Non-timber forest products and certification: strange bedfellows

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Interest in non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and forest certification burgeoned in the late 1980s in response, partly, to concern over destruction of tropical rainforests. Eventually the two concepts were merged and proposed as a marketing option for NTFP producers in both temperate and tropical countries. This paper examines the experiences of NTFP certification within the Forest Stewardship Council over the past eight years. We describe some of the impediments that NTFP producers have encountered in obtaining certification, as well as successes. We find that certification and NTFPs are often incompatible. For those cases where NTFP certification is warranted, we offer several suggestions for improving the likelihood of success. The triumph of neoliberalism in international trade and aid circles all but assures continued commercialization of NTFPs. Certification may help ensure the environmental sustainability of such initiatives but it must not become a tool to exclude gatherers and or threaten local livelihoods.

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