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Learning with farmers for policy changes in natural resource management
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In the years following the 1970 drought in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mali planned and implemented many forestry programmes, especially the establishment of plantations using fast growing exotic species. These activities were primarily concerned with halting desertification and addressing the shortage of fuelwood which were assumed to be the main problems. These projects were not very successful partly because they did not recognise that for many rural people the non-timber forest products are important to their social and economic survival. Farmers give more priority to the availability of a wide range of non-wood products traditionally collected from the forests, such as edible fruit, fodder and browse for animals, fibres and bark and medicinal plants. The primary goal of this study was to provide foresters with information about villagers' use of non-timber forest products. Our assumption was that if villagers use a wide variety of forest products, then they also have a stake in ensuring the productive development of the forest resources to meet their own needs. Gaining an insight into villagers' uses, needs and preferences about non-timber forest products is important for foresters. It would make it possible for them to understand the role villagers might play in the management of classified forests, as well as how foresters can collaborate with villagers to get the best results. This would open the way for social forestry, i.e. 'forestry for people and by people'.