In many regions of the world, non-wood forest products (NWFP) — such as cork, resins, gums, wild mushrooms, aromatic and medicinal plants, and wild nuts and berries – contribute to well-being in many different ways. They complement family income, especially in lowincome households, they contribute to food security and nutrition, and they are an important source of medicinal remedies. They are also part of cultural heritage and spiritual life. Being sourced from natural areas, forested landscapes and managed forests, their production and collection is intimately related with land management and biodiversity conservation. Unfortunately, for most NWFP, information on their collection, production, trade and use, remains scarce and fragmented.
In Europe, the available information hints at an, as yet, unrealised potential for a rich array of NWFP. The market value of amateur non-wood forest products collection has been estimated at €23 billion per year, most of it for self-consumption. This is in the same order of magnitude as the total value of marketed roundwood. Only a fraction of this is marketed through formal and informal channels, yet it may provide over 10% of the total income to 4.5 million households1 . NWFP sustain industrial value chains in cork, green chemistry, gastronomy, and pharmaceuticals, and multiply their economic impact as drivers of tourism. Just as importantly, they are intimately related with leisure, and people’s relationship to nature. The multi-faceted importance of non-wood forest productspoints towards their much greater future potential, especially when a more sustainable, fair, and nature-based development path gains political momentum, social support and market drive. Paradoxically, NWFP are generally perceived to have low economic value, overlooked in sectoral policies and even relegated to a secondary — non-wood — role in forest regulation and management practices across the continent.
This white paper, funded through the INCREDIBLE project and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), stresses the urgent need for action and identifies promising policy options proposed to be considered based on the specific regional, national or subnational circumstances to:
- secure the conservation and sustainable
supply of NWFP;
- build competitive, equitable and sustainable value chains;
- improve transparency, data and information flow on NWFP and
- establish enabling conditions in policy, financial and innovation terms.
It is a call for policy action on different scales: to the European Commission to promote coordinated regional, national and subnational programmes which improve reporting for high relevance NWFP and encourage traceability, labelling and standards for NWFP, especially valorising information about collection and production processes; to national or subnational authorities to adopt innovative fiscal and labour regimes and implement traceability systems where appropriate; to sectoral organisations and companies to increase transparency of price setting and encourage vertical and horizontal collaboration along the NWFP value chains; and to the United Nations, international organisations and academia to support countries and stakeholders to carry out the above key actions, including the collection and dissemination of data and statistics on NWFP.