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  FORESTRY SYMPOSIUM 1995

DEVELOPMENT OF NON-WOOD FOREST PRODUCTS

Sarath Fernando
Forest Department

Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) have an important role in the rural economy and also provide benefits of considerable importance at national level. These products play a very significant role in the livelihood of over 4 million people in Sri Lanka. These products create a major impact on the social and economic conditions of the village communities by providing a diverse array of materials which enrich and diversify the rural life. The knowledge, skills, social customs and are traditions in relation to NWFPs have been passed from one generation to the next and form part of traditional culture.

A survey in just one area showed that nearly 200 tree species were used by the adjacent communities. In this paper, an attempt has been made to categorize the various NWFPs available in Sri Lanka. The most important ones are medicinal plants, Rattan/ bamboo, the products of hunting, bee honey, grazing etc., and are dealt with in detail in the paper.

Around 40% of the rural population in the Dry Zone is forest dependent and they derive some benefits from NWFPS. The annual income from NWFPs per forest dependent household in some parts of the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, is around Rs.15,000. A most important single activity in the Dry Zone is shifting cultivation which provides an annual income of around Rs.10,000 per family. Kitul tapping is the most significant NWFP in the wet zone and it contributes over 70% of the total income of the households engaged in this activity.

Lack of policy guidelines, a shrinking resource base and inadequate knowledge on cultivation, management, harvesting, processing and storage are identified as the major issues which hinder the development of the NWFP sector. Major reforms in policy, legislation and management strategies together with a coordinated effort in research on cultivation, utilization and product development should be undertaken for sustainable development of the NWFP sector in Sri Lanka. This sector could be developed to form a major force in the poverty alleviation programme in Sri Lanka, specially in the rural sector.


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Department of Forestry and Environmental Science,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura,Sri Lanka. 1999. All rights reserved.