Evolving Perspectives on Non-timber Forest Products

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Many individual non-timber forest products (NTFPs) were historically mainstream trade commodities, but their diminished importance in international trade after World War II meant that they become almost invisible in forest statistics, management, and policy. They were rediscovered as a category in the late 1980s, provoking high hopes by many, suspicion by some, and a new research agenda on their potential role in the sustainable development of tropical forest regions. This was followed by general disenchantment with NTFPs that dominated the literature and policy discussion at the turn of the century, which in turn gave way to today’s more nuanced understanding and policy recommendations, as described in many chapters of this book. We identify four themes in recent literature that serve as guideposts to a realistic and moderate assessment of NTFPs (1) centrality of culture and tradition, (2) local and regional markets, (3) value of diversity in and of itself, and (4) continuum of forest management.

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