Non-wood forest products of Bhutan-The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Non-wood forest products of Bhutan-The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

For centuries, the people of Bhutan have lived in harmony with nature in the far reaches of the eastern Himalayas. The Kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the most forested countries in the world, and harbours an astounding diversity of plants and animals. The country's environment has benefitted significantly from deep-rooted Buddhist ethics and a long history of conservation leadership.

The deep reverence the Bhutanese people have for their natural environment exists in spite of, or more likely because of, their extreme dependence on it. The forests of Bhutan, in particular, provide critical materials for the daily subsistence of most Bhutanese families. The Bhutanese make considerable use of wood for houses, shingles, tools, fences, and numerous other items, as well as for cooking and heating. But it is the extensive use of non-wood forest products by the Bhutanese that is especially striking.

Non-wood forest products touch nearly every aspect of the lives of a Bhutanese. The country's forests provide food, fodder, medicine, oils, resins, fibers, dyes, and raw materials for baskets, traditional paper, houses, brooms, mats and numerous other items.

Until recently, most non-wood forest products were used locally by Bhutanese people. Increasingly, however, these products are attracting the interest of outside buyers and consumers in far-away countries. This interest presents both opportunities and risks for Bhutan - opportunities include cash income for the rural poor, revenues for the government for developing the country, and increased investment in rural infrastructure and processing centers; risks include potential over-exploitation of natural resources, inequitable distribution of benefits, and shortages of raw materials that might other wise be used for traditional and local needs.

This publication, prepared by the Forestry Services Division of the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture, highlights the extensive use and potential of non-wood forest products in Bhutan. It should serve as a useful introduction for all foresters, biologists, and rural development workers interested in Bhutan's complex and bountiful non-wood forest resources and products.

A.Z.M. Obaidullah Khan
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO