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7.1 Management of natural forest areas for wildlife and other products
7.2 Management of fallow lands and farm trees
7.3 Forest plantations and non-timber forest products
7.4 The marketing of non-timber forest products: Problems and potentials

This study has shown that forest products are still widely used in most of humid West Africa. There is not enough detailed and reliable data to estimate the importance of these products over the region as a whole using standard measures. The focus of future research, however, should not solely be aimed at filling these voids. There is enough evidence to show that many people rely on surrounding forests for both subsistence and economic needs (in the sense of the cash economy). It is also clear that the functions and value of forests are changing. Thus, research needs to be focused on what foresters can do to help restore and develop locally important forest products and to build on the knowledge and interests of rural people regarding management of their surrounding forest vegetation. The following discussion examines ways of diversifying forestry activities so as to include non-timber forest products. It is brief, and is not intended to be directive, rather it gives an indication of the possibilities for management and development of a great range of products, forest functions, and management goals.

7.1 Management of natural forest areas for wildlife and other products

There is great potential for the management of natural forest areas for their NTFPs, as these resources are appreciated by resident populations. However, in light of growing population pressure and changing markets, forest managers are faced with a problem: how can they protect forests from over-exploitation while maintaining an interest in them through sustained use? The answer lies in flexible and positive management. In the past, management has often entailed collection of taxes and statistics. A clear understanding of how forest resources are currently used, can help in the development of a system to protect and develop (e.g. through selection) locally important forest resources. A system of usufruct rights which is geared to meeting local people’s needs should also be developed. There is great scope for traditional as well as community forest management.

Many authors note that while forest products are commonly exploited, their density in natural areas are generally low. Research is needed on ways of increasing the density and productivity of locally exploited forest species. Some attempts are being made to this end. However, they generally focus on creating “new” resource sources through game ranches, domestication of animals, and increased tree planting on farms. The costs in terms of labor and capital may be too great for many rural people. One of the salient features of forests is that their products are readily available with little input (with the notable exception of gathering time). Thus, management plans that focus on improving existing resources, can draw on local people’s knowledge and focus on products which are familiar and needed. Foods, medicines and products with cash value are perhaps those products that most need programmes of diversified management.

Delonix regia - a useful farm tree

For the West African region as a whole, the need for forest management for bushmeat is most pressing. Techniques are required to help restore and sustain wild animal populations. These need to be as simple and cheap as possible, the more expensive the method, the more expensive the final meat product. It appears that the most common approach to forest management for wild animal production entails creation of small patch clearings in the forests and selection for wild animals’ food resources. Hunting regulations which account for seasonal patterns of labour demand (most notably for agricultural tasks), seasonal food needs and animal population cycles are also needed.

There is very little information on the ways to manage forests to yield a diversity of products. Some information can be gleaned from botanical and ecological studies. In addition, anthropological and ethnobotanical studies sometimes include information relevant for forest management. (For example, Profizi’s (1983) study of raphia palms and their use in southern Benin includes a description of communal management techniques (see Section 6.7).)

More information is needed regarding ways to increase the productivity and density of locally valued plant species in natural forest stands. As forests have not been managed for NTFPs in the past (by foresters), little is known. The most promising information may come from farmers who have been managing useful trees on their farms or fallow lands. For example, in her study of fallow management in southwestern Nigeria, Herren-Gemmill (1988) relates that farmers often protect some forest species when they clear land for crop production, others (e.g. Triplochiton superba) are allowed to germinate and grow during the cultivation period, while some are deliberately planted. Some interesting work has also been carried out in southeastern Nigeria by Okafor (1977,1986). He has focused on improving popular forest food species and has found that protection and enrichment planting greatly increase density.

There are no examples of community forestry activities designed to enhance pre-existing forest resources in the region. There are a few examples of “indigenous” management by communities, but it is not clear how these systems are changing. One forest area called Yapo reserve, in southern Côte d’Ivoire, is currently being managed for its secondary as well as timber products. The managers note that the revenues from secondary products (mainly fuelwood, charcoal, chewing sticks, ornamental plant materials and wood sold for matchstick making) in 1987 was 6,750,000 FCFA (US$ 1 = FCFA 260) (Goussé 1987). They add that the revenues earned from these products are available on a continual basis and thus, have helped defray the management costs of the forest. There are only a few examples like this one. However, forest management for these products must rely on local knowledge, and management goals should be directed by local people’s needs and interests. The potential for community management of forest areas for NTFPs is therefore great.

7.2 Management of fallow lands and farm trees

Many authors note that intensification of management of fallow lands for forest products will relieve some of the pressure placed on forest areas (Ajayi 1979, Asibey 1987b, Poulsen 1981). In some regions that suffer from high population pressure, the use of fallow and farm areas has already intensified (see Sections 5.3 & 6.6). Trees have become more important on farms, and in some cases products formerly gathered from forests are now found on farms. There are many opportunities for development in this area. Intensive production of valued foods, medicines, building materials and marketable goods may be possible. Fallow areas can perhaps be managed for production of wild game, mushroom, medicine, or raw materials for rural enterprises.

There may be problems associated with introducing wild animals ‘into farming systems, even in fallow land areas. The introduction of new species can result in serious pest problems. However, as several authors have noted, if simple pest control technologies are developed, such as mist nets, gum, and other traps, the nutritional and monetary benefits gained from the captured animals may far outweigh any possible crop damage (as long as species are kept from reaching pest levels) (Asibey 1987b, Ntiamoa-Baidu 1987).

Ntiamoa-Baidu notes that the amount of damage actually caused by different species is unknown. She asserts that many damage claims by farmers are an attempt to justify killing animals for meat (reflecting the great demand). The possibility of incorporating bushmeat into farm management is evident. There are no animals which are not considered food by different West African groups, but the absence of affordable control techniques (or protection laws) prevent people from effectively exploiting this food resource. In one area of northern Ghana, mist nets were used to try to control bird pests on irrigated rice fields. Over a six week period, 80,000 birds were caught, providing a regular source of meat to farmers over that period.

While there appears to be great potential for managing forest fallow areas for wild animals (e.g. encouraging wild animal food plants), no examples from this region were found in the literature. One example from the Peruvian Amazon region illustrates the potential for this kind of management, especially where markets for bushmeat are strong. In this region fallow areas are selectively managed for fruit and other game food trees. Late in the fallow cycle hunting platforms are set up near aging fruit trees in order to watch for and capture game which comes in to feed as fruit ripens. Most of the meat is then consumed by the household, and income is also earned from bushmeat and skin sales (which contribute an average 9% of the average annual cash income) (Padoch et al 1985).

7.3 Forest plantations and non-timber forest products

Forest and tree crop plantations are generally believed to destroy non-timber forest product supplies, most notably wild animal habitats. While this is certainly the case for products which are cleared to make way for plantation crops, it may be possible to incorporate local product needs into plantation management plans. For example, at some stages of development, plantations may favour some wild animal populations. Asibey (1987b) notes for example, that grasscutter and antelope populations increase in the early stages of oil palm plantations. As plantations develop, the food supply dwindles and the animal populations decline. Simple management techniques, such as leaving patches of forest vegetation, may help sustain the wild animal populations. Other possibilities might include creating hedgerows of mixed vegetation to increase food and habitat diversity and encourage settlement of desired animal populations.

There is also the opportunity to draw on work of those focusing on “ecological engineering” and “restoration ecology”. These two areas of research focus on planting and management of a broad range of products (Nwoboshi 1987). As was noted above, returns from management for “secondary” forest products often provide a steady source of revenue (as opposed to that gained from timber harvest) which can contribute to the costs of plantation management.

7.4 The marketing of non-timber forest products: Problems and potentials

It appears from the information that is available that the markets for non-timber forest products are growing especially in urban and peri-urban areas throughout the whole region. There is strong or growing local demand for such products as bushmeat, forest plant foods (especially species of cultural importance), building materials, palm oil, palm wine, chewing sticks, fuelwood, cola nuts, medicines, as well as manufactured goods such as furniture. However, when development activities focus on production for the market, more information on the market demand for different products is needed. For example, little information exists on the fluctuations in market demand for forest products.

Even information on the export market for non-timber forest products is scanty. There are undoubtedly many small businesses that trade non-timber forest products such as medicinal plants, live animals, and animal products. However, information on these enterprises is difficult to find. One example from Ghana demonstrates the potential or such activities. A former Ghanaian forester established an export business of non-timber forest products in 1974 and now exports medicinal plant products, natural sweeteners and provides herbarium samples for research. In 1987 alone his business exported approximately 110 tonnes of a natural sweetener product extracted from the fruit of the forest species Thaumatococcus daniellii (Enti 1987).

While few market studies have focused on the problems associated with marketing NTFPs, it is clear that poor transportation, irregularity of product supply, insufficient market information, as well as irregularity of labour supply loom large among them. In addition, the nature of some forest products makes marketing problematic. Palm wine, for example, can be preserved for two days (at most), and it is generally only traded when there is easy access to a nearby market. Plant medicines can also be difficult to market as they are often need to be fresh (one of the noted advantages of western drugs is that they can be stored).


The significance of NTFPs to rural people and for forest managers, is now being discussed in many circles throughout the West African region. Indeed, the ideas “tossed” out here are in no small part inspired by discussions with West African administrators, researchers and professionals. Thus, while these last chapters have drawn attention to great gaps in information, it should not be taken as a sign that knowledge or interest in these issues does not exist. Rather, the findings of this study should be viewed as an tool that indicates areas where more information is needed. More importantly, this analysis should serve as a springboard for new ideas regarding forest management to meet the needs of rural people.

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