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Alaska paper birch tree woods holds potential for new drugs
Arsenic-eating ferns hold hope for tainted soils
Bark paintings
Biopiracy, bioprospecting and traditional knowledge
Bird flu is also a forest problem
Boreal forest garden
Boswellia serrata: a tree of possibilities
Bushmen’s quiver tree threatened by climate change
Challenges in the congo basin
Cpf sourcebook for funding in forestry
Does bacopa monnieri improve cognitive function in older australians?
El camu camu logra certificación orgánica
Ethnoforestry paradigms
Forest cosmetics and fragrances
Les sources de la fertilité et de la durabilité
Manejo de semillas forestales nativas de la sierra ecuatoriana y norte del perú
Myrica gale
Non-profit organizations and ngos
Non-timber forest resource enterprises: fatty oils for edible and non-edible purposes
Nwfp fabrics
Nwfp fuels
Poison frog production and export
Trees for health forever
Twigs and young trees are falling prey to human hygiene
Vasaka (adhatoda vasica nees)
“Wildlife interpol”

“Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) consist of goods of biological origin other than wood, derived from forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests.”

«Les produits forestiers non ligneux sont des biens d’origine biologique autres que le bois, dérivés des forêts, des autres terres boisées, et des arbres hors forêts.»

«Productos forestales no madereros son los bienes de origen biológico distintos de la madera derivados de los bosques, de otras tierras boscosas y de los árboles fuera de los bosques.»

(FAO’s working definition)

Alaska paper birch tree woods holds potential for new drugs

Saplings of the Alaska paper birch tree (Betula neoalaskana) produce a sticky resin on new branches that discourages snowshoe hares from eating them. Some scientists think that such chemical defences could be useful drugs and a new natural resource for Alaskans to tap. Two American researchers thought so highly of birch trees’ promise that they took a 600-mile (approximately 966 km) journey up and down the Porcupine River to clip birch twigs from different locations. They found that new twigs were more heavily encrusted with resin nodules the further north they went.

In the late 1970s, researchers noticed that Alaska birches seemed to protect themselves from hares by producing resinous glands on saplings and stems growing close to the ground. These stems are stubbled with tiny beads of papyriferic acid, a sweet compound with a bitter aftertaste. Twigs growing higher on mature trees do not have the glands. The papyriferic acid on sapling twigs causes snowshoe hares to pass more sodium with their urine. This loss of sodium indicates birch defences, such as papyriferic acid, which are potential hypertension drugs.

The north has a bumper crop of birch and other trees and shrubs that seem to be loaded with papyriferic acid and other potentially valuable chemicals.

Since the birches with the highest concentrations of the chemical are between Fort Yukon and northwest Canada, there is potential for villagers to start a new industry of harvesting young birch and other woody plants. This sort of small industry is already under way in Minnesota, where researchers from the University of Duluth have joined a biotechnology company to harvest birch bark for betulin, a chemical effective as a herpes and skin cancer drug and as a component of cosmetics.

Plant/mammal interactions can lead to the identification of potential drugs and one of the strongest plant/mammal interactions is between hares and the trees and shrubs of northern Alaska and northern Canada. (Source: Anchorage Daily News, 7 August 2005.)

Arsenic-eating ferns hold hope for tainted soils

State pollution fighters planted a small patch of pitiful-looking plants inside a wire cage in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park (Washington, United States) and labelled them poison. The 100 subtropical ferns inside the test plot near Fort Nisqually are part of a two-year, US$30 000 experiment in pollution control that began in April 2005 on Vashon and Maury Islands with the primary objective of finding out whether the ferns take arsenic from the soil.

Four years ago, scientists in Florida found that Chinese brake ferns (Pteris vittata) thrive on arsenic, sucking the poison out of the soil and concentrating it in their fronds. A company now markets the ferns as a pollution solution for arsenic-plagued communities. Scientists in the Florida laboratory experiments measured arsenic concentrations in the ferns that were as much as 200 times higher than in the soil where the plants grew. “The fronds themselves will become poisonous,” said Marian Abbett, an environmental engineer who oversees the Ecology Department’s Tacoma smelter project.

Ecology Department officials decided to test whether the ferns will grow locally and reduce soil contamination in areas affected by windborne arsenic from the former Asarco smelter. Its smokestack and buildings have been demolished but the site, adjacent neighbourhoods and nearby shoreline are the focus of a federal Superfund cleanup. Beyond that, elevated concentrations of arsenic, lead and cadmium still taint soils in a 1 000 square mile (2 590 km2) area around Puget Sound.

Chinese brake ferns resemble native sword ferns but they are considered invaders in Florida, where they dominate their habitat. “We don’t think they will be an invasive here,” Abbett said. “They like the warmer, tropical climate.”

Bhaskar Bondada, a Washington State University plant physiologist who studied the fern in Florida, said that the beauty of this plant is that it only accumulates arsenic in the fronds, which are easily picked. But in the process the fern also converts arsenate to arsenite, which is more toxic, he said.

The Institute for Environmental Research and Education on Vashon Island believes that the ferns should be studied, but urged caution since they could prove to be invasive. Moreover, the fronds might have to be buried in a hazardous waste repository.

“We have to harvest the leaves,” Abbett said. “They can’t just fall back on the ground.” Nor does the Ecology Department plan to compost them, she said. The plan is to test the arsenic concentrations and decide whether the fronds are hazardous before dumping. Regular soil testing also is planned. (Source: Environmental News Network [ENN], 21 June 2005.)

Bark paintings

Lake Sentani, near West Papua’s capital Jayapura, is home to traditional Sentani bark paintings. The bark from the kombou tree is soaked for a few weeks, then pounded until flat and dried in the sun before being painted, using charcoal, lime and ochre. The designs signify mutual harmony in social relationships. Common motifs include the fish, which represents people’s livelihood and the lizard, which is believed to have oracular qualities. (Source: Green Left Weekly online [Australia], 9 November 2005.)

Biopiracy, bioprospecting and traditional knowledge

Traditional knowledge: a legal and market conundrum

Protecting biological or genetic diversity is an investment for the future of any society. Genetic diversity is useful for the development of new products and processes such as for crops and pharmaceuticals. Genetic information is contained in a seed and is what is required for tracing the genome of a species. Significant quantities of biological material are not required. A “few seeds” from a location can give all the information about the genome, thus making biopiracy very simple. (Source: The Financial Express [Mumbai, India], 7 September 2005.)

India’s digital library will stop biopiracy

The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a US$2 million research project to cull medicinal information from the literature of doctors who practise Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, and produce a fully illustrated and exhaustively referenced database that will secure this traditional wealth in the public domain. The BBC reports, “according to WHO, 70 percent of the people living in India use traditional medicine for primary health care”.

Protecting this vital health information from patents will also benefit consumers of alternative medicines from India in the rest of the world. So far, 36 000 formulations have been published in a retrievable source in five international languages, so that patent examiners can readily access records transcribed from Ayurvedic texts.

This library will prevent biopiracy and can be copied by indigenous rights workers around the world. (Source: Guerrilla News Network [United States], 12 December 2005.)

African women against biopiracy

Despite recent court rulings, “biopiracy” – non-locals patenting treatments based on plants used by indigenous communities – continues to be a problem. The construction of databases and knowledge archives about native group uses of local plants is an increasingly popular way of combating biopiracy (by establishing “prior art” and blocking patents), but such projects are not easily accomplished. Indigenous knowledge is often an oral tradition and remote communities in the developing world may not be willing to share this knowledge with outsiders.

The Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Project is a South African effort to identify and protect the unique local biosystems used by local communities as medicines, based on the authority – and knowledge – of female traditional leaders. The result has been even greater than a knowledge archive.

Female traditional leaders from the Eastern Cape said that the initiative to manage indigenous knowledge systems was community-driven. Before embarking on the Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Project, female traditional leaders from the Rharhabe Kingdom focused on how commercial exploitation of traditional foods could help develop their communities. However, they later realized the need to link the management of indigenous knowledge systems on traditional foods with that of traditional medicines in order to make their promotion of rural livelihoods or development effective. The sources of traditional foods and medicines are largely indigenous plants and grains. Some medicines are also acquired from animals and reptiles.

The female traditional leaders said that they intended to uplift the socio-economic well-being of their communities through the establishment of community business enterprises that produced, marketed and sold traditional foods and medicines.

One notable aspect of the project is that it aims to stop not just institutional biopiracy (from pharmaceutical concerns, for example) but also casual biopiracy from local city dwellers. Apparently, a number of useful plants are being overharvested by South African urbanites looking for medicinal or nutritional supplements. (Source: WorldChanging [United States], 25 July 2005.)

Curbing biopiracy

To control biopiracy, many developing countries are demanding disclosure requirements as a positive obligation by patent applicants, making it mandatory to disclose the source or country of origin of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge (TK).

This requirement ensures that the patent applicant will comply with the access and benefit-sharing legislation of the host country. It will also enable patent offices to be more vigilant when examining patent applications. Moreover, it will serve as a critical tool for gene-rich countries to track down applications based on genetic resources and related TK, and enable adequate challenges to specious patents. (Source: The Rising Nepal, 29 July 2005.)

Moves to protect devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are engaged in talks to protect the devil’s claw plant (sengaparile or Harpagophytum procumbens) from a German company that wants to have patent rights over it.

Botswana’s Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tutu Tsiang, said yesterday that the talks involve government officials from the three countries. She said that since the plant grows in the three countries it would be unfortunate for the company to claim rights over it. She was not aware whether there were plant species exported to other countries to be processed and patented. There was confusion in 2004 when CITES said that it wanted to put sengaparile on its list of endangered species. The plant grows in sandy areas such as the Kgalagadi desert and is known to have medicinal value. (Source: Mmegi/The Reporter [Gaborone], 4 August 2005.)

Amazon countries team up to tackle biopiracy

Representatives from patent offices in six Latin American nations that share the Amazon Basin have agreed to work together against biopiracy – the unauthorized commercial exploitation of their native species.

According to the Rio Declaration signed on 1 July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela will share information and jointly develop policies to tackle the phenomenon. Together with Colombia and Guyana, the countries are members of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which was created in 1978 to promote sustainable development in the region and which organized the Rio meeting.

The countries are concerned that researchers could patent drugs and other products derived from their native species, including products based on traditional knowledge such as herbal medicines, without sharing the benefits fairly. To tackle this threat more efficiently, they agreed to harmonize their intellectual property laws and share technical information included in patents.

The Amazon Basin is one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, with many species found nowhere else on the planet. (Source: SciDev.Net [United Kingdom], 18 July 2005.)

Patenting of Peruvian plants

Around 500 products based on plants native to Peru are registered in patent offices in the United States, Europe and Japan, but many of them may have been produced by breaking Peruvian laws on access to biodiversity and traditional knowledge.

This complaint was voiced by Santiago Roca, the president of Peru’s National Institute for the Defence of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property, at the first meeting of intellectual property officials from the eight Amazon Basin countries that took place in Brazil from 30 June to 1 July 2005.

These hundreds of products were derived from just seven native plants from Peru. The statistics on the number of products based on native Peruvian plants came from a study by a commission set up by the Peruvian Government to examine patent registries in Europe, Japan and the United States. The report, which was completed in January 2005, laid the foundations for verifying whether the applications for patents were legal.

Roca said authorities from his country will now investigate whether patent applications infringed Peruvian legislation on access to genetic resources, which requires prior consent from and compensation for the indigenous communities that possess the traditional knowledge used in developing the products. Peru’s “regime for the protection of indigenous peoples’ knowledge related to biological diversity”, which was adopted in 2002, regulates these questions in the country and orders remuneration in exchange for access to traditional knowledge; these monies go into a fund to be distributed to the communities involved.

Of the 500 products, two or three cases of proven legal infractions will be selected, to demand the revocation of the patents and “the success of this first step will set a precedent” that will pave the way for a broad offensive against biopiracy, said Roca.

Biopiracy is defined as biological theft, or the unauthorized and uncompensated collection of indigenous plants, animals, microorganisms, genes or traditional communities’ knowledge on biological resources by corporations that patent them for their own use. Countries with great biological diversity such as those of the Amazon jungle must protect the traditional knowledge and wealth held by traditional indigenous peoples, just as industrialized nations apply pressure around the world to fight the piracy of their products, such as software, films and CDs, Roca argued.

The meeting of intellectual property officials was a first step towards the sharing and exchange of information on biopiracy and cooperation and international negotiations on patents. Achieving effective recognition of “collective rights” requires an effort by all countries, because national laws generally only protect the copyright and intellectual property rights of individuals or companies, not of the communities that developed the knowledge in the first place.

A pressing question now is to obtain reparation for indigenous communities for the knowledge that they have collected over centuries and that is being used to develop food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. This will be a “long process”, and is a particularly sensitive issue in the Amazon jungle region because of its immense biodiversity, Roca said, pointing out that each hectare in this part of South America contains more biological diversity than all of Europe combined.

Peru’s experience could make a significant contribution to Brazil’s struggle in the area, since many species are shared by both countries, such as the quiebra piedra (literally, “stone breaker”) plant used to make herbal tea for people suffering from kidney stones or gallstones. (Source: Inter Press Service News Agency, 4 July 2005.)

Andean nations seek United States patent protection for native medicines

Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are turning the tables on United States trade negotiators accustomed to winning tough safeguards for drug patents by demanding similar protection for traditional therapies such as roots and leaves. Demands for protection against what these nations call the misappropriation of traditional knowledge will be one of the most contentious issues during trade talks this week and next in Washington.

The Andean nations want “minor” protection for their native plants and the ways they are used, such as a rule requiring companies to inform indigenous tribes of any patent applications based on traditional knowledge and negotiate payment, according to Carlos Correa, a Buenos Aires-based consultant to these nations.

“Existing rules protect things that are made in labs, not things taken from the wild or cultivated over generations,” said Renee Marlin-Bennett, chairperson of the Global Intellectual Property Project at the American University in Washington. The proposed changes would “redirect the rules to rectify some of the embedded imbalance” between rich and poor, she said.

While it is difficult to quantify the magnitude of the issue, these nations are moving to catalogue it. The Government of Peru created a commission on biopiracy that has identified ten plant species of local origin for which patents have been granted or applied for in the United States, Europe or Japan.

In 2001, New Jersey-based Pure World Botanicals Inc. won a patent for an ingredient in the Peruvian plant maca and is now marketing it as a “natural Viagra”. The Peruvian commission is preparing a legal challenge. Chris Kilham, a consultant for Avignon, France-based Naturex, which now owns Pure World, said the company’s patents are legitimate. Still, he said that Pure World had erred in not sharing the patent rights with Peruvian communities.

The United States says that it has investigated most of the frequently cited examples of biopiracy and found little supporting evidence. It has “significant concerns” about the explicit notification proposal and instead is offering compromises that will guard against patent abuses, a trade official said.

Representatives of pharmaceutical companies such as New York-based Pfizer and Whitehouse Station and New Jersey-based Merck oppose acceding to the Andean nations’ demands, saying their solution addresses a problem that does not exist. “Right now there is no evidence of biopiracy,” said Mark Grayson, a spokesman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in Washington, a lobbying and marketing group that represents drugmakers.

The Andean nations’ demands for prior notification and negotiated payment have been picked up by India and Brazil, which want similar provisions written into a broader WTO agreement. (Source: Bloomberg [United States], 17 November 2005.)

Is Brazil beating biopiracy or biodiversity research?

Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is teeming with life – an estimated 30 percent of the planet’s animal and plant species – that could yield raw materials for new medicines. Brazil fears that foreign researchers may exploit its biodiversity without paying the country a fair share of the profits.

However, Brazilian efforts to deter such biopiracy risk stifling both local and foreign research. The Government’s strict rules controlling research on Brazil’s wild species have forced some scientists to move their projects to neighbouring Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

And although concerns about biopiracy are widespread in Brazil, a member of the congressional committee investigating biopiracy says that the committee has not found evidence for even a single case.

Brazilian researchers interviewed say Brazil does not have enough knowledge about the very biodiversity it is desperate to protect. They agree that the best way to protect the Amazon’s biodiversity would be for Brazil to invest more in home-grown research. (Source: Associated Press/, 1 November 2005.)

Bioprospecting programme in Malaysia

More minority groups are expected to contribute plant species known to have medicinal value to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre’s bioprospecting programme. Those expected to do so in the next few months include the Bisayas from Limbang, Kayan-Kenyahs from Sungai Asap, Melanaus from the Mukah division and Ibans from Selangau and Betong.

The State Planning and Resource Management Minister said the centre had met leaders of these groups to discuss taking part in its traditional knowledge documentation programme. “The centre already has a collection of some 9 000 plant extracts in its natural product library from over 600 plant species from the local communities,” he said. These species were contributed by the Bidayuhs, Penans, Kelabits, Lun Bawang and Malays from the various regions.

The Minister said the state had to build up a critical mass of scientific expertise in order to have access to research findings and good research partners to jumpstart its biotechnology initiative. “When the new laboratories are fully commissioned and the research team adequately trained, the centre will be on track to bring in some discoveries,” he added. (Source: Malaysia Star, 16 June 2005.)

Bioprospecting in the Pacific region: who will benefit?

In the Verata district of Fiji, people turn to their Community Trust Fund for scholarship support for local students. In Faleaupo, Samoa, the cost of construction of a primary school was donated by a foundation in return for the community’s conservation of their rain forest. Both the trust fund and the school’s construction were made possible by bioprospecting.

Plants that have been used for traditional medicines, in many cases for thousands of years, are targeted. Evidence has shown that scientists have more than ten times the chance of finding an active chemical in a medicinal plant than in one collected at random.

The process of drug discovery takes about 15 years from sample collection to having a marketable drug. It is estimated that only one in 10 000 chemicals investigated ends up as a saleable drug and the cost of coming up with one drug is US$800 million.

A major issue related to the work of bioprospecting is who will benefit if medicines are found. In the past, plants and marine organisms were often collected from developing countries by western researchers and the source country received little in return.

This neo-colonial “open access” policy was turned on its head by the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity, which gave sovereign rights of biodiversity to the source country but encouraged it to allow access to outside researchers under mutually agreed terms.

Pacific countries have been slow to develop this so-called “access and benefit-sharing” legislation.

In the examples cited above, it was the collecting group working with the local community that ensured a wide range of benefits was made available to the source area. Responsible scientists understand the importance of preserving the biological diversity from which chemicals are derived and, to further this preservation, they seek partnerships that will allow source communities to undertake conservation efforts.

No chemical derived from a Pacific organism has yet been fully developed into a marketable drug. But several are showing promise.

• A medicinal tree from Samoa called malamala (Homalanthus nutans) has been found to be active against HIV/AIDS. United States scientists are trying to identify the gene that tells the plant to make the chemical.

• A district in Fiji has licensed plants and marine organisms for testing in Japan and set up a conservation trust fund of $30 000 with the proceeds.

• An orange sponge (Jaspis coriacea) and the makita tree (Atuna racemosa) in Fiji have produced chemicals for medical research. The United States company involved is giving 2–5 percent of the proceeds from sales to support further research in Fiji.

• A chemical from a medicinal tree in Fiji has been patented as an anti-diabetes drug.

The Universities of the South Pacific (USP) and Papua New Guinea (UPNG) are playing leading roles in the development of biodiversity through the use of biotechnology, having set up local enterprises to increase local ability to perform the work. Both universities have received a prestigious International Cooperation in Biodiversity grant given by the United States Government to partnerships of United States and overseas universities working to discover drugs and conserve biodiversity. USP is working with the Georgia Institute of Technology and UPNG with the University of Utah, with funding of about $3 million over a five-year period.

Collaboration such as this is helping to bring benefits to the people of the Pacific and, ultimately, to the people of the world. (Source: Islands Business, Suva, Fiji.)

Bird flu is also a forest problem

Bird flu – known technically as avian influenza – is a highly contagious viral disease that occurs naturally in birds. It can be caused by any one of about 20 different strains of the influenza virus.

Besides the potential impact of the disease on humans, its effect on livelihoods is clearly devastating. In Asia, nutritional patterns, income-generating activities and even sociocultural patterns have been adversely affected. Animal breeding has become an issue for the privileged and, as a result, the poor, with limited options, have become even poorer. Equally important are the economic losses caused by fear of the disease; tourism, international trade options and business travels are sectors that have been severely affected.

The introduction of the bird flu virus – H5N1 – into Africa has raised new questions on an already complex international problem. How can African governments, with limited resources, effectively monitor migratory birds? With the disease spreading simultaneously through Africa and Europe will the world pay enough attention (through awareness raising, technical and financial assistance) to the needs of Africans? What is the best method to control the disease for populations in which bushmeat is a non-negligible component of their daily diet? What impact will this have on livelihoods, progress towards Millennium Development Goals and the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS in Africa? (Contributed by: Okwen TenjohOkwen, Via Iberia 66, 00183 Rome, Italy. E-mail:

Bushmeat or edible wild mammals, reptiles, birds and insects that live in forests or trees can account for up to 85 percent of the protein intake of people living in the near forests.

Boreal forest garden

The Taiga Rescue Network (TRN), in collaboration with LandLab Ltd (a TRN participant organization), recently presented an exhibit at London’s 2005 Chelsea Flower Show, arguably the world’s most prestigious horticultural event. The show takes place annually, generates huge media coverage and draws up to 34 000 visitors per day for five days in May.

The silver medal-winning boreal forest garden was designed as a boreal forest clearing with native plants. Everything in the garden had some use, whether edible or medicinal – thus promoting NTFPs. Not only did the garden introduce thousands of people to the boreal/taiga forest, but it also promoted naturalized landscapes in urban settings.

TRN’s purpose at Chelsea was to raise awareness about the boreal forest, the threats it faces, and the indigenous peoples and rural communities that depend on it for cultural, social and economic sustainability. To emphasize the boreal forest’s importance for these communities and to raise awareness about alternative economies, TRN chose to focus on the value of NTFPs. To this end, TRN produced an NTFP factsheet for distribution at the show and financed three invited guests from the boreal forest to come to Chelsea and introduce the public to how their respective communities use the forest, and why sustainable forest use is so important to their lives.

The NTFP factsheet, entitled Our life, medicine path: non-timber forest products of the boreal, introduced NTFPs and issues related to their management and development; briefly outlined the medicinal/cultural uses of six plants in the garden; raised awareness about intellectual property rights related to NTFPs; and suggested options for citizen and NGO activism on the subject.

The boreal forest garden project definitely raised awareness about the boreal forest and its sustainability in a very large and new audience forum, primarily within the United Kingdom, but also in the Russian Federation, western European countries (e.g. Italy and Sweden) and North America. (Contributed by: Damien Lee, Information Coordinator, Taiga Rescue Network, Box 116, 96223 Jokkmokk, Sweden. Fax: +46 971 12057; e-mail:;

Boswellia serrata: a tree of possibilities

The salga or Boswellia serrata tree, is part and parcel of everyday life in rural Jharkhand (India). It is also known as salahi-mann by the Oraon people and as salga daru by the Mundas.

The tree yields a type of Indian frankincense or loban, which is a golden-yellow, transparent and fragrant resin that oozes out of the tree. People of all religions have used the salga tree resin as incense and villagers also often plant the tree because of its numerous uses in daily life.

The most attractive aspect of the salga tree is its tenacity. It requires no special care or extra water to survive the often harsh climes of Jharkhand. The small tree is often used as a fence around kitchen gardens and is popular among farmers to line their fields. It does not cast any shadow over crops, allowing adequate sunlight. In addition, it grows faster than the rest of the local trees and thus fulfils the rural people’s need for fuel.

One of the tree’s major characteristics is that it does not require a large quantity of water and it is therefore usually planted in midsummer, using a very simple process: a branch is cut and planted in the soil. Salga can be grown in any type of soil and wherever there is minimum moisture. People often plant a forked and mature branch near the village well, which serves a dual purpose: it can be used as the base for the pulley used to draw water from the well and, as time passes, the branch grows into a live tree and acts as a permanent pillar.

Popular belief is that salga is not attacked by termites and insects and the twigs are kept as hooks in cattle sheds to act as a repellent against flies and mosquitoes. Experts believe that the presence of a particular chemical, boswellic acid, is partly responsible for this characteristic.

Salga also has some medicinal properties. A paste of its bark – salai guggul – is used to treat normal wounds. Many medicine companies use this paste as one of the ingredients in medicines for gout, rheumatism and other joint pains. Villagers use a salga twig as a toothbrush (datun) and as a cure for pyorrhea.

In spite of its numerous uses it is disheartening to see that there are no systems, as yet, in Jharkhand to collect such an important forest by-product. Had it been given due attention, this plant would have definitely proved to be an effective source of employment and revenue. (Source: Calcutta Telegraph [India], 23 August 2005.)

Bushmen’s quiver tree threatened by climate change

A famed desert tree used for generations by Africa’s bushmen to make quivers for their arrows is threatened by global warming, a conference heard today.

With a stocky trunk topped by a tangle of forked branches, the quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) has iconic status in Namibia, where its blue-green crown stands out vividly against a parched landscape.

“The quiver trees are in the early stage of a poleward (southward) range shift,” Wendy Foden, a researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, told a conference on climate change science in Johannesburg. A shift towards the poles and away from the equator is precisely what one would expect as a response to warming conditions, Foden said. “If there is no expansion in the quiver trees’ range, then models forecast a 76 percent reduction in their population over the next 100 years,” she said. “Even with dispersal its numbers could be down more than 30 percent over the next century,” she added.

For the quiver tree, any migration it makes would have to come about as a result of seed dispersal via the wind or from droppings from birds or other animals that digest the seeds. This may help the species but not individuals, some of which are over 150 years old.

(Source: Reuters, 18 October 2005.)

Challenges in the congo basin

Surrounding the Sangha River, in the centre of the Congo Basin, are more than 3.5 million ha of unique forested landscape covering parts of Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The area is unique because it houses not only a group of large mammals such as the forest elephant, western gorilla and bongo, but is also home to more than 12 different ethnic groups of hunter-gatherers and farmers, who have been dwelling in these forests for years.

For many of these forest-dependent people, bushmeat is their most important forest resource, both for subsistence and income. Unluckily for them, most bushmeat originates from very charismatic mammals, often the focal point of conservation. In the past, the hunting of these animals was a sustainable practice but today, with commerce and guns, the situation has become more complex and some animals such as the gorilla are now on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) red list of species in danger of extinction. This has resulted in a strict anti-poaching policy in certain areas, banning hunting and trapping and only allowing agricultural practices on the outskirts of villages. Villagers, often living in extreme poverty, are not even allowed to put traps in their fields and they see a substantial amount of their crops being destroyed by forest animals. Removing hunted animals from their diet also has implications on their protein intake. For these people, conservationists are seen in the same light as the previous colonizers who deprived them of their natural resources.

Over one million tonnes of wild meat/year is consumed in the Congo Basin, equivalent to 4 million head of cattle. (Source: Center for International Forestry Research [CIFOR].)

The challenge for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and country governments in their management of the national parks and surrounding buffer zones in the Sangha Tri-National Region, is to conserve the great biodiversity while at the same time improving the well-being of forest dwellers. CIFOR has taken up this challenge and is working with WWF on a new landscape management strategy for the Sangha region to achieve win-win outcomes for both environment and livelihoods. CIFOR and its partners will identify the trade-offs between development and conservation in the region, explore where conservation and development can fruitfully coincide and identify the so-called “best practice” for the region. If CIFOR succeeds in helping WWF to find a way to integrate conservation and development, it would really provide research that makes a difference. (Contributed by: Marieka Sandker, Associate Expert, Forests and Livelihoods Programme, CIFOR-Cameroon, c/o IITA-HFC, PO Box 2008, Messa, Nkolbisson, Yaoundé, Cameroon. E-mail:

Cpf sourcebook for funding in forestry

The online Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) Sourcebook on Funding for Sustainable Forest Management helps users to identify information on funding sources, funding policies and delivery mechanisms of donor countries, with particular focus on sustainable forestry management projects in developing countries. It covers a wide range of funds, from those supporting individuals and small NGOs to those available to larger institutions, forest enterprises and governments. The entire sourcebook can be accessed interactively via the Web site at:

One component of the sourcebook is the “funding news alert” (electronic newsletter) that is sent monthly to subscribers. This news alert compiles funding news related to forestry. Its goal is to cast the net wide so that fund seekers worldwide learn of funding opportunities in a timely manner. All back issues of the forestry funding news alerts can be found on the sourcebook’s discussion platform:

Does bacopa monnieri improve cognitive function in older australians?

Recent research carried out by Annette Morgan of Southern Cross University, New South Wales, Australia investigated the efficacy and safety of Bacopa monnieri in improving memory in healthy Australians over the age of 55 years. A review of the literature showed that in the current demographic climate of an ageing population, memory impairment and dementia are increasingly prevalent. Older Australians are using complementary medicines to enhance cognitive function. The evidence for many complementary medicines is largely empirical and good-quality clinical trials are lacking.

Bacopa monnieri is a herbal medicine that has been used in India since antiquity for its cognitive enhancing effects. A number of preclinical and clinical studies support this traditional usage. However, many of these studies are methodologically flawed; for example, by a lack of blinding, small sample sizes or the use of outcome measurements that have not been properly validated. A well-designed study by Stough et al. (2001) demonstrated the positive effect of Bacopa on cognitive function in healthy people between 18 and 60 years of age; the current study was employed to replicate and extend these findings by assessing the efficacy of Bacopa specifically in the older population.

A clinical trial was carried out to assess the effects of 12 weeks of a standardized extract of Bacopa monnieri (300 mg/day) on memory in people over 55 years of age. From the 126 people who elected to participate, 98 people met the study entry criteria and commenced the trial. Of these, 81 participants completed the trial and provided evaluable data for the end-point analysis.

Primary outcome measures were well-validated neuropsychological tests to measure verbal and visual memory objectively, and a memory complaint questionnaire to measure subjective memory complaints. The results demonstrated that Bacopa significantly improved memory acquisition and retention in older Australians. This concurs with findings from previous human and animal studies, as well as supporting traditional Ayurvedic claims and uses. The use of Bacopa was associated with gastrointestinal tract (GIT) side effects, particularly increased bowel movements, nausea and abdominal cramping, findings infrequently reported previously. These effects may have been a result of the GIT irritant effects of the saponin component of the herb, or possibly of the cholinergic stimulation of autonomic and motor responses in the GIT, or both.

(Contributed by: David Cameron, Wollongbar, New South Wales, Australia.)

Some 80 percent of people living in developing countries depend on NWFP's, such as fruits and herbs, for their primary health and nutritional needs. (Source:


Population preferences for local fruit-tree species: implications for the domestication of Dacryodes edulis and Irvingia gabonensis in Cameroon

Since 1994, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), in collaboration with its local partners, has undertaken a domestication programme for local fruit trees and medicinal plants in Central and West Africa. The domestication programme consists in developing vegetative propagation techniques and promoting the integration of the higher genotypes in agrarian systems.

From the participative investigations, a list of priority species was drawn up for the region. These species, including Irvingia gabonensis, Dacryodes edulis, Chrysophyllum albidum, Ricinodendron heudelotii and Garcinia cola, are used as models for the implementation of the domestication programme. However, a great variability in preferred species was noted among countries, even among various localities of the same country.

Furthermore, the present study aims at determining the priorities and choices of the population for the integration of fruit trees in four different localities in Cameroon. From the results obtained, it was clear that there is an important variation in fruit preferences according to the sites studied and whether the choices were made by men or women.

In localities where the population is large and other income-generating activities are sought, farmers attach much more importance to exotic species, while in the areas where forest cover is still important, the preferences are for local fruits. The differences between the priorities of men and women are especially of commercial, compatibility and facilitated cultural values, which can be explained by the differences in the strategies of production according to gender. Preferences for the exotic as well as for local fruit species are also determined by the following criteria: consumption, medicinal and compatibility with other cultures. To satisfy its numerous needs, the population prefers to retain a diversity of fruit trees on its farms.

An important stage in the domestication of the trees is the mass multiplication of those having characteristics appreciated by the population. Thus, the study shows the importance of a participative approach in the identification of preferred characteristics, by using I. gabonensis and D. edulis as examples. The results suggest differences in the preferences noticed among communities and even among various groups of the same village. The desired characteristics are guided by the principal objective of the producer (consumption versus commercialization), market opportunities and food practices.

These preferences should be used for the selection of the “higher trees” and aim for the development of varieties by vegetative propagation methods at a lower cost, practised by ICRAF in collaboration with the farmers. (Source: English summary of a paper by Mbosso, C., Degrande, A., Schreckenberg, K., Tchoundjeu, Z., Enyong, L. and Boyd, C. Préférences des populations pour les espèces fruitières locales: implications pour la domestication de Dacryodes edulis et de Irvingia gabonensis dans la zone forestière du Cameroun.) (Contributed by: C. Mbosso, World Agroforestry Centre [ICRAF], BP 2067 Yaoundé, Cameroon. E-mail:

Sustaining forest resources

Tree domestication has been identified as one of the major ways of preserving natural forest resources and preventing their extinction. Given that human beings across generations have relied on forests for food, clothing, medicine, shelter and so on, it is incumbent on the various stakeholders to look for ways of sustaining forest resources as they come under pressure from a fast-growing population. This means taking food, medicinal and other useful trees out of the natural environment and adapting them, by either improving their quality or their production cycles for wider cultivation.

This was the subject of a one-week seminar – “Domesticating High-value Trees for the African Humid Tropics: Propagation, Integration and Marketing” – that ICRAF organized in Yaoundé last week. The seminar brought together participants from the West and Central African subregions that are endowed with a wide variety of natural resources but paradoxically host some of the world’s poorest populations.

Participatory tree domestication in agroforestry is a farmer-driven and market-led process. The purpose of the regional course, therefore, was to teach and extend recent advances made in the domestication of high-value trees in the African humid tropics. The regional coordinator of ICRAF, Dr Zac Tchoundjeu, said the domestication of tree species and medicinal plants remains an indispensable economic succour to the African humid tropics.

Following a survey carried out by agroforestry researchers in the African humid tropics, various species were identified and are being domesticated, including two species of Irvingia gabonensis (bush mango), Dacryodes edulis (African plume), Ricinodendron heudelottii (the sauce spicing nut, njansang), Garcinia cola (bitter kola) and Cola nitida (kola nut). Others are vegetables such as Gnetum africana (eru) and medicinal plants such as Prunus africana and Pausinystalia yohimbe.

The ICRAF authorities say they have registered spectacular results in the domestication of these species. (Source: The Post [Buea, Cameroon], 16 October 2005.)


“Tree domestication – progress towards adoption” is the focus of a recent issue of Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, Vol. 16(1). It covers contributions to the tree domestication sessions of the First World Agroforestry Congress held in Orlando, Florida, United States in July 2004, which was the fourth meeting looking at the potential for domesticating the underutilized tree species that are important for subsistence farmers around the world.
Products from these species were in the past gathered from natural forests as NTFPs, but many of them are now becoming new cash crops producing what are called agroforestry tree products (AFTPs). This change has come about in the short space of 14 years since the first conference in 1992 that highlighted the potential of these overlooked “Cinderella” species.
Articles included in this issue include: Domesticating indigenous fruit trees as a contribution to poverty reduction; Putting participatory domestication into practice in West and Central Africa; The cultivation of camu camu (Myrciaria dubia): a tree planting programme in the Peruvian Amazon; and Towards the development of miombo fruit trees as commercial tree crops in southern Africa.

For more information, please contact:
Michael S. Philip, Editor, Forests,
Trees and Livelihoods, Luton Cottage, Bridgeview Road, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire AB34 5HB,
United Kingdom. E-mail:;

El camu camu logra certificación orgánica

Al haber aprobado los estándares internacionales establecidos, la firma SKAL International ha decidido conceder al CEDECAM la certificación orgánica de este cultivo emblemático de la Amazonía peruana. El certificado es válido para los mercados de EE.UU., Europa y Japón.

La certificación orgánica, conocida también como biosello, sello verde o certificación ecológica es la garantía que el camu camu está exento de insumos prohibidos, pesticidas, agroquímicos o cualquier otra sustancia tóxica para el organismo humano y que puede alterar el carácter ecológico del producto. Los beneficios son tangibles en diferentes niveles:

• Para los exportadores, la certificación se convierte en una poderosa estrategia de marketing que facilitará la internacionalización de este producto. Podrán ofrecer pulpa de camu camu, pulpa concentrada y/o liofilizada con el sello verde, lo que les permitirá incursionar con mayor éxito en un mercado tan competitivo como el de bebidas nutracéuticas y la industria farmacéutica.

• Para la región Loreto, esto es un hecho inédito, pues se convierte en el primer recurso de la biodiversidad amazónica con esta distinción, con lo cual nos ubicamos a la altura de la actual tendencia mundial de producir productos naturales. Constituirá, al mismo tiempo, un incentivo para que la población ribereña se dedique más a este cultivo, generando empleo productivo.

• Para los productores de camu camu que se orientan al mercado internacional representa una oportunidad para obtener mayores ingresos, que en opinión de los exportadores es del orden del 30% adicional al precio actual; pero al mismo tiempo, significa un reto porque tienen el compromiso y la obligación de cumplir con las normas establecidas.

• Para los consumidores a nivel nacional e internacional, el biosello obtenido significa una garantía de la calidad y el carácter orgánico de los productos con camu camu.

Cómo fue el proceso y a quiénes involucra

El proceso de certificación ecológica se inició en enero del presente año cuando CEDECAM contrató los servicios de SKAL International, empresa holandesa de reconocida trayectoria, altamente especializada en certificación de sistemas agrícolas y reconocida a nivel internacional, siendo la certificadora más grande de América Latina.

Javier García, Presidente ejecutivo de CEDECAM, manifiesta que la certificación ecológica del camu camu se inscribe dentro de la estrategia de posicionamiento de este recurso en el mercado internacional de productos orgánicos en el marco del proyecto «Programa integral para el aprovechamiento racional del camu camu en cuencas seleccionadas de Loreto» que implementa CEDECAM con el apoyo de la Unión Europea, Agro Acción Alemana, CESVI de Italia e Hivos de Holanda.

SKAL analizó las parcelas de camu camu, los rodales naturales y el proceso de transformación industrial de este recurso de la biodiversidad amazónica, teniendo en cuenta las entradas y salidas de insumos durante este proceso. Visitaron 17 comunidades ubicadas en las cuencas del Mazán/Napo y Ucayali/Tapiche, que son las áreas de intervención del proyecto. Se garantiza una oferta sostenible de fruta de los rodales naturales de estas cuencas mediante planes de manejo que actualmente están en proceso de implementación por las comunidades organizadas con el apoyo de CEDECAM.

Se pueden obtener alrededor de 60 t de fruta en la cosecha 2005-2006 con una proyección creciente.

Este logro de CEDECAM y de los actores de la cadena productiva del camu camu directamente involucrados en el proceso, trae consigo la responsabilidad de cumplir rigurosamente con las normas establecidas para renovar el certificado anualmente sin problema alguno. El CEDECAM asume el compromiso de vigilar estrechamente el cumplimiento de las normas, sistematizar, documentar los procesos y capacitar permanentemente a los productores.

El CEDECAM es una asociación civil sin fines de lucro, que articula a los productores de camu camu con el mercado; no produce ni comercializa directamente. En este sentido, juega el rol de «bisagra» entre la oferta y la demanda del mercado. Se preocupa de garantizar la calidad y, a partir de ahora, de velar por el carácter orgánico en la fase agrícola y de transformación de la pulpa en la UNAP para los mercados de exportación.

Es probable que con la certificación y la creciente demanda del mercado, las exportaciones de camu camu superen en esta cosecha las 150 t de pulpa. (Fuente: Revista Bosques Amazonicos virtual, junio 2005.)

Ethnoforestry paradigms

Recent research by John Studley of Loughborough University, United Kingdom on ethnoforestry paradigms has been presented in his doctoral thesis entitled “Sustainable knowledge systems and resource stewardship: in search of ethnoforestry paradigms for the indigenous peoples of Eastern Kham”.

This study examines resource stewardship from an alternative neglected angle – that of knowledge sustainability and synergistic bridging. The main outcomes of the study include the cognitive mapping of forest values among “Tibetan minority nationalities” in Eastern Kham, their spatial distribution and the coincidence of changes in forest values with cultural or biophysical phenomena.

Abstracts of the research (in English, Tibetan and Chinese) are available from the Loughborough University Web site at: phd_study.htm

Forest cosmetics and fragrances

Sourcing Brazilian rain forest ingredients for cosmetics

Brazilian personal care ingredients specialists Beraca Ingredients have been involved in a government-led expedition to search Amazonian rain forests for ingredients that can be used in cosmetic formulations. The expedition headed to the sustainable reserve of Cujubin, in the northern Brazilian municipality of Jutai, and included government officials and a representative from Conservation International.

Beraca says that it is hoping to explore the rain forests for cosmetic ingredients in a way that is sustainable to the environment, while combining local resources in an effort to benefit the region. “The production of the copaíba oil and of other forest products for the cosmetics industry has a great potential to provide sustainable and economic means for this region.”

Copaíba oil is an oily resin that is extracted from the Amazonian tree, Copaifera officinalis. These dense trees grow from 15 to 30 m high and the resin is extracted from the tree trunks. It is commonly used as a fragrance component in perfumes, as a preparation in soaps, creams and lotions, and as an emollient.

A seminar that focused on participative planning within the region was held during the first stage of the project and included 100 members of the local population from Jutai. The discussions centred on forming social structures whereby the farming of the land for ingredients could be better managed.

The aim is to maximize land utilization, while supporting a sustainable economic and ecologically balanced future. In turn this should lead to improvements in education and the health services, which will be the responsibility of the government. The next step will be for the community to organize themselves in a local association, with the aim of providing reliable supplies of copaíba oil and rubber to various industries, including the cosmetics industry. (Source: Cosmetics Design [France], 22 September 2005.)

Shellac may combat skin disorders

Ivy Cosmetics announced on 5 August that it has identified a unique property of shellac, a natural resin secreted by the insect Laccifera lacca.

In collaboration with Kitasato University, the company has confirmed that the powder or extract of shellac can inhibit the production of interleukin-8, one of the causal factors of skin disorders. The company and the university have concluded that shellac-derived substances can be used in external skin preparations.

Ivy has applied for patents for these findings. (Source: Japan Corporate News, 8 August 2005.)

Forest berries find their way to cosmetics

The Lumene company is a trailblazer in the use of berries in cosmetics. The company’s products now include arctic cloudberry extracts. Research to find new raw materials from Finnish nature has led Lumene to using arctic forest berries such as cloudberry, lingonberry and cranberry, as well as pine and birch extracts in its products. For example, cloudberry, lingonberry and cranberry are used in face creams, pine bark extracts in men’s products and birch sap and birch leaf extracts in body care products. Cloudberry seed oil is used to protect skin from radical damage and to enhance regeneration. Pine extracts are used to prevent premature skin ageing and birch leaf extract to boost circulation. Cranberry is an old, well-known medicinal herb in Finland.

Using Finnish ingredients is important to Lumene since many arctic berry species have a high concentration of active ingredients because of the short but light Nordic summer. The fact that Finnish nature is considered to be pure is also an important factor for Lumene and its customers.

Developing cosmetics from berries has been ongoing for six to seven years. It took two to three years of development before Lumene had a product containing berry extracts on the market.

Lumene uses approximately 100 000 kg of berries each year, the major part of which is cloudberry. In order to obtain 1 kg of cloudberry seed oil, 100 kg of berries are needed. Although Lumene uses only the oil from the seeds, other parts of the berries do not go to waste and are made into juices and jams.

Lumene has not had problems with berry procurement so far, even though there is a small risk since crops vary from season to season.

Face care products containing cloudberry represent Lumene’s most successful sales both in Finland and abroad. Lumene’s products are available in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, the Russian Federation and the United States. In the Russian Federation cloudberry is well known, but in the United States it has so far been unknown. Gaining United States markets is notoriously difficult.

In Finland Lumene is the leading cosmetics brand with a 27 percent market share. (Source: forest-fi, 22 August 2005.)

Aniba rosaeodora: a quest to save a tree

Until the perfume Chanel No. 5 went on the market in 1921, pau-rosa or Brazilian rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) was just another tree that grew in abundance in the Amazon. But the enduring popularity of that fragrance, which includes rosewood oil as a main ingredient, began a process that has led to a black market trade in the oil, and the tree itself being designated an endangered species.

Worldwide, demand for perfumes, soaps, balms and scented candles has skyrocketed in recent years, helped by rising women’s incomes and aromatherapy. Because of rosewood’s cachet, demand for the oil far outstrips the legal supply and some fragrance manufacturers will pay high prices to obtain it.

According to academic and industry studies, legal rosewood oil production in Brazil is now barely one-tenth of its peak in the late 1960s, when annual output was 300 tonnes. The number of registered mills, which turn rosewood tree trunks into oil through an inefficient process that seems to devour trees, has also fallen drastically, from more than 50 in the 1940s to fewer than eight today.

About six years ago, Avive, a community group in a small island town in the middle of the Amazon River, began an effort to try to revive the industry, but this time on a sustainable basis. Rather than simply cutting down trees and hauling away their trunks, Avive decided to prune branches and leaves every five years or so, thereby extending the usefulness of individual rosewood trees for decades.

Today the project’s members, most of them rural women, have planted and are tending more than 3 000 rosewood saplings in the heart of the jungle. They also distil rosewood oil and manufacture about 1 000 bars of soap a month at a small plant there. The group has begun harvesting other exotic fragrances from trees for soaps and salves, always taking care to replace what they take.

But Avive’s task has not proved easy. Jungle lots that the government has placed under the group’s care have been razed by invaders. The concentration of oil in rosewood leaves can be twice as much as that in the trunk. But larger volumes of branches and leaves are needed to produce the same amount of oil, and since this requires extra labour, it is more convenient and profitable for mill operators to stick to the old predatory system.

Higher labour and operating costs mean a higher price for the finished product. Intermediaries have balked at paying this premium so long as illegal supplies are still available, but some users say they would gladly buy the environmentally friendly rosewood oil if only it were made available to them. (Source: Silves Journal via The New York Times, 30 August 2005.)

Sandalwood fragrance

Sniffing sweet fragrances not only soothes your senses, but can also improve your mood. A researcher has now developed a “medical perfume” which, when sniffed, can also cheer you up. The sandalwood perfume, which was unveiled recently, contains chemicals that hit the base of the brain via the nose. They then regulate the dopamine levels that affect depression and anxiety.

Inventor Dr George Dodd said the perfume could be more effective than prescription drugs. “One or two sniffs will be enough. We’ve done trials with hundreds of people.” The perfume is expected to reach the shelves in 18 months. (Source: [India], 28 October 2005.)


The world of aromatherapy suggests many types of essential oils that are useful for healing. But incense can also be utilized as a remedy for certain conditions. Headaches are a common ailment many people face, but with the calming effects produced by certain aromas, symptoms can be relieved.

Incense and aromatherapy work because our sense of smell is a direct path to the brain. This process activates our limbic system and is the reason why certain odours trigger an immediate response. Particular aromas are known to stimulate the brain to produce essential chemicals. Many of the ingredients used in incense contain phytochemicals, which are chemicals found in plants that have protective, disease-preventing properties.

Incense or aromatherapy is not a substitute for seeking medical attention. Once you have attempted to identify the cause of the discomfort (stress, hormones, sinusitis), you can find the particular ingredient for your symptoms.

Incense recommended for headache relief include the following.

Borneol (Dryobalanops camphora), a resin derived from the camphor tree, is refreshing and cleansing. Its camphor-like aroma opens the nasal passages, so it is especially beneficial for headaches brought on by sinus problems. Borneol smells wonderful even when it is not burning. It kills bacteria, purifies the air and stimulates the adrenal cortex of the brain. Borneol is a primary ingredient in Buddhist incense.

Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), a woody herb found mainly in Nepal, is closely related to valerian. The dried roots are used, and have a musky aroma that helps enhance contemplation.

Star anise (Illicium verum) comes from a small tree native to southwestern China that produces a fruit that ripens into the shape of a star. It is well known for its liquorice taste and an extract is used in making true liquorice. Star anise contains certain phytochemicals and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which lower blood pressure. This can produce a calming effect and help reduce pain. (Source: Llewellyn Journal [United States], 7 November 2005.)

Les sources de la fertilité et de la durabilité

Les rameaux des arbres, particulièrement deux des feuillus dicotylédones composent la canopée tant en climat tempéré que tropical. Ces rameaux sont fait de bois dont la composition protéique est très différente du bois des tiges (bois caulinaire). Ces protéines sont associées à des composés dont on ne parle peu que sont les polyphénols, eux-mêmes associés aux sucres et aux celluloses.

Si l’arbre est stable, il en va autrement des rameaux de la canopée qui offre un milieu de vie extraordinaire que nous apprenons à connaître depuis une décennie et qui n’a de cesse de nous émerveiller et de nous confondre. Nous constatons tous les jours que des millions d’enfants africains souffrent de graves carences en protéines, alors que le feu servant à cuire de maigres rations est largement disponible.

Ainsi, avons nous tiré leçon de cet état de fait et utilisé les rameaux des arbres abattus pour l’exploitation du bois caulinaire, et nous les avons employés pour le sol, où fongus et chaînes trophiques ont tôt fait de transformer un sol pauvre à base de kaolinite en un sol diversifié biologiquement et structuré physiquement. Ainsi, la diversité biologique de la canopée s’est transformée en un sol riche, fertile et d’une utilisation durable bien au-delà d’une année et ce en redonnant la fertilité obtenue après une fragmentation donnant des morceaux ne dépassant pas 10 cm de longueur. En région tropicale, cela remplace la jachère qui, pour restaurer la fertilité primitive, peut prendre des dizaines d’années.

Des augmentations de rendement de l’ordre de 30 pour cent en matière sèche se sont manifestées tant en Côte d’Ivoire qu’à Madagascar, en République dominicaine, au Sénégal, puis en en Belgique, au Canada, en France et en Ukraine. Ainsi, l’utilisation des rameaux fragmentés est à la base d’une pédogenèse contrôlée et ne peut être associée à un engrais ou à un amendement humique comme plusieurs le proposent.

Ainsi les rameaux fragmentés bouleversent tous les paramètres du sol et des cultures en éliminant des parasites tels les nématodes parasites des racines, augmentent les rendements à la récolte, diminuent de moitié la consommation d’eau, réduisant ainsi les méfaits de la salinité tout en stabilisant le pH. (Contribution de: professeur Gilles Lemieux; Groupe de coordination sur les bois et rameaux, Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt, Université Laval, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada.

Télécopie: (1) 418-656-5262; courriel:

Manejo de semillas forestales nativas de la sierra ecuatoriana y norte del perú

Los Andes del Norte conforman la ecoregión más biodiversa del planeta, considerando la cantidad de especies de flora y fauna y los tipos de ecosistemas que se encuentran en este rincón noroccidental del continente sudamericano. En muchas partes de la cordillera de los Andes, es posible viajar un largo día, desde la zona costera del Pacífico hasta la cuenca del Amazonas, cruzando bosques tropicales húmedos o secos, bosques de montaña bajos, bosques de niebla de montaña alto, páramos o punas y una serie de humedales. La región Andina también es el hogar de una gran diversidad cultural. Pueblos indígenas y mestizos habitan diferentes pisos altitudinales como sustento de su vida y para desarrollar sus actividades agrícolas, sociales y económicas. Todo esto hace de los Andes una zona privilegiada a escala mundial, ya que en ninguna otra región se encuentra tanta biodiversidad y diversidad en capital humano concentrado.

La deforestación en los Andes y la pérdida de ecosistemas en general, son casi tan famosos como su diversidad. Por una serie de razones históricas, económicas y políticas, la convivencia, de la relativamente alta densidad de población con el medio ambiente no ha sido siempre positiva, lo cual ha promovido una degradación ambiental muy severa. Esta degradación es actualmente muy grave, pues resulta que: en la región con más alta biodiversad del mundo no hay suficientes áreas silvestres preservadas para un funcionamiento ecológico natural; en una región montañosa, con suelos muy fértiles, falta tierra cultivable como resultado de la erosión; y en el continente mas húmedo del mundo, falta agua para vivir.

Entre las respuestas a los grandes problemas ambientales presentes en los Andes del Norte, siempre ha surgido la forestación. En los últimos años ha tenido mucho éxito la reforestación social o comunitaria, o sea la integración entre reforestación, agricultura y manejo forestal, y por la participación social que este tipo de forestación promueve. Esta modalidad de forestación, además, utiliza muchas especies de árboles, ya que se trata de una actividad multipropósito y aprovecha los diversos fines de la diversidad forestal andina. Es así que la forestación comunitaria ha revalorado una gran cantidad de especies nativas de los Andes, y ha aumentado la agrobiodiversidad del paisaje cultural andino.

Sin embargo, el hecho de que este tipo de forestación tiene un enfoque social y menos industrial, no significa que pueda prescindir de bases técnicas y académicas de alta calidad. Es precisamente éste, uno de los factores limitantes para que la forestación reciba una mayor acogida. No existe suficiente conocimiento de la taxonomía, de la silvicultura, del uso y la comercialización de especies que las comunidades campesinas usan o pueden usar en su práctica diaria. Un gran problema es la utilización de material genético de calidad. Si bien la incorporación de una diversidad de árboles en el paisaje andino requiere altas inversiones laborales, igualmente implica muchos beneficios. Estos beneficios pueden aumentar –eventualmente– en más del 50% con una semilla de buena calidad. Sería un desperdicio dedicar tanto tiempo y esfuerzo a un árbol de mala procedencia genética.

Con estos elementos la corporación EcoPar y la fundación EcoCiencia con el apoyo financiero y técnico del programa Fosefor en los Andes, ejecutaron un plan de recolección de información, de conocimientos prácticos y de capacitación con organizaciones campesinas y demás actores de la cadena forestal en el manejo de semillas forestales de calidad. Uno de los productos de este programa es la presente publicación, en la cual se recopila toda la información actualmente disponible sobre el manejo de semillas, el manejo en vivero y en plantaciones de especies forestales nativa y exóticas. Esta información es producto de una investigación en fuentes primarias y secundarias, refleja especialmente la experiencia de la gente del campo: campesinos y campesinas, técnicos, viveristas y de los proyectos impulsados por el Fosefor. (Fuente: Ordóñez, L., Arbeláez, M. y Prado, L. 2004. Manejo de semillas forestales nativas de la Sierra ecuatoriana y Norte del Perú [Com-Eds].)

Myrica gale

Myrica gale, also known as sweet gale or bog myrtle, is a small deciduous shrub with reddish brown buds that grows in bogs, wet heaths and fens. It used to be common throughout the United Kingdom, but as wetlands were gradually drained its habitat was removed and it retreated further north, finally making its home in the Scottish Highlands. The leaves of this sweet-scented plant are resinous and were used to flavour beer. Another well-known use was as an insect repellent. The bark was hung in wardrobes and stuffed into mattresses to repel fleas.

Recently, a Scottish company has started harvesting this plant to extract the oil for its insect-repelling properties. With £750 000 of commercial and government funding for research into the plant, there is huge commercial potential for the Highlands.

Bog myrtle, like many plants, was thought of as a medicine, and at one time was the standard treatment for scabies. The leaves were made into “gale tea”, which was a cold remedy as well as being a useful astringent for upset stomachs.

Belonging to the Myricacea family, there are about 50 species of wax myrtles worldwide. They are nearly all aromatic and have a history of being used as a medicine.

They are found in soaps, stomach remedies and catarrh mixes and can still be found in many herbal dispensaries. (Source: Edinburgh Evening News [Scotland, United Kingdom], 8 October 2005.)

Non-profit organizations and ngos

Biodiversity Research and Development Centre (BIRD)

The Biodiversity Research and Development Centre is a government-registered NGO located in Kathmandu, Nepal, which aims at biodiversity conservation, environmental improvement, social services awareness activities and poverty alleviation, working in an area with a diverse mix of ethnic groups and cultural traditions and a high biodiversity value of global importance.

BIRD’s main goal is to integrate conservation with development by safeguarding the area’s biodiversity; improving the socio-economic condition of the local people; and developing and studying development models for social enlistments.

BIRD’s objectives are to conduct scientific field studies and research and development projects at different levels, from grassroots to national planning, to promote the biodiversity sector; promote and facilitate development of natural resource-based microenterprises to enhance the livelihoods of local communities; and facilitate and develop physical infrastructures for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable collection, production and market management of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) and NTFPs.

BIRD has been working to fulfil its mission in the control and management of natural resources and improvement in the biodiversity sector. It works directly with rural people and related organizations at the grassroots level to improve their socio-economic condition through biodiversity development and commercial utilization of local resources. BIRD also encourages local-level initiatives to manage NTFP-based enterprises to improve rural livelihoods. It coordinates with relevant stakeholders to devise and facilitate policy formulation on biodiversity management and NTFP conservation, utilization and marketing. Finally, BIRD acts directly in developing and disseminating the market price information system of NTFPs/jaributi (MFPs) from local to national level for better information among relevant stakeholders.

Pragya, India

Pragya is a non-profit organization that has been engaged in the holistic and sustainable development of vulnerable neglected communities and ecosystems in the high altitudes of the Himalayas through promoting the conservation and cultivation of endangered medicinal and aromatic flora together with the ethnic cultural heritage of the area.

The organization facilitates appropriate, sustainable and stable development of the region, empowerment of communities and the conservation and revival of ethnic culture, including local languages, arts and crafts and music and dance.

Tree Aid

Tree Aid, a well-established charity set up in 1987, has planted more than six million trees across Africa and has protected many more. “Not only do trees provide wood for homes, food, medicines and fuel, but they allow communities to develop an income from their products, such as shea butter, soaps and gum,” says Miranda Spitteler, Tree Aid’s chief executive. A donation of £18 covers the cost of a zizyphus tree, which bears vitamin-packed fruit. For donations of £550 or over, you can be linked with your own Tree Aid project and the charity will keep you closely involved with its progress.

United Plant Savers

United Plant Savers is a Vermont-based non-profit organization with the goal of preserving North America’s native medicinal plants. It has about 2 000 members nationwide and for each member the focus is on its “at risk” list, about 20 plants in danger of disappearing as a result of habitat loss and overharvesting.

Plants such as ginseng and bloodroot, which can be used to treat a number of ailments including stress and skin cancer, are of particular concern. The root of the plant is used to create remedies, but harvesting the plant kills it. Therefore, teaching harvesting ethics is crucial to ensure that native medicinal plants continue to thrive in the wild. Root dividing, pruning and seed planting are a few of the ethical harvesting methods promoted by the organization.

Non-timber forest resource enterprises: fatty oils for edible and non-edible purposes

It has been emphasized many times that no single non-timber forest resource (NTFR) enterprise offers adequate livelihood opportunities and ensures people’s security throughout the year. Consequently, India and other countries need to select and manage five or six NTFR species on the basis of their harvesting times and biological calendar, i.e. time of planting, maturity of plant parts required for the enterprise, etc. in order to guide NTFR management in the right direction.

Another important point is that in raw material production for a particular commodity, such as fatty oils from oilseeds, more than one species should be extensively propagated so that any failings can be averted. For example, although a massive campaign was launched to produce fatty oils for refined cooking oil from palm oil (Elaeis guinunsis), the species could not meet the shortage of edible oil in India; other species of the Palmae family should have been grown, in accordance with the sustainability of climate and ecology.

Similarly, Jatropha curcas was grown vigorously in different parts of India during 2005 to produce fatty oils to be added to diesel at 20 percent as biofuel. It is suggested that other species such as Pongamia pinnata and Mucuna prurens be grown simultaneously, following trials on the use of their fatty oils as biofuel. The Centre of Minor Forest Products (COMFORPTS) for Rural Development and Environmental Conservation, Dehra Dun has been preparing a project for undertaking such trials on about 12 plants yielding oilseeds.

COMFORPTS has been specifically working for NTFR utilization and propagation management and its services may be obtained, through its MFP database, by any country for the selection of NTFR species for different enterprises.

Nwfp fabrics

Bamboo charcoal textile products

Taitei. On 11 November the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) launched a series of textile products made of bamboo charcoal which the ministry says can make Taiwan’s textile industry more competitive on the world market.

MOEA took two years to develop the technology of bamboo charcoal textiles with the help of the Taiwan Textile Research Institute and several textile companies.

To produce bamboo charcoal, the bamboo, which needs to be four to five years old, is burned at 700–750°C. The charcoal is then finely graded and inserted into fibres to create a new form of textile.

Clothing made of bamboo charcoal textiles has the advantage of absorbing odours, retaining heat, blocking out electromagnetic radiation and maintaining low humidity.

MOEA also introduced a new Phyllotex trademark for its line of bamboo charcoal products which includes (besides clothing) soap, lotion, shampoo and pillows. (Source:, 13 December 2005.)

Bamboo T-shirts

Bamboo fibre T-shirts are the most comfortable and softest textile product. Made from a 21/1 ring spun yarn, the bamboo T-shirt is 70 percent bamboo fibre and 30 percent cotton and is preshrunk. Bamboo fibre T-shirts are naturally antibacterial, biodegradable and extremely soft.

Bamboo clothing will never stick to the body or skin, even on the hottest of days, and will always make you feel extremely cool under any condition.

The species used for bamboo fibre is Phyllostachys heterocycla pubescens, commonly known as moso bamboo. This is the largest of the temperate zone bamboo species and is the most economically important species in China. It is generally used for construction purposes and as edible bamboo shoots.

Moso bamboo is prevalent throughout China. Bamboo Textile’s factory, however, owns and maintains its own plantations on a large mountainside located in Zhejiang Province, which is south of the factory in Suzhou.

Bamboo is known to be the fastest-growing plant on earth, making it naturally highly renewable. Bamboo’s growth characteristics enable it to spread rapidly across large areas and, consequently, it is known to improve soil quality in degraded and eroded areas of land. In addition, bamboo’s natural growth habits allow it to reproduce in abundance without the use of fertilizers and without the need for pesticides.

The process to make bamboo fibre and yarn is similar to the process used to make rayon. Stalks of bamboo are essentially crushed and pulped to separate the natural fibres. These are then mixed with chemicals such as caustic soda to convert the plant fibre into textile quality fibre. (Source: (press release) [United States].)

Modi: ethnic and exquisite

Modi or “modern indigenous” is a fashion and home designer collection of indigenous handmade crafts infused with a stylish contemporary twist. The line was initiated by the Non-Timber Forest Products Task Force (NTFP-TF), a network of organizations that works with upland and rural communities on issues of land tenure, resource management and livelihood based on NTFPs, with the hope of establishing a regular demand for these crafts and thereby ensuring a stable source of income for the artisans. Modi was also established to preserve and promote the continuation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of these artisans and elevate the perceived value of handmade and culturally related products.

NTFP-TF’s vision is to preserve indigenous crafts and raise them to a much higher level where more value is placed on the traditions and culture of the people who fashion them.

Modi will be featuring new designers yearly to present fresh design concepts and an interesting product line. And through design clinics organized by the NTFP-TF, the featured designers will all have the chance to interact and consult with the artisans, who are considered creative partners in this worthy endeavour.

Simply put, through Modi the NTFP-TF aims to spark a renewed interest in and appreciation of all indigenous crafts. (Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 August 2005.)

United Nations recognizes bark cloth as world heritage

Uganda’s bark cloth has been named as part of the world’s collective heritage recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Speaking yesterday, Augustine Omare Okurut, who heads the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO, said the global body had proclaimed the “art of bark cloth making in Uganda as a masterpiece of the world’s intangible heritage”. The proclamation “is an honour to Uganda and a recognition of the indigenous textile production skills of Ugandan craftsmen”. “It will strengthen the activities aimed at preserving the bark cloth production skills in Uganda as well as promoting the bark cloth and its use in Uganda and internationally.”

Okurut said that bark cloth is used in various festivities, including burials, and has invaluable commercial potential when exploited for handicrafts.

He said research was being undertaken on making bark cloth, which is extracted from a ficus tree popularly known as omutuba in central Uganda. Okurut said that the tree was becoming endangered and that if it were to be commercially exploited the local people would be encouraged to grow it for posterity and improve their welfare. He also said bark cloth making had been left to a few traditional artisans because of the lack of a market, adding that this could result in the tree’s demise.

Okurut said researchers had been to various places, including Busoga and Bunyoro, but discovered that Buganda was the only place where bark cloth is widely used. (Source: New Vision [Uganda], 3 December 2005.)

Fabrics with a healing touch

With people becoming increasingly health conscious all over the world, Ayurvastra fabric, which is dyed using various Ayurvedic herbs, sandalwood, neem and turmeric, is climbing the popularity chart.

Ayurvedic herbs have various medicinal properties and when they are dyed with the fabric, give it a cooling effect. They are good for various skin disorders, asthma and other ailments. Clinical trials are currently under way at the government Ayurvedic college in the state capital. Some clothing materials are also dyed using pomegranate and jaggery.

The Ayurvedic herbs are boiled at a particular temperature and the fabric is dipped in it for at least four hours and, in some cases, a whole day. For making sandalwood saris, first the yarn and then the cloth is dyed in sandalwood.

The Handloom Weavers Development Society is at present exporting to Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Singapore and Malaysia; export earnings last year amounted to Rs1 crore (Rs10 million).

The technology used in making Ayurvastra cloth is being utilized for making coir mats, mattresses, doormats and carpets. Delhi-based wool weavers from Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Orissa have entered into partnership with the society to make Ayurvedic wool. Discussions have also been held with Kanchipuram weavers to produce Ayurvedic Kanchipuram saris.

However, the lakh weavers in the society are facing marketing problems and efforts are consequently being made to popularize these innovative products. (Source: Rediff, [India], 28 September 2005.)

Nwfp fuels

Bamboo-fuelled power plants in India

Indian scientists have successfully developed two unique power projects using bamboo to generate electricity. The plants, with a capacity of 1 MW each, will be commissioned in Assam by February 2006. “This would be the first of its kind where we are using bamboo and its wastes to generate electricity,” said the Director of the National Mission on Bamboo Applications (NMBA). “It would not only be cost effective but also highly ecofriendly.”

NMBA is an agency set up by the central government to promote value addition and commercialization of the country’s 80 million tonnes of annual bamboo crops.

India is the second highest bamboo-producing country after China. More than 55 percent of India’s annual bamboo crops are grown in the northeastern region.

“Bamboo grows in the wild abundantly and all we need to do is to propagate cultivation further so that we can use it as an alternative for wood in the near future,” NMBA said. (Source: Webindia123 [India], 15 December 2005.)

Ipomoea fistulosa – the crisis fuel of wetlands

Fuel in rural Bangladesh is a problem, with fuelwood becoming more scarce every day. The problem is particularly acute in Sunamganj, a northeastern district of Bangladesh situated in typical wetlands. Most of the district remains under water for at least half the year. The main fuelwood collected in the low-lying areas is koranch (Pongamia pinnata), hijal (Barringtonia acutangulata), kadam (Anthocephalus kadamba) and sheora (Streblus aspera). People lop parts of these species during the monsoon season, while during the dry season different reeds and shrubs meet their fuel demand.

Fuelwood in these low-lying areas is diminishing at an alarming rate and, facing this acute fuel scarcity, people are now using cow dung, rice husks, etc. as alternative fuel sources, but they are not enough to meet demand. It is time to address the suffering of the people in the wetlands; government agencies and NGOs should come forward to solve the energy crisis in these areas.

During my recent visit to Sunamganj, I saw people planting ipomoea (Ipomoea fistulosa) along the sides of the road. Plant growth is luxuriant and once ipomoea is planted it can be harvested year after year. It also has a soil-binding capacity and protects the soil of the newly constructed “kacha” road in rural areas. The species is now used as fuel during the monsoon season and can survive under water for a considerable time. Thus, if properly planted, it will partially meet the demand for energy. In the meantime, a well-planned system should be developed so that poor rural people can have a sustained supply of energy.

Planners are requested to keep ipomea in mind since it is very easy to grow and can provide a sustained yield. (Contributed by: A.Z.M. Manzoor Rashid, Assistant Professor, Department of Forestry, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet-3114, Bangladesh. E-mail:

Mushrooms as fuel?

New research could move shiitake mushrooms out of the kitchen and into the petrol tank. These fungi grow on fallen logs in the forest. They digest the wood and turn it into sugars that they use for food.

Now scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service are investigating whether this technique could be used to produce fuel. The researchers have discovered and copied the shiitake gene, Xyn11A, which gives the mushroom the ability to produce the enzyme xylanase that dissolves wood into sugar. Now that the researchers have isolated the gene, they are looking into whether it can be used to produce vats of the enzyme for digesting rice hulls or other harvest leftovers into sugars that could be used for making ethanol or other fuel types.

This research was published in 2005 in Protein Journal. (Source: LiveScience, 2 December 2005.)

Poison frog production and export

Poison frog production and export are new NWFP tools to keep rain forests standing and alleviate rural poverty in Central and South America.

Many Central and South American countries have colourful poison dart frogs in their faunal listings. According to CITES Appendix II, most of these frogs are endangered and worldwide trade is controlled. Yet hardly anything is being done to preserve their original habitats in order to prevent these outstanding frogs from terminal extinction. Several species are in fast decline – Dendrobates arboreus, Panama; some Minyobates in Colombia; and several D. histrionicus variants in the Chocoan rain forest belt of Ecuador and Colombia. One species is possibly already extinct in the wild (D. speciosus, Costa Rica) as a result of new diseases (particularly chytrid fungus), devastating oil palm monocultures (Ecuador, Peru), cattle farming (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru), devastating monocultures of soya and other crops (Brazil) and local or global climate change caused by large-scale deforestation.

Some species are protected in a few national parks or reserves, but are still endangered there by the chytrid fungus, climate change and forest fires (Brazil).

In 2004, in a first unique rescue operation, IUCN-SPN-NL helped to finance in Peru the purchase and protection of the last original habitats and refuges of Dendrobates mysteriosus, a project currently managed by three local NGOs. The tiny refuges will receive international registering, while an intensive production process with marked reproductors will provide sufficient funds to maintain the reserves by exporting some juvenile frogs.

This shows that not in all cases do hundreds or thousands of hectares of forest need to be protected: for poison frogs or Atelopus, small areas of only a few hectares can make the difference between extinction and survival. Funding agencies should, therefore, meet this need for small-scale funding for the selected original habitat conservation of endangered species.

Another problem is that many wild collected Dendrobatids are stolen in the countries of origin by “professional” smugglers (Peru and Panama are most affected currently). These illegal frogs turn up in great numbers in Europe or the United States. Smugglers often concentrate on stealing young poison frogs since they can be camouflaged and sold more easily than adults.

To fight this illegal trade and to install a functioning network of protected original habitats, the NGO INIBICO (located at Tarapoto, Peru) has developed sustainable production methods for many species of poison frogs. These methods are applied in original forest and allow poor forest settlers or natives to earn an extra or exclusive income. In 2004, INIBICO, together with INRENA, established Peru’s first Concession of Faunal Management of 3 861 ha near Tarapoto (consisting of a buffer zone of a new regional park), where poor forest settlers are trained to produce nine species of local poison frogs, two tree boa species, orchids (in vitro culture based) and commercial insects for export.

The producers are organized as an NGO (ASPRAVEP) and maintain a biological field station and recollecting centre, where tadpoles and froglets are raised to juveniles. Since poison frog in situ production is only possible in standing original forest or high secondary forest, producers learn to value their forest plots. The ASPRAVEP project was recently featured in a Discovery Channel documentary entitled “Frogs of gold”.

ASPRAVEP is exporting its first frog shipments in 2006 and the financial outcomes of this type of NWFP production will be available at the end of the year.

The experience gained in Peru will be transferred to those neighbouring countries having the same severe rain forest loss.

The project’s success is also based on the World Bank Development Marketplace Grant won in 2002 (Poison dart frog ranching to protect rain forest and alleviate poverty, project no. 1761). (Contributed by: Dipl. Biol. Rainer Schulte, INIBICO, Jr. Ramírez Hurtado 608, Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru. E-mail:;

Trees for health forever

Traditional plant-based medicine is of great importance for the health security of people in southern Africa. It is based almost entirely on the collection of wild plants from increasingly fragmented and beleaguered natural forest and conservation areas. In the past, collection was largely for personal use and undertaken by the healers themselves. However, in order to supply the growing urban populace collection is increasingly commercial and, if left uncontrolled, threatens the future of species in high demand and the forests and environments in which they live. Commercialization has generated a whole suite of trade-dependent livelihoods that are in turn threatened by overexploitation. Remedying this situation requires concerted effort on the part of foresters, national park managers, herbalists, traders and the public itself. However, although it is easy to say action is needed, it needs to be evidence-based; in other words, it should be based on good-quality information arising from objective research.

The Forest Research Programme (Department for International Development [DFID]) funded a three-year project in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa with the intention of providing a scientific basis for the sustainable management of medicinal trees in southern Africa. The focus of the project was bark from indigenous species in natural forests and was based on pioneering work by the CPWild consortium in South Africa ( while consideration of resource inventory issues developed work initiated by the FAO GCP/RAF/354/EC project (see Non-Wood News 9).

Bark comprises around 60 percent of the mass of plant-based medicine for sale in South African wholesale herb markets and many of the species in high demand are becoming scarce within forests close to the markets. As a consequence, 36 percent of the bark material in the Durban herb market originates from neighbouring countries, especially Mozambique (19 percent). A market survey undertaken by the project indicates that although the relationship between traders and herbalists is quite different in southern Malawi and the Copperbelt province of Zambia, even here long-distance, crossborder trade of medicines is taking place. Furthermore, the people engaged in the collection, trade and administering of herbal medicines are often poor with vulnerable livelihoods heavily dependent on forest resources.

As a contribution to the scientific basis for the sustainable management of commercial collection of medicinal bark the project established a large-scale experiment on the impact of bark harvesting on the trees. The results indicate that there is a range of physiological responses and pathological consequences of bark wounding. Miombo species appear to be more sensitive to bark wounding than afromontane species because of termite activity and the drying and lifting of bark remaining on the tree, which may be part of the reason why the roots are more often harvested in these environments. Even within montane forest species there has been a range of responses to bark wounding from rapid regrowth to no regrowth at all. Knowledge of the species’ response to wounding is therefore required to provide a sound basis for management prescriptions for commercial harvesting. Sustainable harvesting also needs to be based on knowledge of the numbers, sizes and locations of populations of the required species. Obtaining such data for a single species in a forest, especially when the species is often rare, is problematic. The project developed and tested several methods for medicinal bark inventory.

The findings of the project were presented at the November workshop to representatives of ten countries drawn from forestry departments, ministries, research, education, traders and herbalists within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The response was a resolution committing participants to further action towards the sustainable management of medicines and NWFPs through the formation of a regional NWFP working group. The project team are now preparing for the inaugural meeting of the working group and completing a handbook for sustainable bark harvesting for use by local forest resource managers. (Contributed by: Jenny Wong, Wild Resources Limited, Robinson Building, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, United Kingdom. Fax: +44 1248 354997; e-mail:;

Twigs and young trees are falling prey to human hygiene

Of late the saplings and younger plants from the saal forest reserve in the West Singhbhum district are being cut before they can mature, to accommodate a simple and regular human need – dental hygiene.

Every day, hundreds of tribal villagers bundle up young twigs or tadduns, which are used for cleaning teeth. They sell the twigs in various village haats (markets). Officials working for the vast stretches of the saal forest maintain that the twigs cut for this regular use greatly disturb the proper growth of the plant. The twigs generally used are the newly formed ones that grow immediately after the rains. By cutting off the twigs, experts say, the villagers are retarding the natural growth of the plant.

This problem is especially rampant as hundreds of forest and revenue villages in the district depend on minor forest products for their livelihoods. Although a considerable part of the tribal population in the district has switched over to other agricultural activities, the poorer tribals still feed their daily needs by selling forest produce, of which the twigs are an easily available option. Moreover, the Land Settlement Record gives a number of rights to forest dwellers and villagers, including the right to exploit forest products for domestic use. Consequently, their use of the forest produce, although harmful in many ways, is completely legal.

The demand for tadduns has lately increased since the numbers of truck drivers in the area who shuttle between the mine heads of iron ore and the steel plants have also risen. The truckers and others, who follow traditional methods of brushing their teeth, still prefer this option because of habit and easy availability.

The divisional forest officer (Saranda), however, feels that this trend is on the decline; the forest department has initiated several schemes to divert tribals who are engaged in cutting and selling twigs as tadduns. (Source: The Telegraph [India], 22 November 2005.)

Vasaka (adhatoda vasica nees)

Vasaka (Adhatoda vasica Nees) is a small gregarious evergreen shrub occurring throughout the plains of Bangladesh. The timber of the thicker stems is used for gunpowder charcoal and as a fuel for brick burning.

Vasaka is a well-known drug in the Ayurvedic and Unani medicine systems and is recommended for a variety of ailments such as bronchitis, asthma, fever, jaundice and consumption. The pharmacological action and therapeutic properties of A. vasica are attributed to vasicine and the essential oil. The fluid extract of the leaves is a useful remedy for asthma, especially in combination with belladonna. Compound preparations containing A. vasica are now available from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The leaf is excellent as manure and is scattered over the fields just before the rainy season commences. It is then worked into the soil by plough and left to decay with the moisture, thus forming mould.

As fuel it is almost exclusively used in the process of boiling down cane juice and is collected in large heaps some days prior to cutting down the sugar cane.

A yellow dye obtained by boiling the leaves is used for dyeing coarse cloth. It gives a greenish-blue colour when combined with indigo.
(Source: The New Nation [Bangladesh], 3 September 2005.)

“Wildlife interpol”

Officials from ten Southeast Asian countries gathered in Bangkok to launch a regional Wildlife Enforcement Network to combat criminal syndicates that smuggle exotic wildlife across borders for immense profits. The agency, heralded as a “wildlife Interpol”, will ensure sharing of information between countries where the black market trading of items such as bushmeat, fur, pet birds, animal skins and reptiles is proving difficult to control. The global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth at least US$10 billion a year, slightly less than the trafficking of arms and narcotics. (Source: Wildlife Enforcement Network [WEN], 2 December 2005.)

Take advice from a tree
Stand upright and strong
Defy the storms
Remember your roots

Author unknown

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