Traditional forest management systems were part of daily life in the natural forest and woodland resources in olden days Swaziland. The objective of the study was to embark on community consultations to collect information on their perception of preferred edible and medicinal non-timber forest products (NTFPs), their direct uses, the existing management strategies, the threats to forest biodiversity and the domestication and commercialization initiatives. Group discussions, individual perceptions and review of national forest policy were undertaken. The findings indicated that local communities lack knowledge of the existing policies and legislation that safeguard the sustainable use of NTFPs in the adjacent natural forests and woodlands, and further stated that there are no existing traditional local-level NTFP management systems. Uncontrolled trade in NTFPs, by non-resident collectors in Swaziland has been seen to be one of the predominant threats to forest biodiversity. This reaffirms the weak and ineffective national policies and legislation, and shows that the existing policies and legislation are not implementable. The positive side is that local communities have identified potential threats to forest biodiversity. All communities are willing to participate in the conservation and sustainable use of the adjacent natural forests and woodlands. Most local communities already have initiatives towards selection of top priority species for domestication and commercialization. The institutional, cultural, socio-economic, ecological/environmental and policy issues raised by local communities are crucial and essential elements for the formulation and development of guidelines for local-level sustainable management and development of NTFPs. Proper and innovative policies and legislation need to be put in place to cope with the current challenges.
Key words: Natural forests, natural woodlands, forest products, sustainability, national forest policies, forest management, community participation, forest biodiversity.
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