Sustainable wild plant harvesting proves a global success

15 September 2010 | News story

Worldwide application of a new standard for sustainable harvesting of wild medicinal, aromatic, dye and food plants and trees is charting new ways to protect the species and their habitats and benefit the communities that depend on them, according to a new report from world wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, a joint programme of IUCN and WWF.

Wild for a cure: ground-truthing a standard for sustainable management of wild plants in the field details projects ranging from South America to Southern Africa and South-East Asia where new methods were devised to protect key natural resources from the wild while improving the livelihoods and benefits for local people through application of guidelines on sustainable wild collection.

In Karnatka, India, it is now possible to collect the resin of the White Palle tree used in traditional Indian medicine and incense without removing the bark and killing the trees that provide it. In Cambodia, a new co-operative has boosted returns to medicinal plant harvesting communities through better harvesting, drying and marketing.

In Brazil, a women’s co-operative in Amazonia State and a major natural cosmetics company are aiming to co-operate on the marketing of sustainably harvested products. In Lesotho and South Africa, a harvesting and management strategy for Kalwerbossie, whose tubers are used to treat digestive disorders, will ensure sustainable harvest of the plant, thus providing long term benefits to communities.

“With around 15,000 of the estimated 50,000 to 70,000 plant species used for medicine, cosmetics or dietary supplements threatened, the need for developing practical guidelines to ensure supplies are sustainable has never been more urgent,” says Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Global Medicinal Plants Programme Leader and co-author of the report.

The project demonstrated sufficient flexibility in the guidelines to allow them to be adapted to meet local conditions, including a variety of governance and land tenure systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Lesotho, Nepal, and South Africa.

The report notes the importance of ensuring all local stakeholders - from collectors to local organizations, resource management authorities and businesses - are involved in partnership from the outset, and that clear and realistic market openings should be identified for harvested products and with ways devised to give “added value” to products and a fair share of benefits to the owners of traditional knowledge.

Adequate resources should be allocated for training of local project workers in wild plants’ resource assessment, harvest monitoring, collection and processing techniques and most importantly for protection of their traditional knowledge and benefit-sharing.

“The BMZ-funded ‘Saving Plants that Save Lives and Livelihoods’ project has taken an important step in bridging the gap between words and action to manage wild plants for the future of humankind,” says Dirk Niebel, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).“We are glad to demonstrate just ahead of the forthcoming Convention on Biological Diversity that, by supporting TRAFFIC, we were able to contribute to the conservation of key natural plant resources from the wild, while improving the livelihoods of and benefits of local people.”

The International Standard for Sustainable Collection of Wild Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), evaluated in this study has now been combined with an existing FairWild Foundation standard aimed at ensuring trade in medicinal and aromatic plants is conducted fairly. The new FairWild Standard version 2.0 for the sustainable management and trade in wild-collected natural ingredients came into effect on 8 September (see note 1 below).

“Germany’s continued commitment to helping guarantee the sustainable use of medicinal plant resources, particularly in countries that depend on them the most, is a model example for integration of conservation and development aid policies.” says Dr Carlos Drews, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“The newly developed FairWild guidelines are an invaluable tool to support sustainable harvesting and management regimes, a worldwide challenge facing the conservation community” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group.

For further information:

Richard Thomas
, Global Communications Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC, Richard.thomas@traffic.org, t +44 1223 279068.

Editor’s notes

The report Wild for a Cure can be downloaded at: http://www.traffic.org/species-reports/traffic_species_plants14.pdf
Individual project highlights can be viewed at:http://www.traffic.org/bmz-project-highlights/

The project examined implementation of the International Standard for Sustainable Collection of Wild Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), which has subsequently been fully incorporated within the expanded FairWild Standard. The revised FairWild Standard was launched on 8th September 2010 (For more information, http://www.fairwild.org/news/2010/9/8/revised-fairwild-standard-launched.html)

The contribution of the FairWild Standard to improving local livelihoods and conservation of wild plant diversity will feature during a series of events at the 10th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, from 18 - 29 October 2010. Events include a public one at Nagoya Gakuin University on 19th October and a CBD CoP 10 side event on 22 October. More at: http://www.cbd.int/register/side-events/view.aspx?id=1761