Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are very important for people of Central African countries, however they are not adequately taken into account in economic calculation and forest management. The author reviews the current state of knowledge on NTFP, their socio-economic role, their modes of utilisation and related problems, and outlines suggestions to improve their management. There is an extreme diversity of NTFP, in relation to the high biodiversity and complexity of ecosystems in the wet tropical forests of Central Africa, hence the need to treat forest management in a holistic manner instead of considering the sole aspect of timber production. Local people have a deep understanding of NTFP, and their utilisation gives rise to a special social organisation and customary rights of access, often in conflict with formal laws. There are two threats to NTFP: overexploitation, due to their importance in household incomes, and destructive harvesting practices; and timber extraction, in view of the impact of current practices on the ecosystem, and outsiders’ access to the forest. Silvicultural operations (thinnings) should be adapted in order to reduce their negative impact on NTFP. There is a need to take into account the interests of all actors, as well as requirements for ecosystem conservation by: (1) Taking NTFP into account in forest management, which implies better knowledge of the resource. NTFP management will aim at either their protection or improvement of their resources. and (2) Reducing impact of logging, through better localisation of resources and optimisation of forest road network, and low-impact techniques. Indirect impacts in connection with logging (e.g. poaching) should be curbed. Practices of logging companies and local populations should be reconciled in order to avoid conflicts.
Topic: non-timber forest products,local people,silviculture,right of access
Geographic: Central Africa
Series: Serie FORAFRI no. 18
Publication Year: 1999