Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


When one thinks of the productivity of a forest, the first thing that comes to mind is timber. The production of timber is often organized and highly visible, and the markets for wood are highly structured and well established. Forests also produce a multitude of non-timber products, however, including such diverse items as medicinal plants, dyes, mushrooms, fruits, resins and saps, and raw materials that can be made into ropes, baskets, mats, fences, clothes and many other consumer products.

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs)* have the potential to become substantial sources of revenue, but in many communities they are underexploited. In some cases, people make considerable use of the products, but their commercial value is low. One of the difficulties for small-scale producers who seek to commercialize NTFPs is that often the markets for these products are relatively complex compared to those for timber and more traditional agriculture goods. Many NTFPs occupy "niche" markets, which tend to be small and dispersed. in addition, there are few established standards for NTFPs, and consumer preferences for products may vary considerably depending on such factors as the type of market (tourist or local) and the time of year. Prices for NTFPs vary from place to place as well as over time. Buyers may impose different quality control standards. All of these factors contribute to the complexity of NTFP markets.

Producers who are often specialists in harvesting or manufacturing goods using forest resources may have limited experience in marketing. They may not know how to obtain and make use of information that would help them make informed decisions about what to sell, and where and when to market their products in order to earn the maximum profits from their efforts.

This field manual presents a systematic approach that can be used by small-scale producers to gather information about markets for NTFPs. A Marketing Information System (MIS) collects, analyses and communicates information about markets and marketing. The kind of MIS described in this manual can be managed by local people themselves. They determine what information is needed, set up systems to gather the information, and decide how and to whom the information will be communicated. The purpose of the MIS is to improve people's access to marketing information for NTFPs and to train them in its use. This, in turn, will help them make better decisions about the use of local natural resources and increase the revenues they receive from these products.

The development of the methodology used in this field manual began in 1990 when the FAO's Forest, Trees and People Programme responded to a request by the Philippine Government to help local people with the marketing of community forestry products. In collaboration with local communities, they developed the first locally-managed Marketing Information System in Sta. Catalina, the Philippines. Recognizing the potential value of such a system, FAO's Community Forestry Unit and Forest Products Division decided to field test the approach in a variety of settings. MIS test sites were established in two other locations in the Philippines, as well as in two communities in Uganda, two places in the Solomon islands and a remote area of Peru.

Examples from the Uganda and the Philippine experiences will be presented in boxes throughout the manual to illustrate the issues raised in the text. The box on p. 3 provides a brief introduction to the sites in these two countries that will be discussed in greater depth in each chapter. Occasional examples from other places where an MIS has been used will also be cited. This manual summarizes the lessons of these various experiences while recognizing that the approach will continue to be refined and improved by each new group of users.

Many people contributed to the development of this publication. The approach could never have been implemented without the great efforts of Isabelita Austria in the Philippines who saw the project through from its inception. Abwoli Banana extended the process, establishing two sites in Uganda. Tom Hammett, FAO forestry products marketing specialist, supported the setting up of the first Philippine MIS site and developing the methodology. Important guidance was also given by FAO agroforestry specialist Susan Braatz and by FAO forestry marketing specialist Leo Lintu. Lars Bjorklund and Anders Sjoberg both provided helpful comments and perceptive advice. This document was skilfully edited by Karen Schoonmaker Freudenberger.


The Philippines was the first country to test the Marketing Information System. In 1991, activities began at the first site, Sta. Catalina in Quezon Province. In 1993, the test programme was expanded to two additional sites: Alion (in Bataan province) and Julita (in Aklan province). In the Philippines, the implementation of the MIS has been supported by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR), which has been involved in all stages of the process.

The Philippine MIS participants were principally the growers and collectors of various forest products. The first site in the Philippines was Sta. Catalina, an upland village located some 150 km south of Manila. The participants decided to monitor prices for seven products, including banana, eggplant, ginger and coconut. Alien is located in a more agriculturally developed region. It is also closer to Manila and hence enjoys access to larger markets. Major commercial crops in the area are mango, coffee, banana, peanut and cashew. In addition to setting up an MIS for monitoring in-season prices of banana, peanut and citrus fruit in five markets, the users decided to monitor prices of cashew nuts throughout the year and to learn more about processing options for this product. Julita is a village on one of the smaller islands with fewer marketing opportunities than either Sta. Catalina or Alion. Its principal NTFPs are abaca (fiber used to make rope and cloth), ambulong palm leaves (used for roofing) and copra. Their MIS was set up initially to provide information on these products, but users later expanded it to include rice.

In Uganda, MIS activities were oriented to handicraft traders involved in the marketing of locally made goods such as mats and baskets to both area residents and tourists. The traders were particularly interested in learning more about consumer preferences for different goods so that they could target different markets more effectively. One of the Uganda sites was Mukono, just 15 km from the capital Kampala. The Mokono group included more than 20 families and individuals. The smaller Masaka group (six families) operates about 130 km from the capital.

In both the Philippines and Uganda, the primary participants in the MIS were women.


Purpose. The immediate purpose of this manual is to help local groups establish a Marketing Information System that is user-driven, flexible and responsive to local needs. The longer term objective of the MIS, in most cases, will be to help people market their NTFPs more effectively and increase their earnings from these activities.

Intended audience. This manual is.written primarily for the facilitator who will work with a local community to set up an MIS. The facilitator may be from the community or be an extension worker, project staff person, government official or consultant. In most cases, the facilitator will have some experience with marketing issues and project management. The role of the facilitator will be to help the community understand the potential of an MIS and to assist in planning and organizing activities. He or she will also provide administrative support and training, help with monitoring and evaluation and, where necessary, coordinate the funding assistance needed to get the MIS under way. The facilitator will not generally make decisions concerning the design and implementation of the MIS. This will be the responsibility of local operators and users.

Community participation. The activities described in this manual depend on the active participation of community members in the design and implementation of the MIS. The MIS is intended for people who grow, collect. process, sell or trade NTFPs. It is critical that the local population and, in particular, the potential users of MIS information, be involved with every step of planning and implementing the MIS. The objective of this manual is to put in place an MIS that is "owned" by the local community or a group within that community. Previous experience with MIS implementation suggests that the earlier the community is involved in the process of collecting information and planning the MIS, the greater its participation and interest in the system will be once it gets under way.

Organization of the manual. This manual takes the facilitator step-by-step through the design of an MIS. After an initial introduction to the concepts of MIS (chapter 2), the next three chapters take the reader through each of the steps in establishing an MIS. Chapter 3 outlines the preliminary step in which the site is selected and the participants are identified. Chapter 4 addresses the assessment step in which information is gathered for the MIS design. Chapter 5 turns to the design step in which critical decisions are made concerning the objectives and the structure of the MIS. The final chapter (chapter 6) reviews some issues that commonly arise in implementing an MIS and offers suggestions for resolving problems that may occur.

Since the manual systematically follows the MIS implementation process, it will probably make the most sense if the sections are read in order. However, communities will be at different stages in defining their needs and in organizing their members. Certain communities may be able to pass very quickly through some steps in the process if, for example, they are already very clear on what the objectives for their MIS should be. Others will want to take more time with each of the suggested activities.

The examples given in the text boxes are simply illustrations of how two communities set up their MIS activities. They are not intended to provide "models" for how an MIS should look, since every community will tailor its MIS to its own needs and circumstances.

Further reading. This is one of several FAO manuals that provide information to community groups working broadly on forest management issues. A number of the other manuals in the series complement this one and will be useful to groups working on marketing and community participation in the management of NTFPs (see reading list at the end of this manual).

FAO manuals are available through country or regional representations throughout the world, often in several languages. Readers are encouraged to contact their nearest FAO representative to find out how to obtain FAO publications most easily in their area.


The following list includes definitions of some of the key terms used in marketing Information systems.

Markets are outlets for products and services. The buyers may be either institutions or individuals. Markets can exist for raw materials, semi-processed goods, finished products or services. They can be local, regional, national or international.

Marketing involves "finding out what the customer wants and helping to set up the production/marketing system that meets demand and maximizes income" (FAO,1989). The marketing process includes the selection and development of products and production processes, markets, pricing strategies, packaging, distribution channels and methods, and advertising.

Marketing information is all the data that can help those involved in production and sales identify the clients' needs and meet those interests. This data concerns all aspects of the structure and operation of the market. With this information, sellers can make better decisions about marketing their produce. Specifically, producers might use marketing information to determine what to produce and when to harvest or process a product. They could calculate the returns depending on how much they process a product. And, they could choose where and when to sell and decide how to package and distribute their wares depending on what would provide the greatest profit.

Market transparency refers to the amount of information a person has about the entire production and sale chain of a certain good. If someone knows the entire process of production and sale of a good from harvest to the consumer (including costs and profits at each stage), then the market is "absolutely transparent" to that person. Markets are more transparent when people have access to information. Often, small producers lack information that others (such as middlemen or exporters) may have. This puts them at a disadvantage in getting the best price for their products. One purpose of an MIS is to increase market transparency for small producers so that they can increase their power in the marketplace.

A Marketing Information System (MIS) is a tool to organize the collection, analysis and communication of marketing information. An MIS should increase market transparency so that producers can market their products more effectively and increase the profitability of their venture.

A Facilitator, as used in this manual, is a person who helps stimulate a community's interest in creating an MIS and assists in its efforts to design, operate and eventually expand the scope of their MIS activities.

Agroforestry products are wood and non-wood products from trees, shrubs or other woody perennials grown in agroforestry systems (integrated systems in which woody perennials are grown in association with crops and/or animals).

Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is the term used throughout this manual to describe a broader range of goods than those defined as NWFPs. NTFPs can include small products made of ligneous (or woody) materials, such as wooden stools, masks, drums or other handcrafted items which are not industrial timber or pulp.

Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) are goods of biological origin other than wood that are derived from forests. NWFPs also include services, such as rope making and gum collecting, that are related to the collection and processing of these products.

* Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is the term used throughout this manual to describe a broader range of goods than those defined as non-wood forest products (NWFPs). NTFPs can include small products made of ligneous (or woody) materials, such as wooden stools, masks, drums or other handcrafted items which are not industrial timber or pulp.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page