From the forest to the table: Forest product traceability in the River Mirna Model Forest

River Mirna Basin Model Forest, Croatia

Croatia’s River Mirna Basin Model Forest is better known for its non-timber forest products (NTFP) than high-quality timber for the wood-processing industry. Only a handful of businesses in the region are involved in wood processing with the majority of production used for fuelwood.
 
NTFPs include truffles, mushrooms, medicinal plants, wild fruits and berries, spices and wild game.  With the notable exception of truffles which are broadly commercialized, NTFPs are primarily collected for personal use. Medicinal plants and forest fruits are mainly used  in products such as jams, teas, flour and liquors sold at agri-tourism centers, catering facilities and family farms in the region.
 
As part of its goal to enhance the economic sustainability of the region, the River Mirna Basin Model Forest has created an online NTFP traceability tool. Inspired by the Canadian initiatives “This Forest” and “This Fish”, the tool allows consumers to use their mobile device or computer to learn the story behind each NTFP in the region – where it comes from, how it’s harvested, who produces and manufactures it, as well as its common uses.
 
Through the promotion of local producers and their products, especially aimed at the tourist industry, the Model Forest aims to increase local production thereby strengthening the rural economy. For local producers, the traceability tool offers added value to their goods which can help expand their market.
 
In an age where consumers have become increasingly disconnected from the products they purchase and their impact on our natural resources, the ability to tell a real story about a product’s history is increasingly important. Traceability can add value to the supply chain as it contributes to creating a feeling of trust and loyalty with consumers.
 
The River Mirna Basin Model Forest is committed to the sustainable utilization of NTFPs in order to conserve their biodiversity and to improve income generation and food security. Traceability is a step towards achieving this goal. The sustainable harvesting of forest products contributes to the preservation of plant species, as well as the biological diversity of the Model Forest area.