Sustainable use of Non-Timber Forest Products from a STS approach

Sustainable use of Non-Timber Forest Products from a STS approach

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By Ing. Katiuska Ravelo Pimentel

The agricultural frontier continues to advance inexorably over the forests. Once the timber species, considered as the only "valuable" species, have been extracted, the lands are cleared to carry out other uses of the soil that in most cases deplete it in a few years and are abandoned to proceed to further clearing; In this way, the deforestation rate has reached alarming figures with the known damage to biodiversity and the environment that this implies.


It is stated that biodiversity is the basis for sustainable development (WRI, IUCN and UNEP, 1992), understood the concept as the use of biologically and economically renewable natural resources, so that they satisfy the needs of current generations, preserving them in a productive and balanced so that they can meet the needs of future generations; which indicates that sustainability is a process that allows access to well-being, and therefore has a philosophical, political, social, economic and biological character.

The current ecological situation attracts the attention of men all over the world. In addition, those who have become aware of the responsibility of humanity towards nature not only consists of the very fact of the dramatic situation of the environment but also tries insistently to clarify the causes that generate such a dangerous situation in order to find real ways that lead to its elimination (Starcof, 1985).

Biological resources can contribute to social well-being by recycling important elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen or by softening excessive variations in climate or other natural elements. These indirect and future uses are not yet being taken into account in the evaluation studies and even if a resource is evaluated as not useful, it may become usable in the future, varying with the knowledge that one has about it. same; science and technology reach a very large social dimension when they undertake tasks that urge society and when they provide solutions that may be national or territorial in nature.

Despite the wide range of NTFPs and their manifest possibilities, their future will depend on the integrity and stability of forest resources, both from the point of view of their extension or continuity (occupied area) and their richness (diversity). , for the benefit of the communities that live in it and for society as a whole.

As forests diminish and, thus, their floristic wealth, they lose their ability to fulfill multiple functions, such as protection, sustenance, recreation, among others. Furthermore, with the destruction of native forest stands, not only "timber producing trees" are removed, but all NWFPs that cohabit in the forest ecosystem. It has been proven that deforestation of closed hydrophytic forests can contribute to the loss of up to 100 species per day, which have not even been classified and whose potential value as possible sources of food, medicine, fiber, etc. are wasted FAO (1993).

The integral use of the forest is not only achieved based on the knowledge of the classic forest management techniques but also of the NTFPs that are part of the native forest ecosystem. They constitute raw material for the development of innumerable industries that process or produce them, such as cane and fiber furniture, essential oils, pharmaceutical and chemical products, food, etc .; favoring the employment at local and regional level in particular of unskilled labor, generating income for the inhabitants, thus helping to avoid internal migration to the suburbs of the large populated centers FAO (1993).

Those who know the current and potential value of NTFPs are the diverse societies that live in and of the forest, which generally use the forest resource in a sustainable way. This is why NTFPs become a vital factor to achieve the conservation of the cultural identity of these inhabitants, their forest management practices and their various products, in addition to constituting a favorable situation for knowledge and techniques about the different uses of NTFPs are valued by developed societies. The knowledge accumulated at the popular level through the years must be rescued and serve as a safeguard for the permanence of indigenous cultures, their traditions, their language and their culture.

NTFPs provide the opportunity for the population to recognize the importance of forests as a source of food resources and thus actively participate in their conservation. Although NTFPs are internationally recognized, they are not an issue that concerns society in general, and they are not widely known in the environmental community either. The main cause is that the obtaining of NTFPs is basically by collection and that the commercialization is carried out through non-conventional channels, they do not have a fixed market, they respond to seasonal variations and often to the occurrence of certain events and are not reflected in the statistics . For example, in the case of medicinal herbs, only some have been studied with the seriousness that their use requires. These reasons mean that those who plan and make decisions do not include policies related to NTFPs on the agenda, mainly because they are unaware of their importance as a source of food and various raw materials for local people, as an unbeatable opportunity to protect the forest resource and as a tool to achieve sustainability. Knowing all the benefits that an adequate management of NTFPs would bring to humanity, it is essential to research more on the subject in order to disseminate this knowledge to the population so that they in turn press on the social actors with decision-making power. so that this issue is included in the policies of official bodies and redounds to a benefit to society and the physical environment in which they live.

Therefore, it is necessary to value the social approach of science and technology in the sustainable use of non-wood Forest Products.


There are still obstacles that impede the social vision of science and technology.

It is truly unfortunate that a traditional image of science and technology still persists among us. She is still present despite the emancipatory effort of Cuban scientific thought since the nineteenth century, as well as the lessons of profound social content that we have received from the scientific and technological policy and practice of the Cuban Revolution. In fact, combating this image is not at all easy if we consider that still, in the international arena for example, the theoretical studies that are being developed to promote a new vision do not show the same results as their practice. The problem of the relationship between Science, Technology and Society is by no means new, but the particularly contradictory and even dramatic forms that this relationship has reached in the various spheres of social life and in the different social regimes, since the post-war period. Until today, they have generated the most dissimilar social, political, academic, ethical, religious reactions, etc., in all regions of the world. It is clear that human survival is at stake, since the threats are expressed in the deterioration of the environment, in the calamities of underdevelopment, in the depletion of energy resources, in the ideological and practical irresponsibilities of the use and management of science and technology. technology for non-peaceful and inhumane purposes; among many other threats to the human race. Our country is not alien to these problems, because in our society, although these threats do not reach the drama that they have in industrialized countries and the Third World, we can find certain symptoms of such threats, because among many professionals in science and technology As among our population in general, many features of the inherited conception of science and technology persist, which is a generator of naiveties, voluntarism, misunderstandings, irresponsibility, negligence and inappropriate manipulations of science and technology that limit the development of our economy and the revolutionary social project.

The work that we develop in the CTS field in Cuba takes place under specific conditions that determine its theoretical and practical orientations. During the last four decades the development of culture, education and science has been a fundamental priority of the Cuban State. This has been expressed not only in significant advances in these fields but also in a certain mentality and structure of values ​​among professionals, particularly those linked to the scientific-technical field, where the sense of social responsibility has been widely extended. There is an ethical political perception of scientific work that includes the clear conception that it is carried out, above all, to satisfy the needs of social development and the satisfaction of the needs of citizens. This perception is shared by the actors involved in scientific, technological and innovation processes and has its roots in the social transformations that the country has experienced and the revolutionary ideology that has led it.

Education in CTS seeks precisely to cultivate that sense of social responsibility in the sectors linked to scientific, technological development and innovation. In Cuba not only is there awareness of the enormous scientific and technological challenge facing the underdeveloped world, but strategies have been promoted in the fields of economics, education, and scientific and technological policy that attempt to offer effective responses to this challenge. All of this, of course, requires renewed conceptual frameworks within which STS approaches can be useful.

The Cuban social sciences and the culture of the country in general have been nourished by the entire tradition of thought that has its most prominent and founding figure in Marx. In the CTS field, it is common to find very varied attitudes towards Marxism, from its acceptance to its rejection or ignorance. Many agree, however, that within his studies aimed at the elaboration of a critical theory of capitalism, Marx clearly understood the relationship of science and technology with accumulation processes and the decisive influence that the features of social economic formation capitalist exercise on technical scientific development.

With this, Marx and with him the best of the tradition that continues him are inextricably linked to the social approach to science and technology. Within the Marxist matrix, the problems of science and technology are examined in relation to the broader social problems that give them meaning, in particular their links with economic and political variables. If in other countries and academic cultures, the introduction of CTS studies has been carried out in arduous debate with positions that exclude or undervalue the social determination of science and technology, CTS studies in Cuba are nurtured while enriching tradition Marxist incorporated into culture and social thought.

Why is it necessary to see science as an activity? Is this a solution to the present problems?

Science as an activity is to put in the foreground the links science - politics, science - ideology, science - production, science - society, knowledge as a function of human existence. It is, above all, the production, dissemination and application of knowledge. Researchers do not operate in a social vacuum, but within scientific communities. It encourages the creation of scientific communities, as Engels clearly states that ... "a technical necessity drives science more than ten universities." There is no knowledge apart from social demands. Scientists social responsibility is needed. Scientific culture is the space of all the creative activity of men, expressive of their freedom.

Complex problems such as health, the environment, among others, have shown the limits of the ability of science to predict and control. A testimony is the global problems such as climate change, the mobility of diseases, nuclear accidents, the case of mad cows; the ecological disasters we are witnessing are also the result of the industrialization processes that technology has made possible. The Green Revolution is a clear example of environmental destruction associated with technological advance.

Industrial and agricultural activities cause changes in biological, chemical and geological cycles that disturb natural systems. We attend phenomena such as the disappearance of species, air and water pollution, a hole in the ozone layer, droughts and excess rain, floods, hurricanes, tsunami, among others.

As Solomon has said: “never have innovations and discoveries promised a greater increase in material progress, but never has humanity's capacity for production - and destruction - raised so many questions and uncertainties about the use that will be made of such progress. ”. Humanity has great power… but it is not clear that it has an equivalent dose of wisdom.

We live in a society that suffers from high technological risk, associated with complex management and the effects of technology, our civilization is the first that does not know what to do with waste. The problem is technically complex and at the same time socially pressing. Every decision made involves risks. Nature is not “under control (Jover, 2005).

It is true that innovation is the privileged instrument to be competitive and obtain profits. But in a socialist company the evaluation of an innovation requires other considerations. Take into account, for example, the conditions of employment of workers. A classic manual on these topics says that the best driver of productivity and innovation is the worker's fear of losing his job. We work for full employment. You also have to take care of the environment and health; we must ensure that the innovation process generates cooperation rather than pitched battles; that favors the moral implication of the workers and beneficial interactions between scientists, employers and workers; It is necessary to consider the benefits it brings to the consolidation of national education and science. The unit of analysis of an innovation in socialism must be society and not the company in isolation. All these indicators and criteria must be considered in a socialist discussion on the “knowledge economy”, which is hardly found in the more easily accessible literature.

The activity that we call science develops in the context of society, culture, and interacts with its most diverse components. When speaking of science as an activity, we are addressing the process of its development, its dynamics and integration within the total system of social activities. From this perspective, science - politics, science - ideology, science - production, science - society in general are promoted to the fore. Society is a multidimensional continuum where each phenomenon, including the elaboration of knowledge, makes sense only if it is related to the whole. Knowledge appears as a function of human existence, as a dimension of social activity carried out by men who enter into objectively conditioned relationships. Only within the framework that these relationships constitute is it possible to understand and explain the historical movement of science.

In principle, the function of science is linked to the acquisition of knowledge, the process of knowing, whose most traditional ideal is truth, in particular true scientific theory. Objectivity and rigor are attributes of that knowledge. The function of the technique is linked to the performance of procedures and products, by making the ideal of which is utility. The technique refers to practical operating procedures useful for certain purposes.

From antiquity to the Renaissance, science constitutes a knowledge that is based on the contemplation of nature. It is through observation and reasoning that it is possible to access the essence of nature. Modern science, led by Galileo, partially modifies this, displaces contemplation and speculation about essences and promotes a rationality supported by experimentation and the discovery of the mathematical laws that are "behind" sensible phenomena. For Descartes, observation is not enough: it is through experiment that questions are asked of nature, forcing her to reveal the underlying mathematical structure.

Less popular among us is the expression "Risk society" closely linked, among other factors, to the deployment of contemporary technology. That is also a formulation through which you try to capture a singularity of our time. Beck (1998) introduces the matter as follows: “In advanced modernity, the social production of wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risks. Therefore, the problems and conflicts of distribution of the deprived society are replaced by the problems and conflicts that arise from the production, definition and distribution of the risks produced in a scientific-technical way ”. It is a society, at the same time, dependent on science and criticism of science. The techno-scientific development generates an infinity of risks and at the same time “Many of the new risks (nuclear or chemical contamination, harmful substances in food, civilizing diseases) are completely removed from immediate human perception. More and more dangers pass to the center that are often neither visible nor perceptible for those affected, dangers that in certain cases are not activated during the lives of those affected, but in that of their descendants; In any case, they are dangers that require the "perceptual organs" of science (theories, experiments, measuring instruments) to make them "visible", interpretable as dangers ".

Problems raised from politics become problems to be addressed by science and scientific answers have repercussions on political decisions. Science can often provide an informed basis for decision-making, but scientists cannot be the only ones involved in estimating consequences and the values ​​that they involve. In the science-society link, many questions arise that transcend science. It is necessary to estimate social costs and benefits, legal regulations, long-term consequences and endless other issues of high social sensitivity. If scientists can be enough in academic life, the science-society nexus forces the intervention of other actors with legitimate perceptions on the issues in dispute.

Science may have a theory of truth to estimate the validity of its judgments, but, as Oscar Varsavsky (1972) said, it does not have a “theory of importance”. Importance is probably something beyond science (which is not to say unrelated to science).

The idea of ​​"regulatory science" travels in the same direction. This concept refers to scientific activity aimed at providing knowledge to advise on policy formulation. This is the case, for example, when health, environmental, food or other programs are designed. Unique courses of action are unlikely to be derived from the evidence available to science. Furthermore, this evidence is likely to be disputable and consensus building is difficult. Furthermore, the expert judgment must operate under pressure conditions, it must be enriched with interdisciplinary dialogue and also with the intervention of other social partners.

The practical and complex nature of the problems to be undertaken requires overcoming the disciplinary approach and opens the way to transdisciplinarity, which is the privileged form and attribute of knowledge. Absolutism and disciplinary arrogance give way to a more open and participatory dialogue. In a way this implies a certain democratization, let's call it internal. As we know, scientific disciplines do not only represent differentiated cognitive spaces but also areas that translate interests and distribute power. Transdisciplinary dialogue is a form of communicative exercise that must be participatory in order to be effective and can help overcome the classic dichotomies between “hard sciences” and “soft sciences”, among other names that barely hide disciplinary arrogance.

What has happened to nature?

The increase in population and the development of civilizations have produced notorious changes in the management systems of nature, from harvesting, the initial sedentary life, the production of self-sustenance, until reaching the market economies.

The functioning of ecosystems in the different ecological zones of planet earth, the impact of different technologies on the environment, knowledge or ignorance of technological alternatives, the influence of socio-cultural conditions on the environment, are subjects of forced management in the perspective of the location of modern methods of eco-development and environmental management.

The environmental crisis facing humanity comes, on the one hand, from the ignorance of a part of reality and on the other, from the management that man does of this incomplete reality, based on short-term objectives. Hence the need to integrate new variables, mainly of an environmental nature, and to set medium and long-term goals.

At the gates of the 21st century, the crisis that affects all of humanity increases the need to seek a development strategy that articulates economic growth with social equity and that in turn does not degrade the productive potential of natural resources, the basis of sustenance for present and future generations.

The official models of natural resource management in the world countries face an environmental crisis, are indicators of this crisis, the loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, the extinction of streams and sources of water , the contamination of agricultural soils by agrochemicals, climatic disorders, desertification and a gradual decrease in agricultural activity, the only producer of food resources for human beings.

At the Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, our Commander in Chief expressed: Man transforms nature as it develops, as his technique grows, man revolutionizes nature, but nature has its laws and nature does not can revolutionize with impunity (Castro, 1994)

The radical social change generated by the Cuban revolution has had direct effects in favor of the environment, by transforming living conditions and thereby creating the prerequisites so that man is not forced to act as an aggressor of the environment.

Cuba has suffered the effects of the green revolution and we are still under the effects of a model of agricultural production, imported from Europe that is not in accordance with the conditions of a small, blocked, underdeveloped country lacking the resources to maintain that model of agricultural development. based on the use of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, pesticides etc. that on the one hand are extremely expensive and on the other they affect the environment and human health.

Hence the importance of adopting a new concept of agroecological-based agriculture, aimed at achieving sustainable agricultural production, where a rational use of available natural resources is achieved.

Our agriculture is currently going through a severe crisis. It is incapable of supplying the needs of the population, so it requires profound changes to take place in existing patterns, which in one way or another have proven to be inefficient.

In the third world, the first thing that is in danger is not the quality of life, but life itself, that is, the life of human beings and the right to life of each one of them. In environmental matters, the main concerns in these countries have to do with the availability of water, the lack of firewood and the impoverishment of agricultural soils.

The accelerating and increasing deterioration of the environment is currently possibly the most serious long-term danger facing the entire human species as a whole. Never in the history of man has there been such a generalized and destructive aggression against the balance of all vital systems on the planet. In the underdeveloped world, underdevelopment and poverty are the main factors that today multiply the pressure exerted on the natural environment.

If the deterioration of the environment is analyzed from a historical perspective, it can be seen that, in a general sense, the greatest damage to the global ecosystem has been caused as a consequence of the development patterns followed by the most industrialized countries.

The process of the loss of biodiversity is also identified with the deterioration of the genetic diversity within each species, a phenomenon that supposes the progressive reduction, and the possible disappearance of the variability of species and races.

The creation and progressive generalization of an ecological conscience is today in Cuba one of the most important weapons for the protection of the environment (Castro, 1994).

Humanity faces serious problems that put its existence at risk. Among these are mainly:

• A deep environmental crisis, which includes the contamination of natural resources: soil, water and atmosphere.

• An irreversible destruction of the cultures (ways of being, doing and thinking of human communities) of a large number of ethnic groups with millenary knowledge that have served them for their self-protection and the protection of nature, in what has been called the cultural holocaust.

• A marked inequality in the distribution of resources in human societies, generating enormous poverty, mainly in third world countries.

• A deep crisis of ethical values ​​and the domination of expansionism, competitiveness and exploitation.

• A production of food for humanity, which at the present time is unsustainable (Pérez, 1996).

Non-Wood Forest Products

In Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in other national and international events, NTFPs have been identified as an important tool to advance towards sustainability, requiring measures to take advantage of its potential. In this way, it is possible to contribute to economic development and the creation of income in an ecologically sound and sustainable way. Previously considered secondary forest products, this important group of resources has recently received recognition and attention, since in addition to the traditional, cultural and socio-economic importance that they entail for some countries and ethnic groups, they represent a solid source of income for others. of exports.

Although the collection of this type of product is an activity developed for thousands of years by rural communities, the scientific interest in studying the role of these resources in the peasant economy and in the conservation of forest ecosystems is very recent. For this reason, although many international organizations have incorporated this concept in the design of their policies and action programs, its definition has been adapted to the different areas of work.

Although some authors have incorporated into their definitions other elements that limit the concept of NTFPs due to their scale of extraction or areas of commercialization (“forest products that are not processed by large forest industries”, these definitions have not been accepted by the institutions and people linked to this issue. There is no doubt that NTFPs are today an alternative that can contribute to the sustainable use of resources by diversifying the use of the forest, helping to meet the needs of the population in multiple aspects, both in numerous goods and services: food products, fodder, materials for healing, construction, water retention, carbon capture, extraction of raw materials and "active principles", or simply as a refuge for other species. However, NTFPs are not the salvation of the bosque nativo si tenemos que tener claro que poseen un gran potencial pero por si solos no serán capace s de solucionar los problemas que han generado el uso irracional del bosque, son un paso importante en los esfuerzos por demostrar las múltiples funciones del bosque y que el manejo forestal sostenible puede ser económicamente viable. Este gran potencial trae consigo un gran desafío consistente en la aplicación de la tecnología moderna mediante un barrido sistemático de cada una de todas las diferentes especies vivientes que se encuentra en nuestra geografía para determinar sus usos y aplicaciones y la posibilidad de desarrollar procesos de recolección de manera sustentable.

¿Qué pasa con el futuro del bosque y los PFNM?

A pesar de la amplia gama de PFNM y de sus posibilidades manifiestas, su futuro dependerá de la integridad y la estabilidad de los recursos forestales, tanto desde el punto de vista de su extensión o continuidad (superficie ocupada) como de su riqueza (diversidad), para beneficio de las comunidades que viven en él y para la sociedad en su conjunto.

La frontera agropecuaria sigue avanzando inexorablemente sobre los bosques. Una vez extraídas las especies maderables, consideradas como las únicas "de valor", las tierras son desmontadas para realizar otros usos del suelo que en la mayoría de los casos lo agotan en pocos años y son abandonadas para proceder a nuevos desmontes; de esta forma la tasa de deforestación ha alcanzado cifras alarmantes con los conocidos daños a la biodiversidad y al ambiente que ello implica.

Al disminuir los bosques y, así, su riqueza florística, estos pierden su capacidad de cumplir con múltiples funciones, como la de protección, de sustento, de recreación, entre otras. son desaprovechados.

El aprovechamiento integral del bosque no solo se logra en base al conocimiento de las técnicas clásicas de ordenación forestal sino también de los PFNM que son parte del ecosistema forestal nativo. Constituyen materia prima para el desarrollo de innumerables industrias que los procesan o producen, como por ejemplo muebles de cañas y fibras, aceites esenciales, productos farmacéuticos y químicos, alimentos, etc.; favoreciendo el empleo a nivel local y regional en particular de mano de obra no especializada, generando ingresos a los pobladores, contribuyendo así a evitar la migración interna hacia el conurbano de los grandes centros poblados.

En condiciones naturales, los PFNM, pueden ser manejados junto con los productos forestales madereros de manera integrada, incrementando así la productividad total. Pueden ser cultivados en forma mixta bajo sistemas agroforestales o como monocultivos, y cosechados de manera sostenida sin causar deforestación o daño al medio ambiente y a la biodiversidad.

El rol de las comunidades locales en el valor potencial de los PFNM.

Los conocedores del valor actual y potencial de los PFNM son las diversas sociedades que viven en y del bosque, las cuales generalmente utilizan el recurso bosque de manera sostenible. El conocimiento acumulado a nivel popular a través de los años, debe ser rescatado y servir como salvaguarda para la permanencia de las culturas indígenas, sus tradiciones, su lengua y su cultura.

Los PFNM, brindan la oportunidad de que la población reconozca la importancia de los bosques como fuente de recursos alimenticios y de esta manera participe activamente en la conservación de estos.

El gran dilema entre los PFNM, su conocimiento por parte de la sociedad y su inserción en la agenda política

Aunque son reconocidos internacionalmente los PFNM no son un tema que preocupe a la sociedad en general, y tampoco son de amplio conocimiento en la comunidad de ambientalistas. La principal causa es que la obtención de los PFNM es básicamente por recolección y que la comercialización se realiza por canales no convencionales, no poseen mercado fijo, responden a variaciones estaciónales y muchas veces a la ocurrencia de determinados eventos y tampoco se reflejan en las estadísticas. Por ejemplo en el caso de las hierbas medicinales, solo algunas han sido estudiadas con la seriedad que su empleo requiere.

Estas razones hacen que los que planean y toman las decisiones no incluyan en la agenda políticas relacionadas a los PFNM, debido principalmente a que desconocen su importancia como fuente de alimentos y materias primas varias para pobladores locales, como oportunidad inmejorable para resguardar el recurso bosque y como herramienta para alcanzar la sustentabilidad. Al conocer todos los beneficios que le traería a la humanidad un manejo adecuado de los PFNM, es indispensable investigar más sobre el tema con el fin de divulgar estos conocimientos a la población para que esta a su vez presione sobre los actores sociales con poder de decisión para que este tema se incluya en las políticas de los organismos oficiales y redunde en un beneficio a la sociedad y al entorno físico en que habita. Cuando sea necesario, hay que organizar programas de capacitación en cualesquiera nuevas especializaciones y apoyar a las instituciones de investigación competentes. Se pueden organizar demostraciones para el público en general y para los funcionarios y es necesario dar publicidad a la utilización sostenible de PFNM tanto en el plano local como nacional. Además la elaboración de proyectos relacionados con los PFNM, se justifican también por la expectativa cifrada tanto en el plano nacional como internacional, en la búsqueda de modelos de desarrollo sustentable y aplicables a las condiciones frágiles y complejas de los ecosistemas tropicales. De esta manera, se busca garantizar la conservación del medio ambiente paralelo a una oferta de bienes manufacturados de base ecológica, destinada a la sustitución de los productos elaborados con materia prima e insumos sintéticos.

En los últimos años se ha observado un creciente interés y una demanda cada vez mayor en relación con estos productos y se ha tomado conciencia de su potencial comercial prácticamente desaprovechado. Sin embargo pese a este interés sigue habiendo una carencia fundamental de datos precisos y adecuados sobre los PFNM, lo que dificulta la estimación de las oportunidades de desarrollo de esta base de recursos.

Por otra parte, tal vez como una señal de la escasa atención y las inversiones relativamente limitadas que estos productos han recibido a la fecha, aun no se ha acordado un nombre en el ámbito internacional para cubrir estos productos forestales, PFNM es solo es uno de los diversos términos utilizados. Esto agrava aun más los problemas de su definición y evaluación.

Un tema constante de los diversos estudios sobre los PFNM es la amenaza que plantea la sobreexplotación. La viabilidad comercial de un producto dependerá de la disponibilidad de la oferta. Para asegurar una oferta regular, es necesario contar con un conocimiento cabal de la capacidad regeneradora del producía de modo que se pueda mantener un equilibrio adecuado entre este y la escala de producción.

Otro factor íntimamente ligado a la sustentabilidad del recurso es la tenencia de la tierra y si los responsables de recolectar los productos también son parcialmente, si no totalmente, responsables del manejo del bosque. Sin un interés personal en el proceso es improbable que adopten una perspectiva a largo plazo.

En el caso de muchos PFNM, el desarrollo industrial quizás nunca sea económico pero ello no significa, que no tenga un valor económico. La importancia de estos productos para el bienestar de las comunidades forestales no debe subestimarse.

Uno de los peores males que afectan al sector de los PFNM es la negligencia institucional con respecto a políticas, estrategias y planes, derechos legales y acuerdos, incentivos, desarrollo de destrezas, consideraciones de salud y seguridad, acceso a información, y apoyo eficiente por parte de la administración pública.

En la mayoría de las políticas forestales, los PFNM sólo reciben una mención pasajera, pero sin claros objetivos, metas y estrategias de desarrollo. Esta omisión conduce a la falta de planes, programas y proyectos pertinentes relacionados con ellos, y a la insuficiencia de inversiones. Debido a esto, hay poco incentivo en desarrollar y mantener una base de datos sobre PFNM. Ha habido iniciativas para mejorar la situación en algunos países, pero se requiere con urgencia una acción mucho mayor.

El predominio de la extracción artesanal en la producción y el manejo de los PFNM requieren de medidas adecuadas con respecto a derechos legales para fomentar las inversiones y mejoramientos a largo plazo. Además, esto es necesario para facilitar la disponibilidad de préstamos/fondos para el desarrollo de PFNM.

El término "extractivismo" significa la cosecha tradicional o de baja tecnología de productos que ocurren naturalmente en los bosques naturales. Los indios de la región amazónica, extractores de caucho y recolectores de PFNM con una forma de vida basada en los bosques, son las personas involucradas en esta actividad. El problema de los derechos de grupos extractores para cosechar y manejar PFNM tiene implicancias sociales, económicas y ecológicas. Cuando el valor de los productos termina en manos de los intermediarios, los extractores siguen pobres, independiente del valor de los productos involucrados. El ingreso consistente y equitativo proveniente de la cosecha de PFNM proporciona a la gente un incentivo para conservar y manejar el bosque en forma sostenida. Este fue el razonamiento que tuvo el Congreso Nacional de Guatemala para promulgar la Ley de la Reserva de la Biosfera Maya en 1990. Alrededor de la mitad de la reserva, 750 000 ha, está designada como reserva extractiva para xate, pimienta malagueta, chicle y otros productos importantes.

La participación organizada y de amplia base, incluyendo a grupos locales, a las mujeres, a la comunidad indígena y al sector privado, es un medio esencial para fortalecer la estructura institucional para el desarrollo de PFNM, con el fin de obtener beneficios económicos y ecológicos. La disponibilidad de facilidades para la capacitación y desarrollo de aptitudes, la entrega de paquetes tecnológicos y apoyo mediante extensión, un sistema para proporcionar información de mercado, apoyo para instalar la infraestructura necesaria y una administración pública forestal eficiente, con orientación hacia el desarrollo, son otros componentes de una estructura institucional racional. Esta estructura es necesaria para promover una relación beneficiosa entre la industria productora y el usuario, y las operaciones integradas cuando esto sea factible.

Al vincular los recursos PFNM con mercados nacionales e internacionales para apoyar el desarrollo sostenible, cada país debe diseñar mecanismos apropiados a su situación, cubriendo el acceso, control, manejo y propiedad del recurso, e involucrando a la gente y grupos locales, agencias administrativas, la industria y el comercio. El apoyo y la asistencia internacional pueden facilitar y ayudar a acelerar el proceso.

Los países de esta Región pueden aprender de las experiencias de otros a través del intercambio regular de información y de actividades conjuntas. En este sentido, será muy útil una Red Regional de Información sobre Productos Forestales No Madereros.

Entre los problemas más resultantes destacan los siguientes:

• Destrucción de los bosques y, consecuentemente, de la diversidad biológica de los ecosistemas tropicales, debido a la creciente deforestación, que en la actualidad alcanza a 300 000 ha/año.

• Son muchas las especies forestales que en el país han sido conocidas a través de la historia, por sus propiedades medicinales. En la actualidad se han descuidado mucho esos conocimientos, y buena parte de ellos se han perdido.

• Aprovechamiento y extracción de algunos PFNM bajo formas rudimentarias.

• Desconocimiento del potencial económico de los recursos forestales diferentes de la madera (estadísticas), así como de las experiencias ancestrales de las comunidades nativas sobre el uso integral de los bosques.

• No hay manejo y aprovechamiento integral ni sostenibilidad del recurso bosque.

• Débil labor de mercadeo de los PFNM respecto a su mercado, presentación y comercialización.

• Escasa labor de divulgación y capacitación referente a PFNM.

• Carencia de una política efectiva sobre la conservación y aprovechamiento racional de los PFNM de importancia económica, capaz de frenar y revertir la situación crítica y de extinción de algunas especies.

Como consecuencia de todos estos problemas, la pérdida de la biodiversidad y erosión genética de los bosques tropicales se va agravando cada día más. Los PFNM provenientes del bosque y de uso tradicional en las comunidades nativas y poblaciones locales, se vuelven más escasos y distantes, por lo que estos grupos humanos se ven precisados a dedicar mayor tiempo en su obtención o, en su defecto, a mermar sus débiles economías en la compra de productos similares y originarios de otras regiones.

Podemos concluir entonces que:

Dado el recurso forestal y el potencial científico con que contamos, es hora de que la ciencia y la tecnología cubran su lugar en el aprovechamiento de los productos forestales no madereros y su transformación en bienes de consumo para el pueblo, basados en una estrategia ambiental adecuada, integrando el respeto por el ambiente en la aplicación de tecnologías modernas a la agricultura y en la administración de los ecosistemas y los recursos naturales. Se trata, en resumen, de la transformación química y biológica del aserrín y la corteza de pino que se acumulan en los aserraderos como residuos de la producción de madera aserrada, y la obtención de productos útiles a la sociedad como son compost y alimento animal, entre otros, contribuyendo a la vez al saneamiento ambiental por la eliminación de estos residuos.

Es necesario dirigir los recursos de investigación hacia esos productos olvidados y que tienen un potencial prometedor pues pueden reportar dividendos económicos importantes al reducir importaciones y sobre todo, creando instalaciones sencillas con un gasto mínimo de recursos en las cercanías de los centros de producción, con lo cual se abrirían nuevos puestos de trabajo en las zonas rurales. Es necesario garantizar la utilización de todos nuestros recursos forestales a través de la promoción de líneas de investigación que arrojen resultados aplicables y que permitan el desarrollo de tecnologías ecológica y económicamente viables.

Se trata de definir proyectos científico-técnicos que sirvan de soporte a los objetivos generales del desarrollo social. Para llevar a cabo estos proyectos de investigación se precisa romper una barrera de años de prejuicios hacia la utilización de los recursos forestales no madereros, para lo cual hay que poner en marcha un programa educativo que comience en la Universidad, con una amplia participación estudiantil en este tipo de investigación científica y que incluya también a las autoridades estatales y políticas, quienes suelen mostrarse escépticos por falta de información sobre estos temas. La solución a la crisis económica y ecológica necesita inexorablemente encontrar lazos culturales y sociales que redefinan relaciones de solidaridad y cooperación entre los hombres y entre éstos y la naturaleza.

Ing. Katiuska Ravelo Pimentel. Profesor Asistente.Facultad de Agronomía de Montaña. Universidad de Pinar del Río. Cuba.


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