Non-timber forest products, often referred to as NTFPs, are an important aspect of forests and forest use in many parts of the world. In addition to timber, paper, and bioenergy, a number of products are extracted from forests that have important local and economic uses, and have been, suggested by researchers and some environmental NGO’s and agencies to offer additional economic benefits for local communities. Examples of NTFPs include game, medicinal plants, resins, bamboo, fruits, fibers, fungi, and palms. These products include those naturally occurring in forest ecosystems, as well as products that are managed (by manipulating forest ecosystems) or planted. As these products depend on forest environments for their production, they are thought of as a potential economic “win-wins” that will promote forest conservation while providing local benefits. It has been shown that NTFPs can be extracted sustainably - however, other cases have shown that uncontrolled extraction due to high demand or population pressures can cause forest degradation or species extinction.
An analysis by Belcher et al (2003) identified different economic strategies of people that sell or export NTFPs, ranging from supplemental income to other subsistence livelihood activities to more specialize production where more than 50% of the household income is produced by NTFPs and labor input into their production is high. NTFPs are generally seen as favorable compared to agriculture or timber extraction, but in many cases ecological or biodiversity impacts of NTFP production have not been assessed.
Ahenkan, A. & Boon, E. (2011). Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs): Clearing the Confusion in Semantics. Journal of Human Ecology, 33(1): 1-9.
Belcher, B., Ruiz-Perez, M., Achdiawan, R. Global patterns and trends in NTFP development. Paper presented at The International Conference on Rural Livelihoods, Forests and Biodiversity. Bonn, Germany.
CIFOR (n.d.) Forests and non-timber forest products. Retrieved from: http://www.cifor.org/publications/corporate/factSheet/NTFP.htm