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The socio-economic contribution of non-timber forest products to rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa: knowledge gaps and new directions

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The majority of Sub-Saharan Africa's population relies on forest products for subsistence uses, cash income, or both. In the case of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), it is imperative to 1) clearly understand the socio-economic contributions that they make to rural livelihoods in order to 2) design policies, interventions, and business ventures that serve to safeguard forest assets for the poor in a targeted manner. Based on existing literature, this article highlights the quantitative contributions that NTFPs have made to rural household incomes in several forested, Sub-Saharan African countries. Reasons for a paucity of data on this front are discussed. The article then identifies five broad socio-economic factors (location, wealth status, gender, education, and seasonality) affecting levels of dependency on NTFPs by rural households, and calls for a better understanding of the linkages between these five factors in order for targeted policies on poverty alleviation in forest-dependent communities to be developed.
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Keywords: Africa; NTFPs; forests; livelihoods; poverty; socio-economic

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Africa Forests Research Initiative on Conservation and Development (AFRICAD), The Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, Canada, V6T-1Z4.

Publication date: 01 September 2010

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