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CARPE AND NON-WOOD FOREST PRODUCTS

David Wilkie

1. Background

The forests of the Congo Basin cover approximately 2.8 million km2 - an area about one third the size of the United States, and constitute the second largest contiguous block of tropical forest after the Amazon (BSP, 1993). These forests contain a diversity of plants and animals unmatched in Africa, and continue to provide food, shelter and income to 25-30 million people (Bahuchet, 1995).

Contrary to popular belief, the forests of the Congo Basin have over millennia, expanded, contracted and changed in species composition in response to climatic variability and disturbance by humans (Oslisly, 1995; Oslisly, 1998). In the last 20 years, as a result of globalisation of market economies and growth in demand, the scale and rate of exploitation of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) has expanded faster than at any other time in history, and use of forest resources is approaching or exceeding sustainable thresholds in many locations across the Congo Basin. Over-exploitation and eventual disappearance of NWFPs are of both local and global concern, because when a plant or animal goes locally extinct it:

· can no longer contribute to the diet or economy of forest families and,

· risks the irreplaceable loss of species and genetic biodiversity that may contribute significantly to forest ecosystem production and resilience.

Between 10 and 15 May 1998 the United States Forest Service held an International Expert Workshop on Non-Wood Forest Products in Central Africa at the Limbe Botanic Garden in Cameroon, with support from the USAID Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The workshop brought together over 60 regional and international experts to:

· Share their experience and knowledge on the use and management of non-wood forest products;

· Provide a forum for applied scientists working in the region to meet new colleagues and develop informal networks;

· Help avoid duplication of effort by exposing participants to past and ongoing research and applied work on NWFPs in the region;

· Seek consensus on a prioritized set of short- to mid-term actions to promote

the sustainable use of NWFPs within the Congo Basin for the benefit of local communities and the conservation of forest biodiversity.

2. A focus on non-wood forest products of plant origin

Given the number of products used by humans that originate from the forest (wood products - logs, sawn wood, poles, fuelwood, charcoal, and non-wood products - bark, roots, tubers, corms, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, sap, resins, honey, fungi, and animal products - that include everything from termites to elephants); the factors that influence their availability over time; the enormous range of domestic and commercial uses for these products; and the complexity of the pathways along which forest products travel from producer to consumer, a single workshop to review the state-of-knowledge of the whole sector and identify priority next steps for sustainable management of all forest products would be untenable. To keep the size of the experts group to a workshop maximum of under 100 people, and to ensure that a set of priority actions could be identified in the available time, the organisers decided to focus on non-wood forest products, and excluded both wood products, and vertebrates from the discussion.

3. A call for action on wildlife use in the region

Excluding bushmeat hunting, trophy hunting and the live animal trade is contentious as some would argue that in terms of value to local economies and immediate threat to biodiversity conservation, trade in animals is a key issue. Though the workshop organisers deny neither of these contentions they believed that their expertise, and thus their capacity to identify experts and to organize the workshop, lay more in the domain of non-wood forest products of plant origin. That wildlife use in the forests of the Congo Basin is a key issue is not debated; rather the organizers of this workshop challenge others with expertise in this domain to pull together, as soon as possible, the experts in this field to characterise the state-of-knowledge and identify priority actions to promote sustainable use of wildlife within the forest of the Congo Basin.

4. Structure of the workshop

The two primary goals of the workshop were to bring together NWFP experts to:

· Share their experiences;

· Identify priority actions to promote sustainable use of NWFPs to benefit local communities, and conserve forest biodiversity.

Given these two goals, the workshop was divided into two components:

· A series of 20 minutes presentations by workshop participants that were selected to characterise the state of the NWFP sector across the Congo Basin;

· A set of working groups designed to identify short- to mid-term actions that would build on past and ongoing activities to promote the sustainable use of

NWFPs.

5. The challenge of discussing a complex issue

Whenever humans use wild resources for domestic consumption or as a source of income the question of sustainability arises. If the resource is not used sustainably, its abundance will decrease progressively so that at some time in the future it no longer becomes available as a source of nutrition, construction materials, medicine, or income to local communities, and the species and its genetic makeup may be lost forever from the global patrimony. The issue of sustainability is key to any discussion of NWFPs. However sustainability is a complex issue and one whose components are all interconnected. This makes any discussion of NWFPs a challenge because the issues are too complex to address simultaneously. Yet the division of the issues into components is somewhat arbitrary, and most importantly, risks overlooking the inherent interconnections and interdependencies among the components within the NWFP sector.

The workshop was designed so that three major issues concerning the exploitation of NWFPs were addressed; ecological, socio-political and market-economic issues. These topics provided the theme under which papers were organised and presented. During the workshop an additional focus area, that of networking and information exchange, was also identified.

Figure 1. Reconciling development and conservation

Clearly, the boundaries around these components are fuzzy and interconnections and interdependencies abound. Yet they do provide the opportunity for focused discussion on the state-of-knowledge within each area, and a prioritisation of future actions. The thread binding together each of these focus areas is the common desire to - promote the sustainable use of NWFPs to benefit local communities and conserve forest biodiversity. This core message was voiced by all participants throughout the workshop and constituted a challenge to all involved to find ways to combine a concern for people's livelihoods with the need to conserve biodiversity when discussing the importance, values and management of NWFPs in the Congo Basin.

6. Presentations

Papers presented during the workshop were selected:

· To reflect the range of issues that must be addressed to manage NWFPs sustainably;

· To characterise different approaches to promoting sustainable NWFP use;

· To provide an overview of the present status of NWFP use and management across the Congo Basin.

The list of the names of all authors and the title of the papers presented during the workshop are presented in the list of contents of this volume.

7. Summary of the key issues arising from the presentations

Summarising the extraordinary range and depth of the information and lessons learned presented in the papers listed above might seem like a Herculean task, were it not for the fact that the issues addressed in each of the papers tend to fit rather neatly into a remarkably simple model presented by Tony Cunningham and developed by Brad Bennett (1992).

This model argues that approaches to sustainable NWFP management are influenced largely by two factors:

· The cultural and economic value of a given NWFP;

· The intensity of exploitation of the NWFP (a function of the productivity of the resource relative to the scale of harvesting).

When the value of an NWFP and the intensity of exploitation are low, human impact on that NWFP are likely to be minimal and little if any formal management of the resource is required. At the other end of the continuum, when the value of an NWFP and the intensity of its use are extremely high, it is highly likely that the resource is being overexploited and is threatened with local extinction. In this case, substitution or domestication may be the only way to conserve the wild resource without adversely affecting local livelihoods. Between these two extremes, human use of wild resources has a measurable impact on NWFP species abundance and productivity but can be sustainable if appropriate management systems are in place (i.e. there is control over resource access and harvest levels).

Figure 2. Model of NWFP sustainable use

Using this structure we can see that the papers presented during the workshop were all seeking to understand some component of this sustainable NWFP management model. For example, some papers considered how to assess human impacts on NWFPs or determine sustainable harvest levels, or characterise the value of NWFPs for local consumption and for markets, thus helping us to determine where along the management continuum of non-impact to likely extinction a particular community using a particular NWFP might lie. Other papers focused more on the management mechanisms that would need to be in place to monitor who uses a particular NWFP and how much they use. Still others were concerned with domestication and improvement (i.e. increased productivity, ease of harvesting, quality control and as a means of ensuring ownership) of species that were both valued by resources users and threatened with local extinction.

Given this structure what were some of the key lessons learned from the presentations? From the model two major options are available to manage NWFPs - the first, domestication and on-farm cultivation is appropriate when wild resources are being over-exploited; the second, putting in place systems to define who has access to wild NWFP resources in a given area, and to monitor (measure and control) harvest levels, is appropriate when wild resource use is still within sustainable levels. A third issue, maximising the per unit value obtained from marketing NWFPs, applies to both options as it is intended to increase the value of NWFPs without increasing the quantity exploited.

More specifically, the presentations identified a range of critical issues that must be considered when promoting sustainable NWFP use in the Congo Basin. The citations below refer to the papers included within these proceedings.

8. Ecological lessons learned

· Depending on the life history of the species involved and how the NWFP is harvested (whole plant, leaves, bark, fruits, resin, etc.) the impact of NWFP use on the population structure and long-term productivity of the resource may not be discernible in the short-term (van Dijk; Sunderland et al.; Cunningham). For example, the impact of seed harvesting on tree regeneration may not be detected for 60-100 years in long-living tree species (Peters).

· Some dense forest trees species in the Congo basin such as okoumé (Aukoumea klaineana) appear to regenerate only in relatively large disturbed areas (Laird).

· Variability in flowering and fruiting may result in wide fluctuations in NWFP availability from year to year (van Dijk).

· High diversity of tropical forests means that the density of NWFPs may be low or very patchy in distribution (Peters; van Dijk; Cunningham).

· Sustainable use requires a) inventories of standing stock, b) productivity estimates, c) monitoring of regeneration and d) assessment of present and future demand (Peters).

· Propagation and cultivation of many NWFPs are difficult or poorly understood (Okafor; Nkefor et al.; Tchoundjeu et al.).

· Reduced-impact harvesting is only likely if the harvester believes he or she will benefit from the effort (van Dijk; Cunningham).

· Results of ecological research have to be made available to local communities, other resource users and politicians if the full value of the forest is to be reflected in forest use decisions (Shanley).

9. Socio-political lessons learned

· Harvesters of NWFPs often modify the landscape to facilitate regeneration. For example, rattan harvesters ensure adequate light penetration to encourage regrowth (Sunderland).

· Local communities are more likely to have in place and enforce NWFP-use restrictions if the community is ethnically homogenous and stable in composition (Malleson; Shanley).

· Absentee elites often attempt to capture the value of community forests for their personal gain, and may actively attempt to diminish the effectiveness of community-based sustainable NWFP use systems (Malleson).

· Resource users know what NWFPs are important to them, what NWFPs they would like to see domesticated, and what characteristics of NWFPs they would like improved (Okafor; Nkefor et al.; Tchoundjeu; Ladipo).

· Raising household income can have perverse impacts on NWFP consumption (e.g. more income means higher demand for goods, and the ability to hire labour to intensify harvesting of NWFPs). Gabon is an example of a relatively wealthy nation that maintains a high per capita demand for NWFPs (Profizi; Yembi). There is also a high demand for NWFPs in Europe from prosperous African expatriates (Tabuna).

· Resource ownership is a key to individual investment in NWFPs. For example, women were keen to plant trees as sources of scarce fuelwood but men realized that trees might give women de facto ownership over "their" land (Burnley).

· The first step in any NWFP action is to determine what people use and its relative importance in the domestic and market economy (Ndoye et al.; Clark and Sunderland; Liengola; Yembi; Kimpouni; Sunderland and Obama).

10. Market-economic lessons learned

· Developing effective methods for preserving and storing NWFPs is critical to maximising the income that can be generated from each unit of a given NWFP (Ladipo; Tabuna).

· Without access to markets NWFPs contribute very little to household income, but may still contribute significantly to domestic consumption (van Dijk; Malleson).

· NWFP marketing is seldom a specialist activity, and is more often used to generate capital needed to start other economic activities such as tree-crop plantations, or to pay for seasonal (school fees) or unexpected costs (funerals, illness, etc.) (Sunderland; Defo).

· The legal framework for harvesting NWFPs is unclear and harvesters risk harassment while transporting their products to market (Sunderland et al.; Defo; Nkuinkeu).

· Recently urbanized populations and nationals living overseas can generate strong demand for NWFPs that are viewed as one of their few remaining links to a traditional village way of life (Tabuna).

· Small changes in the supply of NWFPs appear to result in large changes in the quantity marketed (i.e. markets for NWFPs are thin) resulting in supply uncertainty and irregular income from NWFP marketing (Liengola).

· Domestication and on-farm cultivation are the keys to ensuring reliable supplies of NWFPs (Okafor; Nkefor et al.; Tchoundjeu; Nkuinkeu; Sunderland).

· Logging revenues accrue at the national/treasury level, whereas NWFP revenues accrue at the local community/household level - national governments and local communities may therefore be in conflict over perceptions of the most economically rational use of the forest (Malleson; Shanley).

11. Working groups

The working groups were given the task of identifying a priority set of short- to mid-term actions that would build on past and ongoing work to promote the sustainable use of NWFPs in the Congo Basin. Discussions during working group sessions touched on a wide range of topics and concerns. Yet, it is still possible to distil from each group a key message that, hopefully, captures the essence of the experts' efforts to set priorities for future action. A key message from each working group might be the following:

Working group

Key Message

Ecological

Methods for baseline data collecting and monitoring of NWFPs must be developed, and individuals responsible for management of NWFPs trained in their use if NWFPs are to be managed sustainably in the wild.

Socio-Political

Ensuring the existence of social institutions capable of regulating access to and harvest levels of NWFPs is critical to sustainable use of NWFPs.

Market-Economic

Seeking ways to smooth the supply of NWFPs and enhance their per unit value is central to providing economic incentives (i.e. livelihood benefits) for sustainable NWFP use.

Networking and

Information Exchange

Making available to Central Africans the information on NWFPs that already is being published regularly by other organizations and networks is a key to "building on the knowledge base - and avoiding reinventing the wheel"

Building on the foundation of these key messages the working groups proposed the following set of priority actions:

12. Ecological priority actions

The ecological working group felt strongly that an important first step to prioritising actions to promote sustainable NWFP use in the Congo Basin was to identify a short-list of key NWFP species. Two primary criteria were used to select key NWFP species. The first and most important is that the NWFP must be highly valued for domestic consumption or as a product for the market. The second criterion was that demand for a "high value" NWFP was exceeding supply. Simply stated, the criteria for selection are those that place specific NWFPs toward the top-right corner of the sustainable use model shown in Figure 2. The diversity of NWFP experts present at the Limbe workshop provided a unique opportunity to develop a short-list of NWFPs to be the focus of short- to mid-term sustainable use actions. Tables 1 and 2 show the results of this two step selection process. Step one identifies NWFPs with high value, step two subsets those that are intensively harvested.

Table 1: Short-list of key NWFPs

Species

In-situ conservation priority status

Livelihood

Value

Domestication Priority

New Markets Potential

Baillonella toxisperma

***

***

   

Gnetum africanum & G. buchholzianum

***

***

***

***

Rattan (Laccosperma secundiflorum & Eremospatha macrocarpa)

**

***

***

***

Cola acuminata &

C. nitida

*

***

*

 

Irvingia gabonensis & I. wombolu

*

***

***

***

Dacryodes edulis

 

***

*

 

Piper guineensis

 

***

 

***

Garcinia lucida,

G. mannii & G. kola

***

**

***

 

Marantaceae

**

**

   

Ricinodendron heudelottii

 

**

   

Prunus africana

***

*

***

**

Pausinystalia johimbe

***

*

***

*

Tabernanthe iboga

**

*

***

 

Results of this preliminary prioritisation process suggest that efforts, at least in short- to mid-term, should be focused on Gnetum, Baillonella, and rattans (Laccosperma secundiflorum and Eremospatha macrocarpa in particular). Prunus africana and yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe) may also be considered of importance given the size of the international market and the potential for domestication. Cola, Irvingia and Dacryodes are of lower priority because they have already been incorporated into agro-production systems to some extent.

Table 2 Characteristics of key NWFPs

Species

Volume

Used

House-

hold

Use

Market

Intntl

Market

Harvest Impact

Plant Part

Used

Uses

Domestication Status

Distribution

Habitat

Baillonella

toxisperma

high

high

high

high

high

timber, fruit

medicine,

timber, food

wild

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

primary forest,

plantation

Cola

acuminata, nitida

high

high

high

medium

low

fruit, seed

medicine,

dye, food

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon

plantation, farms

Dacryodes edulis

high

high

high

low

low

fruit

fruit, fodder,

shade,

medicine

cultivated

Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon,

Eq. Guinea, Congo-Brazza, CAR,

Congo-Kinshasa

farms, secondary forest

Dioscorea

high

high

high

medium

high

tubers

food, medicine

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon,

Eq. Guinea, Congo-Brazza, CAR,

Congo-Kinshasa

 

Fungi

low

low

low

low

low

all

food

wild

All areas

 

Garcinia lucida,

mannii, & kola

medium

high

medium

low

high

roots, bark,

timber

medicine,

cosmetic,

spice

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon

secondary forest,

primary forest,

tree crops

Gnetum africanum

G. buchholzianum

high

high

high

medium

high

leaf

food,

medicine

wild, tolerated, cultivated

Cameroon, Nigeria, Cent. Afr. Rep., Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazza,

Eq. Guinea, Gabon

primary forest,

secondary forest,

fallow

Irvingia gabonen-

sis & wombolu

high

high

high

medium

low

seed, fruit

medicine, food, cosmetic, spice, fuelwood,

timber

wild, tolerated

Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon,

Eq. Guinea, Congo-Brazza,

Congo-Kinshasa

primary forest,

secondary forest,

farms

Marantaceae

(wrapping leaves)

high

high

high

low

high

leaf, fruit

wrappers,

crafts

wild

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Pausinystalia

johimbe

high

low

 

high

high

bark

medicine

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Nigeria, Congo-Brazza

primary forest

Physostigma

venenosum

medium

low

low

low

low

seed

medicine,

cultural

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Nigeria,

Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Picralima nitida

low

low

low

 

medium

seed, bark

medicine

wild

Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa, Eq. Guinea

primary forest

Piper guineenis

high

high

high

low

low

seed, leaf

spice

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Prunus africana

high

low

high

high

high

bark

medicine,

timber

wild, cultivated

Eq. Guinea, Congo-Kinshasa,

Cameroon

primary forest, farms

Rattan (Laccosper-

ma secundiflorum

Eremospatha macrocarpa

medium

high

medium

low

medium

stem

crafts, food, medicine

wild

Cameroon, Nigeria, Cent. Afr. Rep., Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazza,

Eq. Guinea, Gabon

primary forest,

secondary forest

Ricinodendron heudelottii

medium

medium

medium

low

low

fruit, seed

food

wild, tolerated

Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa, Eq. Guinea

secondary forest,

plantation, farms

Strophanthus

gratus

low

low

low

low

low

seed

medicine

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Tabernanthe iboga

low

low

low

low

high

resin

medicine,

cultural

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Voacanga africana

medium

low

medium

medium

low

seed, bark,

resin, latex

medicine

wild, cultivated

Cameroon, Gabon, Eq. Guinea,

Congo-Brazza, Congo-Kinshasa

secondary forest

Furthermore, the ecological working group suggested that it is critical to:

· build on past and ongoing work on key NWFPs;

· develop appropriate methods (i.e. cheap, culturally acceptable, economically viable, feasible) for baseline data collection and monitoring of key NWFPs in the wild; and

· establish farmer research activities to better understand the process of domestic production of key NWFPs, and the benefits, constraints, and impacts of domestic production.

By combining the short-list of key NWFPs with the above three items, the ecological working group generated a set of short- to mid-term actions to promote the sustainable use of key NWFPs in the Congo Basin.

12.1. Recommended short- to mid-term actions

Step 1: Prepare and disseminate state-of-knowledge reports on Gnetum, Baillonella, P. johimbe and rattan. These reports should: a) detail who has and is doing what in regard to the sustainable use of each NWFP, b) identify gaps in our knowledge, and c) characterise opportunities and constraints to promoting sustainable use of these NWFPs.

Step 2: Support a set of applied research projects (see paper by Patricia Shanley as an example) to develop and share appropriate (i.e. cheap, culturally acceptable, economically viable, feasible) methods for baseline data collection and monitoring of Gnetum, Baillonella, P. johimbe and rattan in the wild.

Step 3: Support establishment of farmer-based research activities to better understand the process, benefits, constraints, and impacts of domestic production of Gnetum, Baillonella, P. johimbe and rattan, and to promote adoption of domestic NWFP production.

13. Socio-political priority actions

The socio-political working group focused their discussions primarily on issues related to the social institutions that exist or need to be in place to monitor and regulate access to, and harvest levels of, NWFPs. Across the sustainable use spectrum (Figure 2) the range of actors involved in the use and misuse of NWFPs is as broad as the types of regulatory systems that control who has access to forest resources, determine what constitutes appropriate use, and impose sanctions on those who break resource use rules. A key question that arose from the workshop discussions was - why do traditional systems of forest resource management breakdown, can they be revitalised or what can replace them?

As one moves along the sustainable use continuum (from lower-left to upper-right in Figure 2) resource management systems often shift from common property ownership to individual ownership of wild or on-farm resources. In between these two extremes is where resource management institutions tend to break down or become ineffective. During the transition from public to private ownership, community based institutions that primarily were responsible for determining who has access, rather than how much was harvested, are often overpowered by outsiders or absentee elites, resulting in the rapid depletion of the resources and the impoverishment of the local community.

The use of Garcinia chewsticks in Cameroon and Nigeria was presented as an interesting example of the dynamic between outsiders seeking access to resources and community capacity to regulate the access and to benefit from such regulation. In Cameroon, Nigerian chewstick harvesters pay for access to community stocks of Garcinia but are allowed to harvest unlimited quantities. Across the border, Nigerian communities charge not only for access but also for the quantity of Garcinia harvested. In the Nigerian case, harvesting is less intensive and the community gains more from providing access to their forest resources. The opposite is true for the Cameroon case, in that the resource is being heavily exploited and the community benefits little from the depletion of their natural capital. The questions posed by this example are: a) why do two communities from the same ethnic group have different systems for regulating access to their forest resources, and b) how can the Cameroonian community learn from their Nigerian neighbours?

To better understand the role that social institutions play in regulating access to and harvest levels of NWFPs, and to help establish social systems that can promote the sustainable use of NWFPs, the socio-political working group recommended the following actions:

13.1. Recommended short- to mid-term actions

Step 1: Support a set of case studies to characterise the social institutions (local and extra-local) responsible for regulating access to, and harvest levels of, NWFPs, evaluate the factors associated with their management strengths and weakness, and identify opportunities for reinforcing local resource management capacity. The case studies should be stratified across the continuum from low or no-impact NWFP use to high intensity use where the resource is threatened with local extinction, and, if possible, should build on existing studies or projects. The case studies should also focus on critical NWFPs as identified by the Ecological Working Group (i.e. Gnetum, Baillonella, P. johimbe and rattan).

Step 2: Share the results of the case studies with local communities, and national forest management authorities (see example by Shanley) to help reinforce local capacity to regulate use of their forest resources and thus enhance the benefits that they gain from the forest.

14. Market-economic priority actions

In remarkable congruence with both the Ecological and Socio-political Working Groups, the Market-economic Working Group felt that a critical first step to prioritising future actions was to identify key NWFPs based on: a) their economic value to producers and consumers, and b) their conservation status.

The Market-economic Working Group was concerned about identifying gaps in our knowledge of a) local, national and international markets in key NWFPs, b) approaches to adding value to key NWFPs that enter the market, and c) legislation and policies that promote or militate against sustainable use of NWFPs.

To address these concerns this working group recommended the following actions:

14.1. Recommended short- to mid-term actions

Step 1: Support an analytical review of NWFP market surveys completed at the local, national and international level to assess: a) the value of NWFPs being traded, b) seasonal fluctuations in NWFP supplies and prices, c) profit margins for traders at different locations along the market chain from producer to consumer, d) opportunities and constraints to adding value to NWFPs, and e) gaps in our knowledge.

Step 2: Support development of viable storage and processing methods to help add value to key NWFPs such as Gnetum, Baillonella, Cola, Garcinia, Irvingia and rattan.

Step 3: Support a regional study of legislation and policies that promote or militate against sustainable use of NWFPs, and identify opportunities and constraints to harmonisation of enabling legislation and policies across the Congo Basin.

15. Networking and information exchange priority actions

This working group, as a result of scheduling constraints, was only able to convene for one hour during the workshop. Yet, participants were able to articulate a vision of what they would like to see put in place in the next 18 - 24 months to promote networking and information exchange.

The working group first identified the following list of critical information that they wanted to see made available or shared more regularly:

· a compendium of ongoing research that includes the topic of research, geographic location of the research, and the address of the key contact person or organisation responsible for directing the research;

· a who's-who in the NWFP sector in Central Africa that includes individuals working in the sector, as well as NWFP concerned networks;

· a regularly updated and disseminated calendar of NWFP events (e.g. workshops, meetings etc.);

· information on NWFP markets and new market opportunities;

· methods for conducting ecological, socio-political and market-economic research on NWFPs;

· results of NWFP research.

The working group voiced the need for NWFPs practitioners to come together periodically as a group to share their ongoing experiences, to develop stronger collaboration, and to reduce duplication of effort. They also felt that, at least at this early stage when the demand for information is uncertain (or at least unquantified), that all networking and information exchange actions should make use of already established networks, newsletters, journals, meetings, etc. rather than attempting to create new structures that are costly to maintain.

To ease the flow and exchange of information on NWFPs to and from stakeholders in the Congo Basin, the working group recommended the following actions:

15.1. Recommended short- to mid-term actions

Step 1: Identify NWFP focal-points in each country of the Congo Basin who would be willing to disseminate NWFP information flowing into the country, and assemble information to generate within the country to be made available to others in the Congo Basin NWFP network. Focal points will also be responsible for ensuring that all interested stakeholders complete who's-who information sheets and then sending them to FAO for incorporation into their NWFPs experts database.

Step 2: To compile information on NWFPs assembled by focal-points in the Congo Basin, and to disseminate this information in the region, FAO has offered the editing, printing and distribution capacity of the FAO annual publication Non-Wood News. The working group envisioned that focal-points would send to FAO relevant information gleaned from their NWFP contacts in the country. FAO would incorporate this information into Non-Wood News and send copies of the publication to the focal-points for dissemination to NWFP stakeholders throughout the region.

Step 3: To make available to Central Africans information on NWFPs made available free of charge on the Internet, the USDA/Forest Service will conduct quarterly surveys of the NWFP newsletters and other literature available on the Internet, and compile this information into hardcopy booklets to be distributed to focal-points for dissemination in the region.

Step 4: To generate an archive of key literature on NWFPs in the Congo Basin, the USDA/Forest Service will generate a CD-ROM containing state-of-knowledge reports and background literature on key NWFPs such as Gnetum, Baillonella, Cola, Garcinia Irvingia and rattan.

16. The potential role of NWFPs in forest conservation

Relative to agriculture and logging, the NWFP sector is the least well understood in regard to:

a) its contribution to forest resource degradation and biodiversity loss, and;

b) its potential role in encouraging the conservation of forests and reducing incentives to convert forest to non-forested land-uses.

The following applied research papers, that were presented during the Limbe workshop, capture the diversity of people involved in the NWFP sector, the range of ecological, socio-political, and economic issues that must be addressed if the role of NWFPs in forest conservation and community development is to be understood, and equally important, the gaps that remain in our knowledge. These research papers constitute a solid foundation upon which to build a coherent applied research programme. However, to evaluate the potential role of NWFPs in forest conservation it is critical that continued support is provided to applied research activities targeted at filling the gaps in our knowledge so that we can answer the following questions:

· What is the likely scale of NWFP impact on forest resources across the Congo Basin?

· Where across the Congo Basin is wild harvesting still likely to be tenable?

· Where across the Congo Basin is wild harvesting untenable and domestication a likely option?

· Under what conditions is wild harvesting sufficiently valued by producers that revenues exceed:

a) the management costs to control harvest levels and

b) opportunity costs of other, forest degrading, land-uses?

· Does the cultivation of domesticated NWFPs result in a reduction of wild NWFP harvesting, or does NWFP cultivation result in a decline in the value of wild NWFP harvesting such that the value of the intact forest no longer exceeds the opportunity costs of other, forest degrading, land-uses (i.e. does domestication lower the value of intact forest, thus promote conversion to other land-uses including the cultivation of domesticated NWFPs)?

· What tools or approaches help promote sustainable wild harvesting?

· What tools or approaches help promote domestic production of NWFPs?

References

Bahuchet, S. 1995. State of indigenous populations living in rainforest areas. Brussels, European Commission DG XI Environment.

Bennett, B.C. 1992. Plants and people of the Amazonian rainforests: The role of ethnobotany in sustainable development. Bioscience 42, 599-607.

BSP. 1993. Central Africa global climate change and development - technical report, Washington, DC, Biodiversity Support Program,.

Oslisly, R. 1995. The middle Ogooué valley, Gabon: cultural changes and palaeoclimatic implications of the last four millenia. Azania. 39-40: 324-331.

Oslisly, R. 1998. The history of human settlement in the middle Ogooué valley (Gabon): implications for the environment. In W. Weber, A. Veder, H. Simons Morland, L.J.T. White & T. Hart, eds. African rain forest ecology and conservation. New Haven, Yale University Press.

 

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