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Every day, people around the world harvest natural products like fungi, plants, bark, flowers, honey and nuts. These non-timber forest products, as they are known, can play an important role – particularly for people living in rural areas.
Products like honey and nuts can be sold. Plants and plant fibre can be used to create furniture, cloth and crafts; herbs processed to make herbal remedies and leaves and flowers sold for ornamental uses. All this contributes to income generation and is a valuable resource for alleviating poverty in rural communities.
Non-Timber - Forest - Products - NTFPs - Discussions
Yet Non-Timber Forest Products (or NTFPs) don't often feature in discussions about poverty reduction and alleviation. One of the reasons for this is probably the lack of qualitative studies on the topic; the kind which feature stories from people who have used them to escape poverty. Users' voices haven't been heard enough to help scholars and policymakers understand the links between these products and poverty alleviation, and to harness these in poverty reduction strategies.
In our new book published by Springer, Poverty Reduction Through Non-Timber Forest Products, we have tried to fill this gap. Interviewees from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Nepal, India, China, Uganda, Swaziland, Malawi, Cameroon, Mozambique and elsewhere shared their stories of using various products to create small enterprises and earn money.
Shocks - Crop - Failure - Illness - Retrenchment
Many have also been able to survive shocks such as crop failure, illness, retrenchment and the loss or estrangement of a family's sole breadwinner. This shows how non-timber forest products can act as "safety nets".
Non-Timber Forest Products are dwindling worldwide; climate change and overuse of land are contributing to this trend. But such products are still common in many parts of the world and – while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for poverty alleviation – they should be studied and considered in governments' poverty reduction plans.
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