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Research Report

Forest Products, Livelihoods and Conservation: Case Studies of Non-Timber Forest Product Systems

Miguel N. Alexiades
Patricia Shanley
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Pages: 490
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. xiii-xiv)
    J.E. Michael Arnold

    Products other than timber and other industrial roundwood have always constituted a large part of the forest economy in developing countries. Individual products provide inputs and income directly to huge numbers of rural and urban households. In many countries the aggregate of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) contributes as much, if not more, to national product as industrial roundwood. However, their designation as ‘minor’ forest products reflects their relative neglect until quite recently. Produced and consumed largely outside the monetary economy, they attracted only limited attention and even less in the way of measurement and research.

    The recent increase in interest...

  2. (pp. 1-22)
    Miguel N. Alexiades and Patricia Shanley

    One of the most intriguing and challenging aspects of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is their complexity and multidimensionality. Forest products are not only natural resources used to meet subsistence needs, or mere economic resources traded among different kinds of social actors. Forest resources are also embedded in the political, institutional, and cultural life of people involved in their collection and consumption. The multidimensionality of NTFPs is evident in the myriad of processes, actors, and factors that shape their management, processing, and commercialisation. The diversified subsistence strategies of producers and the constantly changing interactions among local producers, processors, traders, markets, and...


    • (pp. 23-42)
      Miguel Ángel Martínez, Virginia Evangelista, Myrna Mendoza, Francisco Basurto and Cristina Mapes

      Allspice, Pimenta dioica (L.) Merrill, known in Spanish as pimienta gorda, is a 20 m tall tree that is native to the American tropics. It has dietary, medicinal, and industrial uses. A non-timber forest product, it is currently harvested wild from the forests in the Guatemalan Petén region, but in Mexico it is managed within agro-ecosystems. We conducted a case study of allspice producers in a municipality in Puebla, the second most important allspice-producing state in Mexico. In this area, allspice grows in coffee plantations and, to a lesser extent, in maize fields and paddocks. The number of trees in...

    • (pp. 43-62)
      Yolanda Nava-Cruz and Martín Ricker

      Pouteria sapota (Jacq.) H.E. Moore & Stearn (Sapotaceae), commonly known as ‘sapote mamey’ or simply as ‘mamey’, is native to tropical Meso-America, ranging from southern Mexico to Nicaragua. Its fruits are harvested from adult trees, growing in humid rain forest, family gardens, forest fragments, or occasional remnant trees in pasture or fallow land. Fruits are sold throughout central and southern Mexico, including the supermarkets of Mexico City. This species is also grown in Guatemala, South America, Cuba, USA (Florida), the Philippines, and Indonesia. Currently, the Mexican fruits are not exported. In this chapter, we analyse mamey production in an area of...

    • (pp. 63-82)
      Carlos Cornejo Arana

      The chapter analyses the current status of peccary hunting in the Nanay river basin, Peruvian Amazon. It discusses the major factors that influence peccary hunting and trade, and the impact of the practice on the region’s economy and environment. Where appropriate, the analysis is extended to the rest of the Peruvian Amazon. The chapter briefly describes the socioeconomic profile of the Nanay river basin, and the history and characteristics of the peccary trade, including peccary ecology, the different stages and aspects of the peccary production chain, its actors, the hunting methods used, production costs involved, and the commercialisation of meat...

    • (pp. 83-110)
      Dietmar Stoian

      Extractivism has played a dominant role in the economy of the northern Bolivian Amazon for the last two hundred years. For more more than a century, and until its collapse in the early 1990s, rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) formed the pillar of this extractive economy. Following the demise of the rubber industry, Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) collection, which had begun in the 1920s, emerged as the main commodity in the regional economy. Annual export values have fluctuated around US$ 30 million since the mid 1990s, due to an increase in production and the value added through shelling in the expanded processing...

    • (pp. 111-134)
      Dietmar Stoian

      Most of the palm hearts traded in the international market originate from South America. Although plantation production of this luxury food item has been growing since the 1990s, significant volumes are still being extracted from wild populations. Euterpe precatoria, locally called asaí, is one of the three most important palm species harvested for this non-timber forest product (NTFP). However, the single-stemmed nature of the palm implies its death upon extracting the palm heart. Within a decade, the northern Bolivian Amazon experienced an exponential increase in its exploitation, which was followed by a sharp decline. In 1997, at the height of...

    • (pp. 135-156)
      Alfredo Celso Fantini, Raymond Paul Guries and Ronaldo José Ribeiro

      Palm heart (Euterpe edulis) is one of the main non-timber products of the Brazilian Atlantic forest. The abundance of the species and the high demand and prices commanded by the product as well as its simple processing has encouraged farmers and the palm heart industry to exploit intensively the natural stock of the species since the beginning of the 1960s. However, the felling of all individuals with a potential to produce palm heart, including the reproductive plants, caused a rapid decline of its natural populations. The uncontrolled exploitation also promoted a clandestine market for palm heart, disregarding the legislation specifically...

    • (pp. 157-174)
      Claudio Urbano B. Pinheiro

      The babassu palm (Orbignya phalerata Martius; Palmae) grows in parts of Bolivia and on 18.4 million hectares in the Brazilian states of Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Goiás, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, and Pará. In Maranhão, babassu occupies 10.3 millions of hectares. Chosen for this case study, Cocais is the most important of the seven ecological regions of the state of Maranhão from a socio-economic point of view. The name Cocais is derived from the presence of babassu as the predominant species of vegetation in the region, with intense growth (2.9 million hectares) and exploitation. The region, a microregion of Médio Mearim, was...

    • (pp. 175-194)
      Charles R. Clement and Johannes van Leeuwen

      Pupunha (Bactris gasipaes Kunth, Palmae) was domesticated for its starchy fruit in south-west Amazonia and spread throughout the lowland humid neotropics as a subsistence staple before European conquest. Today it is underutilized in Amazonia, although research and development efforts attempt to restore its importance, with occasional success. A settlement in Manacapuru, Amazonas, Brazil, exemplifies the fruit’s production-to-consumption system. Seventy percent of families with home gardens grow pupunha, as do 40% of families with agroforestry plots, but with 1–18 clumps (mean 4.9, each with 2.9 stems) in gardens and 20–50 clumps (mean 36, with 1.2 stems) in plots, it is not...

    • (pp. 195-210)
      Gabriel Medina and Socorro Ferreira

      This article portrays the experience of two communities of family farmers in the microregion of Bragantina in north-eastern Pará, Brazil, on handling and sales of the fruit species bacuri (Platonia insignis Mart. Clusiaceae). In these communities, the bacuri is part of the cycle of itinerant cultivation of annual crops and performs a fundamental role in regenerating the vegetation of areas left fallow. In order to allow a few bacuri plants to produce fruit, farmers set aside ‘islands’ of capoeira (secondary vegetation in cleared lands) and handle them in a way that promotes this growth. The bacuri is traditionally used in...

    • (pp. 211-232)
      Patricia Shanley and Gloria Gaia

      In isolated forest communities and urban cities of Amazonia, the nutritious pulp of Endopleura uchi (Cuatrec.) [Humiracea] is eaten raw, in juices and ice creams. Rural families maintain that consumption of uxi, which is nutritious in vitamins, minerals, and oils, keeps sickness at bay during the four-month fruiting season. In addition to providing food for people, uxi supports a wide variety of wildlife. A native forest tree occurring in low densities in unmanaged forests, E. uchi has been described as an economically unviable species nonconducive to domestication or management. As sources of fruit from mature, unmanaged forests have declined in...


    • (pp. 233-246)
      Ynocente Betancourt Figueras, Juan Francisco Pastor Bustamante, Maria Josefa Vilalba Fonte and Saray Nuñez Gonzalez

      Humans have used pine resin since long before modern times. The geographic distribution of the pine tree, present at all latitudes, has allowed resin extraction to become relatively well-established in the economic sector, and resin is one of the most important non-timber forest products (NTFP). The People’s Republic of China, Germany, India, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and the United States reached their maximum production levels in the second half of the last century. Other countries like Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, and Vietnam have developed this resource while obtaining less significant yields. The various uses of resin and its derivatives (colophony...

    • (pp. 247-262)
      Rafael A. Ocampo Sánchez

      Ipecac, a native herb, is the only medicinal plant cultivated within the humid tropical forests of Costa Rica. Currently cultivated in the Huetar Norte region bordering Nicaragua, the dried ipecac root has been marketed in Costa Rica as raw material for the international pharmaceutical industry since the early twentieth century. Ipecac root is exported as raw material without aggregate value, together with coffee and banana, Costa Rica’s two principal export crops. The structure of the ipecac root trade is little developed, with only two major and two minor exporting companies buying directly from the producers. In the 1990s, ipecac root...

    • (pp. 263-280)
      Mario Pinedo Panduro and Wil de Jong

      The fruits of camu-camu [Myrciaria dubia (HBK) McVaugh] contain high levels of vitamin C, an attribute that has attracted considerable interest in their use as a natural source of the vitamin. International demand has been growing since 1995. Natural populations of this fruit tree are found on the banks and shores of black-water rivers and lakes of the Amazon Basin. This species regenerates easily, producing numerous fruits, and is easy to access. The flooding of river banks and shores favours plant nutrition and controls pests, diseases, and weeds. Our study focussed on the middle catchment of the Putumayo River, in...

    • (pp. 281-298)
      Walter Nalvarte Armas and Wil de Jong

      Cat’s claw is the common name of two species of Uncaria used traditionally in several South American countries. These vines have generated interest in the pharmacological world since the 1960s, when analyses verified that they have important and promising active components. In 1995 a boom in cat’s claw sales took place, when it was exported from Peru to more than 30 countries. This boom was followed by a drastic reduction in exports in later years. Even so, cat’s claw still holds significant interest for the pharmaceutical sector, which continues to develop new products for national and international markets. Peruvian state...

    • (pp. 299-312)
      Walter Steenbock

      Carqueja (Baccharis trimera Lers), a shrub widely used for its therapeutic properties, occurs naturally in various regions of Brazil. In recent years the demand for the species in the national market has grown rapidly, putting the conservation of its natural populations at risk. In the central region of Paraná, the Medicinal Forests Project (Projeto Florestas Medicinais), coordinated by the Rureco Foundation² (Fundação Rureco), aims, among other objectives, at promoting the production of native medicinal species by family farmers, coupled with in situ conservation. In 2000, 87 small scale farm families in 17 communities in the central region of Paraná were...

    • (pp. 313-330)
      Marianne Christina Scheffer

      Espinheira-santa (Maytenus ilicifolia Mart. ex Reiss-Celastraceae) is a small tree that occurs in mixed araucaria forests. Its leaves have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes by the indigenous and nonindigenous peoples of southern Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. To date, the consumption of its leaves has expanded throughout all of Brazil as well as abroad. The confirmation of its antigastritis and antiulcer effects has resulted in an increase in its extraction, subjecting the species to genetic erosion and to the risk of disappearing from certain areas. It is estimated that 95% of the espinheira-santa consumed is still obtained by...

    • (pp. 331-344)
      Cirino Corrêa Júnior and Lin Chau Ming

      Fáfia (Pfaffia glomerata (Spreng.) Pedersen - Amaranthaceae) has been utilised for centuries by native Brazilians for the cure and prevention of diseases, but had its medicinal properties scientifically confirmed only after research was conducted in Japan. Popularly known as Brazilian ginseng, batata-do-mato, corango, corrente, sempre-viva, and paratudo, Pfaffia is one of many genera that occur naturally in the riparian vegetation of the upper Paraná River, a region dominated by seasonal semideciduous forest, which occurs in tropical and subtropical climates with annual rainfall between 1,200 mm and 1,500 mm. Fáfia contains ecdysteroids, which are employed in cosmetic formulas. Fáfia is manually...


    • (pp. 345-364)
      Javier Caballero, María Teresa Pulido and Andrea Martínez-Ballesté

      Guano palm leaf (Sabal spp.) has been the principal roofing material for the Mayan Yucatecs. The use of Sabal palm, particularly S. yapa, in recent decades for the roofing of tourist installations on the Caribbean coast has created a potential market for this forest product. Ecological studies in the Xmaben Ejido, State of Quintana Roo, indicate that the resource is abundant and that the harvest is sustainable and compatible with the conservation of both species and forest. Even so, harvesting guano palm leaf has not significantly affected local socio-economic development. Recently, the small farmers involved decided not to sell any...

    • (pp. 365-390)
      Citlalli López

      The indigenous handmade paper amate has been manufactured in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times and is being distributed as handicraft since the end of the 1960s. Otomi artisans living in the mountainous Sierra Norte de Puebla manufacture amate, while numerous traders commercialise it nationally and internationally. Right from the early days of commercialisation, a persistent market demand has driven distinct changes from the constant diversification of paper types and trading options, to involvement of new and more social actors engaged in bark harvest and paper manufacture, decoration, and trading, to the constant adaptation to new forms of work organisation.

      As market...

    • (pp. 391-412)
      Silvia E. Purata, Michael Chibnik, Berry J. Brosi and Ana María Lopez

      We present the case study of copalillo (Bursera spp.) wood extraction, used to make carvings known as alebrijes, in the Valles Centrales region of Oaxaca, México. These woodcarvings are a relatively new tradition, having been produced only since the late 1960s, but have been important in the international craft market since the mid-1980s. Because of strong demand for wood and of poor forest management, copalillo trees have become commercially extinct around the principal woodcarving villages, and wood vendors are extracting from an increasingly larger area to supply those villages with primary materials. In this chapter, we describe the history of...

    • (pp. 413-436)
      Paul Hersch Martínez, Robert Glass and Andrés Fierro Alvarez

      We present an overview of linaloe, Bursera aloexylon, an aromatic species of traditional use in Mexico. This Bursera, from lowland deciduous forests, constitutes a non-timber forest product, the principal applications of which are use of its wood for handicrafts and its distilled essential oil for use in perfumery, also obtained from its wood or fruits. The study area lies in the watershed of the Upper Balsas River and its surroundings in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Through literature reviews, field studies, and experiments that included interviews and meetings with collectors and processors, we examined the historical, cultural, socio-economic, botanical, ecological,...

    • (pp. 437-454)
      Rocio Alarcon Gallegos and Maria Florinda Burbano

      Paja toquilla (Carludovica palmata R&P) plays an important role in the local economy of various ethnic groups of the tropical forests of Ecuador, where it is used for building, for making local crafts, and for medicinal purposes. This study refers specifically to its use in making Panama hats using fibres from young leaves, an activity dating from pre-Columbian times. The international demand for Panama hats started during the colonial period, increased during the 17th century, and reached a peak in the 18th century. Since then global demand has decreased, and although there have been occasional increases, the market has never...

    • (pp. 455-473)
      Mariana Ciavatta Pantoja

      This article intends to analyse some characteristics and peculiarities of the production system of ‘vegetal leather’, a non-timber forest product inspired by a local handcraft (‘saco encauchado’, or rubber bag), which appeared on the market in Brazil in the 1990s. Cotton fabric bathed in latex collected from Hevea brasiliensis, smoked and vulcanised, gains an appearance similar to animal leather. Vegetal leather is an initiative of the Brazilian company Couro Vegetal da Amazônia S.A. (CVA), which established a commercial partnership with associations of indigenous people and seringueiros (rubber tappers) located in the Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas. CVA and other...