No. 05/01

Welcome to the NWFP-Digest-L., a free e-mail journal that covers all aspects of non-wood forest products. A special thank you to all those who have shared information with us.

1. Non-timber forest products boost rural incomes in Laos
2. An argan oil cooperative is changing women's lives in Morocco
3. Request for help - medicinal plant garden
4. Request for help - Nipa Palm Trees
5. Weeds and medicinal plants
6. Training Course - Philippines
7. Mushroom Web sites
8. Forthcoming events
9. Development Bookshop Online
10. Butterflies of Pakistan
11. Publications of interest

1. Non-timber forest products boost rural incomes in Laos

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

Non-timber forest products have the potential to contribute substantially to the national economy, especially if they are used in a sustainable way. People throughout Laos make about US$5/year selling products collected from natural forests. This is the official figure since the unofficial one is not known.

It is popularly recognized that rural people, who comprise about 80 percent of the national population, rely on the biodiversity of local forests. Merchants make a strong trade purchasing products from rural people with negotiable prices. Most people collect products from the forest without thinking about their protection. An important part of sustaining natural resources is educating people to know when to ease the exploitation of precious materials.

Many people also know very little about the tremendous potential of forest materials and NTFPs are being threatened due to careless harvesting methods and an increasing population.

The Government, therefore, established the Non-timber Forest Products (NTFP) project to help rural people discover sustainable and beneficial ways to develop the resources that form a part of their traditional lifestyles. This latest initiative is being sponsored by the Dutch government and executed by the Lao government.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has implemented a pilot project in Oudomsay, Champassak and Saravan provinces, aiming to create examples of the efficient use of NTFPs in order to provide a sustainable future for Laos and its natural resources.

From Oudomsay province, the project found there are more NTFPs in the north than in any other part of the country. Most of the products, such as bitter bamboo shoots, benzoin, toud tien, and cardamom are exported to China.

In Champassak, the project concentrated on protecting and using NTFPs. The project has successfully encouraged local people to grow eagle wood, a fragrant tree used in medicine and perfume production. More than 30 ha of eagle wood have been planted in Champassak; other parts of the country are also growing it in an enthusiastic manner. Project officials believe that in the next ten years people who grow the wood will be very wealthy due to the high price that one litre of oil distilled from eagle wood brings.

The project has focussed on utilizing NTFPs from national conservation areas in Saravan province, in which 50 families earn their living.

Besides conservation activities, the project is also involved in trading by organizing meetings to create a product understanding among the local merchants and producers in order to prepare these businesses for entry into the world market. Demand for cardamom, benzoin, eagle wood and bong bark is high in the world market.

Before finishing in September, the project will explore the problems, needs and opportunities related to developing forest resources, in pilot projects carried out all over Laos during the past six years. The project will facilitate discussions into the future of Lao natural resources, and forest products in particular. According to Mr Sounthone Ketphanh, Director of the NTFP Project, the lessons gained from these pilot projects will enhance the ability of all provinces, at the district level, to develop, sustain and benefit from Lao forest resources.

(Source: Vientiane Times)

2. An argan oil cooperative is changing women's lives in Morocco

From: IDRC Report - IDRC Project Number

"My life has really changed. It used to be that I could never leave the house. Today, I am earning an income and can send my children to school." These are the words of a woman who has been given a new lease on life, thanks to a cooperative run exclusively by women in Tamanar, in the Essaouira region of Morocco. Here a group of 50 women has integrated itself into the economy by capitalizing on a piece of ancestral know-how.

The key is the argan or Moroccan ironwood, a long-lived tree that grows nowhere but in Morocco. Today it is threatened: in less than a century, more than a third of the argan forest has disappeared. Yet, with 20 million trees covering 800,000 ha, it is the second most important forest species in Morocco and, although neglected, is a very valuable resource. The argan holds great promise as an oil-producer and constitutes a veritable "green curtain" against the relentless onslaught of the desert. Above all, it represents a source of income for people on the margins of society who have few other means of livelihood: in fact, the forest can provide subsistence for as many as three million people.

At the focal point of the struggle to preserve this tree, on which so many women condemned to poverty have pinned their hopes, stands a researcher from the Faculty of Sciences at Rabat,Zoubida Charrouf. At the heart of the campaign is a research project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). This project has two objectives: to preserve the argan forest by finding a sustainable economic use for its products, and to improve the social and economic status of rural women. Toward this end, the British Embassy has helped purchase equipment for the Amal cooperative.

Traditional knowledge in the form of a simple gesture repeated thousands of times is key to the project's success. Since time immemorial, the women who live in arid regions - particularly in southwestern Morocco - have depended on this almost mythical tree. Its wood is used as fuel, its leaves and seeds as feed for goats. The tree has medicinal properties and its oil both nourishes and beautifies. Indeed, argan oil is reputed for its almost magical powers, but extracting it is difficult and time-consuming. Dr Charrouf's idea was to form a cooperative among the destitute and illiterate women who depend on the argan, help them mechanize the process, and sell their output so they can earn a decent living. From this idea was born the argan oil cooperative. Today it employs nearly 50 women on a full-time basis and another 100 part-time, and has the distinction of being the first female-run argan oil cooperative in Morocco.

Those who are most determined have immersed themselves in the literacy courses offered by the cooperative: for two hours a day they learn to read, write, and count, so that they will be ready to take decisions. Life for women in Tamanar has changed, slowly but surely.

The argan and its products are sources of hope, for women, for the region, and for the struggle against desertification since cooperative members are also helping to replant the argan forest: each has committed herself to planting 10 trees a year. Local tourism has also received a boost, and close to 100 people come every day to visit the cooperative.

Tamanar has become the capital of the argan industry, thanks to the mechanization of production. The Berber women no longer have to put in 20 hours of backbreaking work to extract a litre of oil.

The Amal cooperative is well established on the Internet through its website and accepts orders from far-away countries. And all of this success is due strictly to the efforts of women.

The Amal cooperative now has two sister organizations in the argan forest, one at Tidzi and the other at Mesti. Both have benefited from IDRC's support as well as that of other funding organizations, including the Canadian International Development Agency.

For more information, please contact:

Professor Zoubida Charrouf, Département de Chimie, Faculté des Sciences, Université Mohammed V, Avenue Ibn Batouta, B.P. 1014 Rabat RP, Morocco;
Tel: (212-37) 77-54-40;
Fax: (212-37) 71-32-79;

3. Request for help - medicinal plant garden

From: Rabindra N Shukla,

We are working in an NGO (The Nepal Eco essential Medicinal Plants Society [NEEM]) based in a remote area of Nepal and do not have contact with donors. It will be a great help if you can assist us in getting funds for this small project.

Project Title: Botanical conservatory at cremation ground, Nepalganj

Project aims and objectives:

·To establish a medicinal plants garden for future generations.
·To conserve biodiversity of tropical MAPs.
·To establish a green park in the heart of Nepalganj city.
·To establish a live germplasm bank.

Nepalganj is famous for its NTFP trade. Nearly 60 percent of the whole trade in NTFP in Nepal is carried out here. This district was previously known for its dense forest; however, deforestation has caused the depletion of NTFP-producing trees and NTFP collection is now very poor in this area. The medicinal plants of Terai are extremely important in the treatment of common ailments and people use them frequently for household remedies. The availability of such plants is becoming scarce, however, and local knowledge on using these plants is not getting transferred to new generations.

An area of 3 ha is lying fallow in Nepalganj (situated in the western part of Nepal) and is presently being used as a garbage dump. The land belongs to the Cremation Ground Management Committee who are very eager to develop it as a medicinal plant garden. There are many sacred plants that are necessary for ritual work in Hindu culture. Due to deforestation, such plants are now rare.

To meet this demand, the NEEM Society in coordination with the Cremation Ground Management Committee has proposed a park-cum-medicinal plant garden. It will not only work as a conservatory, but also as a germplasm bank and an environment purifier The medicinal plant garden will restore traditional knowledge of healing and also the Hindu rituals which have been abandoned due to lack of necessary plant materials.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Rabindra N. Shukla
Nepal Eco essential Medicinal Plants Society (NEEM Society)
Tribhuwan Chowk (East), Salyani Bagia
Nepalganj (Banke)

4. Request for help - Nipa Palm Trees

From: Nick

I am looking for information on Nipa Palm Trees and how to develop its products into a Cottage Industry that will generate employment in the countryside of Philippines.

5. Weeds and medicinal plants

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

Weeds in disturbed areas may be source of more medically important compounds than plants in tropical rainforests.

Conservationists have long pointed out that primary tropical rainforests may have dramatic value because of important and undiscovered medicinal plants. New research by an anthropology graduate student at the University of Georgia, however, has found that weeds in easy-to-reach disturbed areas may be even more important.

The study, by John R. Stepp at the University of Georgia (USA) and Daniel E. Moerman of the University of Michigan-Dearborn (USA), appears to turn some theories of medicinal flora on their heads. The study is based on Stepp's fieldwork with the Highland Maya in Chiapas, Mexico, together with an exhaustive database (compiled by Moerman) of over 2,500 medicinal plants used by Native North Americans. The research has been published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

The idea that tropical rainforests may hold the key to new medicines that can solve everything from AIDS to cancer has been around for some time. Indeed, one study found that of the 95 plant species now used for prescription drugs, 39 originate in and around tropical forests. Stepp, however, began to ask a simple question during his doctoral field work in the Mexican state of Chiapas and research with North American tribes: Why would indigenous people walk miles to find medicinal plants if the plants were available on a roadside a few houses down? Working with the Maya in Chiapas, Stepp found that, in fact, nearly all the medically important plants being used grow as weeds in disturbed areas not far from their houses or villages.

While considerable scientific attention has been given to the potential value of medicinal plants deep in rainforests, very little research has been done on the potential medicinal value of common weeds. (Weeds are usually considered as plants that thrive in sunlight and disturbed areas, establish their presence quickly and grow where other plants cannot.)

Since the Highland Maya-with a population of around 800,000-do not cultivate medicinal plants but gather them fresh when needed, Stepp worked in the rugged mountains of Chiapas to discover where the plants are located.

He conducted research in six communities, tracking plant-gathering activities of 208 individuals over a period of seven months through weekly interviews. The Maya used 103 plant species during this period to treat a number of conditions, though more than 80 percent were respiratory or gastrointestinal disorders. Stepp found that the Highland Maya of Chiapas rely almost exclusively on disturbed areas for medicinal plants, even in communities that are adjacent to stands of primary forest.

The scientists analysed the discoveries by comparing the collected medicinal plants to a known database of some 9,000 plants found in Chiapas. Of these 9,000, 1178 are considered weeds. If weeds were randomly distributed in the medicinal flora studied, there should have been about 13 weed species present. Instead, there were an astonishing 35.

An analysis, by Moerman, of medicinal plants used by Native North Americans reveals an equally striking use of weeds as medicinal plants. While 9.6 percent of the plants in North America are considered weeds, 25.8 percent of the taxa used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes are weeds.

The discovery that easy-to-find weeds may be more important as medicinal plants than exotic species "hidden" deep in the rainforests may catch some people by surprise. In a class he taught at the University of Georgia, Stepp took students to the side of a nearby railroad track and collected all the plants in the area. Of the 60 species collected, an astonishing 38 are already listed as having medicinal properties.

For more information, please contact:

Phil Williams or John Stepp, University of Georgia or

6. Training Course - Philippines

From: Gyde Lund, FIU 26 MAR

Participatory Approaches in Forestry and Natural Resources Development Projects (PARTEF)

23 October- 3 December 2001

Los Baños, Philippines

This course is especially designed for managers, field practitioners, academics and other individuals concerned/interested with the design, management, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of forest and natural resources development projects that engender the participation of local communities and other stakeholders. Using adult education techniques, the course will enable the participants to appreciate the need for participation of affected sectors, specially the local communities, in natural resource development projects; acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to appropriately apply the different participatory principles and techniques in all aspects of the project cycle; and formulate an action plan that integrates the participatory concepts, strategies, and techniques in their own work situation.

Cos of the course: US $3,600.

For more information, please contact:

The Director, Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES), University of the Philippines Los Baños, College of Forestry and Natural Resources, College, Laguna, Philippines
Tel. No.: +(63 49) 536-2268 or 536-2736;
Fax: +(63 49) 536-3340;

7. Mushroom Web sites

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

Many links to a wide variety of Web sites on mushrooms can be found at:

8. Forthcoming events

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

Exploring African biodiversity for new natural products

9-11 April 2001
Rome, Italy

This workshop is being sponsored by the National Research Council of Italy, U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Fogarty International Center.

Sessions and working groups will cover, among others, "African Plant Diversity", "New Products from Medicinal Plants" (Bioprospecting); and issues to be discussed include property rights and local economic benefits.

For more information, please contact:

Sven Walter (

Second International Workshop on the ecology, physiology and cultivation of edible mycorrhizal mushrooms

3-6 July 2001

Christchurch, New Zealand

The workshop will build on the successful conference held in Uppsala, Sweden attracted 81 people from 31 countries.

It will be held during the week before the 3rd International Conference on Mycorrhizas, Adelaide, Australia ( which is being held from 8-13 July 2001

For more information, please contact:

Crop & Food Research Ltd.
Private Bag 4704
New Zealand
Fax: (64) (3) 325 2074

The future of perennial crops: investment and sustainability in the humid tropics.

October 2001 (dates TBA).
Côte d'Ivoire
Contact: Dominique Nicolas, CIRAD, Boulevard de la Lironde, 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France:
Fax +33-4-675659;

VII International Bamboo Workshop and Congress

November 2001 (exact dates TBA)
India (city TBA)

For more information, please contact:

Dr. I.V. Ramanuja Rao
Branch Box
155, P.O. Box 9799, Beijing 100 101, China.
Fax: +86-10-6495-6962/83;

Montane Mainland South East Asia Conference (III MMSEA)

Kunming, China

The Conference organizers (the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (CBIK)) have issued the following pre-Conference announcement:

The Conference will look at Indigenous Livelihoods, Indigenous Knowledge and creative means of local governance in our mountain areas. There is an idea of having a pre-conference workshop of 5 days in the field (near Meili Snow Mountain) in NW-Yunnan with a core group of participants, and after this fieldwork near one of the sacred mountains of Yunnan assemble for 3 days for the Conference in Kunming.

Results of the International Congress on Cultures and Biodiversity of July 2000 (CUBIC) can be found on our Web site. The papers presented at CUBIC have been published (more than 1000 pages) and are available either on the web, as a CD or as hardcopy:

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Wang Yu
Centre for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge.
Yanjiadi 650034
Kunming PR China

9. Development Bookshop Online

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

ITDG Publishing, the publishing arm of the Intermediate Technology Development Group, and a leading publisher of books on development issues, has recently launched the Development Bookshop Online.

This new bookshop allows you to use the Internet to search their database of key development books, make secure online orders, and browse bargain and best-seller lists.

10. Butterflies of Pakistan

From: Dr. Ather

Butterflies are good biological indicators of environmental changes. Most swallowtail (Papilionid) butterflies are forest dwellers and are threatened by destruction of forests.

The Papilionidae family contains some of the biggest and most beautiful butterflies in the world, noted for their magnificent colour and elegant shapes. Some of them are economically important as pests. Information on the butterfly fauna of Pakistan has yet to be undertaken. However, a recent booklet (Butterflies of Pakistan)has been published on the Papilionid species of Pakistan. The present distribution of these butterflies is mostly confined to northern Pakistan, which has unique geographical features. The mighty ranges of Karakoram, the Himalayas and Hindu Kush have great potential for augmentation of the most rare and unique species of mountain butterfly "Apollo".

Butterflies of Pakistan. Authors: M. Ather Rafi, M. Rafique Khan and M. Irshad.

Price: US $4 including postal charges. ISBN: 969-8542-00-0

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Muhammad Ather Rafi
Sr. Scientific Officer
Integrated Pest Management Institute
National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC)

11. Publications of interest

From: FAO's NWFP Programme

World Resources 2000-2001, People and Ecosystems: The Fraying Web of Life. World Resources Institute. 2000. 400pp. ISBN 1-56973-443-7.

Secretory Structures of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants - A review and atlas of micrographs. Katerina P. Svoboda and Tomas G. Svoboda. ISBN: 0-9538461-0-5.

For more information, please contact:

I. Svoboda, 34 Carcluie Crescent, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland KA7 4ST, UK


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last updated:  Friday, August 28, 2009