17+ Indigenous Forest Products and Their Various Uses in Our Day-To-Day Life

The importance of forests in today’s world cannot be underestimated. Whether you are living in a city or town far away from forests, you’ll be surprised to realize that the majority of the things or tools used in your home come from forests. In fact, it could be from forests in a different continent as forest-sourced products are traded globally. For example, if you have a parking ticket, a shopping list, or a tissue paper, you are actually holding a product sourced from forests.

Forests are significant players in everyone’s and everyday life irrespective of one’s location or locality. They provide ecosystem services that are not only essential for the survival of humans but also for enhancing overall welfare. Trees, for example, absorb harmful greenhouse gases, provide clean water, protect watersheds, provide food and medicine, provide habitat, and serve as a buffer in the event of natural disasters.

Forests also offer many products, including shelter, water, livelihoods, food, and fuel security. Additionally, forests are significant employment creators across the world. To shed more light on this, here are the various forest products and their uses.

17+ Indigenous Food Products Produced From Forests

Since ancient times, forests have always been a major source of human food. Although the dependence on forests for food has gone down over the last centuries, unlike ancient times, a substantial quantity of foods in the market is sourced in the forests.

In the old times, when humans were hunters and gatherers, the ancient man survived by eating hunted wild animals, forest fruits, and wild greens.

Today, only a small group of native communities fully survive on forest foods globally, but that does not mean that the world has really moved away from forest foods.

Besides, experts are encouraging a reversal to the time when humans used to source their foods in the forests by encouraging measures like agroforestry methods that allow forests and agriculture to thrive together. Here are the uses of forest foods in the contemporary world.

1. Honey

Today, honey is one of the major foods sourced from forests. The biggest sellers of honey are communities that stay next to forests. Most governments allow humans neighboring forests to carry out commercial activities in the forests as long as they do not harm the forest.

As a way to encourage the peaceful co-existence of humans and forests and improve the economic status of the communities surrounding forests, local governments allow individuals and communities to elect beehives in special zones.

2. Wild Meat

It is also common to find communities surrounding game parks feeding on wild meat. Game rangers also kill wild animals and allow the local communities to share the kill. Although game hunting is highly regulated in most places, it is not fully outlawed.

Communities surrounding forests eat game meat by hunting animals within the permitted perimeter. Some hotels within the forest are also allowed to sell wild meat for consumption purposes.

3. Fruits

Forests are also a major source of fruits. In some areas, fruits such as mango, orange, coconut, guavas, pear, and jackfruit, among others, freely grow in the forests. The fruits that grow naturally in forests vary from one region to another, depending on the weather conditions.

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Bananas and melons can also be found in forests. Other wild and semi-wild fruits sourced from forests include Piper guineense, Dacryodes edulis, Dennettiatripetala, Canarium schweinfurthii, Treculia Africana and irvingiagabonensis among others.

4. Mushroom

Although mushroom is grown commercially, a substantial amount of the edible mushroom is harvested in the forests. In the United States, the forests of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington are major players in the mushroom supply.

5. Palm Wine

Although palm wine has a short shelf life that makes its commercial production unviable, the communities in the regions where palm trees grow, such as West Africa, have a big demand for palm wine. As a traditional drink, most of these communities cannot hold social gatherings without palm wine.

6. Palm Oil

Palm oil production is the main economic activity of humans in the regions where palm trees grow. Although farmers can cultivate palm trees in their farms, the communities also share the produce from the palm forests within their vicinity.

7. Cola Nuts

Cola nut is a product that is mostly sourced from forests. It is imperative as it is one of the few stimulants allowed to Muslims. In certain regions such as West Africa, the Cola nuts are seen as a sign of friendship and peace, which gives the nut a center stage in meetings, reunions, festivals, and ceremonies.

Timber and Wood Products

Timber is one of the main products sourced from forests. It is also considered the major cause of deforestation in most uncontrolled forests due to its high demand, which attracts illegal logging. The need for timber in furniture and real estate industries has pushed the demand above the regional supply resulting in global trade.

Wood products are the major forest products that are traded globally, with the main sources of wood products being regions with tropical forests. The common timber products you will most likely find or use in your home include:

8. Wood Raw Material

Wood, as raw material, which is also known as roundwood is commonly used for commercial fuel. Although the data from countries on roundwood removals for fuel is unreliable, there is enough evidence on how important the wood raw material is in the energy sector.

In Europe, where the demand for roundwood is high, consumption has been increasing steadily over the last few decades. According to Researchgate, Demand for roundwood is predicted to reach six billion m3 by 2050 and will be the main driver for the expansion of industrial plantations.

The biggest importer of wood logs from the European region is China, with the main exporters being New Zealand and the Russian Federation. The US and Canada are also major producers of logs.

9. Sawn Softwood

The consumption of sawn softwood increased by 4.2-percent in North America and by 2.7-percent in Europe in the last few years based on data from FAO.

In the US and Canada, the production of sawn softwood increased by 5.4-percent and 1.1-percent, respectively. Sawn softwood is a major product in the real estate industry.

10. Sawn Hardwood

Sawn hardwood is mainly used in flooring, furniture, millwork, pallets, and cabinets. The demand for hardwood products has been growing steadily over the decades as it is pushed by the demand for trendy designs and fashions.

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Since it is usually more expensive than other alternatives, most people demand trendy hardwood designs during home renovations. Oaktree is a popular choice in the furniture and flooring industry.

11. Wood-based Panels

The demand for wood-based panels has been growing over the last few decades, and it is even expected to continue growing in the near future. The demand for particleboard is high in Germany, Poland, Italy, and Turkey.

The main application for particleboard is the manufacture of furniture. The demand for fibreboard is also high in Europe, especially in Turkey, Poland, and Germany.

The main uses of fibreboard are laminate flooring, furniture, and various building applications such as moldings. The consumption for plywood is also high in Germany, UK, Italy, and Romania. The main uses of plywood are furniture, construction, and packaging.

12. Paper, Paperboard, and Wood Pulp

The production of paper and paperboard has experienced mixed receptions in the last few years. The production of newsprint has gone down due to the reduced distribution of newspapers.

However, the production and consumption of paper and paperboard continue to experience sustained demand, and the demand is expected to remain steady in the near future.

The application of paper, paperboard and wood pulp is wide, ranging from commercial applications to home applications.

Graphic papers in the printing industry continue to be the driving force in the industry. Nevertheless, household tissue is probably the most used paper product in every household.

Other Forest Products and Their Uses

13. Medicinal and Dietary Supplements

The medicinal and dietary supplements segment is considered the most valuable and largest segment of nontimber forest products. The largest consumer of herbal medicines globally is Europe consuming about half of the world consumption. The top three markets in Europe are Germany, France, and Italy.

Asia and Japan are the second biggest consumers of herbal products consuming about a third of the global consumption. The popular forest harvested medicinal plants are Blue cohosh, Black cohosh, Ginseng, Mayapple, Goldenseal, and Hawthorne.

14. Rattan, Cane, and Raphia

With the increasing call for banning of plastic bags, the attention is quickly shifting to alternative products such as baskets processed from rids. Other products that are made from raw materials sourced from forests include mats, traps, crop dryers, and small furniture.

15. Fuelwood

In rural places, wood is the cheapest and readily available form of fuel. Communities that surround forests usually collect fallen limbs, branches, and dead trees from the forests. In some cases, people also cut down trees for use as fuel.

16. Grasses

Grasses are one of the most versatile forest products. They are used for a variety of purposes. They serve as fodder for cattle as well, so grasses are also used in the papermaking industry. Although it is quite often termed as a minor product, grasses help us in many facets of our lives. The interesting thing about grasses is that different types of grasses grow in different parts of the country.

Grasses like elephant and sabai are used in the paper industry. In fact, sabai is the most important grass that accounts for raw material in the paper industry. It grows mainly in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and also in the Himalayan tract. Approximately two million tonnes of sabai grass is collected to be used in the paper industry annually.

17. Bamboo

Also known as the poor man’s timber, bamboo is yet another useful forest product. It could be used as it is or could be processed and made into products like baskets, mats, flooring materials and more. One of the best things about bamboo is that it is perennial. So, the supply remains more or less constant throughout the year. Generally, it is produced in bulks in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Mizoram, among others. Although bamboo belongs to the grass family, it grows out like a tree.

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Also, bamboo is used as a raw material for certain delicacies across the country. The tender and young shoots are eaten, and even the seeds can be consumed. 32 per cent of the produced bamboo is used up for the purposes of construction while 30 percent is used in the rural areas, 17 percent is used up in the paper industry, and the remaining 7 percent is used for other purposes.

18. Dyes and Tans

Nothing obtained from the forests goes to waste. Everything collected has at least one use or the other. The same is the case with the flowers and plants found in the forests. While plant tissues are used to obtain tannins, dyes are obtained from various flowers. The trees that are most commonly used for obtaining tannins are oak, hemlock, anwal, mangrove, amla, wattle, myrobalans, etc.

Some dyes like the beautiful bright red dye or the wonderful chocolate dye, are all obtained from flowers found in the forests. The bright red colour is extracted from the red sander. The chocolate dye is obtained from khair. The forest gives us approximately 2 lakh tonnes of dyes and tannins every year!

19. Fibers

One very important product that is obtained from the forests is fibers. These fibers can vary in quality, depending on the tree from which it has been obtained. The coarse fibers so obtained are used for the purpose of rope making. The fine, strong and silky fibers that are obtained from the Ak tree are used for making fishing nets.

Final Thoughts

It is worth noting that the earliest man on earth lived as a forest dweller sourcing everything he needed from the forest. Although the modern world has greatly evolved to a point where people can use synthetic products as opposed to natural forest-based products, a big percentage of the things used in the modern-day are sourced from forests.

Things like furniture, bed, and tissue papers are just some of the products sourced from forests that make life on earth much more comfortable. Nevertheless, irresponsible harvesting of forest products can be harmful to the environment. Caution should be taken, and regulation, as well as the implementation of policies on the use of forest products, must be strengthened and monitored.

References:

https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/timber/publications/2015-FPAMR-E.pdf

https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/energy-forest-products/forest-products

https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/forests/forest_publications_news_and_reports/living_forests_report/products_forests/

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