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Links between biodiversity and community health examined

Conservation of medicinal plants and their importance to community health were under discussion this week at a side-event at the CBD © UNU-IASHyderabad, India, 11th October 2012—The FairWild Standard was highlighted as a tool to guide operationalizing links between conservation and grassroots development in the fields of biodiversity and community health during a side event held earlier this week at the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) currently underway in Hyderabad, India.

Speaking at the event, TRAFFIC’s Anastasiya Timoshyna, Medicinal Plants Programme Leader, introduced the FairWild Standard as a set of best practice guidelines for sustainable harvesting and equitable trade in wild-collected medicinal plants. She gave examples of implementation through community participation, local and national policies, as well as sustainable sourcing by the private sector. 

Attended by more than 90 people, the event included keynote messages from Dr Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary to CBD, Dr Hem Pande, CBD Focal point for India, Dr Balakrishna Pisupati, Chair of the National Biodiversity Authority of India, and representatives from United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Initiative, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT) and TRAFFIC.

The side event attempted to bring together the various institutions working on common issues relating to medicinal plant conservation, and discussed the creation of an international initiative on Biodiversity and Community Health. 

Although the links between biodiversity and health are well recognized, the need to strengthen traditional understanding and practices relating to health at the community level has received insufficient attention in planning processes to date. A comprehensive assessment of the many factors contributing to health—including biological resources, knowledge and human resources, socio-cultural resources and related policy processes—should involve attention to medicinal plant and animal products, dietary and nutritional aspects, access to these resources, ecosystem integrity, landscape values, rights of practitioners and opportunities for livelihood enhancement. 

The event was co-ordinated by UNU-IAS, with speakers including Eileen de Ravin, who spoke about UNDP’s Equator Initiative, while both Lourdes Cardozo Laureano—the 2012 Equator Initiative winner from Brazil and Yolanda Teran, a member of the Kichwa Indian community in Ecuador spoke about the importance of an holistic view of nature protection, and presented examples of community pharmacies based on medicinal plants. 

In her presentation TRAFFIC’s Anastasiya Timoshyna drew attention to the significant and increasing global trade in medicinal plants, which is threatening the survival of some medicinal plant species and the health and livelihoods of people who depend upon them. She emphasized the need for urgent action to assess the use, trade and threat status of key biological resources, and the need for development of appropriate management plans to ensure sustainable use of such resources.

“A multi-stakeholder approach is essential for ensuring the sustainable use of medicinal plants, including engagement of harvesting communities, private sector along trade chains, resource managers, and civil society,” said Timoshyna. 

The FairWild Standard is also included as a case study in a report launched by UNU-IAS, titled “Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge and Community Health: Strengthening Linkages,” on the connections between biodiversity and development priorities, particularly the ways in which biodiversity contributes to human health. The report aims to support planning toward development objectives by highlighting health and biodiversity linkages at the community level.

Download the report here. (PDF, 5.9 MB)
A webcast of the event.
A discussion paper on the event (PDF, 700 KB)

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