Guidelines for equitable and sustainable non-timber forest product management.
Forests worldwide are under tremendous pressure - and so are the 1.6 billion forest dwellers who depend on these for their livelihoods. Forest and tree diversity are essential to sustain forest ecosystems and livelihoods. Yet, forest degradation, evidenced in the rapid and disconcerting loss of forest biodiversity, is propelled by many factors, including persistent poverty, growing international demand for timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and climate change. In parallel, and partly to address this concern, community-based or joint forest management approaches have been adopted in various countries to promote sustainable and inclusive forest management. However, many challenges persist related to poor governance, lack of transparency, gender inequality, social exclusion and lack of tangible livelihood benefits; all of which contribute to unsustainable practices and continued degradation. How can we improve local livelihoods while maintaining forest biodiversity and strengthening sustainable forest management in a socially inclusive and just manner? These guidelines present practical strategies and field examples for the inclusive and sustainable extraction, sale and management of forest products, particularly NTFPs. They build upon the framework of the Community Biodiversity Management approach in which three outcomes are sought; (1) community empowerment and social equity, (2) biodiversity conservation and (3) livelihood development (Sthapit et al. 2016). The guidelines draw upon data from the project: 'Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation' carried out between 2014 and 2017 in districts of two Indian states: Mandla District in Madhya Pradesh and Uttara Kannada District in Karnataka.