Kleinhans Fellowship for Research in Tropical Non-Timber Forest Products

The Rainforest Alliance seeks alternatives to deforestation that provide economic support for rainforest communities. In 1989, with support from Elysabeth Kleinhans, the Rainforest Alliance began to study the management and use of tropical forest resources that preserve the integrity of the forest ecosystem. One way to do this is to support the limited extraction of forest resources (brazil nuts, fruits, medicinal plants) for sale to local, national and international markets. As a way of supporting the Alliance's work to transform business practices and educate consumers, the Kleinhans Fellows research the ecological, social and business challenges for successful non-timber forest product enterprises.

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The Kleinhans Fellowship synthesizes elements of conservation and business -- providing solid research data into non-timber forest product supply and market development -- in order to provide alternative income sources for communities living in or near tropical forests. Non-timber forest products provide communities with "free" medicines, fruit, firewood, and a source of income if properly managed. In addition, it provides these communities with an economic incentive to preserve existing forest and even reforest degraded forests. Kleinhans Fellows study the ecology of the local forest, existing resources with economic potential, possible local and international markets and challenges that must be overcome.

The Kleinhans Fellowship research can serve as a model for other communities seeking opportunities for sustainable resource extraction from tropical forests. Community extraction might include food, fiber, medicinal plants or other products for which there is an existing or potential market. Kleinhans Fellows focus on products found in primary or secondary forests, encourage the reforestation of degraded forests, build on the knowledge of native forest inhabitants (as long as this method proves useful to those same people), and add value to forest products through processing.