Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO

FAO's Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) Programme aims to be a “Centre of excellence in information sharing” to improve the utilisation of NWFP as a contribution to sustainable forest management, to the conservation of their biological diversity, and to better food security. Programme activities are implemented through four main areas of intervention: (i) gathering, analysis and dissemination of key technical information on NWFP; (ii) full appraisal of the socio-economic contribution of NWFP to sustainable development; (iii) improved networking among individuals and organisations dealing with NWFP; and (iv) technical assistance on NWFP issues to FAO member countries.

Non-Wood Forest Products and similar terms, like “minor”, “secondary”, and “non-timber” forest products, have emerged as umbrella expressions for the vast array of both animal and plant products other than wood (or timber) derived from forests or forest tree species. An estimated 80 percent of the population of the developing world uses NWFP to meet some of their health and nutritional needs. Several million households world-wide depend heavily on these products for subsistence consumption and/or income. NWFP are also used in many village level artisanal and craft activities. Some NWFP undergo large-scale industrial processing for products such as additives for foods and beverages (gum arabic), flavourings and perfumes (essential oils), medicines, and paints or polishes (resins). Presently, at least 150 NWFP are significant in terms of international trade. Most of these are exported in raw or semi-processed form. While most are traded in rather small quantities, some products do reach substantial levels, such as gum arabic, rattan, cork, wild honey, forest nuts and mushrooms.

Gathering, analysis and dissemination of key technical information on NWFP is provided through preparing reviews on specific categories of NWFP and/or on important topics for their development and which are published in the Non-Wood Forest Products Series or in other FAO publications. Examples of titles published on products include: Flavours and flagrances, Pine resins, Edible Nuts, Natural colourants and dyestuffs, Tropical palms; and on issues: NWFP for rural income and sustainable forestry, Domestication and commercialization of NWFP, Medicinal plants for forest conservation and health care, NWFP of Central Africa: Current research issues and prospects for conservation and development.

A comprehensive database including production and trade data at the country level on major NWFP, complemented with other descriptive information on the NWFP resource base, products and their users is in elaboration for countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. This activity also includes clarification and research to improve currently used definitions, concepts and related terminology. The aim is to provide validated information leading towards a more accurate appraisal of their true socio-economic contribution to sustainable development and effective guidance for policy formulation governing the NWFP sector. FAO member countries are in need of such information in order to promote a sustainable and equitable utilization of NWFP for poverty alleviation.

Improved networking among organisations and individuals working in the field of NWFP is facilitated by the programme through its annual news bulletin, Non-Wood News; its webpage as a gateway of information and contacts on NWFP; and by organizing international expert meetings to strengthen collaboration and partnerships on NWFP issues at the national, regional and global levels.

The NWFP programme also provides technical assistance to FAO member countries, such as: technical advice to (FAO) field projects on NWFP related issues; Project identification, evaluation and monitoring; and Identification of donors for project funding.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page