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Beyond timber

   

Many non-timber forest products are critical for the subsistence of rural communities in Central Africa, providing fruits or other nutritious foods for diversified diets and other products important to household economies. However, many of the forests upon which these communities depend have been granted under concessions to logging companies for the extraction of trees for timber. Many tree species provide both non-timber products and timber, but these are conflicting uses: once harvested for timber, the trees no longer provide fruits or other products. Conflict over resource access and use between local communities and logging companies is a problem for the forest sector in all countries in the Congo Basin.

 

The Forest Genetic Resources Programme of Bioversity International is leading ‘Beyond Timber’, a project funded by the Congo Basin Forest Fund and carried out in three countries of the Congo Basin (Gabon, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo), in partnership with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). ‘Beyond Timber’ aims to produce information, tools and guidelines that will be adopted by concessionaires and government agencies so that local peoples’ access to non-timber resources is safeguarded even within timber concessions. Bioversity International’s scientists are carrying out research on the nutrition, genetics and availability of priority tree species used for both timber and food.

 

“This project highlights the role forests play in providing food security – a fundamental aspect of forest management that has so far received little attention,” said Julius Tieguhong Chupezi, project coordinator, Bioversity. The Congo Basin forests include a diversity of indigenous trees that are vital to the nutrition and health of local populations. As Cameroon’s Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation stated, “Forest genetic resources and edible forest fruits in particular have important nutritional and medicinal roles for populations in sub-Saharan countries.”

 

Local partners – researchers at Cameroon’s Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Développement, Gabon’s Institut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale and the Université de Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are actively participating in the project, along with 16 university students from those countries who are carrying out their Masters or PhD theses within the project. Representatives of the Ministry of Forestry in each country and of the Central African Forest Commission will play key roles in promoting the adoption of guidelines and other results of the project.

 

Based on field research under way in 2013, forest scientists from Bioversity and CIFOR will develop operational guidelines that incorporate local knowledge to integrate the management of timber and non-timber forest resources. This process will raise policymakers’ and concessionaires’ awareness of local values and provide them with tools to generate a new way of ‘doing business’ in the forest sector. These will be validated in selected sites in Cameroon, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

 

Photo: Sliced wood from the forest, Cameroon - Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook