Non-wood forest produce

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Compared to many biodiversity resources such as timber and marine products, non wood forest produce (NWFP) is traded much less in monetary terms. However, millions of people around the world, mainly in the developed countries, are dependent on this trade for their livelihood. Non-wood forest products are collected for local household use or trade, though some find export markets.

Non-wood forest products are an important means of income generation and food security for the 500 million people inhabiting or living in the vicinity of tropical forests. These forests cover 20 per cent of the world's land mass. Many household implements are made from non-wood forest produce. They include furnishings, tools, cooking equipment and utensils. Fruits and seeds, nectars and saps, stems and tubers, leaves and mushrooms are some of the forest items used as food.


[edit] Global Interest

Globally a lot of interest has been generated on non-wood forest products. Worldwide it is now recognized that non-wood forest products are a great means of improving rural livelihood. They provide households with food, security and nutrition and create employment and income generation for families and improve agricultural production. And apart from supporting biodiversity, conservation and other environmental objectives, NWFPs offer opportunities for processing enterprises and contribute to foreign exchange earnings.

International trade

At least 150 NWFPs can be considered important in terms of international trade, including honey, gum, rattan, bamboo, cork, nuts, mushrooms, resins, essential oils, and plant and animal parts for pharmaceutical products. Trade takes place generally from developing to developed countries, and about 60 percent of this trade was imported by countries of the European Union, United States, and Japan. China is the dominant world exporter. India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brazil are also major suppliers to the world markets.

[edit] Major Country-wise Usage

In several countries certain non-wood forest produce serve as raw materials for industrial activities. They are pine resins in China, cork in Portugal, Arabic gum in Sudan, rattan in the Philippines, bamboo in Indonesia, and medicinal plants in India. However, reliable data on NWFP sources and the amount of labor involved in extraction and transformation are often lacking. According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, more than 3.5 billion people in the developing world rely on plants for their primary health care.

In the Amazonia of Peru and Brazil, more than 1.8 million people derive a significant portion of their income from extractive forests, mainly of Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) and rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis). Near Xapuri, Brazil this earns an average annual income of US$ 960 per family.

Each year, an estimated 15.4 million ha of tropical forests and woodlands are destroyed or seriously degraded, principally through agricultural expansion, uncontrolled livestock grazing, logging.

China has 74% share of removal of forest plant products for food, primarily oil seeds, nuts and bamboo shoots. Other countries with significant removal volumes for food are India, the Republic of Korea, and Pakistan in Asia; the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, and Sweden in Europe; and Brazil in South America. In the category of exudates too China has 72% share of removals of items such as tannin extract and raw lacquer. India accounts for 42% share of total removals of other plant products, such as tendu leaves and lac, followed by Brazil and Mexico. Though fodder removals were reported by only 16 countries, the quantities of removals were very large. European countries are reported to be removing the maximum quantity of Ornamental plants like Christmas trees.

[edit] Non-Wood Forest Product Usage


NWFP products directly meet the needs for many daily food items for inhabitants of many tropical forests, especially during times of hardship or between agricultural harvests. Bush meat, fish, insects, fungi, plants and plant products such as nuts, edible gums, tubers, seeds or fruits are gathered to supplement food supplies and enhance food security. The Central American guava tree is cherished for its fruits which are eaten fresh or made into preserves. Hundreds of different trees and shrubs provide fodder for livestock and browse for livestock. The community is able to earn more by marketing these items.

Household products

Forest materials are also used to make many household implements including furnishings, tools, cooking equipment and utensils. These items include:

  • Bowls, trays, spoons, liquid storage vessels and baskets.
  • The cotton-like material inside the seed pod of the Ceiba tree, found throughout most of the tropics, is used for pillow and mattress stuffing.
  • Gourds, vines and bark collected from the forests are used to make agricultural implements, fencing materials, harvesting equipment and storage containers.
  • Fishermen depend on the forest for the raw materials to manufacture boats, nets, traps and the wood to smoke fish.
  • Hunters also make their equipment - traps, snares, poisons, bows and arrows - from forest materials.
  • Other household products made from the forest - carvings, rattan, baskets, art works and woven items - are also sold on local, national and international markets.
  • Income from the sale of these products significantly adds to household income and earns foreign exchange.

Latexes, resins and colorants

Many valuable commercial products are made from the sap and wood of many tree species. Natural rubber comes from the latex of a tree that originates from the Amazon basin. Rubber collected from the forest and plantations accounts for large international trade. The resin of the gum arabic tree is an important traditional cash crop in the Sahel. The orange dye from the achiote, a tropical forest shrub which is now domesticated, is used as a non-toxic colorant for margarine, dairy products and other foodstuffs.


Essential ingredients for several traditional medications are still derived from forests in many developing countries. The developed countries too take advantage of these medicinally-useful plants to advance the use of new medicines and treatments. Forest plants have already provided medications for some forms of cancer and could hold the secret for conquering AIDS. There exists a very sizeable international commerce in pharmaceutical products, originally developed from tropical forest plants.

Construction Materials

The tropical forest supplies the materials needed for a multitude of construction needs. Bamboo, found throughout many tropical countries, is widely used in building houses, scaffolding, fencing, piping for aqueducts and ladders. Poles, palm leaves, reeds, lianas and bark are used in the construction of many types of structures for home and farm. In some countries, tree cuttings are planted in lines at close spacing where they sprout to form live fencing.

[edit] References

  • Non-Wood Forest Products
  • Turkey's Foreign Trade in Non-Wood Forest Products
  • Extraction of nonwood forest products
  • What other products can be obtained from forests?

[edit] See Also