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Trees outside forests have meshed with the everyday lives of men and women everywhere from time immemorial. The designation covers a range of situations, from fruit trees to trees growing in fields, hedgerows, parks, and as amenities, trees in the wild and in woodlots. Countless tree terms refer back to myth, symbol and past civilizations. All down the millennia, Trees outside forests have been a providential source of fuel, food and drink, medicines and materials.

Policy-makers and managers have for the most part long ignored these familiar trees and shrubs, probably because the resource involves so many sectors. Forest resources are usually routinely assessed and well-known, but data and information on trees growing outside forest lands are still fragmentary, dispersed, and unincorporated into databases. And they appear likely to remain so.

Concern for the world's forests has climbed to the top of the international policy agenda over the last fifteen years. But because Trees outside forests are intrinsically intersectoral and multipurpose, attention tended to focus on the various components of this rather diffuse resource: agroforestry, silvopastoralism, urban and rural forestry, and other related disciplines. Trees outside forests were also overlooked in natural resource assessments, absent from statistics, policy and legislation, and barely mentioned in the public discourse. The research sector, however, did turn its attention to these trees because of the growing importance of agroforestry, and certain specific traits such as nitrogen fixation and the supply of fodder and browse.

With time, policy-makers and planners also came to express interest in the issue of Trees outside forests. Concern for the future of these tree resources in the face of burgeoning population growth and a mounting demand for wood and non-wood products prompted a review of the interaction between changing forest patterns and the dynamics of trees growing in urban and rural areas. The great promise of the sector for sustainable natural resource development and integrated forest, agricultural, pastoral and urban land management gradually became clear, prompting an explosion of questions in search of an answer. People became curious to explore the untapped backlog of local rural community lore and management practices concerning Trees outside forests, and the potential contribution of these trees to rural development, the quality of life, and the environment. The dynamics of Trees outside forests and the interaction with the utilization of forest trees, the significance of their advance or regression on farmland, how their role and evolution were affected by resource appropriation, land ownership rules and policy, and why and how to assess them attracted interest as well.

The stakes involved in the issue were so high that FAO deemed it necessary to review present knowledge of the sector -all the more urgently in that the 1996 expert consultation on Trees outside forests (Kotka III), held in Kotka, Finland, had expressed concern over the lack of hard data, and recommended that steps be taken in this sense. These recommendations were approved and confirmed by the 1997 and 1999 sessions of the FAO Committee on Forests. FAO therefore asked CIRAD-Forests to collaborate on this paper, in cooperation with experts from various countries. Their contributions concretely illustrate off-forest tree resources in a range of specific situations. Justification for the production of this document comes from the increasingly important role of Trees outside forests in the organization of living space, landscape management, enhanced production and food security. This collaborative, multidisciplinary, two-part work is built around documentary research and case studies. Part One describes the issue of Trees outside forests and its various niches within integrated rural and urban management. Part Two describes the situation of Trees outside forests in selected countries, with the emphasis on assessment.

The paper addresses a broad audience of policy-makers and planners, as well as technicians and scientists in the fields of research, education, development, resource and landscape conservation, and their institutions. While it cannot claim to be exhaustive at this point in time, it does pave the way for enhanced knowledge and sustainable management of trees in our rural and urban landscapes.

Policy-makers, planners and donors may find the arguments they need to develop and sustain policies and strategies to promote and support off-forest tree systems.

This issue in the FAO Conservation Guide Series thus hopes to help bring Trees outside forests into their own and rightful place. Readers are invited to send observations and comments to FAO, for careful consideration in future studies on the topic.

El Hadji Sène
Forest Resources Division


FAO and CIRAD wish to thank the ministries, companies and institutes of the countries participating in the preparation of the case studies for this paper, in particular: Costa Rica: David Morales (CATIE): France: Frédéric Coulon (Solagro) and Thierry Bélouard (National Forest Inventory), India: Devendra Pandey (Forest Survey of India, Dehra Dun), Kenya: James Legilisho-Kiyiapi (Moi University), Mali: Harouna Yossi (Institut d'Economie rurale, Bamako) and Amadou Mr. Koyuyaté (PRF, Sikasso), Morocco: Omar M'Hirit and Mohamed Et-Tobi (Ecole nationale forestière d'ingénieurs, Rabat), Namibia: H.O. Kojweng and M. Chakanga (Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Windhoek), Sudan: William M. Glen (Forest Inventory Consultant).

FAO thanks CIRAD (France), its technical and financial partner in the preparation of this paper. A number of CIRAD departments and programmes participated: CIRAD-Forests, CIRAD-CP, CIRAD-emvt, CIRAD-tera. The Coordinators Ronald Bellefontaine, Sandrine Petit, Michelle Pain-Orcet, Philippe Deleport and Jean-Guy Bertault (CIRAD-Forests) benefited from the contributions of Laurence Boutinot, Hélène Dessard, Jean-Michel Harmand, Alain Karsenty, Gaël Legros, Dominique Louppe (CIRAD-Forests), Geneviève Michon (IRD-Development Research Institute), Nicole Sibelet and Emmanuel Torquebiau (CIRAD-tera), Bernard Toutain (CIRAD-emvt), Philippe Vaast (CIRAD-cp).

CIRAD thanks Isabelle Amsallem (FAO), Thierry Belouard (NFI), Dominique Berry (CIRAD-cp), François Grison (CIRAD-tera) and Bernard Masllet (CIRAD-Forests) for their advice. Thanks also to Martine Barale, Laurence Bellemin, Catherine Gérard, Micheline Lebrun, Marc Malmejean, Christiane Mellet-Mandard and Sylvie Vago (CIRAD-Dist.) for their bibliographical support, and Martine Bourcier, Jacqueline Martin-Julian, Annie Molina, Jean-François Trebuchon (CIRAD-Forests and Véronique Verdier (CIRAD-emvt) for their willing help.

Agnès Le Magadoux (FAO) was responsible for document production, including the editing and publication of case studies originally written in French, Spanish and English. The Publications and Multimedia Branch of CIRAD were responsible for editorial review and make-up.

This English version was revised and coordinated by Syaka Sadio and Patricia Negreros-Castillo. Thanks to them.

The project was launched and coordinated by Tage Michelson, Chief of the Forest Conservation, Research and Education Service of FAO's Forest Resources Division. Michelle Gauthier supervised the work from start to finish. Patrick So, Michel Malagnoux and Mohamed Saket offered valuable advice and participation. El-Hadji Sène, Director of the Forest Resources Division who has given special attention to this complex topic, read the entire document with great care. This paper is the fruit of collaboration among several FAO services. Among the many people who collaborated were Sally Bunning of the Department of Agriculture, Dominique Lantieri of the Department of Sustainable Development, Laura Russo of the Department of Forestry and Ali Mekour of the Legal Office.

FAO and CIRAD thank the authors of the photographs: R. Bellefontaine, C. Cossalter, R. Faiduti, B. Toutain, D. Depommier, A. Bertrand, P. Sarlin, T. Hofer, A. Ichaou, A Aubréville, A. Fabre, D. Louppe, A. Odoul, W. Gschladt, J.M. Harman, M. Balderi, L. Rivière, R. Jones, S. Braatz.


This two-part document has deliberately focussed on two very different but complementary viewpoints, the general panorama and the detail. This approach, which makes it possible to establish the link between local situations and general trends, is also part of a recurring discussion.

Part One, Trees outside forests, a key to integrated rural and urban land management, attempts to review the backlog of knowledge concerning tree and shrub resources outside forests, based on existing databases and work done in related sectors.

Part Two, Trees outside forests, transmitting a universal lore, looks at these resources in concrete, localized situations based on national case studies.

Both sections focus on the characteristics and potential benefits of this highly dispersed, mostly cultivated, multi-purpose, non-forest tree resource which has been widely appropriated for its wealth of products and environmental services. Both sections appraise the contribution to local economies, suggest the impact at the country level, and give some hint of the impact at the international level. At this point it becomes apparent that Trees outside forests are very well-known to peasants, poorly-understood by managers, and mostly overlooked by national statistics and aid to development. The most prominent characteristics emerging from both the detailed and more general review are a certain blurriness of image concerning these resources (for lack of hard facts and figures -- apart from their obvious potential and despite specific efforts to assess them), plus their clear and unquestionable importance in the struggle to achieve food security, reduce poverty and find a positive response to the challenge of environmental degradation.

List of abbreviations and acronyms


Guarantee of origin (Appellation d'origine contrôlée)


Central Bank of Costa Rica (Banco Central de Costa Rica)


Common Agricultural Policy


Centro Agronómico de Investigación y Enseñanza /Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Centre (Costa Rica)


Conseil en architecture, urbanisme et environnement /Architecture, Urban Planning and Environmental Council (France)


Convention on Biological Diversity


Centre de développement des énergies renouvelables/Centre for the Development of Rural Energy (Morocco)


Centre d'étude et de coopération international /International Study and Cooperation Centre (Canada)


Canadian Forest Inventory Committee (Canada)


International Cooperation Centre on Agrarian Research for Development (France)


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species


Compagnie malienne de développement des textiles/Mali Textile Development Corporation (Mali)


Committee on Forestry


Cooperación en los sectores forestal y maderero/Forest and Wood Sector Cooperation (Costa Rica)


Cellule de planification et des statistiques/Planning and Statistics Group (Mali)


Centre for Research Information and Action for Development in Africa


Contrat territorial d'exploitation


Continuous transects sampling


Direction départementale de l'agriculture et de la forêt/Departmental Division of Agriculture and Forests (France)


Direction régionale de l'environnnement/Regional Division of the Environment (France)


Direction nationale de la conservation de la nature/National Division of the Conservation of Nature (Mali)


Direction de la planification agricole et de l'environnement/Agricultural Planning and Environment Service (Morocco)


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Franc of the African Financial Community


Finnish International Development Agency (Finland)


Forests NationalCorporation (Sudan)

FRA 2000

Forest Resources Assessment 2000


Fondo Nacional de Financiamiento Forestal/National Forest Fund (Costa Rica)


Forest Survey of India


Forests, Trees and People Programme, sub-Saharan Africa


General Agricultural Census


Global Positioning System


Guided Transects Survey


German Agency for Technical Cooperation


Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education


International Council for Research in Agroforestry


Intergovernmental Forum on Forests


Institut d'Economie rurale/Institute for Rural Economy (Mali)


Institut géographique national/National Geographic Institute (France)


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture


International Institute for Tropical Agriculture


Institute for Research and Development


International Union for the Conservation of Nature


International Union of Forestry Research Organizations


Kenya Forestry Research Institute


Kenya Forestry Master Plan


Kerala Forest Research Institute (India)


Latin America and the Caribbean


Main Woodland Survey (U.K.)


National Forestry Programme


National Inventory of Woodland and Trees (U.K.)


Non-wood forest products


Office national des fôrets/National Forestry Office (France)


Oficina nacional Forestal/National Forestry Office (Costa Rica)


Projet de développement pastoral et de l'élevage de l'Oriental/Eastern Pastoral and Livestock Development Project (Morocco)


Périmètre d'interêt national/zone of national interest


Pan-European Forest Certification


Relational Database Management System


Southern African Development Community


Service central des études et des enquêtes/Central Bureau of Surveys and Studies (France)


Situation of forests in the world


Soil protection and rehabilitation - Soil and water conservation


Sudan Reforestation and Anti-Desertification - Sudan Resource Assessment and Development


Survey of Small Woods and Trees (U.K.)


Enquête sur l'utilisation du territoire/Land Use Survey (France)


Tree Resources Outside Forests


United Nations Convention on the Control of Desertification


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


United Nations Forum on the forest


Wood Resources Inventory Programme

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