Forest Products for Food and Income

Forests are more than trees

Hundreds of different species of trees and other plants grow in forests. Forests are also home to many different animals, birds, and insects.

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For the people who live near forests, these plants and animals have a high value. Some they eat, others they sell.  Others they can use to build houses and make things for their home, like mats and baskets.

These products are called “non-timber forest products”.

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What are some non-timber forest products?

Forest foods include fruits (for example, jackfruit, durian, salak, duku, mango, rambutan), nuts (peanuts, tengkawang/illipe), vegetables (petai, palm heart, jengkol, sago palm), honey and spices. People also catch animals and fish. Some forest plants are used as medicines.

Other forest products can be used in the house, or people can sell them. These include damar, benzoin, bamboo, rattan, rubber and gaharu wood.

Why are forest products so important for people’s lives?

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  • Forest foods are very healthy, as they have many important nutrients.
  • Sometimes people have trouble getting food or money, for example, if a flood ruins their crops. If forests nearby have many natural foods, people don’t have to go hungry.
  • Forest products give people more stable ways to make money. For example, markets can change very quickly: if customers stop buying a crop, prices will fall. In these cases, it’s good to have other products to eat or sell.
  • With forest products, people can get extra cash, to pay for things like school fees or medicines.

Is it easy to collect forest products?

Forest products are very important, but they can be hard to get, for many reasons:

Overharvesting: Sometimes, if a forest productgets good prices or is very popular, people take too much of it. Then there is none left, either for them or for anyone else.

Access to forests: Sometimes, people cannot go into the forest, because of changes to laws or to land ownership, or because the forests are too far.

Deforestation, for plantations, mines, or roads: Although some people make money from these activities, other people lose valuable food or income.

Lack of awareness: Sometimes, governments make plans to use the land in an area but they don’t think about the importance of forest products for some people. Those plans might harm forest products or make it hard for people to get them.