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Improving livelihoods, equity and forests through sustainable management of NTFPs

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Drying the rinds of Garcinia indica, an NTFP prized in the pharmaceutical industry for its weight loss properties. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide live in and around forests, and depend on them for their livelihoods. However, forest degradation and deforestation are accelerating, and endangering local livelihoods.

The careful management and conservation of biodiversity are fundamental for sustaining ecosystems and livelihoods but are increasingly difficult to achieve in contexts of persistent poverty, a growing international demand for timber and non-timber forest products (NTFP), and climate change.

Moreover, at the local level, decision-making power on management of forests and forest products, and the sharing of related costs and benefits are often inequitably distributed across groups, marginalizing people based on gender, caste, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors of social differentiation.

A new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, offers field-tested strategies and good practices on how to pursue the multiple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and livelihoods improvement through the sustainable use and management of non-timber forest products.

To address some of these challenges, many countries have adopted community-based or joint forest management approaches. It is increasingly recognized that gender equity and social inclusion are key components of effective and efficient forest management approaches, as well as a goal. Yet, they are also a complex challenge with deep-seated causes and effects, including poor governance, corruption, and lack of tangible and equally distributed benefits, all of which hinder sound forest management.

In their new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, Bioversity International scientists Riina Jalonen, Hugo Lamers, and Marlène Elias draw from their experience in two Indian districts – Mandla, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Uttara Kannada, in the state of Karnataka – to provide guidance on how to pursue the triple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and improved livelihoods through the sustainable use and management of NTFPs.

NTFPs are of foremost importance for rural communities living in or near forests. For example, the flower of the mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia), which is used to make a local alcohol or as an alternative to coffee in the Mandla district, or the rind of the kokum fruit (Garcinia gummi-guta) found in Uttara Kannada district, which is valued for its weight loss properties in the international pharmaceutical industry, bring important income to local households. Other NTFPs, like mangoes in the Uttara Kannada district, also play an integral role for home consumption and are important for the local food culture.

Read more: Bioversity International’s research on the sustainable use of forest diversity

A woman uses a stick to harvest an NTFP in Karnataka, India. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

The set of six good practice guidelines address some of these issues through a focus on:

  1. Promoting collective sales of NTFPs
  2. Fostering gender equity and inclusion in joint forest management
  3. Achieving income generation and forest regeneration through the collection of ripe fruit
  4. Avoiding tree damage as a result of the collection of NTFPs
  5. Effective monitoring of forests to improve management
  6. Restoring degraded forest landscapes through planting of valuable trees.

For example, the guideline on gender equity and social inclusion in joint forest management (JFM) details how women’s participation can improve the efficiency of JFM and lead to more gender-equal outcomes. Yet, women face time, mobility, and information constraints, as well as norms that discriminate against them in public decision-making spaces. These have to be addressed to allow them to participate meaningfully in JFM, and to make their voices heard in decision-making.

Additional constraints can be found at the intersection of gender, age, and ethnicity or caste. In the study districts, participating in JFM meetings is considered a “man’s role”, and women often feel out of place there. They are not encouraged to express their opinions, despite the fact that they have a rich knowledge of the forest. This is especially the case for women from marginalized castes or tribes, who are most dependent on, and knowledgeable about, the forest, but also most discriminated against.

The guidelines propose strategies to promote women’s participation in JFM, such as scheduling meetings at times and in places convenient for women, creating women-only spaces where women can speak their minds freely to then have their opinions brought to the JFM table, improving the flows of information towards local women.

The practical strategies proposed in the guidelines can be used by facilitators working with communities to improve their livelihoods through the sustainable and equitable use and management of NTFPs. Practitioners can use the guidelines to design and conduct community meetings that can help participants identify practices that are fitting for their context. Questions are presented in the guidelines as the basis for group discussions, which can foster participants to find and implement collective solutions to improve the state of their forests and their livelihoods.

Read also: Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management

By Giulia Micheletti and Marlène Elias, originally published by Bioversity International

For more information, contact [email protected]


The Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-Timber Forest Product Management were developed as part of the project ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation (IEMaC)’, supported by USAID India Mission, and are part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management

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How can we improve local livelihoods while maintaining forest biodiversity and strengthening sustainable forest management in a socially inclusive and just manner? These guidelines present practical strategies and field examples for the inclusive and sustainable extraction, sale and management of forest products, particularly NTFPs. They build upon the framework of the Community Biodiversity Management approach in which three outcomes are sought; (1) community empowerment and social equity, (2) biodiversity conservation and (3) livelihood development (Sthapit et al. 2016). The guidelines draw upon data from the project: ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation’ carried out between 2014 and 2017 in districts of two Indian states: Mandla District in Madhya Pradesh and Uttara Kannada District in Karnataka.

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  • Fostering the social forestry program: Inclusive business models (IBMs) in community-based wood and NTFP-based production

Fostering the social forestry program: Inclusive business models (IBMs) in community-based wood and NTFP-based production

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  • New children's book teaches the sustainable traditions of West Timorese honey hunters

New children’s book teaches the sustainable traditions of West Timorese honey hunters

Isak Fobia, leader of the Olin-Fobia community, is responsible for guiding the honey harvesting ceremony. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR
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Isak Fobia, leader of the Olin-Fobia community, is responsible for guiding the honey harvesting ceremony. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

As part of the Kanoppi research project, a new book about honey harvesting in West Timor, Indonesia, aims in part to contribute to policy recommendations that increase the comparative advantages of small-scale forestry management practices. 

Kanoppi is a combined effort between the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Scientist Ani Adiwinata Nawir initially traveled to West Timor to study the forests of Mutis-Timau, curious to see how communities used forests to help their livelihoods while keeping their beautiful landscape in tact. During her stay, she became fascinated with the Olin-Fobia community and their annual tradition of harvesting wild honey from the nearby Mount Mutis Nature Reserve.

She found that their tradition was not only sweet, but also an excellent example of community-based landscape management. Developed into a fair-trade product with help of the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia, the harvested “Mt. Mutis” honey had become commercially successful around Indonesia, bringing income to the community without involving the felling of trees.

But the story doesn’t end there. After speaking with colleagues from CIFOR, an idea emerged: to create a children’s book that tells the tale of the honey hunters.

Watch: Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters (video)

“We observed a knowledge gap between older and younger generations,” says Ani. “Local wisdom and traditions aren’t always being passed on. We thought a book would help keep these traditions alive and motivate young people to learn more about forest conservation.”

She contacted Indonesian children’s book author Johanna Ernawati, who has long been interested in the traditions and origins of Indonesians living in remote parts of the archipelago, like Papua and Timor. She agreed to write the book, Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters, which was recently published in English and Indonesian.

Read more: Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters (book)

“This was a great opportunity for me to help educate Indonesians about their origin, their ancestry and the uniqueness of Indonesian forest culture,” says Ernawati.

The author used scientific research to inform her writing and also travelled to West Timor to visit the Olin-Fobia community and gather more information – and inspiration.

“The community is fascinating. They are truly sons and daughters of nature. They care about Mother Earth, about animals, the forest and family,” she says. “They know the forest is the source of life for their community, providing water, medicine, and prosperity from the sale of honey.”

Their forest knowledge, she learned, is based on legends and folk tales of the Mutis forest that have been passed down from generation to generation. Children are taught at an early age about the forests’ importance and why they need to preserve it.

The book is now being distributed to schools and government agencies tasked with educating children about the environment, in hopes for more children to understand the same.

A single tree can host more than 100 hives. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

TURNING THE PAGE

Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters tells the tale of brother-and-sister twins from Bonleu Village in the Mutis Valley. On their twelfth birthday, the twins’ father gives them a special gift: they’re allowed to join the village adults and go honey hunting in the forest.

Bapak Tobe, the village elder, leads a traditional Naketi ceremony for everyone to ask forgiveness of one another, as honey hunters must be pure of heart. The twins then venture into the forest and experience the ancient tradition of honey harvesting.

Readers experience this adventure through colorful images and playful text, which draw upon the research of Ani and fellow experts to teach about the Olin-Fobia culture and landscape.

“We included facts about their traditional houses, flora and fauna, the history of the local people and also how honey is made,” says Budhy Kristanty, a CIFOR communications officer who helped develop the project. “It’s a creative way to educate children.”

The team hopes that the book will be translated into Spanish and French, and a short animated video of the book, shown above, has also been produced.

“We hope other organizations will be inspired by the book to do similar projects,” says Ani. “In Indonesia, we need more efforts to educate younger generations, since they will be the ones to preserve the remaining forests.”

Ani says she and her team have received a significant number of requests from various institutions for the book – as well as good feedback from its audience.

“Our kids usually enjoy playtime the most, but today I started playing the animated video, and they all stopped playing and gathered around to watch,” says a teacher from Madania School in the West Java city of Bogor.

“Then the children all sat down, and I read the book to them. They were all so excited and wanted to hear it again and again.”

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Ani Adiwinata Nawir at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by USAID and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

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In the Mount Mutis valley in West Timor, Indonesia, there lives a people with a tradition of hunting. They do not hunt deer or wild boar, but honey. As a non-timber forest product, Mount Mutis honey provides supplementary income for its harvesters’ livelihoods. And because honey production relies on a healthy forest environment, there is an extra economic incentive to ensure protection of the ecosystem it depends on.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon

NTFP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon

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Understanding the factors that underlie the production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), as well as regularly monitoring production levels, are key to allow sustainability assessments of NTFP extractive economies. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) seed harvesting from natural forests is one of the cornerstone NTFP economies in Amazonia. In the Peruvian Amazon it is organized in a concession system. Drawing on seed production estimates of >135,000 individual Brazil nut trees from >400 concessionsand ethno-ecological interviews with >80 concession holders, here we aimed to (i) assess the accuracy of seed production estimates by Brazil nut seed harvesters, and (ii) validate their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about the variables that influence Brazil nut production.

We compared productivity estimates with actual field measurements carried out in the study area and found a positive correlation between them. Furthermore, we compared the relationships between seed production and a number of phenotypic, phytosanitary and environmental variables described in literature with those obtained for the seed production estimates and found high consistency between them, justifying the use of the dataset for validating TEK and innovative hypothesis testing. As expected, nearly all TEK on Brazil nut productivity was corroborated by our data. This is reassuring as Brazil nut concession holders, and NTFP harvesters at large, rely on their knowledge to guide the management of the trees upon which their extractive economies are based. Our findings suggest that productivity estimates of Brazil nut trees and possibly other NTFP-producing species could replace or complement actual measurements, which are very expensive and labour intensive, at least in areas where harvesters have a tradition of collecting NTFPs from the same trees over multiple years or decades. Productivity estimates might even be sourced from harvesters through registers on an annual basis, thus allowing a more cost-efficient and robust monitoring of productivity levels.

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  • Huge potential for non-timber forest products in Vietnam

Huge potential for non-timber forest products in Vietnam

Loading bamboo onto a truck in Bach Ma National Park, Viet Nam. Photo: Luke Preece/CIFOR
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Loading bamboo onto a truck in Bach Ma National Park, Viet Nam. Photo: Luke Preece/CIFOR
Loading bamboo onto a truck in Bach Ma National Park, Viet Nam. Photo: Luke Preece/CIFOR

Products from forests in Viet Nam aren’t well developed. Nor has their potential to help fight climate change been fully realized. Now researchers and government are working together to change this.

The high value of non-timber forest products is no secret to Viet Nam. For millions of people who live in mountain communities, especially members of the many ethnic minorities, these products—such as grasses and leaves that are fed to livestock, wood for cooking and fruit, flowers, bark and leaves for food and medicines—are deeply woven into village life. They fuel much of a village’s economy, forming the raw material of household items, crafts, fine art, food, pharmaceuticals and jewellery, simultaneously generating jobs, increasing incomes and improving living standards.

These products are valuable for the country as a whole, with a total export value in 2015 of over USD 500,000 not to mention domestic sales. Plus, the forests from which they come sequester harmful greenhouse-gas emissions.

To take full advantage of this important resource, the national government created a Forest Development Strategy 2006–2020, in part dedicated to the preservation and development of non-timber forest products. So far, the strategy has seen returns: more jobs have been created, the livelihoods of ethnic minorities have steadily improved, and there have been notable increases in production.

Participants at the Forum. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Ivanna Patton
Participants at the Forum. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Ivanna Patton

However, despite such progress, development of the sector has overlooked the potential for both mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change and for more rapidly reducing poverty. The implications of this are significant. Forests and their products could provide much greater contributions to environmental and social goals, especially, those needed to achieve national targets for development and international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement and Marrakech Declaration.

This poses the question: What, exactly, is causing critical resources like non-timber forest products to be so under-used in Viet Nam and what can be done to unlock their full potential?

To find answers, the Deputy Director-General of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, Nguyen Van Ha, chaired a forum co-organized with the Viet Nam office of ICRAF The World Agroforestry Centre, the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences and the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change.

The Forum on Conservation and Development of Non-timber Forest Products for Poverty Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change, held on 10 November 2016 in Hanoi, brought together leading forestry researchers and delegates from universities and other research and development bodies to assess the potential for conserving forests and developing their products, including their role in household livelihoods, reducing poverty and developing rural communities in the face of climate change.

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Particular attention was devoted to identifying the barriers to improvement and finding solutions. The forum began with several expert reports.

‘The quantity of non-timber forest products has decreased. And many of them are over-exploited and at risk of extinction’, warned Phan Van Thang of the Non-timber Forest Product Research Center. ‘This is a result of small-scale production, shortcomings in quality control and assurance, unstable markets and a lack of deep study’.

Nguyen Tien Hai of ICRAF explained further that, ‘Local households’ exploitation of non-timber forest products dominates the market’, adding that improving rights of use, government regulations and the management of forests have had a negligible effect on curbing unsustainable collection of non-timber forest products.

Yet while many products were over-exploited, others were found to be under-used. According to research carried out by Nguyen Duc To Luu of PanNature, cardamom, for example, had achieved only a fraction of its potential, primarily because of a lack of reliable markets and suitable products.

Shortcomings in policies and their implementation were highlighted by Nguyen Van Son of the Department of Forest Development as another barrier. He explained that programs were under-funded, poorly assessed and produced only low quantities.

Femy Pinto from the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program, an Asia-wide NGO devoted to the study and development of the sector, described their experience with product management, emphasising that for development to be successful, communities themselves needed to be involved from the beginning, their use rights formally recognised and economic and social incentives provided.

In the following panel discussion, Dr. Vo Dai Hai of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry explained how studies have been sporadic, guided by the objectives of the time and usually driven by value chain and policy imperatives. To gather more insightful and useful knowledge, systematic research needed to be done.

Phan Van Thang of the Non-timber Forest Product Research Center added that it was important for the findings of any such research to be shared, especially between provinces.

A chief concern was the lack of comprehensive assessment, which could not only help in recognizing achievements but also in improving unrealistic regulations and, as Nguyen Van Ha  commented, financial inefficiencies. This was a critical point because, with the exception of the Government of the Netherlands, the amount of assistance from the international community had declined in recent years. Nguyen Quoc Dung of the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute urged for more international cooperation and a bigger share of the national budget for connecting Viet Nam to regional networks.

A major practical outcome of the Forum, said the Chair, will be the inclusion of many of these points in the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry’s review of its policies on non-timber forest products, helping to reshape the structure of Viet Nam’s forestry sector, improve rural development and fully realise the sector’s potential.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

ICRAF extends special thanks to all participants and supporters, particularly, the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, the Viet Nam Academy of Forest Sciences, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry.  The latter body leads the ASEAN-Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change project, which has been providing technical support to Viet Nam and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Working Group (formerly known as the ASEAN Social Forestry Network) was established by ASEAN senior officials of forestry in 2005, linking policy-makers directly with civil society, research organizations, academe, the private sector and others who share a vision of building social forestry in the region.


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