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Mr. Mohammed ELLATIFI
Forest Service, CASABLANCA


In Morocco, the forest domain covers about 9 million hectares and is quasi-totally state-owned. Beside the wood products, the Moroccan forests provide people with various non-wood products such as fruits (carob, argan, wild pear, pine-kernel, acorn, pods, jujube, wild-rose berry, mulberry, blackberry, almond, etc.), mushroom, honey (bee-keeping), cork (Quercus suber), alfalfa (Stipa tenacissima), lichen, resins, gums, oil (argan, almond), fragrants (thyme, jasmine, etc.), edible leaves, etc.

The Moroccan forest also provides millions of fodder units for the national livestock (which, in its turn, produces meat, milk, wool, skin, etc.), fish, bush meat, manure, mulch, humus.

It should be pointed out that, in Morocco, the collection from forests of cork, carobs, lichen, alfalfa, argan (Argania spinosa) and, sometimes, honey, is exploited at an industrial scale.

On the other hand, one should not forget that essential forest functions such as protection, erosion control, climate and water resources regulation, beautification of the landscape, healthy positive influence on man and animals, prolongation of dam life, etc. are also tremendous non-wood forest products.

This paper analyses the general situation of the non-wood products in Morocco and the major benefits local people are obtaining from them. Recommendations are made for a better development and promotion of NWFP, within the framework of sustainable forest management.

Key words: NWFP, Forest, Morocco, Maroc, Fuel, Fodder, Local Communities, Sustainability, Food, Nutrition, Medicine, Flavours, Tannins, Gums, Resins, Ecotourism, handicrafts, Cosmetics, Beekeeping, Dye stuffs, Household subsistence, Forest Inventory, Management, Cork, Alfalfa, Non-farm income.


For tens of centuries, quite before the Pharaonic period, the Greek, Phoenician and Sabaean civilisations, people have, throughout time and space, collected from forests and used different products of both plant and animal origin, and not only timber. Gum Arabic - a NWFP extracted from Acacia Senegal- for example, was used some 5 000 years ago (Davison, 1980). Pharaonic hieroglyphs mention it, under the appellation “kami”; it was used for wrapping mummies (Nair, 2000). Local communities, living in the vicinity of forests, have always recognised the forest ecosystem as a reservoir of valuable biological resources, indispensable for their food security/subsistence.

If foresters and other scientists have, very often, overlooked the importance of these non-timber products, today the gap is being bridged. NGOs, ethnobotanists, conservationists and many others are focussing their attention on these products, recently designated Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP).

In this paper we analyse the concept of NWFP and examine the particular situation of these products in the Kingdom of Morocco. We will attempt to make recommendations aimed at validation of NWFP and making them part and parcel of any forest inventory and sustainable forest management.

Morocco and its Forest Sector in a glimpse

Situated at the extreme northwestern part of the African continent, the Kingdom of Morocco has an estimated total area of 710,850 km2. Its climate is of Mediterranean type: very luminous around the year, with an irregular distribution of rainfall, concentrated during a fresh and humid season whereas the hot season is dry. Numerous plains lie along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea coasts. In the inner lands, four main ranges of mountains break the monotony of the flat country: the Rif mountain in the North, the Medium Atlas in the centre north, the Higher Atlas in the centre, and the Anti-Atlas in the centre south. The altitude of these mountains is generally over 2000 meter and culminates at Jebel Toubkal, in the Higher Atlas, with an altitude of 4160 m.

The population was 26 millions in 1994, with a growth rate of 2.06% per annum. About 48.6% of the population is rural and about 45.25% are under 20 years of age. The average annual per capita GNP is US$1180 (1995, market price).

The natural woody vegetation (forests and shrubs, with very variable stand density) covers an estimated area of 5 813 900 ha of which 30% are coniferous and 70% are broad-leaved (Ellatifi, M. 1983b). This total represents around 8% of the country's land area. The principal naturally occurring woody species (trees and shrubs) are the following: Quercus ilex, Q. suber, Q. faginea, Argania spinosa, Acacia gummifera, Cedrus atlantica, Tetraclinis articulata, Juniperus thurifera, J. Oxycedrus, J. Phoenicea, Cupressus atlantica, Pinus halepensis, P. Pinaster var. moghrebiana, Abies pinsapo, and other “secondary” species such as Q. coccifera, Ceratonia siliqua, Olea europea var. oleaster, Pistacia atlantica, P. Lentiscus, P.terebinthus, Rhus pentaphylla, Phillyrea angustifolia, Zizyphus lotus, Acer monspessulanum, Taxus baccata, Buxus balearica, Sorbus torminalis, Arbutus unedo, Retama sphaerocarpa, Withania frutescens, Morus alba, Retama sphaerocarpa, Daphne laureola, Erica arborea, Buxux balearica, Cercis siliquastrum, Ilex aquifolium, Fraxinus xanthoxyloides, F. angustifolia, Celtis australis, Opuntia ficus indica, etc.

Besides the woody natural vegetation, there is a state-owned area of about 3.16 million ha of Alfa-grass (Stipa tenacissima). Add also, a total area of about 530,000 ha of afforestation of which 46% are coniferous (mainly Pinus sp.), 41% are Eucalyptus sp. and the remaining 13% are other broad-leaved species (mainly Acacia spp) (Ellatifi, 1999).

The Concept of NWFP

It was in 1995 at the meeting held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (Chandrasekharan C., 1995) that FAO adopted the following definition of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP):

“NWFP consist of goods of biological origin other than wood, as well as services derived from forests and allied land uses” (FAO. 1995). Unfortunately, this definition is incomplete for it does not include other important non-wood forest aspects such the social, cultural, religious, ornamental, environmental, and protection functions of the forest. It should, then, be refined to fill in this gap.

On another hand, it should be pointed out that there is a significant difference between “Non-wood” forest products and “Non-timber” forest products. The latter term embodies products which are tree-derived felling trees (Simons A. S., 1996). The term “Non-wood” tends to exclude any sort of wood originating from forest trees, including fuelwood and poles. In Morocco, as it is the case in many other developing countries, fuelwood collection is a vital function the forest daily plays in the livelihood of rural communities. The Moroccan forest legislation recognises for local communities settled in the vicinity of the forest, the right to freely collect “dead” wood in the forest for domestic use as “fuel” for their cooking and heating needs. This “fuelwood” is then collected without tree felling, as are collected mushroom, fruits, nuts, etc. from forests. Consequently, for Morocco and similar countries- and in this paper - we will consider fuelwood as a NWFP.

The Situation of NWFP in Morocco

In Morocco, in forested areas, Man, for centuries, has always been part and parcel of the forest ecosystem. Nowadays, everywhere, even in the most remote mountainous areas, one would encounter some villages (douars) where inhabitants are permanently settled in the vicinity of the forest stands. Sometimes, instead of villages, the settlers are nomads, temporarily established in goat-hair tents, with their herds freely grazing in the forest. These people are generally poor, and their daily subsistence, and that of their livestock, has always been, and continues to be dependent on the forest, particularly for a wide range of NWFP (Ellatifi M. 2000).

The major non-wood forest products people rely on, in Morocco, under the umbrella term “NWFP” are the following:

Food and nutrition, Fuel, Fodder, Cork, Medicine, Ecotourism, Tannins and Gums, Dye stuffs and Food colorants, Flavours, Resins, Cosmetics, Construction materials, Household furniture, Farm tools, Handicrafts, Bark, dry foliage, etc.

The other essential forest functions to be added to this list are protection, ornamental, social, religious, conservationist, cultural and tourist.

Food and nutrition

In Morocco, this category of NWFP covers a wide range of items, including fruits, nuts, acorns, seeds, leaves, tubers, roots, mushrooms, sap, gum, tender shoots, palm hearts, honey, bush meat, fish, etc. Forest food provides essential vitamins (especially vitamin C), minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. It also adds variety and spice to the people's diet. Among the forest species involved in this category, we include: Pyrus mamorensis, Juglans regia, Quercus suber, Pinus pinea, Argania spinosa, Olea europea, Zizyphus lotus, Chamaerops humilis, Artemisia herba alba, Arbutus unedo, Laurus nobilis, Ceratonia siliqua, Rosmarinus officinalis, Morus alba, Opuntia ficus indica, Asparagus angustifolius, Thymus sp., Rubus ulmifolius, Rosa canina, Almond-tree, Mentha pulegium, etc.

Fishing in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and lagoons is an important source of proteins and vitamins for people. It is controlled by the Forestry department.

Moroccan forests are also an important source of bush meat, from vertebrates (mammals, wildlife and grazing livestock), and invertebrates (snails). We estimate (Ellatifi, M. unpublished) that an average of 8 million head of livestock (Bovines: 750 000; Sheep: 3 450 000; Caprines: 3 800 000) graze in the forest during an average period of 5 months/year. This constitutes 22% of the national total and provides for 620 000 Fodder Units (FO) grazed annually in forests. A total of 67 300 tons of meat (Bovines + Sheep + Caprines), 40 million litres of cow milk and 21.7 million litres of sheep and goat milk is produced each year.


As discussed above, fuelwood is considered here as a NWFP. To estimate the magnitude of its consumption in Morocco, a national study was carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture (Forestry Department, Cellule d'Etudes et de Prospections, Casablanca), between 1988 and 1994 (Ellatifi, 1989, 1998, 1999, Ellatifi et al., 1998).

This study consisted in a stratified random sampling with exhaustive drawings (Ellatifi, M. 1991). It covered both rural and urban zones. The source population of households is 4 444 270, of which 56.7% are urban (Ministry of Planning, 1987) and 43.3% are rural. Given their limited total number, all the small socio-economic enterprises in rural zones were visited (exhaustive sampling). The source population of these enterprises in urban zone was 9,250.

In urban zones, the sampling was carried out with an error of 10% at 95% confidence-level. In rural zone the error was 15% at 95% confidence-level. For households' fuelwood consumption, two factors were considered in the stratification process: (1) remoteness of the household from the nearest forest edge, and (2) altitude of the household. In this line, the following strata were identified (Ellatifi, 1999):

It is worth noting that the 1 924 586 rural households, in Morocco are geographically distributed as follows (Ellatifi et al., 1998, Ellatifi, 1999):

Regarding the household remoteness from the forest:

About 17% of the rural households are located inside forest,
43% at less than 10 km. from forest edge,
40% at more than 10 km. from forest edge.

On the other hand, regarding the altitude above sea level:

About 50% of the rural households are located at less than 500 m.,
29% between 500 m. and 1,000 m.,
14% between 1,000 m. and 1,500 m., and
7% at more than 1,500 m.

Table 1 gives the detailed household distribution in space vis-à-vis altitude and remoteness from forest.

Table 1. Distribution of studied sample of rural households, according to their altitude and their remoteness vis-à-vis the forest edge.

Remoteness from forestAltitude
Below 500 mFrom 500 m to 1000 mFrom 1000 m to 1500 mOver 1500 mTOTAL
Inside forest5.75%5.42%4.26%1.63%17.06%
Outside forest,<10 km from forest edge21.72%12.37%6.30%2.70%43.09%
Outside forest, > 10 km from forest edge22.50%11.50%3.05%2.80%39.85%

Source: Ellatifi, 1999.

The Moroccan total biomass energy consumption is 18.3 million m3 per annum, with an error of 13.25% at 95% significance-level, of which 91.6% are consumed by households and 8.4% by socio-economic establishments. Of this total, 88% are consumed in rural areas, while only 12% are consumed in urban areas (Ellatifi M. et al., 1998).

The consumption of forestry fuelwood reaches 9.6 million m3 per annum, i.e. 52.4% of the total consumption. In the same time, the total forestry potential for fuelwood is estimated at 2.9 million m3 per year, i.e. 18% of the consumption originating from the forests. In other terms, the annual deficit (forest consumption-forest potential offer) is 6.7 million m3 per annum (Ellatifi M. and Elhimer, M. 1998).

The forest fuelwood consumption represents 18% of the total annual energy consumption in Morocco (9 727 517 TEP, in 1994). It is at the second rank, after fuel (53%), far before electricity (9%) and mineral charcoal (4%) (Ellatifi, M. et al., 1998, Ellatifi, M. 1998).

Fuelwood, as a NWFP in Morocco originates at national level from the following forest species (Table 2):

Table 2: Distribution of the Moroccan fuelwood consumption among species

Forest speciesConsumption in Urban areas (% of Urban total)Consumption in Rural areas
(% of Rural total)
Total national Consumption
(% of National total)
Eucalyptus spp.43.0315.1219.59
Quercus suber17.3222.4221.6
Other Quercus spp.(1)5.468.467.98
Argania spinosa1.145.234.57
Cedrus atlantica6.53.273.8
Other coniferous species (2)
Other forest species(3)24.2544.741.42
TOTAL (in million cubic metres)

(1) Quercus ilex, Q. faginea, Q. coccifera

(2) Pinus halepensis, P. pinaster var. moghrebiana, P. canariensis, P. brutia, Abies pinsapo, Cupressus atlantica, C. sempervirens, Juniperus thurifera, J. oxycedrus, J. phoenicea, Tetraclinis articulata

(3) Different other trees and shrubs.

(Source: Ellatifi M., unpublished)


Besides the fodder provided to wildlife, the Moroccan Forest domain hosts annually an average of 8 million head of livestock during an average period time of 5 months, during which they graze around 620 million Forage Units (FO). One FO is equivalent to the energy provided by one kg Barley, or 1885 calories or 7.9 kJ. This volume corresponds to 25% of the annual needs of these livestock.

During a period of drought, the national livestock suffers heavy loss in number, but a study (Ellatifi M. unpublished) revealed that in the vicinity of forests the mortality is reduced by 2/3 compared to that in unforested areas. Forests, through NWFP - here fodder - relieve the hunger periods and save livestock. In Morocco, after a drought period, about 50% of the surviving animals are saved due to forest stands in which they grazed around 40% of their fodder needs per year (Ellatifi M., unpublished).


Out of the 2 million hectares of cork-oak forests (Quercus suber), Morocco possesses 355 000 ha. This area places it at third in the world, behind Portugal and Spain. The largest single-block of cork-oak forest in the world in the Ma'mora, situated in Morocco, to the East of Rabat city.

Cork in an important NWFP obtained from the cork-oak bark. There is a male cork and a female cork with significantly different properties and uses. In Morocco, cork is harvested as a NWFP, locally, by nearby communities and industrially at the national level for export. The average national production is 4 million tonnes per year, 70% of which are male cork and 30% female cork.


Another important NWFP in Morocco is wildlife, namely birds and mammals living in the vicinity of forests, permanently or temporarily during the year. Besides its varied and spicy meat, wildlife, if well managed, within the framework of an integrated and sustainable forest management, interacts very positively with the forest stands and their dynamics. For example, they act as seed conditioning and dispersal agents. This essential non-wood forest resource should be recorded in all forest inventories to be included in forest management. The involvement of local communities in wildlife management and monitoring is able to sustain people's nutrition, generate local income, preserve and devolop bird and animal populations.

Medicine products

In the tropics, mainly, but also everywhere else on the globe, forest ecosystems constitute rich reservoirs for medicine and pharmaceutical plants. These NWFP are traditionally exploited by nearby communities since the oldest times. These local communities are the repository of a tremendous knowledge they received from their ancestors and transmit to their descendants - unfortunately with some loss. The medical and pharmaceutical industry has already widely used these NWFP. There is much hope for curing many other diseases with yet undiscovered medicants still hanging in the canopies of the world's forests.


Ecotourism is another NWFP which can help local communities and the country improve their income. Big trees, large forest stands, nice sites, diversified topography and landscape, wildlife, etc., could be a big attraction for local, national and international visitors. But careful attention should be paid to the influence of tourists, it is a two-edged sword: without control and sound management, unruly tourism could harm the forest, the landscape, wildlife and even degrade the local knowledge, customs and traditions. That is why, instead of tourism, this NWFP is called ecotourism: a tourism which preserves the environment and the local communities' culture and values.

Protection and Conservation functions

These are two essential functions played by the forest. They are very difficult to count in monetary terms and are considered as NWFP. Forests protect human settlements, dams, roads, agricultural areas and other infrastructures from winds, moving sand dunes, hydraulic erosion, etc. They also mitigate excess temperature, regulate water delivery and help replenish underground water-tables.

Forests are also recognised as large and rich reservoirs where many valuable biological resources (animal, bird, insect, plant species) are conserved, some of which are rare or endangered.

Social, cultural and religious functions

These are also NWFP which, very often, were neglected or overlooked by foresters and other scientists. Forests enable Man to renew with Nature, the world of plants and animals. They constitute an environment where human beings find relaxation, rest and stability; “stable existence in a stable environment”. They are also a source of inspiration for Man. Don't we say “majestic like a cedar”, “strong like an oak”, etc.?

As is the case in many other parts of the world, in Morocco, one finds in certain areas, maraboutic woods/groves. These are limited stands of forest species (Cupressus atlantica, Quecus ilex, Zizyphus lotus, Ficus retusa, Ceratonia siliqua, etc.) that are respected by local communities and carefully monitored and maintained for the spiritual value they put in them. Very often they are situated in the vicinity of a graveyard and/or around a Holy site (Sidi Said, Sidi Ahmed, Moulay Bou'azza, etc.). Their harvest is generally forbidden. But at least in Morocco, these maraboutic woods are loosing their ancestral spiritual roles.

Furthermore, in many cultures, associated with forests, trees and forest wildlife, are tales, fairytales, nursery-tales, anecdotes, songs, etc. which have amazed many generations of children.

Other NWFP

Many other Non-Wood Forest Products are used at the local level by nearby communities, in cities, or at the industrial/international level. Among them we list the followings:

Tannins and natural Gums: used locally (leather, dyes, etc.) or in industry activities such as paper ink, textile, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, antioxidants, soaps, lacquers, etc. In Morocco many species are sources of such NWFP: Rhus spp., Acacia mollissima, Acacia gummifera, Acacia cyanophylla, Tetraclinis articulata, Eucalyptus sideroxylon, Juniperus sp., Tamarix aphylla, Erica arborea, etc.

Handicrafts: Baskets, silk-making from silkworms raised on leaves from mulberry (Morus alba), utensils, bags, sleeping mats, pillows, sponges, brooms, chairs, tables, weaved materials, etc.: Chamaerops humilis, Juncus sp. Arrundo donax, etc.

Flavours and Aromates: Artemisia herba alba, Laurus nobilis, Thymus, sp., Mentha pulegium, Myrtus communis, Rosmarinus officinalis, Lavandula stoechas, Juniperus, sp., Pistacia terebinthus, etc.

Resins: (Pinus sp., Cedrus atlantica, Juniperus sp.), etc.
Bark and dry foliage
Farm tools
Dye stuffs and food colorants,

Conclusions / Recommendations

The Moroccan forest domain, as we have seen, produces not only timber, but also a profusion of rich and varied NWFP, at different levels. Some of these NWFP are countable in monetary terms, others not or very roughly. Unfortunately these crucial products are not yet estimated at their fair value; they remain neglected or overlooked by foresters and scientists. They often go unrecorded in official statistics. Nevertheless, better managed, they could help rural communities enhance their livelihood and meet their needs without disturbing the forest ecosystem.

One could never emphasise enough the fact that sustainable forest management can not be achieved without the full involvement of local rural communities living in the vicinity of the forest. These communities are part and parcel of the forest ecosystem and they have a treasure of traditional knowledge on forest species, plants, wildlife, traditional harvesting and use of NWFP. They play a pivotal role in the future of the forests, “their” forests. An African proverb says: “If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they can change the face of earth”.

To better preserve the Moroccan forests and bridge the sizeable gap in our outlook towards NWFP and local communities living in the vicinity of the forest, we recommend the following key actions:


Chandrasekharan, C. 1994. Non-wood forest products: a global view of potentials and challenges. Paper for the international Seminar on Management of Minor Forest Products, Dehra-Dun, India, 13–15 November, 1994, FAO, Rome.

Davison, R. L. 1980. Handbook of water-soluble gums and resins. McGraw Hill Book company, New York.

Ellatifi, M. 1991. The consumption of fire-wood in the Wilaya of Casablanca and its incidence on the Moroccan forest. Casablanca, Morocco. Ellatifi, M. et alinea. 1998. Etude de la consommation nationale de bois de feu au Maroc (1994). Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Maritime Fisheries(Forestry Department, Cellule d'Etudes et de Prospection, Casablanca), Morocco.

Ellatifi, M. 1998. Fuelwood Consumption: A Major Constraint for the Sustainable Management of the Forest Ecosystem in Developing Countries. The Example of Morocco. In the Proceedings of Foresea Miyazaki 1998 International Symposium on Global Concerns for Forest Ressources Utilization - Sustainable Use and Management--, Miyazaki, Japan.

Ellatifi, M. 2000. Rural communities as a corner-stone of sustainable forest management. Paper presented in the XXI IUFRO World Congress, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 7–12 August 2000.

Ellatifi, M. unpublished. Economy of forest and forest products in Morocco: Balance and Perspectives. PhD dissertation in Economics.

FAO, 1995. Non-wood forest products for rural income and sustainable forestry. Non-wood forest products 7, FAO, Rome.

FAO, 1996. Domestication and commercialisation of non-timber forest products in agroforestry systems. Non-wood forest products 9, FAO, Rome.

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Nair, B. 2000. Sustainable utilization of gum and resin by improved tapping technique in some species. Paper for the joint FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training's Seminar on “Harvesting of non-wood forest products”, Menemen-İzmir, Turkey, 2–8 October 2000.

Simmons.A.J. 1996. ICRAF's strategy for domestication of non-wood tree products, pp. 8–22. Non-wood forest products 9, FAO, Rome.


M. Mohammed ELLATIFI
Service des forêts, CASABLANCA


Le domaine forestier marocain couvre environ 9 millions d'hectares et appartient en quasi totalité à l'État. Outre le bois, les forêts fournissent divers types de produits comme des fruits (caroube, argane, poire sauvage, pignons, glands, gousses, jujube, baies d'églantine, mûre, cassis, amande, etc.), des champignons, du miel, de l'écorce (Qercus suber), de l'alfa (Stipa tenacissima), des lichens, des résines, des gommes, des huiles (huile d'argane, huile d'amande), des essences pour parfum (thym, jasmin, etc.), des feuilles comestibles, etc.

Les forêts fournissent également des millions d'unités de fourrage pour le bétail (qui produit à son tour de la viande, du lait, de la laine, des peaux, etc.), des poissons (dans les rivières et les lacs), la viande du gibier chassé, du fumier, du paillis et de l'humus.

Il faut souligner qu'au Maroc la récolte de liège, de caroube, de lichen, d'alfa, d'argane (Argania spinosa) et, parfois, de miel se fait à l'échelle industrielle.

Par ailleurs, il ne faut pas oublier que les fonctions essentielles de la forêt comme son rôle de brise-vent, de fixation des dunes de sable, de lutte contre l'érosion, de protection contre les avalanches, de régulation du climat et des ressources en eau, le rôle esthétique pour le paysage, l'influence positive sur la santé des hommes et des animaux, la prolongation de la durée de vie des barrages, etc., sont également des produits forestiers d'une importance considérable.

Le document analyse la situation générale des produits forestiers autres que le bois au Maroc et les principaux avantages que les communautés locales en retirent.

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