Assessment of non-wood forest products and their role in the livelihoods of rural communities in the Gash-Barka region, Eritrea

Assessment of non-wood forest products and their role in the livelihoods of rural communities in the Gash-Barka region, Eritrea

Ensuring sustainable livelihoods in the forests of Eritrea

In Eritrea, forest resources and vegetation cover are under serious threat and both the areas under forest cover and their quality are declining. Agricultural development programmes have emphasised increasing production through the use of agrochemicals or the expansion of cultivable land at the expense of the natural resource base that yield non-wood forest products (NWFPs).

The study prepared a checklist of the major non-wood yielding plant species, describing their use, assessing the contribution of NWFPs to the rural communities, and documenting indigenous knowledge of the management of the forest resources in Eritrea. The study also presents specific management intervention strategies to conserve the remaining NWFP producing species in the country.

The following policy recommendations are presented:

  • few measures for biodiversity conservation and environmental protection have been used in Eritrea - there is a need to explicitly link economic incentives as means of conserving these resources
  • such economic measures may include property rights, market creation, charge system, fiscal instruments, financial instruments, and bonds and deposits
  • strategies should be designed in such a way that the benefits from the NTFP are shared equitably among the entire local communities without jeopardising the interests of the agropastorlists and pastoralists
  • government funds and capacity are limited to ensure their conservation, therefore privatisation of some NWFPs could also encourage investors to re-look at them and invest enough in the conservation and utilisation of these resources
  • with the existence of widespread rural poverty and thus the pressing need for income and subsistence, biodiversity conservation must generate net benefits for local economies and form an integral part of strengthening rural production systems
  • in the long-term, sustainable exploitation and management practices depend on the level of engagement of the local communities – they need increased empowerment, ownership and decision-making powers.