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South Caucasus pilot study demonstrates feasibility of FairWild implementation

Bilberry collectors, Georgia © Heiko Schindler, IMOA pilot project in the South Caucasus has demonstrated how implementation of the FairWild Standard can improve the quality and sustainability of plant products from Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The South Caucasus region is well known for its high diversity of fauna and flora. However, the fragile ecosystems are threatened by over-exploitation of natural resources.

A total of 340 plant collectors and 17 collection companies received specialized training from the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) on implementation of FairWild principles, with particular emphasis on best practices in wild plant collection, and improving product quality and traceability.

“For most participants, the notion of outside interest and potential for development in this area was a novel one and it was especially pleasing to see the involvement of several young people in the programme as there is a need to recruit a new generation of collectors,” said Heiko Schindler of IMO.

Provision of market information helped producers to identify opportunities for national and regional trade in sustainably produced plant ingredients, while a network of regional experts was also created to provide long-term support. Liaison with government agencies helped lay the foundations for national standards on wild plant collection.

According to GIZ’s Dr. Christian Goenner, “The concept of sustainable use of biodiversity is poorly comprehended at all levels of society in the Caucasus region and the importance of these resources to the livelihoods of rural populations is not widely appreciated. However, awareness of government agencies is increasing, and there are now opportunities to use FairWild principles to help strengthen legislative and regulatory frameworks for sustainable management of natural resources.”

As a result of the project, 12 companies were able to achieve FairWild certification for a total of 16 wild-harvested plant species.

“The project has demonstrated that companies in the Caucasus are keen to improve their practices in order to access new markets, and that the FairWild Standard and certification system can support this. However, ongoing support and capacity building is needed to foster linkages with international markets, to meet market access requirements, and to provide the consistent supply needed by buyers,” said Klaus Dürbeck, Chair of FairWild Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

The FairWild project was implemented through a GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation, formerly GTZ) programme Sustainable management of the biodiversity, South Caucasus, as part of their wider Caucasus Initiative.

For further information please contact:

FairWild Foundation Secretariat: secretariat@FairWild.org

Heiko Schindler, IMO: hs@imo.ch

Frank Flasche, GIZ: frank.flasche@giz.de