PhD Dissertation

Non-Timber Forest Products Use and Biodiversity Conservation in Benin

Vodouhe Fifanou (2010)
PhD, University of Abomey-Calavi

Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are used throughout the world by subsistence communities for daily needs, as well as to generate income. However, the relation between NTFPs contribution to local people livelihoods and the effect of their use on the conservation status of harvested species has long been the subject of debate. The present dissertation investigates this issue by analyzing Pendjari Biosphere Reserve local people’s perceptions about biodiversity conservation and the economic importance of NTFPs. The study also assesses the diversity of plant species used in relation to socio-economic and cultural factors that influence the values ascribed to them as well as the effect of use and commercialization on exploited species and the strategy developed locally to ensure the sustainable use of harvested species. Data were collected using questionnaires, direct observations and plots establishment and analyzed using descriptive statistics, Analysis of Variance, Stepwise Discriminate Analysis and General Linear Mixed Model.

Results revealed that the positive behaviour of local communities towards conservation of biodiversity within the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve was highly correlated with the current management strategy that involved more effectively local communities, the educational level of participant, their geographical origins and the benefits they perceived from the reserve such as NTFPs. Indeed, the Net Annual Market Value of NTFPs in the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve was estimated to be 165 817+/-9 127 FCFA/ha (US$ 368 ha-1). An analysis of the diversity of the species used locally revealed a total of 76 species with high index value (from 0.005 to 7.54). The majority of plants used by local people (80%) have multiple uses. Species values were influenced by the life form of the species as well as the gender and the ethnic group affiliation of participant. Indeed, local communities exploit the reserve resources mainly for food (99%), medicine (93%) and ceremonial uses (57%). When comparing the contribution of NTFPs to local communities’ livelihood (Parkia biglobosa the most valued species in the area as a case study), there was no difference in the species contribution to households’ net income. Poor, intermediate as well as wealthier households were equally dependent on the species. Parkia biglobosa contributed 53% to family net income throughout the period of production. The most relevant strategy developed by local people to make sustainable use of NTFPs, was the parkland agroforestry systems. About 21 tree species were recorded in these systems; and include both native and exotic tree species with a preponderance of indigenous tree species (85%). Apart from the forbs species, all the most valuable species in Pendjari Biosphere Reserve occurred in parkland agroforestry systems. Concerning harvesting impact on species sustainability, the case study of P. biglobosa in Pendjari Biosphere Reserve revealed that very little evidence could be found indicating that harvesting was damaging the resource. Therefore, for reproducible resources it would be possible to reconcile conservation and poverty reduction objectives. But this needs to be undertaken with caution. An analysis of the commercialization chain of seven important medicinal plants showed an unequal distribution of profit margin across supply chain actors. Collectors have the lowest margins while retailers have the highest. If the demand of these resources increases, collectors seeking higher profit will lead to harvest more organs and therefore destroy vegetation and plant diversity.