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The potential contribution of non-timber forest product extraction to tropical forest conservation and development: lessons from a case study of bamboo utilisation in a Sierra Madre community, the Philippines

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This article presents the results of a study of bamboo exploitation carried out in a village in the Sierra Madre, the Philippines. With a view to providing evidence for the hypothesised link between exploitation and conservation/development in the non-timber forest product (NTFP) debate, it evaluates the feasibility of using the commercial exploitation of buho (Schizostachyum lumampao) as a strategy for conserving the rain forest. An analytical framework is used to assess whether the principal conditions of sustainable extraction - ecological sustainability, economic feasibility and political and social acceptability - are being fulfilled. The authors conclude that, despite the lack of possibilities for adding value, the lack of organisation and the illegality of extraction, buho gathering in the study village is economically feasible as an ancillary activity. Moreover, the regenerative capacity of the plant is such that buho extraction itself does not cause the depletion of the resource, as long as immature poles are not cut. The authors argue, however, that the sustainability of buho extraction - as of any other non-timber forest product - cannot be judged on the basis of the features of the extractive economy alone. The extraction of buho does not affect agricultural expansion or migration to the forest frontier, which are the main causes of deforestation and depletion of buho resources in the study area. Only in relatively stable situations, where forest resources are not under pressure, may buho extraction offer opportunities to improve peoples' livelihoods and sustain forest conservation. In such instances, the authors recommend the organisation of gatherers into cooperatives and the demarcation of protected extraction areas.


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