The secret of their success (with Non-Timber Forest Products)


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Many authors and organizations claim Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) can simultaneously help conserve forests and provide livelihoods for forest-dependent people. Others emphasize the limits of what NTFPs can contribute to long-term development and warn against the risks of over-harvesting.

Manuel Ruiz-Perez and Neil Byron from CIFOR analyze the factors that determined whether commercial NTFP extraction contributed to ecological sustainability, livelihoods, and political empowerment in nine cases. They present their results in a paper titled ’A Methodology to Analyze Divergent Case Studies of Non-Timber Forest Products and their Development Potential’ that appears in the forthcoming issue of Forest Science.

Based on their three criteria, the authors give high scores to the cases of Brazil nuts in Brazil, bamboo in China, chicle in Guatemala, gum arabic in Sudan, and game in Zimbabwe. The factors they associate with these successful cases are: clear and widely-recognized access rights, well-organized gatherers who are knowledgeable about their rights, transparent markets, and external support groups that encourage NTFP activities.

Kola nut in Cameroon, palm fiber handicraft in Botswana, rattan in Indonesia, and sal seeds in India have less positive outcomes. There, governments fail to recognize traditional access rights, markets are less transparent, and NTFP extraction exerts greater pressure on the resource.

Whether cases involved value-added processing activities did not seem to influence success. Neither did the degree of state intervention or whether the products came from primary forests, secondary forests, or plantations.


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Further reading

To obtain an electronic copy of the Ruiz-Perez and Byron paper or send comments to the authors related to this message you can write Manuel Ruiz Perez at: