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Role of wildlife and other non-wood forest products
in food security in central Siberia

D.V. Vladyshevskiy, A.P. Laletin and A.D. Vladyshevskiy

Dmitry V. Vladyshevskiy is Professor at Krasnoyarsk
State Technical University, Krasnoyarsk,
Russian Federation.
Andrei P. Laletin is Chairman of the regional
public environmental movement Friends of the
Siberian Forests, Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation.
Alexey D. Vladyshevskiy is Leading Specialist
for Krasnoyarsk Regional Forest Service,
Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation.

Under unfavourable socio-economic conditions, hunting and gathering provide needed food and income for village populations.

Gathering plants and other non-wood forest products (NWFPs) has always been widespread in the present-day Russian Federation. In particular, gathering NWFPs is central to the traditional culture, relationship with nature, recreation and way of life of the indigenous peoples inhabiting northern and central Siberia. Historically, gathering has been more important under unfavourable socio-economic conditions, as a contribution to people's survival strategies. Where incomes are low and conditions are favourable, much of the population can profit economically from gathering activities to improve living standards.

Since the beginning of economic reforms in the Russian Federation in 1992, the use of non-wood forest products has grown significantly in Siberia. Several factors have contributed to the increase in the use of NWFPs:

This article examines the use of NWFPs in Krasnoyarsk region of central Siberia, based partly on an oral survey carried out by the authors in 1999 with more than 500 respondents, to illustrate the impact of NWFPs on the food security of the local population.

The survey has shown that under the current socio-economic conditions, the use of mushrooms and Siberian pine nuts has increased two- to threefold, the use of wild onion three- to fivefold and berries one and a half to two times. (The use of berries has increased relatively little because sugar for their conservation is rather expensive.) Where forest industry enterprises have closed, NWFPs are often the main source of food and income for village populations, representing as much as 30 to 40 percent of family income.


Krasnoyarsk region (population 3 million in 1994) covers an area of 2.3 million km2 extending from the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean to the Sayan Mountains in the south. The region's administrative centre is the city of Krasnoyarsk (population 900 000 in 1994), located on the banks of the Yenisey River.

Like other areas of Siberia, Kras-noyarsk has high unemployment as a result of the closure of logging and mining enterprises during the 1990s. In many parts of the region the harsh climate impedes or prevents the practice of agriculture and there is no industry. These areas, which are home to several indigenous tribes (Keto, Nenets, Dolgan, etc.), are extremely sparsely populated (about 0.03 people per km2) and the inhabitants have a low standard of living. Hunting and fishing are the traditional means of subsistence. At present, the survival of these populations is problematic if a market for products gathered by them is not provided and if consumables are not shipped to them at subsidized prices.

A Siberian deer (Cervus elaphus) can yield
120 kg of meat



Hunting is practised by about 70 000 people in Krasnoyarsk region. The use of wildlife is controlled by federal wildlife legislation, supplemented and refined by regional regulations. It is monitored mainly by the Department for Protection and Rational Use of Wild-life of the Russian Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

The main wild, hoofed species hunted are reindeer, moose, roe deer and Siberian deer (Table 1). In the south of the region, wild boar (Sus scrofa) are also hunted. The annual meat yield does not exceed 1 000 tonnes, including the approximate volume produced by poachers; however, if hunting were kept to the level of 7 to 8 percent of the stock, annual meat production could reach 2 300 to 2 400 tonnes (about 0.8 kg of meat per inhabitant of the region) (Smirnov and Brilliantov, 1990). Hunting is a profitable activity, since one moose can yield up to 170 kg of meat and a Siberian deer can yield 120 kg. On average, a hunter needs four to five days to kill one moose, and in 2000 the return from a moose is approximately US$150, quite a high return in relation to the average monthly wage of about US$65 in the Russian Federation. However, each hunter is permitted only one moose-hunting licence per year, so most hunters capture only one moose during the season.

TABLE 1. Populations and hunting of main wild, hoofed species in Krasnoyarsk region

Common name

Scientific name

Estimated population (1975-1985)

Number hunted, including poaching (1994)


Rangifer tarandus

520 000-680 000



Alces alces

50 000-53 000

4 000

Roe deer

Capreolus capreolus

15 000-22 500

10 000

Siberian deer

Cervus elaphus

9 500-13 000

1 000

Source: Smirnov and Brilliantov (1990); World Bank (1997).

Since the economic reforms data on hunting of wildlife species have been less reliable and have been collected less regularly. Some preliminary statistics on hunting volume are given in Table 1.

The main game birds are of the Galliformes family (Table 2). Only up to 3 percent of the stock is hunted annually. The yield of hazel grouse, for example, rarely reaches 30 birds a day - about 10 kg of meat, which is the equivalent of US$10 to $12. Hunting intensity for these birds has decreased because the considerable rise in the cost of ammunition, which now amounts to 40 percent of the market price for a hazel grouse (compared with the previous 5 to 7 percent), has made it beyond the means of local people. Recreational hunting of grouse has decreased five- to sevenfold in the past ten years (authors' observations).

State hunting of hoofed animals for meat, mainly moose and Siberian deer, has been discontinued since the reforms of the 1990s. Under the State hunting system hunters had to supply all meat and fur to the State for relatively low payment. At present hunting is practised mainly by individuals for personal needs.

TABLE 2. Average number of game birds in Krasnoyarsk region

Common name

Scientific name


Hazel grouse

Tetrastes bonasia

2 500 000

Wood grouse

Tetrao urogallus

400 000

Black grouse

Lyrurus tetrix

360 000

Source: Kelberg (1981).

Because of the profitability of hunting, poaching is widespread. In the more populated southern part of the region the numbers of all hoofed species are decreasing because of excessive hunting, and licensing has been shown to be ineffective in its regulation.


On the whole, freshwater fish is even more important than wildlife for the population of Krasnoyarsk region. Populations in the villages of the Yenisei watershed area are particularly dependent on fish. In small villages fish is the main source of protein, making up 50 to 60 percent of the inhabitants' consumption in terms of frequency in the daily diet, and fish is the most important item for barter. In towns and larger villages fish has a lesser role, 25 to 35 percent of consumption.

In small forest rivers the only regularly fished species is grayling (Thymallus arcticus), which is fished for food and recreation. Its stock has been depleted to a great extent in all of the densely populated districts south of the Angara River.

The legal system for regulating fish stocks is analogous on the whole to that for wildlife. Reduction of fish stocks results mainly from poaching.

In general, the economic efficiency of the use of fish resources is higher than that of most other NWFPs. Two poachers can catch up to 30 to 40 kg of fish overnight using electric rods, and one kilogram of fish can be sold for US$1.

About four to six species of fish are important as food in the sparsely populated districts situated along the Yenisei and Angara Rivers and their tributaries and along the Tchulym (a tributary of the Ob River). The proportion of fish in the diet of populations in these areas (based on frequency in the daily diet) ranges from about 12 to 15 percent to about 60 to 70 percent. The latter figure is for districts where the population density is 0.2 persons per km2.

In the Krasnoyarsk markets, Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baeri), the species for which stock is most reduced, costs up to US$8 per kilogram, compared with grayling, which costs about US$1.50 per kilogram.



Mushroom gathering is the most popular form of NWFP collection in the region (Table 3). Up to 40 percent of the families there gather mushrooms for personal use, recreation or sale. Owing to the lack of coordination of mushroom collection activities, the supply of all mushroom products in the local markets steadily exceeds the demand. Mushrooms that are not sold are discarded.

TABLE 3. Popularity of different types of gathering based on number of annual outings per person


Village dwellers

Town dwellers







Wild onions



Big game






Siberian pine nuts



1 Standard error.

Inhabitants of villages in the northern taiga (coniferous forest lying between tundra and steppe) eat mushrooms nearly every day (mainly salted). In the past two to three years the gathering of mushrooms for freezing has become more widespread in towns and large villages; some 32 percent of families now conserve mushrooms in this way.

In the Russian Federation access to the mushroom grounds is free and there are no legislative restrictions on mushroom gathering. Fifteen to 18 mushroom species are collected regularly in the region. The main species harvested are mushrooms from the genera Lactarius and Boletus, especially Lactarius deliciosus and Boletus edulis. The forests that yield the richest harvests of mushrooms are birch and pine forests with a sparse grass cover and northern larch stands. According to Petrenko and Lapitskaya (1983) the productivity of the most popular mushrooms, found in young pine forest with lichen and moss ground cover, is from 65 to 170 kg per hectare. The poorest mushroom productivity is found in herbaceous forest types, old dark coniferous forests and forests on bogs. There are practically no mushrooms in logged areas covered with grass.

Mushroom gathering is practised over a small proportion only of the forested area, generally no more than 5 to 6 km from the boundaries of villages or public transport stops. However, some gatherers may drive as far as 40 to 60 km. The daily harvest of mushrooms ranges from 15 to 100 kg per person in favourable years. The bulk of mushrooms (up to 80 to 90 percent) are gathered for personal consumption.

In the past, mushrooms were produced and processed by government indus-tries. State purchase enterprises (Gospromkhoz) would buy mushrooms from local gatherers only in the years of unusually rich harvests when purchase prices were low. The annual production was within 1 000 tonnes.

Mainly fresh or dried natural mushrooms, especially Boletus edulis, are sold in the markets. The cost of fresh mushrooms varies depending on the size of the harvest, ranging from US$0.20 to $1.20 per kilogram. However, since 1996/97 salted and pickled mushrooms have also been sold in increasing quantities. All through 1999 pickled mushrooms were available in all of the markets of Krasnoyarsk at a cost of less than US$1 per litre.

Experiences in other regions of the Russian Federation and Belarus have shown that the harvest and processing of mushrooms can be profitable. It may be possible to overcome obstacles to large-scale mushroom harvesting - such as the difficulty of predicting yield, the need for quick processing, the short harvest period and the slow return on investments - through interventions such as market research, information services on good harvest times and locations, and development of local mushroom processing before transportation.

The highest-yielding and most profitable
berries in Krasnoyarsk region are are
lingonberry (
Vaccinium vitis-idaea),
cranberry (
Oxycoccus palustris) and,
pictured here, blackcurrant (



Berries have the greatest food security importance in the northern and middle taiga, where they serve as the main source of vitamins. Berries gathered in the extensive forest bogs and dry pine forests of the north are also transported to Krasnoyarsk and other towns in the south of the region. In the central and southern districts of the region wild berries have a less important dietary role, partly because the milder climate permits gardening and kitchen gardening, and partly because these districts have greater access to other fruits shipped in from other regions. In the southern part of the region berry fields make up 3 to 4 percent of the area of forested lands. Adjacent to the Angara River, where pine forests with fields of lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are widespread, the berry area increases to up to 10 to 16 percent.

Ten or 11 berry species are collected in the forests of Krasnoyarsk region. The most valuable and high yielding, and hence the most profitable, are lingonberry, cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris) and blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum). The annual harvested volume was about 1 000 tonnes until the early 1990s, when it began to decrease; in 1994/95 it decreased from 725 to 600 tonnes.

In the larger berry fields gathering is permitted only when the berries are ripe. According to the new Forest Code of the Russian Federation (1997), the right to harvest berries as well as other forest resources can be limited to forest tenants. In practice, however, gathering is unlimited in most of the forested area.

The bulk of berries - up to 90 percent - are collected for personal consumption. Gatherers travel as far as 200 to 300 km by car and 20 to 25 km on foot to reach the berry fields.

Forest logging has had both positive and negative influences on berry fields: on the one hand, berry bushes grow intensively in logged areas but, on the other hand, grasses force out lingonberries and bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus).

In the past berries were sold both unprocessed (lingonberries and bilberries) and in jams, confectionery
and spirits. Currently, berries are almost always sold unprocessed during the harvest period.

In 1997/98, honeysuckle (Lonicera altaica) berries cost US$1.20 to $1.30 per kilogram. The most expensive berries are lingonberries, which cost US$2.5 to $3 per kilogram in 1996 and US$1 in 1998/99, after devaluation of the rouble. Lingonberries also have the highest labour productivity, sometimes 50 kg per collector per day. For other species it is rarely higher than 25 to 30 kg.

In the years of high yields the demand for berries has been fully met. In the years of poor crops the prices have increased by 50 to 100 percent.

On the whole it is easier to harvest and process berries than mushrooms. It is possible to predict the crop of berries reliably one or two months before harvest. The most valuable berry species store well. A berry industry could be established with minimal investment, sufficient to purchase berries, to package them for transport and to cover transportation costs. Market research would also be necessary.

Siberian pine cones are
collected for personal
consumption and for


Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica) nuts and cones

Nuts (seeds) and cones from Siberian pine are collected for personal consumption and for sale. The area of Siberian pine forests in the region is 78 700 km2. In most of these forests nut crops are low, about 25 kg per hectare (Semechkin et al., 1985). Only 25 percent of the stands yield 100 to 150 kg of nuts per hectare. A considerable part is consumed by wildlife.

State purchase enterprises used to obtain about 40 kg of nuts per 1 000 ha. The harvesting of nuts used to be regulated by the Forest Service, which gave special permits authorizing harvest.

In economic terms nut collection is one of the most profitable NWFP activities. Over a period of about six weeks teams of gatherers can harvest 1 000 to 1 500 kg of nuts per person, the equivalent of US$1 200 to $1 800. Siberian pine nuts are sold year round in the Krasnoyarsk markets. In a good crop year (every five years or so) the supply exceeds the demand.

The annual harvest of Siberian pine cones, which are used for crafts and souvenirs, is not permitted until August, but begins illegally in the second half of June. Selling pine cones is very profitable: ten big cones cost about US$1, and over an hour up to 100 cones can easily be collected. People selling cones are often found along highways, at railway stations, in local trains, etc.

Medicinal and aromatic plants

The Ministry of Medical Industry of the former USSR approved the use of 150 species of medicinal and aromatic plants, up to 50 of which used to be harvested in Krasnoyarsk region. The harvest volume in the 1970s and 1980s, when centralized harvests were widespread, was about 50 tonnes annually. In 1995 the volume was about 11 tonnes. Today the local harvest of plants for the pharmaceutical industry has practically stopped because of the low prices paid by the industry to collectors.

The harvest of most species is so small that the stock is not influenced. Golden root (Rodiola rosea), used as a stimulant and for enhancing immunity and often referred to as Siberian ginseng, has been the most intensively harvested; before the economic reforms, harvest enterprises depleted its stock considerably. Another species no longer harvested because of stock depletion is bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), a very effective diuretic.

Medicinal and aromatic plants are mainly harvested by individuals, but they attract far fewer gatherers than do mushrooms or berries. Dried medicinal plants are sold in the markets year round and are used by healers and in the preparation of herb infusions and beverages.

Some aromatic plants are used as food. They are used as spices and in herb teas. Eight to ten species are gathered in the region. A popular aromatic plant is wild onion (Allium victorialis), which is harvested and sold by individuals in all districts of the region. The labour productivity is US$1.50 to $2.00 per hour. An average Krasnoyarsk family eats wild onion approximately four to six times during the harvest period.

About 1 000 tonnes of bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) are harvested annually, mostly for export to Japan. Since 1997, bracken fern has been sold in the markets and streets of Krasnoyarsk, but it is not popular locally and the demand is insignificant. Harvest of both wild onion and bracken fern is limited by storage constraints. A few sellers offer them preserved.

More research is needed on the potential, both technical and economic, of increasing the industrial harvesting of medicinal and aromatic plants.

Forestry interventions in emergency situations: Kosovo

Following the war in Kosovo Province, Yugoslavia, in 1999, forestry interventions were critically needed to help restore sustainable livelihoods for a refugee population of some 750 000 people returning to destroyed homes.

There was urgent need of fuelwood for cooking and heating and for construction timber to repair houses damaged by the war; yet it was also vital that timber should not be harvested at the expense of long-term sustainability of the environmental, economic and social functions of forest resources. As the institutional set-up for forestry had collapsed, institutional strengthening was also critical to ensure that all forestry activities were properly managed and to control illegal exploitation of forests, which had been left unprotected. In addition, the rural population required transitional employment and means of income generation during the emergency period.

As of December 1999, the salaries of most of the employees of the State Forest Enterprise (numbering 732 in March 1999) had not been paid for nine months or more. During the war, equipment had disappeared and productive capacity had been affected in the eight State forestry plants (oriented mainly to furniture production). Many forest industry workers had been dismissed.

Organizations such as FAO, and NGOs such as CARE, working with local grassroots organizations at the village level, established projects to achieve the sustainable development of forest resources and to assist refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their villages, rebuild their homes and find sustainable livelihoods, particularly in relation to productive activities in forestry.

Critical need for fuelwood

More than 70 percent of the households in Kosovo use fuelwood for heating, cooking and boiling water. Consumption is estimated at about 1 million m3 per year. The sources of fuelwood supply, in addition to wood cut directly by villagers, included small private harvesters in Kosovo, communal forestry organizations and private importers. After the war, illegal fuelwood collection by villagers was extensive.

It was estimated that almost 43 000 households required fuelwood assistance and that a total of nearly 300 000 m3 would be needed to get through the winter. It was important to obtain a major part of the fuelwood from outside the province in order to reduce the impact of fuelwood collection on the forests of Kosovo. Other interventions to assist in fuelwood supply included training and guidance, the establishment of fuelwood depots and the leasing of tractors, trailers, trucks, chainsaws and other tools to communal forestry organizations.

Shelter repair

Some 120 000 houses were damaged during the war, and the costs for housing were estimated to be about US$1 100 million. Of the 88 000 animal shelters existing before the war, about 36 percent had been totally destroyed and almost 11 percent partially damaged. Of 78 000 animal feed storage facilities, almost 45 percent were entirely destroyed and 6 percent partially damaged. In addition to emergency housing kits, wood would have to be provided by existing private forestry activities (16 to 30 wood enterprises per commune), mainly small sawmills.

Contributing to sustainable livelihoods

In order to protect the forest heritage and at the same time generate employment and sources of income for the rural population, it is essential that well-managed projects in collaboration with the local communities be expedited in areas such as fuelwood collection, extraction of non-wood forest products (mushrooms, medicinal plants, honey, nuts, resin), establishment of village nurseries, thinning operations, tree planting, fencing of afforested areas to prevent damage by livestock and improvement of forest roads and trails (in areas where mines pose no risk).

FAO's project in Kosovo also envisaged the establishment of a Forest Service in order to eliminate the unplanned exploitation of forests for fuelwood and timber, to restore and improve the productive capacity of forest resources through forest management and the establishment of fast-growing tree plantations, and to maximize the efficiency of existing forest industries. Increasing the contribution of forestry to the gross domestic product and ensuring the long-term production of goods and services from Kosovo's forests should contribute to the overall development of the economy.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has initiated a food-for-work programme to involve the rural population in forest rehabilitation efforts, and more than 100 ha have recently been planted. Similarly, the Village Employment and Rehabilitation Programme of the European Community was supporting, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), proposals from villages for afforestation areas of about 50 ha. At least two thirds of the project component would be paid to villagers for their labour, with the rest covering inputs.

It was expected that once the immediate problems of shelter, fuel, food and income were solved, sustainable livelihoods would be built up and lasting solutions would be in place for the future of Kosovo.


The role of NWFPs in the food security of the population of Krasnoyarsk region reflects the general historical and geographical pattern of resource use. Certain resources are of the highest significance in areas that have neither agriculture nor industry.

NWFPs often serve as the main food and income source for the population of rural areas and villages that have lost their forest industry enterprises, making it possible to survive under the present economic conditions. Since NWFPs can provide up to 30 to 40 percent of family income, access to them by the general population should be encouraged.

NWFPs are less important for the populations of large towns, for whom hunting, fishing and NWFP gathering are mainly recreational activities.

The marketing and use of NWFPs involves certain constraints (e.g. difficulties of transportation, the need for
immediate processing, considerable fluctuations in yield, changeability of harvesting conditions and short harvest period). However, with appropriate regulation of the harvest volume of the most valuable wildlife and fish species and the promotion of increased harvesting of mushrooms, berries and Siberian pine nuts, the efficiency of NWFP use can be increased. In order to develop the use of NWFPs as commercial food products, it is necessary to establish a marketing service. In addition, since harvests of many types of NWFPs (especially mushrooms) vary from year to year, it would be efficient to create an information service on expected yields and occurrence of crops. Such information and marketing services have never existed in Siberia.

With appropriate market research, there may be potential to increase income-earning opportunities by developing industries for the harvesting and processing of several forest products, such as mushrooms, berries and medicinal and aromatic plants. No improvements are likely to take place in the Russian Federation until workable systems for the protection of consumers' rights and for quality control of food products are established. A system for certification of NWFPs which would allow consumers to verify their quality is recommended.


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