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The Near East region is a major center of plant diversity. It provides a wide range of plants of great value to mankind. The number of species of higher plants of the region is estimated to be 25000 vascular plant species. Forests of the region are rich in plant genetic resources. They provide food that supplement the agricultural and contributes to household nutrition, fodder, fertilizer, fiber, medicine, essential oils, dyes, gums, resins, and construction materials. Some of these products are internationally used in food, medicines, flavorings, perfumes, and confection besides providing additional employment and income to the local people.

To increase awareness on Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) and to strengthen national collaboration on the regional level, FAO’s Wood and Non–Wood Products Utilization Branch (FOPW) has organized various regional and global expert consultations.

In the light of the above-mentioned situation, and because of the uniqueness of forests and rangelands and their products in the region, an expert meeting on NWFP was held in Cairo, 19-21 May 1997. It was focused on medicinal, culinary and aromatic plants in the Near East countries with the following objectives: i) to discuss the present resource situation and utilization status of medicinal, culinary and aromatic plants as well as other NWFP in the Near East region, their potential and the problems and issues to be faced for their sustainable development; ii) to identify and propose priorities of action for conservation and sustainable development of medicinal , culinary and aromatic plants products in the Near East; and iii) to exchange ideas for establishing a regional network on medicinal plants in the region. The meeting attracted 23 participants from 10 different countries and 2 organizations in the Near East region.

This proceeding is published to disseminate the information and recommendations of the meeting and to establish networks among the region’s countries.

It is hoped that the outcome of the proceeding will contribute in raising the awareness on the NWFP products in the region and understanding their importance for the local needs and national economies.


A.Y. Bukhari
Assistant Director General/
Regional Representative
Regional Office for the Near East



ACSAD Arab Centre for the Study of Arid Zones and Dry Lands
AOAD Arab Organization for Agricultural Development
CIFOR Centre for International Forestry Research
CIHEAM Centre International des Hautes Études Agronomiques Méditerranéennes
COFO Committee on Forestry (FAO)
CSD United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
CSIR Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FOPW Wood and Non-Wood Utilization Branch (Forest Department FAO)
GAC Gum Arabic Company
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GNP Gross National Product
HPS Hand Picked Selected
IIED International Institute for Environment and Development
ICMAP International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
IPF Inter-Governmental Panel on Forests
IPGRI-WANA International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Regional Office for
West Asia and North Africa
IRIS Interactive Regional Information System
IUCN World Conservation Union
IUFRO International Union of Forestry Research Organisations
LEAD Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme
MAICh Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania
MAP Medicinal, Culinary and Aromatic Plants
MAPRI Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research Institute
MEDUSA Regional Network for the Identification, Conservation and Use of Wild Plants in the Mediterranean Region
MOALR Central Administration for Afforestation
NEFC Near East Forestry Commission
NGO Non-Governmental Organization
NWFP Non-Wood Forest Products
RNE Regional Office for the Near East (FAO)
SUST Sudan University for Science and Technology
SYP Syrian Pound
DT Tunisian Dinar
UNEP United Nations Environmental Programme
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
WHO World Health Organization
WWF World Wide Fund for Nature

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