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    Eduard Mauri, European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility (Spain)

Forest-based Solutions: Linking NWFP with the Economy, Participatory Approaches

When it comes to sustainable forest management, it is important to see the forest for more than just the trees. In a plenary session for the Sixth Mediterranean Forest Week (6MFW)  in Lebanon from 1-5 April, the European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility (EFIMED) focused on “Forest-based Solutions: Linking Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) with the Economy, Participatory Approaches”. This plenary session was chaired by Christine Farcy, the Chair of the FAO European Forestry Commission and a Board Member for the European Forest Institute.

Drawing on exciting progress made through the Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean Basin (INCREDIBLE) project, experts from both the Northern and Southern Mediterranean regions joined in a round-table discussion to present inspiring examples of social entrepreneurship around NWFP and land restoration through participatory approaches in Mediterranean forests around NWFP. Through partnerships in projects spanning the basin, experts shared their experiences in cases of international collaboration.

The session started with two keynote speakers from Algeria: Nabil Assaf, FAO representative in Algeria, on how to improve populations livelihoods through the development of micro-enterprises based on NWFP, and Nedjma Rahmani, sub-inspector at the General Directorate of Forests of Algeria, on how to unleash the potential for Mediterranean NWFP through key opportunities for innovation. They both exposed in detail the Algerian situation. This country, where the majority of the forest is publicly owned, succeeded to implement regulatory framework for NWFP, with strategies for their management and valorisation. Now, public-private partnerships are possible, so private individuals or companies can harvest forest resources through concessions with the State. This is accompanied by financial mechanisms for supporting SME, technical cooperation, a territorial vision and population awareness.

As challenges, Algeria would need to strength the regulatory framework, consolidate sustainable management, fill in some knowledge gaps and continue making NWFP contribute to the population wellbeing. Therefore, the logical next steps are strengthening the value chains, promoting micro-enterprises, improving traditional and scientific knowledge flows and increasing NWFP to national food security.

NWFPs to improve the environment and increase social wellbeing

These enlightening speeches were followed by a round table showing how participatory approaches that link NWFP with the economy can provide sound solutions to improve, or even restore, the environment and increase social wellbeing.

Tiziana Ulian from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK) and Nizar Hani from the Ushouf Biosphere Reserve (Lebanon) exposed how forest restoration activities can be linked to the production of NWFP and eco-tourism, with fully inclusion of local communities.

Carlos Colinas from University of Lleida (Spain) and Zahra Naghavi, an expert from Iran, collaborate in an international project on truffle cultivation. This may be the key activity to provide rural people with an important source of income, therefore fighting against rural abandonment. European expertise can be exported to other countries where truffle cultivation can relieve poverty and reduce the overexploitation of other forest products.

Karim Ergaieg from Agricultural Development Group Sidi Amor (Tunisia) proved that when the participatory approach is supported by an appropriate legal framework, the collaboration of local communities can boost the socio-economic conditions for the youth, preserve traditional knowledge and even restore forest ecosystems.

Finally, Eduard Mauri from EFI’s Mediterranean Facility, EFIMED (Spain) demonstrated that in the NWFP sector, as in many sectors, different countries share the same problems. For them, someone usually has the solution, but it may be not disseminated enough. Do not reinvent the wheel: let us gather together around the INCREDIBLE project to share our knowledge and improve our current state.