Transformative Practice

Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs)

About one in every six people, particularly women, directly rely on forests for their lives and livelihoods, especially for food. This shows how important non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and forests are to ensure community resilience. Not only as a source of food, water and income, but also because of their cultural and spiritual meaning.

Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are defined as "all biological materials, other than timber, which are extracted from forest for human use". They are not only derived from trees, but from all plants, fungi and animals for which the forest ecosystem provides habitat. Examples of NTFPs are wild honey, fruits, edible leaves and roots, medicinal plants, spices, gum, fuel wood and rattan. They come not only from "natural" primary forests but also from managed, secondary or degraded forests.

The advantages of NTFPs for community resilience

The sustainable management and marketing of NTFPs offers a new framework for promoting an ecologically sound plan for the economic development and conservation of tropical forests simultaneously whilst also improving the access to natural resources, income position and resilience of (forest) communities.

NTFPs are an important part of livelihood strategies of forest communities. In sustainably managed forests, NTFPs are always at hand and they are less prone to diseases, weather extremes and climate change than products coming from plantations and other large-scale agricultural methods.

However, NTFP projects not only secure communities' access to food and income, but also tackle other issues such as land rights, traditional forest management and gender equality.

NTFPs, land rights and forest conservation

Both ENDS has a long history of collaboration with partners such as the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) and the Keystone Foundation. Jointly we engage in promoting the NTFP concept for forest conservation and livelihood enhancement at national and international policy levels.

An important priority in securing the ability of communities to gather, use and sell NTFPs has always been to secure their tenure and access rights to their surrounding forests. NTFPs at the same time play a role in forest conservation, as they show the economic value of a forest beyond just timber. This way, the work of Both ENDS and partners in promoting the NTFP concept is important in the fight against land grabs, deforestation and ecosystem degradation.

NTFP development as a gender just climate solution

Although context specific, most harvesting and processing of NTFPs is done by women. Women also have an important role as knowledge holders and educators about NTFPs and other local climate resilient solutions. Nevertheless, women often do not have control over the income from NTFP sales, and their access to formal or distant markets is limited due to social norms that restrict their mobility. Women do not have the central power of decision making and governance due to restrictions placed by traditional gender norms or patriarchy.

Both ENDS, NTFP-EP and Keystone collaborate as part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) to bring about connections between climate action, women's rights and environmental justice groups. As a result, women's groups and indigenous communities demonstrate climate mitigation and adaptation strategies and lobby for their wider adoption. These strategies are called gender-just climate solutions and include NTFP-based sustainable community livelihoods.

NTFP-EP and Keystone are facilitating small grants to over 50 forest based groups in Asia to strengthen women-led NTFP initiatives, and creating opportunities for women to participate and take up space in community-building, proposing solutions and alternatives to the problems they face. Earmarking funds for women's actions evidently increases their agency and leadership determining their own pathways for development. It improves the role of women in decision-making, as knowledge holders, in governance and rights over resources.

NTFPs: more than forest conservation

So, by focussing on NTFPs, not only communities' access to food and income is improved, but other issues are also being tackled: land rights, traditional forest management, gender equality and adaptation and resilience towards climate change.

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