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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

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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
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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


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

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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  • Huge potential for non-timber forest products in Vietnam

Huge potential for non-timber forest products in Vietnam

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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.

Click to read

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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  • Why the trade of Prunus africana is unsustainable, and how to change it

Why the trade of Prunus africana is unsustainable, and how to change it

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Cutting prunus africana bark. Photo: Verina Ingram/CIFOR
Cutting prunus africana bark. Photo: Verina Ingram/CIFOR

Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

We’ve seen it happen before with the trade of crocodiles, snakeskins and orchids — and now, scientists are calling for a shift from the wild harvest to the cultivation of Prunus africana bark.

Prized for its ability to treat swelling of the prostate, P. africana — widely known as the African Cherry — is internationally traded more than any other African medicinal plant species.

Yet for decades, wild harvests have been unsustainable and of little tangible benefit to local livelihoods, according to Terry Sunderland, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“The fact is, this trade in wild bark is fundamentally unsustainable,” said Sunderland, co-author of a new study looking at the wild bark trade of P. africana.

“We’re trying to get the companies to recognize that and to insist on alternative sources of supply, particularly from cultivated sources.”

Bankable Bark

The harvest of P. africana, which is found in the montane forests of Africa, shifted from subsistence use to large-scale international trade at the start of the 1970s. These montane forests themselves are going to be greatly affected by future climate change scenarios, putting further pressure on the species.

Its bark is usually exported dried, chipped or powdered to Europe and the United States to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH)- a swelling of the prostate gland that affects many middle-aged men around the world.

Over-the-counter retail value of the trade in P. africana herbal remedies was estimated at US$220 million per annum.

But its trade has been far from sustainable. Growing concern with the state of wild stocks led to P. africana being listed in Appendix-II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1995. In 2007, concerns about its unsustainable wild harvest led to an import ban by the European Union (EU).
Click here to watch video
Click here to watch video

The ban was lifted in 2011 due to pressure from pharmaceutical companies and the Cameroonian government. A quota system for the major producing regions was introduced in its place.

Now, with recent CITES export restrictions on P. africana exports from Burundi, Kenya and Madagascar, Cameroon has become the biggest global supplier by far, followed by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, wild stocks are still vulnerable, according to the CIFOR research, and Cameroon’s Prunus africana Management Plan is not quite the sustainable model it’s made out to be.

“Much of the management plan that was created in 2007 and 2008 was based on incomplete data — both environmental and livelihood.”

This has led to some notable gaps between rhetoric and reality, according to the study.

For example, the idea that wild harvests are important to local livelihoods “just doesn’t cut it”, said Tony Cunningham, the lead author of the study.

Fieldwork by the study’s authors found the 48 active harvesters working in the Mount Cameroon National Park received less than $1 a day due to a net bark price of $0.33 per kg. However, the 2012 bark quota from Cameroon was worth $3.9 million at $6 per kg. The bulk of this went to a single company.

Furthermore, the study found that P. africana bark directly benefits only 0.0004 percent of the population around Mt. Cameroon.

There are similar gaps between rhetoric and reality when it comes to sustainability, the study found. The current norm of five-year rotation times after the first wild bark harvests has been found to be too short. What are needed are rotation times of at least seven to eight years.

And “correct” bark stripping — only two-quarter panels from a tree measuring more than 30 cm in diameter — has been found to critically damage trees in the longer term.

Compliancy through cultivation

Sunderland and his colleagues are calling for a “reality check” — and say what is required to sustainably supply the current and future market for P. africana bark is a move towards cultivation.

“There are very few environmental benefits and very few livelihood benefits from wild harvests,” Cunningham said. “If you switch it and harvest from cultivators, who have secure land and resource tenure and can contribute to carbon storage, then you will have a much better outcome for both the environment and for livelihoods.”

Shifting from wild harvests to cultivation won’t be easy, however. Research that shows the wild harvest ofP. africana as unsustainable has been largely ignored for decades, according to Sunderland.

“It’s an easy species to hijack,” Sunderland said. “There is such a strong advocacy movement out there in terms of business. The industry itself wants wild harvests to continue because it means lower costs for them and maximum profits.”

Sunderland said the EU needs to be prepared to make some hard decisions.

“They could stop potentially unsustainable wild sources of Prunus from being imported into the EU if it came to it.”

He added that CITES could also control the global trade through quotas and proper inventories from source countries to producer countries.

Ultimately, however, developing a separate, traceable supply chain based on cultivated stocks is what is required to ensure sustainable harvest, the study concludes. What’s more, the species propagates readily and is relatively fast growing – perfect for mixed agroforestry systems.

“We need to start investing in the people that have farmed Prunus for 20 or 30 years and start buying material from them,” Sunderland said.

“And set up a traceability system that the government is willing and able to monitor. A traceability system that is CITES-compliant.”

“This is a timely reminder,” Cunningham added. “Virtually all commercially harvested bark products we are familiar with in large-scale global trade – whether cinnamon, cassia, quinine or wattle bark (for tanning leather) – are now sourced from cultivated stocks.

Prunus africana is one of the only two exceptions that still come from the wild, along with Quillaja saponaria. It would be far better to shift supply chains to cultivated Prunus stocks to benefit small-scale farmers and the environment.”

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  • Improving timber and non-timber products in Indonesia

Improving timber and non-timber products in Indonesia

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Cotton threads naturally dyed using indigo, turmeric and ‘mengkudu’ (Morinda citrifelia). Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Aulia Perdana
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By Rob Finlayson, originally posted at Agroforestry World Blog

Cotton threads naturally dyed using indigo, turmeric and ‘mengkudu’ (Morinda citrifelia). Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Aulia Perdana
Cotton threads naturally dyed using indigo, turmeric and ‘mengkudu’ (Morinda citrifelia). Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Aulia Perdana

Understanding how to manage timber and non-timber forest products is particularly important for poorer households in Indonesia. Action research to improve farmers’ understanding is underway.

Combining tree planting with management of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) has been an important part of many Indonesian farmers livelihoods’ strategies for a long time, with each element playing a different role.

Such integration, however, faces significant impediments in the poorer, more arid provinces of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT/Eastern Southeastern Indonesia) and Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB/Western Southeastern Indonesia), where annual farm households’ average cash incomes are as low as IDR 1.26 million (± USD 90 at October 2015 rates), according to the Indonesian Bureau of Statistics in 2005. NTT and NTB have among the lowest socioeconomic levels compared to other provinces in Indonesia. In 2010, the two provinces ranked at 32 and 31 (from a total of 33 provinces) in the Human Development Index.

A project to help farmers overcome the impediments, called Development of Timber and NTFP Production and Market Strategies for Improvement of Smallholders’ Livelihoods in Indonesia, is being led by the World Agroforestry Centre in partnership with the Center for International Forestry Research; Forestry Research and Development Agency of the Ministry of Forestry; University of Western Australia; World Wildlife Fund Indonesia Nusa Tenggara Programme; Universitas Mataram; Threads of Life; and the Pokja Hutan Rakyat Lestari (Farm Forest Consortium); supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

The project, which began in 2013 and will end in 2016, is focusing on Central Java as well as NTB and NTT because of the historical forest-sector links that remain active between the three provinces, including value chains, making research results widely applicable across the sites.

William Ingram (centre) from Threads of Life, Ubud, Bali discussing indigo dyeing with an artisan at Bosen Village, Timor Tengah Selatan, NTT. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/James M. Roshetko
William Ingram (centre) from Threads of Life, Ubud, Bali discussing indigo dyeing with an artisan at Bosen Village, Timor Tengah Selatan, NTT. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/James M. Roshetko

Background studies showed that timber at study sites in Gunungkidul, Central Java contributed up to 12% of total farm household income; timber planting by farmers inside state forests provided substantial annual benefits per household; and a combination of intercropping using highly commercial NTFPs more than doubled the average household income at study sites in NTB. The research partners saw significant opportunities to develop NTFP enterprises and the informal NTFP sector to increase total value and numbers of people employed.

Building on these and other studies supported by ACIAR and partner agencies, it became clear that farmers in the more arid and remote areas of the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago had insufficient understanding of the trade-offs between timber and NTFPs related to the cost of allocating household labour and financial capital. Second, they used no or ineffective silvicultural practices that did not optimise production of timber and NTFPs. Third, there was insufficient understanding of market characteristics for different types of products (both timber and NTFPs) to add value in value chains and what markets required to improve the products’ qualities. Furthermore, there had been conflict over integrated uses and management of timber and NTFPs in the region. And, lastly, there were unfavourable policies governing farm and landscape management that prevented value chains from effectively providing fair profit margins for community producers. Many of these issues were also relevant to farmers in Central Java, particularly, those growing teak.

‘Rumput ketak’. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Gerhard Manurung

The NTFPs in Nusa Tenggara and Central Java that were the most important to farmers included ‘sirih’ (betel leaf; Piper betle), ‘pinang’ (betel nut; Areca catechu), ‘rumput ketak’ (Lygodium circinatum Burm.f. Sw), coconut, honey, bamboo, candlenut, ginger, turmeric, ‘lengkuas’ (galangal; Alpinia galangal), indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), fruit (durian and avocado) and fuel wood.

NTFPs hold significant potential for smallholders because even though current trade volumes are small there is high growth potential for niche markets; the production of NTFPs is more flexible and much less capital intensive than the mainstream crops of coffee, cocoa and citrus; and producers of those mainstream crops in Nusa Tenggara now face stiff competition from other parts of Indonesia and globally.

The project is looking for answers to several questions. First, how can forestry and agroforestry management practices be improved to enhance integrated timber and NTFP management and production? Second, what are suitable strategies for effective integrated marketing of timber and NTFPs for smallholders? Third, what policy factors significantly hinder smallholders’ production and competiveness in timber and NTFPs and how can those factors be addressed? And, lastly, what are the key characteristics of an extension program that can deliver information on best practices for timber and NTFP management, production and value-added marketing?

Many of these questions are being answered in the field at the time of writing. Later stories will provide an insight into their progress.

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  • Policy framework for complementary integrated Management of Timber and Non-timber Forest Products to Enhance Local Livelihoods in Indonesia

Policy framework for complementary integrated Management of Timber and Non-timber Forest Products to Enhance Local Livelihoods in Indonesia

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Development of timber and non-timber forest products’ production and market strategies for improvement of smallholders’ livelihoods in Indonesia.

Source: CIFOR presentations

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  • Forest Ecology and Management, volume 333

Forest Ecology and Management, volume 333

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Featured articles:

  1. Seeing the trees as well as the forest: The importance of managing forest genetic resources
  2. The management of tree genetic resources and the livelihoods of rural communities in the tropics: Non-timber forest products, smallholder agroforestry practices and tree commodity crops.
  3. Utilization and transfer of forest genetic resources: A global review.
  4. Global to local genetic diversity indicators of evolutionary potential in tree species within and outside forests.
  5. Genetic effects of forest management practices: Global synthesis and perspectives.
  6. Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species.
  7. The role of forest genetic resources in responding to biotic and abiotic factors in the context of anthropogenic climate change.
  8. Innovative approaches to the preservation of forest trees.

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