The cultural value of NTFPs is part of people's perception of well-being are complementary measures of NTFP importance in rural households.
NTFP use is a livelihood diversification strategy in rural households.
Savings derived from the consumption of NTFPs are largest for poorest families.
Recognizing wildlife and forest values is important for social and conservation policies.
Rural household livelihoods usually depend on the use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as a strategy for income diversification and survival. Thus, this research seeks to determine the role played by NTFPs at the household level. A survey was conducted with 212 households in four localities with a high degree of marginalization, located on the South Pacific coast of Mexico in Oaxaca State. The results show that, firstly, NTFPs are used by all households, even the wealthiest families, and that the most important products used are fuelwood and medicinal plants. Secondly, the findings indicate that the collection and self-consumption of fuelwood and medicinal plants by households with lower incomes generate savings of at least 20% of their total annual gross income. Thirdly, for the majority of the surveyed households (90%), NTFPs are perceived as important for their well-being. This could be due to traditional or cultural attachment to ancestral practices, such as the use of fuelwood for cooking traditional food and the collection of medicinal plants. Finally, NTFP use is a livelihood diversification strategy and promotes the objective and subjective well-being of rural households. Social and environmental policies need to consider the potential of NTFPs for poverty alleviation and rural development through sustainable use and coordinated actions.