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Tapping the Green Market: Certification & Management of Non-Timber Forest Products, edited by Patricia Shanley, Alan Pierce, Sarah A. Laird & Abraham Guillen
Tapping the Green Market: Certification & Management of Non-Timber Forest Products

Tapping the Green Market: Certification & Management of Non-Timber Forest Products, edited by Patricia Shanley, Alan Pierce, Sarah A. Laird & Abraham Guillen. Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, U.S. distributors: Stylus Publishing <>. 2002, 400 pp. with figures and tables. Hardcover $99.00 ISBN 1-85383-871-3, softcover $39.95 ISBN 1-85383-810-1.

This is another excellent contribution from the People and Plants Conservation Series, a collaboration of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The series includes several other books including Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge and People Plants and Protected Areas, among several others described on the Earthscan Publishing website, <>.

Tapping the Green Market: Certification & Management of Non-Timber Forest Products is a state-of-the-art document on this fascinating and complex topic. The book features the work of 38 contributing authors from around the world. The backgrounds of this collection of people are highly diverse; they include ecologists, foresters, ethnobotanists, presidents of companies, geographers, agronomists, biologists, and environmentalists.

The book is organized into four sections, with a total of 31 chapters. Section 1 introduces the entire concept of certification systems, with a focus on the relationship of timber certification to the certification of non-timber forest products (NTFP). The editors of this volume have extensive expertise in the area of timber certification and the realities of people and communities in biodiversity-rich nations. The last part of Section 1 provides an overview of three field tests of guidelines (presented Appendix I) for NTFP certification of sapodilla or chicle (Manilkara zapota) in Mexico, Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) in Bolivia, and hearts of cabbage palm (Euterpe oleracea) in Brazil.

These three cases are fascinating. The fact that there was no chicle harvest in 1999, due to a drop in demand from Japan, clearly illustrates that certification of NTFPs as a value-added marketing tool will always need to be closely linked to creating and maintaining markets. In fact, the innovative company called Wild Things is creating awareness and demand in the U.S. and European marketplace with it chicle-based "Jungle Gum." The Brazilian case study presents a number of details and observations. One of the reasons that the Brazilian palm heart harvesting operation sought NTFP certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was that the environmental policies of financial investors required third-party verification of the company’s forest management practices.

The second section of the book presents profiles of NFTP species from around the world. The list includes chicle, Brazil nuts, palm heart, pau d’arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa), cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), breu resin (Protium spp.), titica vine (Heteropsis spp.), amapá (Parahancornia spp. and Brosimum spp.), copaíba (Copaifera spp.), and dragon’s blood croton (Croton lechleri, or sangre de drago) from Latin America. The North American species include American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), maple trees (Acer saccharum) and fiddlehead ferns (Matteucia struthiopteris). African species include griffonia (Griffonia simplicifolia), baobab (Adansonia digitata), yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe), and rattan (various spp.). Asian species include amla (Phyllanthus emblica), and Sumatra benzoin tree (Styrax spp.). The Mediterranean species include mastic gum (Pistacia lentiscus), cork oak (Quercus suber), pine nut (Pinus pinea), argan (Argania spinosa), and chestnut (Castena sativa).

The species profiles present the sociological, ecological, cultural, and marketing details for each of the species. Also, the pros and cons of potential certification are presented and discussed. The species described represent a diverse cross section of plant parts including resins, barks, roots, fibers, and herbs.

The profiles of greatest interest to HerbalGram readers will be the medicinal plants that are sold as phytomedicines and dietary supplements: American ginseng, griffonia, yohimbe, amla, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, sangre de drago, and copaíba. I was especially fascinated with the profile of griffonia, and the impact of the rapid rise in demand for extracts containing 5-HTP, considered a possible weight-loss product, that began in 1997. One of the important and common lessons learned from the griffonia story is that the creation of extraction facilities in West Africa can greatly enhance the local value of the NTFP in the country of origin. One plant that would have been a good addition would be devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) from the south Africa region. Much has been published recently on harvesting and social/benefit sharing issues associated with this medicinal herb.

The third section of the book discusses the fundamental elements of NTFP certification, including chapters on the issues associated with marketing, ecology, technical problems and the social framework of harvesting communities. A very important chapter discusses the importance of NTFPs as part of subsistence livelihoods among the cultures that harvest these plants.

The fourth and final section of the book provides an overview of what primary lessons have been learned about the process of working to certify NTFPs and the challenges that will need to be addressed in order to create a functional system of NTFP certification. The actual technical guidelines for assessing the management of NTFP and resources for doing this are presented in Appendix I, II, III.

This is an excellent book, offering much detail, history, and practical data on the entire issue of how to approach the certification of NTFP. We will need many more such books and works, if we are going to create sustainable and equitable long-term managed production of many of the plants described in this book. This is, in many ways, terra incognito and this publication is an invaluable primary resource. If a company wishes to suggest that they are producing a product that is part of a sustainable harvesting system, this book helps provide a reality check for consumers, scientists, journalists, development workers and environmentalists. Congratulations are due to the editors and authors for helping to lead the way toward responsible and sustainable approaches to the management of NTFP.

– Steven R. King, Ph.D.

Vice President of Ethnobotany & Conservation

PS Pharmaceuticals Inc.

South San Francisco, California