Protecting life-saving knowledge

08 February 2010 | News story

In the remote area of south-east Bangladesh, known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts, IUCN Bangladesh is making sure that traditional health knowledge and practices are revived and secured for future generations.

IUCN Bangladesh and Bolipara Nari Kalyan Somity, an IUCN Member active in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, are leading the One Stop Service project, working with local healers, communities and Buddhist monks to facilitate access to traditional healthcare, promoting it and encouraging conservation of local medicinal plants.

The first phase of the project began in 2008. It focused on documenting traditional herbal healing knowledge and practices, and initiating community consultation. This has helped to raise awareness of how important it is to conserve medicinal plants.

The success of the first phase prompted IUCN Bangladesh to extend the project for an additional year. The project's second phase focuses on traditional healers as managers of knowledge about medicinal plants. It also aims to continue promoting the conservation of medicinal plants amongst local communities.

Local healers have been integrated into established medical centres, which has considerably increased community access to traditional medicine, raising general awareness of natural plant products. This approach has also created the opportunity to preserve traditional knowledge about herbal treatment, which had been disappearing as knowledge is no longer being passed down generations as much as it used to.

To further raise community awarenes, local monasteries have been establishing nurseries and plantations, highlighting the importance of conserving medicinal plants, which are often very rare. They also encourage community groups and school children to assist in the conservation of these local species.

Alongside its importance for medicine, the One Stop Service project also has considerable cultural significance. Local community members, who had become detached from traditional healing practices, can now rediscover an important element of their culture, learning how to revive their relationship with nature and cultural traditions.

Take a look at some photos from the project.

Click here to learn more about the project.