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Research Report

Beyond Timber: Certification and Management of Non-Timber Forest Products

Patricia Shanley
Alan Pierce
Sarah Laird
Dawn Robinson
Mauricio Almeida
Jenne de Beer
D. Cole
Peter Cronkleton
Anthony Cunningham
Andre de Freitas
Carmen Garcia Fernandez
Patricia Cota Gomes
Cyril Lombard
Pablo Pacheco
Pierre du Plessis
Philippe Pommez
Silvia E. Purata
Susanne Schmitt
Sheona Shackleton
Mary Stockdale
Loana Johansson
Alexandre Dias Souza
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2008
Pages: 164
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-18)

    Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are critical to rural livelihoods in both temperate and tropical areas. They provide communities with important subsistence resources like medicine, food and shelter, and a source of cash income. NTFPs are also part of large regional and international markets, and for centuries products such as spices, medicinal plants, fragrances and resins have spurred explorations and sustained trade routes across the globe.

    NTFPs are biological resources derived from natural forests, agro-forestry systems and plantations. They include medicinal and edible plants, fruits, nuts, resins, latex, essential oils, fiber, fodder, fungi, fauna and small diameter wood used for crafts¹....

  2. (pp. 19-30)

    Standards in the forestry sector blossomed in the past decade and the concept of certification as a tool to assure consumers that their wood purchases support ecologically sensitive forestry practices is now firmly established (see Pierce and Laird 2003). A range of forest certification schemes with national, regional and global reach are now in place. Table 3 shows the key schemes at a global level.

    While timber harvesting is the dominant concern of all of these systems, some of them have also addressed NTFP harvesting within their procedures and/or standards. Both FSC and PEFC have certificates that include NTFP production...

  3. (pp. 31-46)

    Timber certification is complex and politically charged but development of NTFP standards and certification systems has proven to be even more challenging to implement than timber certification (see Pierce 1999; Shanley et al. 2002). This is due to a range of factors, including:

    the wide array of products encompassed by the term “NTFP”;

    the complexity of chain of custody systems for NTFPs, which often involves a number of middlemen;

    the diverse plant forms and plant parts used (e.g., exudates, vegetative material, reproductive propagules) compared with only trees and stems;

    the wide range of NTFP end uses (e.g., food, personal care...

  4. (pp. 47-64)

    A common challenge in NTFP certification is the difficulty of marrying a system driven by international scientific and bureaucratic norms with rural community practices and cultures. Globally applicable certification standards and procedures are generally conceived in developed countries, albeit usually with input from developing country representatives. However, these approaches may not result in adequate participation of local communities or indigenous peoples in the setting of standards or ensure that affected parties are allowed to take part in certification evaluations. Participation in standards-setting by different interest groups is vital and yet it is frequently difficult for ‘social organizations’ (e.g., Indigenous People...

  5. (pp. 65-84)

    NTFP certification requires a base of knowledge regarding the ecology, socioeconomics and legal aspects of non-timber forest resource use, much of which is undocumented and/or unknown. Therefore, one of the great challenges and opportunities of realizing certification is to document and synthesize what is known. Certification requires a basic understanding of the biology and ecology of the target species. Furthermore, a myriad of complex social and legal issues are present where NTFPs are harvested and used, including tenure, resource access, worker rights and community benefits. The political powerlessness of most NTFP gatherers has marginalized their issues from the scope of...

  6. (pp. 85-92)

    One way of viewing certification is as a means to incorporate the true social and environmental costs of producing goods, thereby internalizing formerly externalized costs. However, the current economic model is ill equipped to measure not only the commercial but the subsistence, social and spiritual value that forest goods and their collection confer to individuals and communities in both rural and urban areas. Green marketing initiatives have been critiqued on the grounds of producing negative social impacts and few benefits for local people, concentrating the benefits in the hands of the marketers, and not addressing the root causes of deforestation...

  7. (pp. 93-100)

    Certification is designed to create incentives for improving forest management systems and allowing producers to access markets and gain premiums for their well-managed products. Through eco-labeling, retailers and consumers can feel sure that products they buy and sell meet standards for ecological sustainability and social responsibility. Increasing numbers of companies are seeking certified sources of raw materials as part of wider efforts to position themselves as socially and environmentally responsible, to secure reliable sources of well-managed raw materials or to enter new markets (Shanley et al. 2002; Freitas 2003a).

    As a market-based tool for social and environmental change, certification is...

  8. (pp. 101-110)

    The legal and institutional framework regulating NTFP use, management and trade in most countries is a complex and confusing mix of measures, overseen by a wide range of (sometimes competing) institutions (e.g., Tomich 1996; Antypas et al. 2002; Wynberg and Laird 2007). This framework includes measures directly targeted at conservation of the resource, improved rural livelihoods or broader economic growth in a region tied to the traded species (Dewees and Scheer 1996). These measures operate in conjunction with others that, indirectly, can have equal or greater impacts on NTFP use, management and trade, including taxation, land and resource rights and...

  9. (pp. 111-112)

    As we have seen, NTFP certification offers many opportunities as well as challenges. For a narrow suite of internationally traded, high-value species, it can offer producers, companies and consumers a tool to sell and purchase products that are sustainable and equitable. The process of developing NTFP certification can also produce a range of spin-off benefits for the environment and rural people. Development of standards requires a consultation process that in many regions has produced dialogue among government, NGOs, researchers and community groups about the nature of equity in trade and what constitutes sustainable and socially responsible business practices and management...

  10. (pp. 113-118)

    Increased collaboration between certification schemes and harmonization of standards or of accreditation systems in order to lower costs for producers and comprehensively address issues of environmental sustainability and equity has been a topic of discussion for many years, specifically referring to the case of NTFPs (e.g., Mallet 1999; Brown et al. 2002; and more recently in the context of ‘fair trade timber,’ Macqueen 2007). It is interesting to note that comparative analyses of standards with a view to facilitating collaboration around NTFP certification (Mallet 1999) were carried out when FSC was less than 5 years old, coming much earlier than...

  11. (pp. 119-122)

    “Certification should be seen as an instrument that can promote forest management and not an end in itself. It is a process.”

    (Osvaldo C. de Oliveira, Director of the Rubber Tappers Union in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, Seminario Certificação Florestal e Movimentos Sociais na Amazônia 2002)

    NTFP certification is a young and developing concept. There exist but a small sample of certified products and incipient initiatives. The few cases surveyed in this compendium reveal that NTFP certification entails a generally lengthy and sometimes painful learning process. Certification — whether for forest management, wild-harvest or organic production — entails a...

  12. (pp. 123-132)

    Key species under high demand by the international market that are becoming vulnerable to exploitation need to be identified for study. Long-term data is needed on post-harvest impact assessments to determine the impact of various extraction practices over time. Species under significant threat (including long-lived species and those of which the bark or root is harvested) should receive priority attention. Some examples of species meriting attention include pau d’arco (Tabebuia spp.), devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe) and marapuama (Ptychopetalum olacoides).

    Local knowledge of traditional management practices is extremely valuable. Participatory research with local communities should focus on the...