Another year has passed, dense with developments and activities in the field of NWFPs. It is becoming harder for us to keep Non-Wood News to a reasonable size while still trying to report on some of the main developments (events, publications of interest, new projects, emerging research topics) as well as giving our readers an opportunity to see their contributions included and shared - that "networking" role which we consider so important.
This year, Non-Wood News gives ample space to the important and controversial subject of "bioprospecting"' and to the various ethical issues linked to it. The ethical issues related to the marketing of NWFPs are also the focus of an increasing number of organizations which promote fair trade.
Social and ethical issues are also important in the consideration of the role of NWFPs in securing access to food. The need to concentrate efforts on the malnourished and the food vulnerable people is a priority of FAO in all fields, including forestry. NWFPs and food security is one of the special features of this issue.
The information in this issue on the potential of NWFPs as a source of food in Africa results from the collection of quantitative and qualitative information on the exploitation practices and production levels of major NWFPs which we have carried out in collaboration with 52 African and Caribbean countries. Last year, the preliminary results were discussed in five regional workshops in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire and Trinidad and Tobago. The feedback regarding the need for and the contents of national data collection on NWFPs is of great relevance and will have important bearings on FAO's work in this field. One aspect which has emerged is the importance of reporting on the service values of the forests in national forest statistics and, therefore, the need to put some fresh efforts into this aspect (in terms of developing a definition and classification of forest services, assessment methods, etc).
Being multidisciplinary by nature, NWFPs will benefit from the joint efforts of different actors. FAO is moving more and more into the establishment of interdepartmental interest groups on various aspects of NWFPs that will draw on the expertise of a wide range of technical staff.
Medicinal plants will be the first group of NWFPs to be the subject of an FAO interdepartmental group.
Thank you all for your support, comments and contributions, which we hope will continue into this millennium.