Assessment of the impact of trade and marketing on the sustainable use of non-wood forest products

Non-wood forest products (NWFPs), such as edible fruits and nuts, honey, mushrooms, gums, resins, aromatic and medicinal plants, contribute significantly to the satisfaction of daily subsistence needs, in particular for rural populations in developing countries. Though billions of dollars are made annually in the international trade of such products, there are high potentials and risks involved. The main benefit is the high market value the products achieve compared to local or national markets. However, high market values combined with high demands may also cause unsustainable use since they may lead to the overexploitation of the species providing the products. In addition, higher product values may not be equally shared among all stakeholders involved in the collection, processing, manufacturing, trade and marketing of NWFPs.

Certification and benefit-sharing arrangements are, among others, two different concepts that have been developed in order to contribute to the sustainable use of natural resources and which have been applied in the field of non-wood forest products. The impact of certification on the sustainable use of NWFPs is not yet well documented. Does certification promote the environmentally-friendly exploitation of NWFPs? Does it contribute to the improvement of the livelihood of rural populations? This cross-divisional initiative seeks to answer these questions.

Traditional medicines, such as these on sale in a market in Uganda, are often derived from forest plants and other non-wood forest products. The demand for such products ensures their high value and importance in international trade. (FAO/17502/R. Faidutti)

Documents and publications

Project overview

FAO. 2003a.The impact of certification on the sustainable use of devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) in Namibia.Rome.

FAO. 2003b.Trade in devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) in Germany - Status, trends and certification.Rome. See alsoAnnex.
Walter, S., Cole, D., Kathe, W., Lovett, P. & Paz Soldán, M. 2003.Impact of certification on the sustainable use of NWFP: Lessons-learnt from three case studies.Paper presented at the International Conference on Rural Livelihoods, Forests and Biodiversity held from 19 to 23 May 2003, Bonn, Germany.

Walter, S, Vantomme, P., Killmann, W. & Ndeckere, F. 2003.Benefit-sharing arrangements in the field of non-wood forest products - Status and links to certification.Paper presented at the IUFRO All Division 5 Conference, Rotorua, New Zealand.

Walter, S. 2002.Certification and benefit-sharing mechanisms in the field of non-wood forest products - an overview.Medicinal Plant Conservation, Volume 8, Newsletter of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, Bonn, Germany.

last updated:  Monday, October 6, 2003