Students and teachers show passion to conserve medicinal plants in Bandarban, Bangladesh

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Bangladesh Country Office in association with BNKS (Bolipara Nari Kalyan Somity) conducted school programmes and teachers session this month at Bolipara union and Thanchi upazila Bandarban Hill District of Bangladesh. These programmes helped the students as well as the teachers to discover the value of medicinal plants and traditional knowledge in their own communities. “Trees are our friend. We can produce our own drug by medicinal plant cultivation surrounding our school and homestead areas”, students and teachers told IUCN with enthusiasm.

Bolibazar Govt. Primary School

Funded by Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF), IUCN Bangladesh and BNKS have introduced initiatives to assist the local community and the conservation of traditional knowledge and medicinal plants under the project, “Conservation through Practice: conservation of medicinal plants and traditional knowledge by involving ethnic communities (2nd phase)”. The goal is to raise the traditional herbal healing practices by engaging local herbal healers and other ethnic communities, and to conserve medicinal plants and related traditional knowledge at Thanchi and Bolipara Union of Bandarban Hill District, Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts are renowned for being a unique place that harbours rich biodiversity and inhabited by a number of indigenous communities. This is also one the last few remaining areas of Bangladesh where traditional knowledge plays an important part in the lifestyle of ethnic communities. Local traditional healers (locally called boiddo or kobiraj) and medicinal plants are still very important in the health service system, in absence of modern medical facility in many areas of the region. Alarmingly, the traditional knowledge is quickly declining like elsewhere in the world due to inadequate documentation and limited cross-generational transfer of knowledge. The medicinal plants are also fast disappearing due to high rate of land-use change like other parts of the country.

Since 2011, initiatives have already been taken to build a network called Boiddo Somity to provide health facilities to local community and also to work as a platform to transfer the information on importance of medicinal plants conservation throughout the community.  As part of IUCN’s work which aims to involve future generations in medicinal plant species conservation activities. This included lecture sessions for students and teachers in three different schools: Bolibazar Govt. Primary School, Mokok Headman Para Govt. Primary School and Thanchi Model Govt. Primary School in Bolipara and Thanchi, Bandarban. One of the goals of this programme is to increase the awareness level of teachers and students on conservation of medicinal plants and traditional knowledge in their areas.

The students showed great interest and enthusiasm during these sessions, demonstrating their knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses such as. Arjuna, Neem, Indian Gooseberry, Billeric Myrobalan and Chebulic Myrobalam.

To help the students learn the species names they were provided with information stickers that illustrated the importance of medicinal plant species in their communities. The students also made oath to produce their own drugs by plantation of these plant species surrounding their school and homestead areas. It was great to see so much interest from the students and teachers, said IUCN’s Marufa Sultana who was conducting the sessions amongst other IUCN staff. ‘It was humbling to see their eagerness and participation, the teachers provided us with valuable feedback such as developing a pictorial book for students. The passion to help their community preserve traditional knowledge was amazing and they told us how they’d like to attend training to learn more about appropriate plantation techniques, so that in the future they can effectively teach a large number of students’, added Sultana.  

IUCN Bangladesh will be working in these communities until April 2013 and are looking at incorporating the feedback from students and teachers into future activities. In the upcoming months IUCN will be providing students with medicinal plants seedlings as well as arranging three art and essay competitions to allow the students and teachers to directly connect with conservation of natural resources.

This phrase is from 17-21 September and is funded by Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF).

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