Nature and Biodiversity

These 15 innovators are advancing the sustainable management of non-timber forest products

Forests play a vital role in safeguarding human and planetary wellbeing.

Forests play a vital role in safeguarding human and planetary wellbeing. Image: Unsplash

Prachi Jha
Digital Activation, Marketing Communications Lead, World Economic Forum
Jaideep Salil
UpLink Project Specialist, Innovation Ecosystems, World Economic Forum
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  • Non-timber forest products (NTFP), defined as goods that are naturally produced in forests and harvested without felling trees, present an alternative source of income to more degrading forest-based commercial activities.
  • The sustainable management of NTFPs can deliver the twin benefits of forest conservation and resilient livelihoods.
  • The selected 15 Top Innovators from the UpLink and 1t.org’s Trillion Trees: Forest Communities and Value Chains Challenge will receive support to scale their solutions which advance the sustainable management of non-timber forest products.

Forests play a vital role in safeguarding human and planetary wellbeing. Despite this, over ten million hectares of forest (an area the size of Portugal) is lost to deforestation every year, compromising their ability to mitigate climate change, support livelihoods and sustain biodiversity. Protecting our forests is vital to ensuring the emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to 1.5° or 2°C by 2030 and reach the targets under the Global Biodiversity Framework.

Non-timber forest products (NTFP), defined as goods that are naturally produced in forests and harvested without felling trees, present an alternative source of income to more degrading forest-based commercial activities. They also serve as an important subsistence and nutrition source in much of the developing world. NTFPs include a wide range of plant, mushroom, and animal products, such as fruits, nuts, resins, medicinal plants, and honey.

The sustainable management of these NTFPs, used by approximately 3.5-5.8 billion people with a global market value of $88 billion annually, can help deliver the twin benefits of forest conservation and resilient livelihoods. However, the realization of these outcomes will require overcoming constraints such as limited access to markets, finance, infrastructure, and technical assistance, while safeguarding the environment.

To tackle these issues, UpLink and 1t.org partnered to identify innovative solutions that promote the sustainable use of non-timber forest products and catalyze progress towards the conservation and restoration of our forests.

The Trillion Trees: Forest Communities and Value Chains Challenge sought innovative ecopreneurial solutions that allow for the sustainable stewardship of non-timber forest products, harnessing their potential to build resilient livelihoods and promote forest conservation and restoration. This Challenge was led by UpLink and 1t.org, and supported by Amazon Investor Coalition, Barka Fund, Earthday.org, Food and Agriculture Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, Reforestamos, SOS Sahel, and The Balipara Foundation.

One hundred and sixteen submissions were received from around the world and 15 Top Innovators were selected to join the UpLink Innovation Ecosystem. By joining this collaborative ecosystem, these organizations will get the opportunity to drive global attention to their innovation and connect with the right stakeholders to scale their impact.

Meet the 15 Top Innovators selected for this Challenge:

1. Aadhimalai Pazhanagudiyinar Producer Company Limited secures the livelihoods of the indigenous communities living in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in India, harnessing their traditional wisdom and sustainable practices to create high-quality, ethically sourced forest products.

2. Associação de Produtores Rurais de Carauari is a community-based organization which promotes the socio-economic development of rural workers through participatory management of territory and conservation of biodiversity. Its most promising initiative is the sustainable management of pirarucu, a type of fish native to the basin of the Amazon River.

3. Bamboo Boards México is the first Mexican bamboo solid wood factory which integrates sustainable practices in its production model, working in close collaboration with rural local cooperatives.

4. Bastar Se Bazaar Tak works closely with indigenous farmers, particularly women farmers, in Bastar, to reduce non-timber forest produce losses, build natural forest products, and create flexible local employment.

Trillion Trees: Forest Communities and Value Chains Challenge

5. Camino Verde partners with smallholder farmers and native communities to regenerate forests and improve livelihoods through native species-based agroforestry systems in the regions of Madre de Dios and Loreto of the Peruvian Amazon.

6. COOPAVAM is a smallholder farmer cooperative in the Brazilian nuts sector which buys from indigenous collectors based on fair trade principles while providing equipment, training, technical support, and advance payments to finance trips into the forest.

7. Ecoflora is a bio-innovations company that develops high value-added natural ingredients and colours from Colombia's botanical biodiversity for the global food and beverage, personal care, pet food, and textile markets. It has also developed the world's first acid stable natural blue colour.

8. Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP oversees a state-funded carbon footprint mechanism project, incentivizing landowners for climate-friendly land use including regenerative agriculture, with over 40,000 hectares of degraded land restored so far.

9. Instituto Peabiru tackles socio-economic and environmental issues related to the long-term sustainability of the Brazilian Amazon. It has pioneered the legalization of native bee farming and the commercialization of honey, and developed practical, and scalable methodologies to raise Melipona, a native non-stinging bee species.

10. Oaxacanita Chocolate is the first indigenous chocolate company in Mexico which supports the socio-economic development of indigenous communities of the Mixteca Region of Oaxaca through the production of artisanal chocolate. It has built a collaborative supply chain including cocoa farmers, women cooks, and artisans who specialize in ancient chocolate traditions.

11. Origens Brasil is an innovative network connection platform, linking companies and consumers to sustainable production chains in the Amazon, generating value for standing forests and the communities that live there.

12. Segen Enterprises is a Kenyan company which focuses on value addition processing of non-timber forest products in Western Kenya. Its solution, Miti Afya Bora, leverages non-timber forest products from fruits, oil producing nut trees, and medicinal indigenous trees, to lead restoration and conservation efforts.

13. Perfect Village Communities leads land restoration activities while boosting local economies. It supports several income generation activities based on the commercialization of non-timber forest products, including new food production technologies, bee-keeping techniques, and natural remedies for the treatment of animals, to provide alternate livelihoods.

14. Thapasu Foods works closely with the indigenous Bhotia Tribe to promote sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, India. Its expertise lies in being a supply chain integrator of native agricultural and forest produce, such as seabuckthorn, rosehip, hemp seeds, and morel mushrooms, while also focusing on value chain addition for better market opportunities.

15. Vokenel Enterprises is a Kenyan company that processes baobab fruit powder and oil. It sources the fruit of the indigenous drought-resistant baobab tree from one of the most severely drought-affected counties of Kenya, Makueni County, and supports the conservation of existing trees and the planting of new trees.

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