Forest and beauty in Asia: Overview, results, way forward

Nola Andaya

FAO and the Non-Timber Forest Products – Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) Asia conducted a regional assessment of NWFPs related to the cosmetics’ and fragrance sector, which will be published shortly. The study compiles a set of case studies on wild tumeric, indian soapberry, thanaka, forest honey, sea buckthorn, Manila elemi, langsat, Gurjum balsam, Hazel sterculia, Red Dzao medicinal spa, Spikenard, Sandalwood, and examines the various traditional contexts in which they are collected, processed and marketed. The main objective of the volume is to present the case studies and the emerging synthesis, while encouraging cross-sectoral discussions in Asia on forests and beauty products. The study also provides recommendations on further enhancing equitable arrangements between forest communities and industry players.

The volume covers plant species from across nine countries in Asia and the Pacific. The case studies attempt to cover all scenarios that exist in the region, such as those NWFPs that are only locally used; those that have conservation value; those which are popular commercially; and those which are cultivated. Due to our special interest, we lay emphasis on community-based initiatives and enterprises. The cases also provide diverse coverage of the parts of plants that are being utilized for cosmetic preparations. This volume covers fruits, barks, whole plants, gums and resins, leaves, roots, rhizomes and hardwood of different species. The only animal product included in this volume is forest honey, one of the oldest harvested NWFPs in history.

The study finds that there are constraints to the further development of NWFPs, specifically in the global natural personal care market. Unorganized trade systems, lack of land security, protected area status, unsustainable harvesting, lack of working capital, increasing use of chemical inputs and changing perspectives with modern outlooks are some of the few factors facing the development of NWFPs in the beauty sector in the Asia and Pacific region. More research, local-level economic incentives, proper organization and policy support, community forestry arrangements and further conservation are needed if NWFPs in the beauty industry can realize their potential, meet the growing demand for green or natural products and contribute more significantly to local economies. This study may be just the tip of the iceberg with reference to NWFPs used in the beauty industry and an initial analysis on the trends and challenges faced by forest-based communities and industry players alike.

To view our findings to date, please view my presentation, delivered at COFO 2018:


last updated:  Monday, January 28, 2019