniture. The light-coloured timber is a light hardwood with good strength and wood-working properties. The timber is now used more and more to respond to an expanding market in rubberwood products. Malaysia has been quick to take advantage of these new markets. Moreover, as a plantation timber, rubberwood is environmentally friendly as its use involves less damage to natural forest.The development of rubberwood has provided rubber tree smallholders with an additional source of income. Previously rubber trees were felled and burnt when latex production became uneconomical; now they can be sold, thereby paying the clearing costs for replanting.

Despite growing demand, however, sizeable amounts of the rubberwood resource are still unutilized and research is therefore being focused on increasing timber volume per tree rather than latex quantities. The government is encouraging the private sector to venture into rubber cultivation through various schemes and tax incentives. (Source: Malaysian Timber Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 1.)


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The third edition of State of the World's Forests (SOFO) was released in March 1999. SOFO is published by FAO every two years. Its aim is to make current, policy-relevant information available to policy-makers, foresters and other natural resource managers, academics, forest industry and the public. SOFO 1999 is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish.

SOFO 1999 includes information on the current status of the world's forests, recent policy and institutional developments, regional and international discussions and initiatives on forest, and external impacts on the sector. It concentrates on significant events and developments during the 1997-98 period and on selected topical issues. Data tables on basic country information, forest cover, wood products and international forest-related conventions and agreements are included.

SOFO 1999 provides information on the area of forests in the world and on the programmes that collect and map this information on a global scale. The report provides an overview of the devastating wildfires of 1997 and 1998 which affected millions of hectares of forests worldwide. Discussions on the environmental services of forests in this issue of SOFO focus on the importance of forests in fragile ecosystems and on their role in mitigating global climate change. Forest products issues highlighted include: woodfuels as an energy source; the global outlook for wood products until the year 2010; developments in forest products trade (including certification and the impact of the Asian economic crisis); and non-wood forest products. SOFO 1999 focuses specifically on medicinal plants, which as a group are among the most valuable NWFPs from forests. The impacts of the trends in decentralization, privatization and devolution of management to the local level are discussed in relation to forest policy, planning, legislation and institutions. SOFO 1999 then discusses efforts to eliminate perverse subsidies in the forest sector, specifically the underpricing of forest concessions. The report also provides an update of the international discussions that are under way through the International Forum on Forests, development in international conventions and agreements related to forests and in criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management, and other international and regional initiatives. [See under Special Features for an extract from SOFO on medicinal plants.]

An electronic copy of SOFO 1999 is available on FAO's Web site:; a printed copy of the (priced) publication may be ordered from: FAO, Sales and Marketing Group, Information Division, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.
Fax: (+39) 06 57053360;

For more information, please contact
Ms S. Braatz, Forest Sector Analyst/SOFO Coordinator,
Forestry Planning and Statistics Branch,
Forestry Department, FAO,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome, Italy.


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The Taiga Rescue Network was founded in October 1992 at an international conference of NGOs held in Sweden. Today, more than 130 organizations, primarily in the boreal countries (Canada, the Russian Federation, the United States [Alaska] and the Scandinavian countries) and the main consumer countries (Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States and Japan) are formal participants of the network. Moreover, hundreds of individuals, most of whom participate in international work towards the protection, restoration and sustainable use of the boreal forests, have signed the consensus platform of the network.

The Taiga Rescue Network is made up of its participants, an International Coordination Centre and regional offices in North America, the Russian Federation and Western Europe. The work of the network is guided by an International Reference Group consisting of a diverse representation from all of these regions, including the main consuming countries of boreal forest products.

The network publishes a quarterly newsletter, Taiga-News, which includes reports on the forests and peoples of the boreal region, on trade and consumption of boreal forest products, on the activities of transnational timber corporations and on NGO activities, as well as in-depth articles by NGOs, activists and scientists worldwide. The newsletter is produced and distributed on the basis of voluntary subscription fees.

For more information, please contact
Taiga Rescue Network, International Coordination Centre,
Box 116, S-96223 Jokkmokk, Sweden.
Fax: (+46 971) 12057;


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The African Rattan Research Programme is a multidisciplinary initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom and University College, London, in close collaboration with a number of African institutions including the Limbe Botanic Garden, Cameroon and the National Herbarium of Equatorial Guinea. The programme's aim is to undertake a regional (Central and West Africa) survey of the biology, distribution and utilization of African rattans to assess their role in indigenous management systems and the regional forest economy, as well as their potential to contribute to the thriving world export market. It is hoped that this information will provide the basis for further development of the rattan resource by conservation agencies, community-based research initiatives and profit-making concerns.

As previous research on African rattans has been hindered by a general lack of available information and, hence, much duplication of effort, the programme is also acting as a forum for the dissemination of information on these taxa. This entails consolidating the information currently available on African rattans and completing an annotated bibliography which, it is hoped, will be posted on the programme's Web site, which is now being developed, thus making the existing information widely available in full. A CD-ROM version will also be prepared.

The programme welcomes contributions to this information network through the provision of literature (especially in the mass of "grey" literature - consultancy reports, etc., which are often not easily available), field observations or knowledge of ongoing research work concerning African rattans.

For more information, please contact
Mr Terry Sunderland,
African Rattan Research Programme,
B.P. 25284, Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Fax: (+237 31) 96 67;
e-mail:; or
Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, UK.
Fax: (+44 1273) 772003.

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The Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability (TREES) is a training institution of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) College of Forestry and Natural Resources. TREES, formerly the Institute of Forest Conservation, aims to address the training and continuing education needs of the forestry, environmental and natural resources sectors' workforce by developing, designing, packaging and conducting training courses, study tours, seminars and workshops.

The centre's 1999 international training courses include:

For more information, please contact
Training Program Leader,
Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability,
College of Forestry, University of the Philippines at Los Baños,
PO Box 434, College, Laguna 4031, the Philippines.
Fax: (+63 49) 536 3340;

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The Tropical Ecosystems Directorate (TED) of the U.S. Man and the Biosphere Program (U.S. MAB) announces a call for proposals to support applied research on the management, harvesting and utilization and marketing of tropical forest resources, both timber and non-timber, in the trinational Mayan forest of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

A small number of grants of US$1 000 to $3 500 each were awarded in 1998. (Source: U.S. MAB Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 3, December 1997.)

For more information, please contact
U.S. MAB Secretariat, OES/ETC/MAB,
Room 107 SA-44C,
United States Department of State, Washington, DC
20522-4401, USA.
Fax: (+1 202) 776 8367.

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For at least 50 years, indigenous communities near the Pomeroon River in Guyana have harvested roots from the climbing plants nibbi (Heteropsis flexuosa) and kufa (Clusia grandiflora and C. cf. palmacida for the production of nibbi (wicker) furniture and handicrafts.

Both of these genera are tree-dwelling climbers with long, tough aerial roots. The roots of kufa form the structural framework of the furniture and nibbi root strips are woven to fill in the framework for chair seats, backs and joints. The furniture appears very similar to rattan but has good potential as a sustainably harvested product because roots rather than stems (as with rattan) are taken. Usually only a small percentage of the roots of an individual nibbi plant are taken because most roots are not good for harvesting. For kufa, often the main mother root is left since it is too large for the furniture, and too heavy to carry out - so there are built-in natural harvesting controls that encourage sustainable use.

In Guyana, the cottage industry has developed into a very important regional market, providing benefits to harvester communities, East Indian farming families, traders and Georgetown businesses. The industry also has good potential to benefit the national economy of Guyana if properly developed. World trade in rattan products from Southeast Asia generates more than US$3 billion annually and employs more than 500 000 people (J.H. Beer and M.J. McDermott. 1989. The economic value of NTFPs in Southeast Asia with emphasis on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Amsterdam, Committee for IUCN).

Although generally ignored in the face of large-scale timber and gold extraction, the nibbi furniture industry has several advantages over traditional industries for sustainable development. Promising ecological aspects include: the plants occur in relative abundance in many forest types; the roots can be harvested without greatly disturbing forest structure or killing the nibbi or kufa plants; and individual roots are often renewable over a relatively short time frame.

Promising socio-economic aspects include: harvesting and marketing are already well established; harvesting may provide more income in the short and long term for the individual harvester than most of the other economic activities; because harvesting does not destroy the forest structure, other economic and subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, medicinal plant gathering, wildlife trade and palm leaf harvesting remain viable; and harvesters and furniture-producing families can earn an income while remaining in their communities, thus encouraging the maintenance of cultural/social integrity.

The potential role of the nibbi furniture industry in Guyana (or other industries in Central and South America based on rattan-like fibres) has received scant attention and there are few biological or socio-economic data available. Although the present level of harvesting affects only a small portion of Guyana's forests, management will become necessary if the nibbi market increases. If the nibbi furniture industry were to be encouraged by the government, it could substitute some of the bad logging interests in Guyana. (Contributed by: Mr Bruce Hoffman, Department of Biological Sciences, OE 246, University Park Campus, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199, USA; e-mail:

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