Multiple Roles of Non-Timber Forest Products in Ecologies, Economies and Livelihoods

Authored by: Charlie M. Shackleton

Routledge Handbook of Forest Ecology

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415735452
eBook ISBN: 9781315818290
Adobe ISBN: 9781317816447


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During the colonial period, forests were valued by governments and conservators or forest officers mostly for their timber and watershed functions. Although millions of forest-dwelling or adjacent people made extensive uses of ‘other’ forest resources, these resources were not recognised by colonial foresters or administrators. Other than a few which became global commodities (such as rubber, Brazil nuts, rattan), the majority, at best, attracted interest only as curiosities by anthropologists and ethnographers of the era. As tropical forest deforestation accelerated in the latter half of the 1900s, a peculiar coalition of interests and processes examined the importance and potential of these other forest resources through new lenses, positing that they offered solutions or alternatives to seemingly disparate concerns of: (i) tropical forest deforestation; (ii) loss of culture and tradition amongst forest peoples; and (iii) underdevelopment and poor welfare in what were often marginalised and remote communities. These positions were crystallised into a strong call for action on the basis of economic analyses showing that the use of such products could rival the income from tropical timber, whilst simultaneously having far better outcomes in conserving forests and sustaining or improving livelihoods (Peters et al. 1989, De Beer and McDermott 1996). The result was a steadily growing understanding of the various roles these resources play, increasingly coherent terminology, and inclusion of these resources in management plans for forests and, in some instances, national or sub-national development policies.

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