Supporting Canada’s NTFP Sector: Lessons from Manitoba’s Northern Forest Diversification Centre
Keywords:rural livelihoods, non timber forest products (NTFP), natural resource management, The Pas Manitoba, Northern Forest Diversification Centre
AbstractThere is increasing interest in non-timber forest product (NTFP) development as a means to improve rural livelihoods in Canada, and a corresponding need to better understand the associated opportunities, constraints and best practices. To this end we assessed the experience of the Northern Forest Diversification Centre (NFDC), a unique organization dedicated to developing and promoting NTFP trade in northern Manitoba that operated from 2001 - 2006. Hundreds of harvesters were trained by, and sold products to, the NFDC, earning modest wages that were significant to local households. Other benefits included increased pride and self-sufficiency, re-connection with the land and community, rediscovery of traditions, and skills development. In 2006 the business aspects of the NFDC were privatized, while training and research functions remained with University College of the North. Activities in both realms have declined significantly. Lessons learned from the intervention include the importance of a clear vision amidst diverse expectations; that harvester support must be long term and expectations realistic; that local champions are essential and must be supported; that all elements of the market chain must be integrated; and that the social, environmental and cultural benefits associated with NTFP development, as well as the economic ones, must be valued.
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