Dan McKone - My new house in Itumba, Ileje District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, 1992. I was a Peace Corps forester in Tanzania for two years, 1992-94.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Peace Corps Tanzania: Web Links for Tanzania RPCVs: Dan McKone - My new house in Itumba, Ileje District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, 1992. I was a Peace Corps forester in Tanzania for two years, 1992-94.

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, July 09, 2001 - 3:55 pm: Edit Post

Dan McKone - My new house in Itumba, Ileje District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, 1992. I was a Peace Corps forester in Tanzania for two years, 1992-94.

Dan McKone - My new house in Itumba, Ileje District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, 1992. I was a Peace Corps forester in Tanzania for two years, 1992-94.

Dan McKone

Welcome to Dan's Home on the Web
Page is under reconstruction!
Some links are currently accessible.

Report on a brief survey of the catchment Forest Reserves of Mbeya Region, Tanzania

Report on the Traditional Forest Reserves (TFR) of Rungwe District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania.

Biophysical survey methods for Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) in Lao PDR (Laos)

Read a Background Information and Issues Paper related to the development of biophysical survey methods for NTFPs in Lao PDR

(Actual methodology page not yet complete)

A Biophysical and Socioenvironmental Description of the proposed Ileje Range Forest Reserve

Ileje District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania


The forests and woodlands of Lao PDR (Laos), including coniferous forests (with Pinus kesiya and P. merkusii) in Xiang Khoung Province. Forthcoming

Meanwhile, check out a Photo

General information on the tropical conifer Dacrycarpus, with photos of Dacrycarpus imbricatus from the Bolovens Plateau, Lao PDR (Laos)

You can reach me at: mckone@mckone.org

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Last updated: 05 June 2002



Please note that this paper is a shorter, slightly modified version of the original publication presented to the Project by myself and does not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN, the Department of Forestry Lao PDR, nor the NTFP Project, Lao PDR.

NTFP Project
"Supporting the sustainable use of Non-Timber Forest Products"

Consultant's Report 3/96

DRAFT (Version djm1)

Methodology for Collecting Environmental Information for Supporting Baseline Monitoring and Evaluation of Project Impacts:
Background Information and Issues

D. McKone

November 1996


NTFP Project, P.O. Box 4340 Vientiane, Lao PDR Tel. and Fax.: (++856-21) 222-861

IUCN, The World Conservation Union
IUCN, Lao PDR Tel.: (++856-21) 216-401; Fax.: (++856-21) 216-127

1.0 Introduction

The Goal of the Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP)(1) Project is:

"...to conserve forest biodiversity(2) by promoting sustainable economic exploitation(3) of NTFPs..."[1].

The Project's Major Objectives include:

* Determining "the sustainable harvest levels for selected NTFPs" [1];


* Determining "how [Protected areas] can conserve biodiversity values while contributing meaningfully to the welfare of local residents"[1].

The Project's Vision statement includes:

* Developing "effective models for forest conservation and community development through the sustainable use of NTFPs" [1].

Also, the Project Annual Plan 1996/97 states that the Project will:
"...obtain baseline information from those pilot sites where agreements have been made...".

"The Project will adopt methods for collecting baseline information that:

* provide timely, reliable, and cost-effective information;
* can be used without requiring highly expensive equipment or trained specialists (i.e. practicable in the rural context);
* recognise the existence and value of local knowledge and skills; and,
* provide opportunities for exchange and ownership of information by local people" [1].

And, for the purposes of monitoring and evaluation, the Project will use the above information to:

* "...understand the changing status and context of project implementation;
* check the assumptions that have been made in planning; and
* respond and modify plans and actions as necessary" [1].

"...assess the extent to which the Project's objectives are being achieved" [1].

Given the above goal, objectives, vision, and other components, the Project will need to collect, monitor and evaluate environmental information in forests where it is active.

(1)In this case, NTFP(s) refers to: all animal and plant products from 'forests', other than processed timber for construction purposes; including fuelwood and other processed wood products such as charcoal. An 'NTFP species' is an animal or plant species which provides one or more non-timber forest 'product(s)'.
(2)Forest: The term forest is taken to include vegetation types with a forest structure as well as areas of fallow swidden, shrublands and agro-forests, and other associated biophysical resources such as soils, water, trees, plants and animals [3].
(3)For the Project, the term 'economic exploitation' includes "the production, collection, processing, distribution and consumption of goods for subsistence, barter and income generation purposes" [1].
(4)Environment, in this case, refers to the 'natural' environment(s) in areas where the Project is active. This includes biophysical factors [biological, ecological, and physical (abiotic)], as well as management objectives, treatments and other human-driven activities related to the 'natural' environment(s).

This paper presents issues related to the development of a methodology for collecting environmental information for supporting baseline monitoring and evaluation of Project impacts. It is based on a survey of available literature; discussions with concerned individuals, from both inside and outside the Project; visits to Project sites; and the author's experience. See Appendix 1 for people, organizations and places contacted.(Not included in this version).

An extract of the terms of reference (TOR) for this consultancy, that is relevant to this report, is attached as Appendix 2. (Not included in this version).

2.0 'Biodiversity' and 'Sustainability'

Project documents make generous use of the terms/concepts: 'Biodiversity' and 'Sustainability' (e.g. "sustainable utilization of NTFPs", "sustainable use of NTFPs", and "conserve forest biodiversity by promoting sustainable economic exploitation of NTFPs" [1,3,4,5,12]. Nowhere, however, are they adequately defined. Therefore, suggested working definitions, plus an alternative approach to 'sustainability', are given below:

Biodiversity: refers to the variety and abundance of species(5) (e.g. plant, animal and fungi(6) species) found in forests; their genetic(7) variety; and the variety of forest ecosystems(8) which these species make up (including the physical(9) components of these ecosystems). Biodiversity and its measurement/assessment are discussed further in [6] and [7].

Sustainability(10) : A typical definition of 'sustainability', from an environmental management perspective that relates directly to plant NTFPs is : "a sustainable system for exploiting non-timber forest resources is one in which fruits, nuts, latexes, and other products can be harvested indefinitely from a limited area of forest with negligible impact on the structure and dynamics of the plant populations(11) being exploited" [8]; see also [2] and [9].

Ideally, if something is sustainable, it can be continued forever [10]. More down to earth: "when people define an activity as sustainable, however, it is on the basis of what they know at the time. There can be no long-term guarantee of sustainability because many factors remain unknown or unpredictable" [10]. This is especially true in the natural environment, where cyclical, stochastic(12) and successional changes are common. Given this, it is suggested that one should: "...be conservative in actions that could affect the environment, study the effects of such actions carefully, and learn from (your) mistakes..." [10]. This sounds very similar to the so-called 'precautionary principle' which says: it is best to err on the side of caution in the face of uncertainty. [11].

(5)A common definition of species, but by no means the only one, is: a group of individuals capable of interbreeding.
(6)Fungi: e.g. mushrooms.
(7)Genetic: at the level of genes (e.g. alleles and how they combine in forming multi-locus genotypes) [13].
(8)Ecosystem: an ecological community and its local non-living (abiotic) environment [14]. The primary attributes of an ecosystem are: composition, structure and function.
(9)Non-living or abiotic.
(10)It has been suggested that the concept of 'sustainability' should actually be viewed at three levels:
--Social or socio-political sustainability
--Economic sustainability
--Environmental or ecological sustainability
For detailed and articulate discussions of this topic see [2] and [11].
(11)Population, in this case, refers to: A group of individuals of the same species living in the same area or interbreeding and sharing genetic information [14].
(12)Stochastic: cannot be predicted.
Therefore, using the above logic, the term/concept: 'Environmentally conservative management' (ECM), is suggested as an alternative to 'sustainable exploitation' and its many derivatives. For the purposes of this paper, ECM is defined in terms of exploiting(13) NTFP species in a manner that is conservative(14) and which minimises the negative environmental impacts(15) on the forests where these NTFP species are found. ECM may also include the domestication of wild species, if this contributes to what has been presented above.

3.0 Project context

The Project operates in a wide variety of rapidly changing socio-political(16), economic and biophysical(17) environments. This is especially true of forest environments, where there continues to be considerable pressure on resources, not only from local communities, but also from provincial, national, and international interests.

The scheduled duration of the Project is five years, which limits the time available for measuring and monitoring potential environmental indicators of Project impacts.

The Project has a total of three Field Teams (FTs): one each operating in the provinces of Oudomxai and Champassak; and one operating in and around Xe Bang Nouan (XBN) National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA), which is located in the provinces of Salavan and Savannakhet.

The "skills and knowledge of most FT members are relatively weak due to the limited exposure" most members "have had to modern administrative systems and management practices, participatory learning and action approaches, record keeping, report writing, and technologies..." [12]. "In particular, most team members lack the analytical skills which are critical to understanding and influencing resource management..." [12].

4.0 Collecting environmental information in forests

The monitoring and evaluation of environmental indicators of Project impacts requires a broad range of environmental information from forests. This is complicated by the Project's focus on the conservation of forest biodiversity and the exploitation of selected NTFP species; as well as by the Project's limited, albeit 5 year, duration.


(13)Exploitation, in this case, refers to pre-harvest, harvest and additional treatments, including domestication, associated with selected NTFP species.
(14)Conservative implies: minimising negative impact(s) on the regeneration/continued viable existence of the populations being exploited. Exploitation affects a species at the level of the individual organism and population; other species and the abiotic environment may also be affected at different levels. See [2].
(15)Negative environmental impacts: refers specifically to actions which may adversely affect population(s) of individual species; the diversity (variety and abundance) of species; permanently change and impair forest ecosystem processes under 'average' environmental conditions; and/or reduce the ability of forest ecosystems to withstand, and recover from, extreme events [15].
(16)This includes cultural factors.
(17)This incorporates the ecological, biological and physical (abiotic) components of the 'natural' environment.
Therefore, the Project will need to collect environmental information at two levels:

* Forests
* Selected NTFP species

Typically, the environmental information collected at the start of Project interventions would be considered 'baseline' information. This information would then be compared with the same type of environmental indicators at the end of the Project, or at some other interval. The object being to observe changes in these environmental indicators that may provide insight into the Project's environmental impacts. This is problematic, however, given the stochastic and cyclical changes common in the natural environment; in addition to human driven changes [16]. In these circumstances, "it is difficult to distinguish between normal variation and absolute change in environmental conditions" [17].

Therefore, the environmental information collected should be considered a 'snapshot' baseline, rather than a 'definitive' baseline which is representative of the 'normal' state of the environment from which it was collected

Given the above, a useful methodology for collecting environmental information for the NTFP Project should involve the collection of:

* Qualitative and quantitative environmental information on forests and selected NTFP species
* Documentation of past and present management objectives of forest users (FUs)(18) and treatments(19) applied in forests and in relation to selected NTFP species

'Profiles', which provide environmental information at different levels, from a variety of sources, may be used to collect the above environmental information. These 'Profiles' may be repeated over the life of the Project, with environmental indicators from different levels compared and contrasted, to help gain insight into the kinds (and direction) of environmental impacts which may occur as a result of Project interventions.

(18)Forest users (FUs) are local individuals or groups who utilize and manage local forests.
(19)Treatments refer to the multitude of ways which forest users manipulate and extract forest resources, including selected NTFP species; as well as other activities carried out by FUs and others in forests.
These profiles should include:

1. 'Forest profiles', which:

* Provide basic biophysical information about forests(20) , e.g. in no particular order:
--Location of forests
--Indicators of accelerated soil erosion
--Soil cover
--Current main vegetation type
--Vegetation layers present, extent of their cover and dominant species present
--Regeneration of vegetation
--NTFP species present, including wildlife
--Indicators of human impacts
* Document the management objectives of FUs and treatments applied in forests, e.g. in no particular order:
--Identify FUs
--History of treatments
--Current treatments
--Spatial location of treatments
--History of management objectives
--Current management objectives
--Trends in management objectives and treatments

And, if the Project perceives a need, given time and resource constraints, to:
* Record detailed forest characteristics, e.g. in no particular order:
--Density(21) of tree and shrub species; plus bamboo/rattan
--Basal area (BA)(22) of tree species
--Abundance(23) of tree regeneration
--Density of cut stumps
--Species richness(24) (e.g. tree, shrub and bamboo/rattan species)
--Indicators of wildlife
(Note: This may include quantitative information about selected NTFP species.)


(20)Forests will probably have to be broken down into smaller units (e.g. compartments, stands or blocks) in order to facilitate information gathering and monitoring.
(21)Density: number of individuals per unit area.
(22)Basal area: cross-sectional area of a tree at breast height (1.3 m).
(23)Abundance= amount
(24)Species richness is the total number of different species in a given area.

2. 'Selected NTFP species profiles', which:

* Document the management objectives of FUs and treatments related to selected NTFP species, e.g. in no particular order:
--NTFP species type
--Products obtained from species
--Formal and informal tenure/access/user rights status of FUs in relation to a NTFP species
--FU knowledge of the biological and ecological characteristics of a species
--Part(s) of individual (of species) extracted
--Methods of harvesting
--Frequency and intensity of harvesting
--Seasonal patterns of collection

And, if the Project perceives a need, given time and resource constraints, to:
* Record biological and ecological information on the populations of selected NTFP species, e.g. in no particular order:
--Approximate spatial distribution of population(s) of species
--Density of species (regeneration and adults)
--Size of plants (if applicable)
--Size-class distribution of plant species (regeneration and adults)
--Quantity of collectable part(s) present [potential product]

(Note: This information may be obtained during a separate 'inventory' of selected NTFP species, or while gathering 'detailed forest characteristics' for a 'forest profile', as presented above.)

Most of the above information can be collected by FTs or FUs, given the appropriate training. However, due to the mobility and other characteristics of wildlife, collecting more than just anecdotal and very basic qualitative information about many wildlife species may require the assistance of specialists. This may also be the case, with some of the more 'unusual' plant species and fungi; which have problematic, or unpredictable, life-cycles/life-stages. The identification of some plant species, beyond local names, may require the services of a plant taxonomist/herbarium.

Much of the information needed for the 'Profiles' may have already been collected by FTs in the course of their normal activities. For example, information related to the management objectives of FUs and treatments applied in forests and related to selected NTFP species. Recording detailed forest characteristics for a 'Forest profile' or recording biological and ecological information about the populations of selected NTFP species for a 'Selected NTFP species profile', however, will require more time and resources, and are more difficult to carry out, than other components of the 'Profiles'.


1. NTFP Project. 1996. Annual Plan 1996/97 (Version 22.10.96). Department of Forestry, Lao PDR and IUCN: NTFP Project, Vientiane.

2. Ros-Tonen, M., W. Dijkman and E.L. van Bueren. 1995. Commercial and Sustainable Extraction of Non-Timber Forest Products: Toward a policy and management oriented research strategy. The Tropenbos Foundation, Wageningen.

3. NTFP Project. 1996. Terms of Reference for Forest Condition and Biodiversity Baseline Survey Methodology Consultancy, 3/96. Department of Forestry, Lao PDR and IUCN: NTFP Project, Vientiane.

4. NTFP Project. 1995. Draft Annual Plan 1995/96 (Version 29.11.95). Department of Forestry, Lao PDR and IUCN: NTFP Project, Vientiane.

5. IUCN. 1992. Proposal for Sustainable Utilization of Non-Timber Forest Products in Lao PDR (an operational project proposal). IUCN Forest Conservation Programme, Gland.

6. McKone, D. 1996. Biodiversity and its measurement: a brief introduction. Unpublished paper. 4 pp.

7. Claridge, G., R. Mather, and V. Wangwacharakul. 1996. Biodiversity Monitoring and Evaluation in the Lao PDR: A Discussion Paper. GEF, WIPACOP and MIDAS Agronomics, Vientiane (or Bangkok?).

8. Peters, C. 1994. Sustainable Harvest of Non-Timber Plant Resources in Tropical Moist Forest: An Ecological Primer. Biodiversity Support Program (WWF, The Nature Conservancy and WRI), Washington, D.C.

9. FAO. 1995. Report of the International Expert Consultation on Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP 3). FAO, Rome.

10. IUCN/UNEP/WWF. 1991. Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living. Gland, Switzerland.

11. Goodland, R. 1995. "The Concept of Environmental Sustainability". Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 26, pp. 1-24.

12. NTFP Project. 1996. Annual Progress Report 1 July 1995 - 30 June 1996. Department of Forestry, Lao PDR and IUCN: NTFP Project, Vientiane.

13. Boyle, T. and J. Sayer. 1995. "Measuring, monitoring and conserving biodiversity in managed tropical forests". Commonwealth Forestry Review 74(1), pp. 20-25.

14. Botkin, D. and E. Keller. 1987. Environmental Studies: Earth as a Living Planet. Merrill Publishing Co., Columbus.

15. Lawton, J. 1994. "What do species do in ecosystems?". Oikos 71, pp. 367-374.

16. Goldsmith, F. (Ed.). 1991. Monitoring for Conservation and Ecology. Chapman and Hall, London.

17. Showers, K. 1996. From: "Comments on articles by Arun Agrawal" in Indigenous Knowledge and Development Monitor 4(1). pp. 13-14.



By me on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 6:46 am: Edit Post

i need to know about coniferous woodland why won't your website tell me?

By lemons:D ( on Wednesday, November 05, 2008 - 11:11 am: Edit Post

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