Social values of specialty forest products to rural communities
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In: Josiah, Scott J., ed. Proceedings of the North American Conference on Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry: Farming the Forest for Specialty Products. Minneapolis, MN. 25-32
Rural communities have long been known for their cultural distinctiveness, independent spirits, and, unfortunately, comparatively high poverty rates. A look at the promotion of Specialty Forest Products (SFP) as a rural development strategy against the backdrop of larger social trends such as welfare reform and economic restructuring suggests the need to ask hard questions about the value of SFP to residents of rural communities. Field work in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and review of the literature highlight three categories of social values for SFP: livelihood, cultural, and recreational. Livelihood values are derived from both non-market and market uses. Cultural values include the continued ability to observe special practices and transfer knowledge from one generation to another. Recreational values combine the peace and pleasure of being outdoors with a practical and useful activity. These values are not mutually exclusive, however, and SFP may meet multiple needs for an individual at any given moment and over the course of a lifetime. In fact, the key social value of SFP is the flexibility and diversity of functions they can perform. SFP serve as a reserve or supplemental livelihood strategy for rural residents who knew how to use them and where to find them. Gathering is also an enduring way of marking the passage of the seasons. These values are qualitatively and quantitatively different from those that are captured in standard macroeconomic calculations and suggest a note of caution for rural development programs. The paper concludes with historic and contemporary examples of SFP values for rural residents.
Emery, Marla R. 1999. Social values of specialty forest products to rural communities. In: Josiah, Scott J., ed. Proceedings of the North American Conference on Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry: Farming the Forest for Specialty Products. Minneapolis, MN. 25-32