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CARPE is a regional project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its long-term goal is to reduce the deforestation rate of tropical forests in the Congo basin and conserve their biodiversity. Activities cover Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire), Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

To achieve these goals, CARPE has identified eight main emphasis areas. One area focuses on an examination of the actual and potential role of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) in the better management of forests in Central Africa. The objectives are to: identify the sector's potential to mitigate deforestation; identify the "most promising" products and exploitation systems; and foster conditions that are conducive to the above.

In Central Africa, there is a long tradition in the utilization of NWFPs, with bushmeat and edible forest vegetables as the most important forest outputs in value terms. Locally important NWFPs include rattan, wild fruits, medicinal plants, nuts and forest-gathered fibres. NWFPs can contribute significantly to local people's food supplies as well as being a source of income. Indeed, many NWFPs are consumed at the subsistence level.

Much research and development work has been conducted on NWFP utilization and conservation, including the development of better assessment techniques of the NWFP base, evaluation of their socio-economic importance and compilation of trade statistics in and from the region; domestication of key NWFPs such as "bush mango" (Irvingia sp. for its fruit and kernels) and Prunus africana; and improving marketing and trade practices for key NWFPs.

Centre de Reproduction d'Arts Négros, Cameroun

Nevertheless, despite the socio-economic importance of NWFPs, the sector has tended to be neglected or overlooked by owners, land-use planners and decision-makers. There are considerable gaps in knowledge regarding the correct botanical identification of many resources, management systems that are in harmony with timber-oriented practices, production and trade and sustainable utilization. Moreover, the forest legislation framework is inadequate to address the development potential of NWFPs.

Against this background CARPE gathered a large audience of national and international experts in the various fields of NWFP development to take stock of NWFP initiatives and propose concrete action for the future. From 10 to 15 May 1998, the United States Forest Service held the International Expert Workshop on Non-wood Forest Products in Central Africa, at Limbe Botanic Garden in Cameroon, with support from CARPE, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Limbe Botanic Garden.

The workshop focused on NWFPs of plant origin and discussions excluded wood products and vertebrates (bushmeat hunting, trophy hunting and the live animal trade). While wildlife use is a key issue in the region, it was felt that it should be the focus of a similar initiative from experts in this field.

The workshop brought together over 60 regional and international experts to:

Given the two main goals of sharing experiences and knowledge and identifying priority actions for the sustainable use of NWFPs, the workshop was structured around two components: a series of 20-minute presentations by workshop participants that were selected as being characteristic of the state of the NWFP sector across the Congo basin; and a set of working groups designed to identify short- to medium-term actions that would build on past and ongoing activities to promote the sustainable use of NWFPs.

Presentations and working groups were organized in terms of four focus areas: ecological issues; socio-political issues; market-economic issues; and networking and information exchange issues. Clearly the boundaries around these components are somewhat hazy and interconnections and interdependencies abound; yet, they do provide the opportunity for focused discussion on the state of knowledge within each area and a prioritization of future actions. The thread binding together each of these focus areas is the common desire to promote the sustainable use of NWFPs to benefit local communities and conserve forest biodiversity. This core message was voiced by all participants throughout the workshop and constituted a challenge to all involved to find ways to combine a concern for people's livelihoods with the need to conserve biodiversity when discussing the importance, values and management of NWFPs in the Congo basin.

The following points summarize the key lessons learned from three of the focus areas:

Ecological lessons

Socio-political lessons

Market-economic lessons

Working groups were given the task of identifying a priority set of short- to medium-term actions that would build on past and ongoing work to promote the sustainable use of NWFPs in the Congo basin. Discussions during working group sessions touched on a wide range of topics and concerns. Yet, it is still possible to distil from each group a key message that, it is hoped, captures the essence of the experts' efforts to set priorities for future actions. A key message from each working group might be the following:

Ecological. Methods for baseline data collection and monitoring of NWFPs must be developed and individuals responsible for their management must be trained in their use if NWFPs are to be managed sustainably in the wild.

Socio-political. Ensuring the existence of social institutions capable of regulating access to, and harvest levels of, NWFPs is critical to their sustainable use.

Market-economic. Seeking ways to smooth the supply of NWFPs and enhance their per unit value is central to providing economic incentives (i.e. livelihood benefits) for sustainable NWFP use.

Networking and information exchange. Making available to Central Africans the information on NWFPs that is already being published regularly by other organizations and networks is a key to "building on the knowledge base - and avoiding reinventing the wheel".

Building on the foundation of these key messages, the working groups proposed the following set of short- to medium-term priority actions:

Ecological priority actions

1. Prepare and disseminate state-of-knowledge reports on Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan and johimbe. These reports should: i) detail who has and is doing what in regard to the sustainable use of each NWFP; ii) identify gaps in our knowledge; and iii) characterize opportunities and constraints to promoting sustainable use of these NWFPs.

2. Support a set of applied research projects to develop and share appropriate (i.e. culturally acceptable, economical, feasible) methods for baseline data collection and monitoring of Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan and johimbe in the wild.

3. Support establishment of farmer-based research activities to understand better the process, benefits, constraints and impacts of domestic production of Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan and johimbe, and to promote adoption of domestic NWFP production.

Sociopolitical priority actions

1. Support a set of case studies to characterize the social institutions (local and extra-local) responsible for regulating access to, and harvest levels of, NWFPs; evaluate the factors associated with their management strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities for reinforcing local resource management capacity. The case studies should be stratified across the continuum from low- or no-impact NWFP use, to high-intensity use where the resource is threatened with local extinction and, if possible, should build on existing studies or projects. The case studies should also focus on critical NWFPs as identified by the Ecological Working Group (i.e. Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan and johimbe).

2. Share the results of the case studies with local communities and national forest management authorities to help reinforce local capacity to regulate the use of their forest resources and thus enhance the benefits that they gain from the forest.

Market-economic priority actions

1. Support an analytical review of NWFP market surveys completed at the local, national and international levels to assess: i) the value of NWFPs being traded; ii) seasonal fluctuations in NWFP supplies and prices; iii) profit margins for traders at different locations along the market chain from producer to consumer; iv) opportunities and constraints to adding value to NWFPs; and v) gaps in our knowledge.

2. Support development of viable storage and processing methods to help add value to key NWFPs such as Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan, Cola, Garcinia and Irvingia.

3. Support a regional study of legislation and policies that promote the sustainable use of NWFPs and identify opportunities and constraints to harmonization of enabling legislation and policies across the Congo basin.

Networking and information exchange priority actions

1. Identify NWFP focal points in each country of the Congo basin who would be willing to disseminate the NWFP information flowing into the country, and assemble information generated within that country to be made available to others in the Congo basin NWFP network. Focal points will also be responsible for ensuring that all interested stakeholders complete the FAO NWFP questionnaires and for sending them to the FAO Forestry Department's officers for incorporation into their database on agencies involved in NWFPs.

2. To compile information on NWFPs assembled by focal points in the Congo basin, and to disseminate this information in the region, FAO has offered the editing, printing and distribution capacity of its annual publication Non-Wood News. The working group envisioned that focal points would send to FAO the relevant information gleaned from their NWFP contacts in-country. FAO would incorporate this information into Non-Wood News and then send copies of the publication to the focal points for dissemination to NWFP stakeholders throughout the region.

3. To make available to Central African countries information on NWFPs obtainable free of charge on the Internet, the USDA Forest Service will conduct quarterly surveys of the NWFP newsletters and other literature available on the Internet, and compile this information in printed booklets to be distributed to focal points for dissemination in the region.

4. To create an archive of key literature on NWFPs in the Congo basin, the USDA Forest Service will generate a CD-ROM containing state-of-knowledge reports and background literature on key NWFPs such as Gnetum, Baillonella, rattan, Cola, Garcinia and Irvingia.

(Extracted from: Workshop proceedings - the full proceedings are available on CARPE's home page: http://carpe.gecp.virginia.edu/products.nonwood.htm)

For more information, please contact
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Information Center,
Ronald Reagan Building,
Washington, DC 20523-0016, USA.
Fax: (+1 202) 216 3524;
http://carpe.gecp.virginia.edu; or
Mr Nicodème Tchamou,
c/o WWF Cameroon, PO Box 6776,
Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Fax: (+237 21) 42 40;
e-mail: ntchamou@wwfnet.org


Non-wood forest products: a look at medicinal plants

People have innumerable uses for the many plant and animal resources found in forests. Although several species have been domesticated and integrated into agricultural production schemes over the centuries, others, referred to as non-wood forest products (NWFPs), continue to be gathered from wild sources. In many parts of the world, NWFPs provide food (bushmeat, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, animal fodder), construction materials, fibres (bamboo, rattan, palm leaves), medicines and other health care products, and goods of religious or spiritual significance. While the bulk of these are gathered for household use or for sale in local markets, some enter national and international trade in significant quantities. Production of NWFPs is often characterized by a large number of suppliers, each with a small-scale operation and a lack of industrial development. A global overview of major NWFPs, summarizing known information about the status of production, value, trade and factors affecting their development, was provided in the FAO publication State of the World's Forests 1997.

Medicinal Plant Conservation, 4

Various issues related to NWFPs are currently being discussed in regional and international fora. One relates to ensuring the conservation of forest-based biological diversity while still ensuring equitable access to forest resources (including NWFPs), particularly by local people. Developing appropriate and fair pricing methodologies for NWFPs (including royalties on intellectual property rights) is another need. Difficult access and/or insecure tenure rights to the resources, and the absence of relevant market information including fair market access, are among the key constraints faced by the subsector.Medicinal plants are among the most valuable of the NWFPs. Most, although not all, medicinal plants gathered from the wild come from forest lands. Their high value can provide an additional incentive for sustainable management of forest resources and for the conservation of specific habitats.

Use of medicinal plants. More than 10 000 plant species (of both forest and non-forest origin) are used for medicinal purposes, mainly as traditional medicines. The World Health Organization has estimated that 80 percent of the population of developing countries rely on traditional medicines, which are mostly plant-derived, for primary health care. Use is by no means restricted to developing countries and traditional medicine, however; at least 25 percent of drugs used in modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants. Many others are synthetic analogues built on prototype compounds isolated from plants. Demand for medicinal plants is increasing in both developing and developed countries.

Collection/production of medicinal plants. The large majority of plant material used for medicinal purposes comes from developing countries. Most of this is gathered from the wild, mainly from forests, for household use. Few medicinal species are cultivated, because the low price of material harvested from the wild still makes cultivation financially unattractive. More of these species are expected to be cultivated in the future, however, because sources of wild material are diminishing and cultivated material is far preferable to wild material for large-scale production of commercial drugs for reasons of efficiency and quality control. Standardization, whether for pure products, extracts or crude drugs, is critical, and will become increasingly so as quality requirements continue to become more stringent throughout the world. Wild sources of medicinal plants will be important, at least over the short term, and will remain so for much longer in developing areas of the world and for the poorer sectors of society. In addition, some species will be difficult to cultivate or synthesis of their active ingredient will be problematic. It is therefore critical to ensure a combination of cultivation and/or sustainable wild harvesting of medicinal plants. Only the latter can serve, through sound management of these resources, to provide additional incentives to conserve the actual habitats with the broadest genetic variation.

Not only are millions of people dependent on these plants for home health care, but harvesting medicinal plant material for commercial purposes may be one of the few opportunities for paid employment or for earning supplementary income in some remote rural areas. When a species becomes commercially interesting, however, control over the resource may be transferred to a concessionaire system (individual, company or through a kind of "extractive reserve" community scheme) or a trading board, often depriving some local people of access to the resource, either for household use or as a source of income.

Policy and regulation of trade in medicinal plants. Most end users are unaware of the extent to which the expanding demand in medicinal plants is threatening the survival of several plant species. The prices paid to gatherers tend to be very low, and resources are frequently open-access or common property. As a result, commercial plant gatherers often "mine" the resources rather than managing them. The species most vulnerable to extinction are those which are in high demand, are slow reproducers and have specific habitat requirements and a limited distribution (e.g. Warburgia salutaris in eastern and southern Africa). There is also a clear relationship between the part of the plant collected, or the collection method used, and the impact of harvesting on the plant. For example, heavy commercial exploitation of the bark of Prunus africana, which is used in an anti-cancer drug, has devastated populations of this tree throughout humid Africa.

Most countries have few or no regulations controlling the collection of material from the wild. Even where there is national legislation controlling harvesting and trade of medicinal plants, it may be insufficient or ineffective. In Bhutan, laws passed to ban the collection of specific plants effectively increased their price and stimulated illegal harvesting, which virtually drove them to extinction locally. The introduction of harvesting restrictions or bans in one country can result in overharvesting in other exporting countries.

Most medicinal plants are traded in local or national markets; relatively few are traded internationally in significant volumes. There are few reliable global and even national data on production and trade of wild-harvested medicinal plants, and it is difficult to distinguish wild from cultivated sources in existing trade statistics on medicinal plant material. According to data compiled from the COMTRADE database of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the total value of medicinal plant exports in 1995 from approximately 100 countries amounted to US$880 million. Regionally, Asia leads in the supply and consumption of medicinal plants, followed by North America. Germany dominates the European trade in medicinal plants, importing plant material from over 100 countries and re-exporting one-third of it as finished products.

The main form of monitoring and regulation of international trade in certain medicinal plants is through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Several national and international initiatives by governmental and/or non-governmental organizations are emerging to address unsustainable rates of exploitation of many medicinal plant species. At the global level, among the most significant are the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group of IUCN and Trade Records and Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC), a wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and IUCN, which cooperates closely with CITES secretariat. For example, TRAFFIC has recently launched a priority programme on Medicinal Wildlife Trade. The objectives for the 1997-2000 period are: to identify and predict possible threats posed to wild species by the medicinal trade and to indicate possible solutions; to examine existing local, national and international regulatory measures for wildlife medicinals and seek modifications as required to provide for maintaining trade within sustainable levels; and to promote enforcement of and adherence to regulatory measures intended to conserve wild species in trade.

Clearly, achieving sustainable management of NWFPs, in general, and medicinal plants, in particular, will be a continuing challenge requiring concerted local, national and international action. (Source: State of the World's Forests [SOFO] 1999.) [See under News and Notes for more information on SOFO 1999, and under International Action for more information on TRAFFIC.]


New publication

FAO Non-Wood Forest Products Series No. 11

This publication, developed jointly by the Global Initiative for Traditional Systems (GIFTS) of Health (a United Kingdom-based NGO) and FAO, brings together a most useful collection of papers prepared by various experts in medicinal plants. It draws attention in a sensitive way to the huge contribution of medicinal plants to traditional and modern health care systems, but also alerts readers to the many problems and challenges facing their sustainable development, such as: assessment and management of the resource base; best harvesting and processing practices; trade issues; and aspects dealing with intellectual property rights on traditional medicine by indigenous peoples. The prospective audience includes not only foresters, rural development workers and policy-makers, but also all those who are involved in one way or another with traditional medicine. The use of this document will help raise the awareness of medicinal plants as an important forest resource, and will help ensure that medicinal plants are adequately included in forest conservation and utilization programmes.

A printed copy of the (priced) publication may be ordered from:
Sales and Marketing Group,
Information Division, FAO,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome, Italy.
Fax: (+39) 06 57053360;
e-mail: publications-sales@fao.org


Ravensara aromatica: a threatened aromatic species of Madagascar

Ravensara aromatica is one of 26 species of the genus Ravensara endemic to Madagascar. De Flacourt first described it in 1642, reporting that local people cut the tree simply to collect clove-flavoured seeds which provide a well-appreciated dish when cooked together with ginger and fish. The plant grows mainly in the evergreen, humid eastern forests at mid-altitude, but is also found, albeit less frequently, in eastern coastal forests. Its exact botanical identity was established by Kostermans in 1950, putting an end to confusion over whether R. aromatica and R. anisata were the same or distinct species.

The plant has acquired commercial significance because of its essential oil content. Estragole (methyl chavicol) represents by far the major essential oil component of the stem barks, accounting for 90 percent. Reasonable quantities of essential oils are exported although the lack of adequate information makes it difficult to know the exact quantity exported.

The commercial success of R. aromatica, however, poses threats to its long-term survival. Massive destructive harvesting of stem bark takes place to produce small quantities of essential oils. Indiscriminate collection occurs in some areas in response to growing demand from exporters and to farmers' requirements for additional income-generating activities. Therefore, forestry authorities in Madagascar should consider suitable measures for the long-term conservation and survival of Ravensara aromatica. (Source: Medicinal Plant Conservation, Vol. 4, December 1997, IUCN.)

For more information, please contact
Mr Philippe Rasoanaivo,
Institut malgache de Recherches appliquées, PO 3833,
101 Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Fax: (+261 2) 35974;
e-mail: rafita@syfed.refer.mg

Drug development and conservation of biodiversity in West and Central Africa - ICBG project

In late 1995, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) initiated a project on forest ecology, research, biodiversity monitoring and training in Cameroon and Nigeria. This was made possible through a grant from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG), cosponsored by the United States National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The overall objective of the ICBG programme is to examine how drug discovery from natural products can promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development.

The ICBG project in which SI is participating, Drug Development and Conservation of Biodiversity in West and Central Africa, comprises five Associate Programs (APs). The Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) oversees the implementation of the Associate Program for Biodiversity Conservation (AP1). This component aims at establishing a biodiversity database to provide intensive and extensive information on the distribution, abundance, productivity and regeneration requirements of plants in Cameroon and Nigeria. Special attention is given to the monitoring and modelling of those species with commercial and non-commercial uses by local communities and the pharmaceutical industry, with a view to using this information to guide plant management and conservation.

The other four APs, directed by other institutions, focus on phytochemistry and preliminary bioassay (AP2), antiparasitic drug development (AP3), antiviral drug development (AP4), and ethnobiology, inventory, plant collection and economic value assessment (AP5).

To achieve the goals of AP1, SI is working closely with the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Central Africa. BDCP-C, the local affiliate NGO in Cameroon, is collaborating with CTFS to set up the large-scale Korup Forest Dynamics Plot at Korup National Park. The plot is being censused according to standardized methodology to provide baseline data on species characteristics and dynamics. In addition, BDCP-C and its sister affiliate, BDCP-N in Nigeria, are assisting the training component of AP1 with another branch of the Smithsonian Institution, the SI/Man and the Biosphere Program, which coordinates a network of almost 300 one-hectare biodiversity monitoring plots in protected forest areas, and conducts training courses in biodiversity monitoring.

As a final component, AP1 is collaborating with other APs to coordinate long-term plot demographic research with drug discovery. Two specific areas include the collection of plants for drug screening (AP2) and the economic valuation of plants (AP5). Through its own work, AP1 will be able to provide sustainable management plans for these species by providing information on regeneration requirements. Of particular interest is the potential harvestability of the liana Ancistrocladus korupensis, which is a source of a compound found to inhibit the HIV virus and which is endemic to the Korup area of Cameroon. (Source: CTFS newsletter, summer 1997.)

African network on medicinal and aromatic plants

At the International Workshop on the Cultivation, Processing and Conservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Abuja, Nigeria, 18-20 March 1997), it was agreed to set up the African Network for the Industrial Utilization of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ANIUMAP), with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID) in Nigeria as its headquarters. ANIUMAP will play a coordinating role for the following activities: dissemination of information on medicinal and aromatic plants to other focal centres in African countries, training of staff in R&D, industrial utilization of medicinal and aromatic plants, clinical trials, commercial production and rational use of phytomedicine. Network activities will be coordinated at the country level by focal points set up for that purpose. (Source: Medicinal Plant Conservation, Vol. 4, December 1997, IUCN.)

For more information, please contact
Dr Max Kasparek, Monchhofstrasse 16,
69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
Fax: (+49 6221) 471858;
e-mail: kasparek@t-online.de

IDRC Medicinal Plants Network

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada has launched the South Asia-based Medicinal Plants Network (IMPN). The network sees itself as a vehicle for critical gap-filling in research, study and application of research results so that its projects complement those of other organizations and national institutions.

The main targets of IMPN are the improvement in the quality of life of the rural poor, development of traditional medicine and reduction of the overexploitation of plants. A major way of addressing these targets is to develop alternative supplies of raw material through domestication and cultivation. Additionally, the processing and value-added aspects of the products need attention so that greater benefits flow to rural communities.

A list of priority species was developed which includes five to seven species for each geographic-climatic zone (arid/semi-arid; tropical; subtropical; temperate; alpine). The criteria were centred on multipurpose uses in primary health care, needs for cultivation packages, potential in processing at the primary level, knowledge of availability and threat to the wild resources, and the need for collaborative work for understanding the patterns of diversity in relation to medicinal value and use. The most important species for each zone identified by an international expert consultation in September 1997 are Commiphora wightii, Andrographis paniculata, Saraca asoca, Berberis aristata and Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora (syn. S. kurrooa).

A special newsletter of the IDRC Medicinal Plants Network seeks to keep network members informed of the progress made by network partners and share this information with a wider audience also involved with medicinal plants research and development activities. (Source: IDRC Medicinal Plants Network Newsletter, October 1997.)

For more information, please contact
Madhav Karki, SARO/IDRC,
17 Jor Bagh, New Delhi 110003, India.
Fax: (+91 11) 462 2707;
e-mail: mkarki@idrc.ca



Morinda citrifolia, or mengkudu, as it is known locally, is a small, erect tree found in the forest. Owing to its medicinal properties, it is now planted in villages, mainly for its translucent white fruit. The juice of the overripe fruit is consumed by women to regulate their menstrual flow; it may also be taken to ease painful urination. Other preparations of the mengkudu fruit are used to treat diabetes, haemorrhages and coughs. Women in the rural areas also use the fruit to make shampoo as they believe it is good for the hair.
(Source: Malaysian Timber Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 6, 1998.)


Centro Orientamento Educativo: projects on medicinal plant products

Founded in 1959, Centro Orientamento Educativo (COE) is an Italian NGO. During the past seven years, one department of COE has specialized in traditional medicines, working in particular on projects implemented with indigenous and rural communities in tropical forest areas with the aim of developing products based on medicinal plants for both the local and international markets.

At present, COE-Traditional Medicine is concluding a project in the Peruvian Amazon, in collaboration with the Organización Indígena de la Región de Atalaya (OIRA), with the Ashaninka, Yine and Shipibo indigenous communities, on the sustainable use of Uncaria tomentosa, an Amazonian vine, the bark of which contains compounds with an immunostimulant activity (see also Non-Wood News, No. 5, p. 47). The project is based on the need to find, for the indigenous communities, alternatives to the indiscriminate exploitation of the forest in which they live and provide them with the means to develop extracts of this plant for the local and international markets.

A first phase was based on the assessment of the different possibilities of sustainable extraction, opting finally for a planned reforestation of the species under study, which involved 25 villages over a three-year period; a galenical laboratory was subsequently set up where a number of young Ashaninka are learning to produce hydroalcoholic extracts based on Uncaria tomentosa. This allows significantly smaller quantities of bark to be used and the products obtained can be sold at much higher prices in a number of Peruvian town and city markets. Contacts are under way for the local indigenous company to export its products directly to Europe.

A similar project is being carried out by a Peruvian NGO, APECO, in the Parco Nacional del Manu, with all eight of the indigenous communities that live there: in this case, a programme to assess the medicinal plants that could be exploited economically according to the current legislation in force in the park. In particular, training seminars are being held for the indigenous populations on the various methods that can be used to assess the resources available, to monitor the environmental impact of economic exploitation and to carry out a study of the possible market for the products under study. The plants that have been considered to date are: Uncaria tomentosa (immunostimulant), Croton lechleri (synulotic) and Copaiba reticulata (anti-inflammatory). A similar project is also reaching its conclusive phase in Acre, Brazil, in the Extractive Reserve of Xapurí where, in collaboration with a São Paulo-based NGO, ECOAR, support has been given in setting up a company producing soap, cosmetics, medicine, detergents and oils from plants collected in the surrounding forest. These products are currently distributed through a market of sustainable products organized by Brazilian non-profit associations.

COE-Traditional Medicine hopes to show that the local populations have the possibility of obtaining economic benefits through the rational use of ethnobotanical knowledge and natural resources. It is thus anxious to develop relations with other NGOs that operate in the same sector. Contacts are under way to start projects based on the use of commercial plants in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea. [See under Products and Markets for more information on Uncaria tomentosa.]

For more information, please contact
Antonio Bianchi, Ambrogio Saibene and Luisella Verotta,
COE, Department of Traditional Medicine,
Via Lazzaroni 8, 20124 Milan, Italy.
Fax: (+39) 2 66714338 or
(+39) 341 910311;
e-mail: bantonio@globalnet.it;

Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants

CABI Publishing is one of the world's foremost publishers of databases, books and journals in agriculture, forestry, veterinary science and related disciplines, including human health and disease. CABI Publishing is a division of CAB International, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving human welfare worldwide through the dissemination, application and generation of scientific knowledge in support of sustainable development.

The Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants (RAMP) is one of six key horticultural and seed science titles set to join the growing list of CABI Publishing titles which are available to print subscribers at no extra cost on the Internet.

As from January 1999, the new Internet service HORT CABWeb provides desktop access to the world's published scientific research literature on all aspects of horticulture, including medicinal and aromatic plants.

CABI Publishing began producing RAMP in 1994 in response to the huge expansion in research activity relating to the cultivation, composition, biological activity and uses of medicinal and aromatic plants. It covers the core medicinal and aromatic plant journals and also a very wide range of other sources including general science, botany, agriculture, chemistry, biotechnology as well as medical and pharmaceutical journals. The abstracts included in RAMP form a part of the CAB ABSTRACTS database, for which the worldwide scientific literature from more than 130 countries is scanned. Each volume of RAMP includes abstracts from more than 500 serial titles, as well as abstracts of books, reports and conferences.

RAMP readers have always benefited from access to a diary of events and details of relevant books in their area. This information will now be freely available to all visitors to the HORT CABWeb service in addition to useful information about horticultural products, new book announcements, free trials of new products, CABI editorial policy, a list of serials scanned and links to the major societies and World Wide Web resources.

For more information and for
any enquiries about the content, coverage and editorial policy of the
Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants and
details of new books and forthcoming conferences, please contact
Ms Debbie Cousins, Editor,
Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants,
CABI Publishing, CAB International,
Wallingford, Oxon. OX10 8DE, UK.
Fax: (+44 1491) 829292;
e-mail: d.cousins@cabi.org

Regional workshops on medicinal plants and traditional medicine in Africa

The proceedings of the regional workshops on medicinal plants and traditional medicine have now been edited (by Ernest Rukangira) and published.

The contents include an introductory overview on medicinal plants and traditional medicine in Africa, workshop objectives and methodology, the opening session, highlights of plenary discussion, major results of the workshops, workshop recommendations, and an action plan - the core of the workshop reports.

The two regional workshops on medicinal plants and traditional medicine were held in Conakry, Guinea, from 17 to 21 November 1997 (for French-speaking African countries) and in Cape Town, South Africa, from 14 to 18 April 1998 (for English-speaking African countries). The workshops were organized by the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), Kenya, in conjunction with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. The two workshops took place within the framework of the Medicinal Plants and Local Communities Programme (Africa) being implemented by ELCI with support from IDRC and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). Each workshop brought together a multidisciplinary group of more than 55 people from environmental NGOs, grassroots organizations, research institutions and government bodies. Participants included researchers, health professionals, traditional practitioners, herbalists, conservationists and representatives of environmental NGOs.Participants presented papers focusing on their own work and on the status of traditional medicine and medicinal plants in their respective countries. The workshops laid the groundwork for a continuing dialogue and networking among key stakeholders in the effort to conserve medicinal plants and promote traditional medicine in Africa. They also provided an excellent occasion to build bridges between researchers, traditional healers and NGOs so that collaborative efforts can be initiated for future work in the area.

The workshop proceedings are available in French (for the workshop held in Guinea) and in English (for the workshop held in South Africa), and cost US$30 each. [See under Recent Events for more information on the workshop in South Africa.]

For more information, please contact
Mr Ernest Rukangira, Programme Coordinator,
NGO Working Group on Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity,
Medicinal Plants and Local Communities Programme, ELCI,
PO Box 72461, Nairobi, Kenya.
Fax: (+254 2) 562175;
e-mail: erukangira@iconnect.co.ke

Training package for CITES-listed medicinal plants

In addition to horticultural plants, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) now lists plants traded for medicinal purposes. The appendixes list more than 160 medicinal plants, about 20 of which have a substantial trade, such as Panax quinquefolius and Prunus africana.Despite the regular and considerable trade in some of these taxa, there are few figures and data on the trade of Appendix II medicinal plants in official CITES records or in the CITES Trade Database at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, United Kingdom. CITES management and customs authorities often find it difficult to identify botanical drugs that may originate from protected species. Two reasons for this are put forward: CITES-listed species appear in trade figures under their trade name or pharmaceutical name, which may be different from the accepted scientific name of the taxon; and there is no identification manual for plant parts and derivatives traded for medicinal purposes.

Therefore, to assist national CITES authorities to implement the Convention, the German Scientific Authority for Plants commissioned Dr Dagmar Lange to develop a training module on CITES-listed medicinal plants. The training package will be used at national German training workshops and CITES secretariat's training seminars. The aims are to: draft a comprehensive lecture script; prepare a collection of commodities of CITES-listed medicinal plants used in international trade; prepare practical training exercises; and compile a checklist of CITES-listed medicinal species with their pharmaceutical, vernacular and trade names. (Source: Medicinal Plant Conservation, Vol. 4, IUCN.)

For more information, please contact
Dr Uwe Schippmann, Head,
Scientific Authority to CITES for Plants,
Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Konstantinstr. 110,
D-53179 Bonn, Germany.
Fax: (+49 228) 8491 119;
e-mail: schippmu@bfn.de

Herbal medicine

Ancient Cyrenian coins dating from 300 BC were often embossed with the image of the silphion plant, demonstrating how highly Mediterranean societies valued it as both a medicine and a commodity. But, as it was collected only from wild sources, it became a victim of its own success and can no longer be found.

Many medicinal plants today face the same plight. Proponents of herbal medicines have succeeded in getting medicinal plants more accepted by a sceptical public and by government. In the wake of a 1994 law, the US Food and Drug Administration has finally allowed more informative labels regarding herbal medicines. However, supplies of some of these plants are already endangered by the industry's rapid rise to success. Recent years have witnessed a veritable explosion in the trade for medicinal plants worldwide. In 1980, the World Health Organization estimated global trade at US$500 million per year; by 2000, the European market alone could reach US$500 billion.

In North America, popular demand has finally forced the medical and government authorities to accord herbal medicines the kind of attention that can regulate their quality and efficacy. For some plants, however, this attention may be too late. Maintaining supplies is problematic since most of these medicinal plants are harvested from the wild or "wildcrafted". This practice has been relatively benign for centuries since those who used the plants only collected what they needed. But the advent of market-oriented and international trade means that the number of wildcrafters are outstripping natural populations.

A recent World Bank study reports that in China, where traditional medicine sales have doubled in the last five years, 77 out of 389 rare and endangered species are traditional medicinal plants. In India, according to one estimate, 120 plants fit that category, 35 of which are said to be important medicinals. Across the border in Nepal, plants such as jatamansi (Nardostachys grandiflora) have spawned a flourishing black market. Despite export constraints, India has a considerable market for this bitter essential oil, which is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a sedative and to keep hair thick and glossy. A TRAFFIC-USA officer reported finding jatamansi advertised in US catalogues at prices 300 times those received by the collectors.

In the United States itself, annual retail trade in medicinal herbs is estimated at US$1.6 million. However, this trade is very poorly reported as imports and exports of products are shown by commodity rather than species, posing problems to conservationists trying to determine which species are at risk. Of the six native American medicinal plants listed in CITES, American ginseng is the only one harvested exclusively for the medicinal trade and so is easier to track.

American ginseng has been exported for nearly 300 years, mainly to East Asia, where it is processed in traditional Chinese medicines as a tonic for the lungs, heart, stomach and spleen. The enduring profitability of ginseng has made it one of the most widely cultivated medicinal plants in North America, according to TRAFFIC-USA. The high value of wild ginseng (US$1 000 per kg, three times that of cultivated ginseng) has prompted the illegal collection of American ginseng in a number of states.

A more recent addition to the medicinal plant trade, Echinacea (purple cone flower), has steadily risen as a cure for colds and influenza. Annual sales have reached US$80 million. As the two main species are not monitored, it is difficult to say how much is cultivated and how much is wildcrafted. According to Robert McCaleb of the Herb Research Foundation, most cultivated Echinacea is E. purpurea, while most E. angustifolia is wildcrafted. Although there appears to be no immediate danger to these two species, many wildcrafters may unwittingly harvest other endangered species: Tennessee purple cone flower and smooth cone flower both resemble the more common echinaceas, but are extremely rare.

Other plants could go the same way as echinaceas or American ginseng. Much seems to depend on mass media exposure and marketing techniques. Nevertheless, the trade in ginseng suggests that trade in wild medicinal plants can be sustainable, as does the "Save the Goldenseal" project launched by Iowa-based Frontier Cooperative Herbs. The project is aimed at promoting goldenseal cultivation and at reducing misinformation about the plant and its uses. Moreover, as mentioned in the World Bank report, the cultivation of medicinal plants represents numerous opportunities for rural people. However, collectors and consumers need to become more aware of what is at stake, there must be better self-regulation in the industry and labelling and other public education efforts need to be improved.

Medicinal Plant Conservation, 4

Medicinal plant species and NWFPs face another threat in rainforest areas of the world: deforestation and the associated loss of biodiversity that this involves. In addition to medicinal plants, forests supply valuable food sources such as fruits, leaves, nuts, mushrooms and insects, which provide essential vitamins and proteins. In this way, forests contribute significantly to global food security and nutrition. However, the mass clearing of forest land to make way for agriculture, new grazing lands, etc., is endangering this role. Foods and medicines that have sustained rural people for centuries are now seriously threatened and many potential medicinal species may be in the process of being lost forever.

Yet, with the right impetus, these traditional forest products can provide an opportunity for forest conservation by developing community-level enterprises, such as food processing and trade, craft manufacturing and ecotourism. With appropriate technical expertise, forest communities can assess the biological impact of harvesting and work out a sustainable management system that maintains the forest's health benefits while providing value-added income. (Based on contributions by: Mr David Taylor from E: the Environmental Magazine, January/February 1998; and Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 105, No. 11, November 1997.)

For more information, please contact
American Botanic Council,
PO Box 201660, Austin, Texas 78720-1660, USA;
Save the Goldenseal, c/o Frontier Herbs,
PO Box 299, Norway, Iowa 52318, USA;
TRAFFIC North America, c/o WWF-US,
1250 24th Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA.
Fax: (+1 202) 775 8287;
e-mail: tna@wwfus.org;


Deseando una cosa
parece un mundo,
luego que se consigue
tan sólo es humo.

Rafael Alberti





Although the use of traditional medicines is a common practice in many countries, little information is available on the marketing of medicinal plants. South Africa has a longstanding tradition of gathering and processing medicinal plants for markets. Insufficient knowledge of the economics of indigenous plant production has hampered both cultivation initiatives and institutional support for them.
Therefore, a research project was initiated by the Institute of Natural Resources, supported by the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism through the Human Needs, Resources and the Environment Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa. The objectives were to investigate the economic feasibility of cultivating high-value medicinal plants for local markets, with a focus on: the production potential and costs of cultivating important indigenous medicinal plants; and the markets for indigenous medicinal plants.
The FAO case study, which was carried out within the framework of the Forest Products Marketing Programme, outlines the latter aspect of the larger research project - market study. The study aims at describing the demand, supply, potential and limitations within the medicinal plant market and current marketing practices in order to provide information and support for a wide range of decision-makers, including small- and large-scale farmers, current market players, health authorities, conservation authorities, forestry bodies, policy-makers at all levels of government, communities and individuals with an interest in medicinal plants, as well as various commercial interests.
This case study focused on KwaZulu, Natal, and specifically on Durban. The area has an active trade in medicinal plants. National trends from other provinces with trade in indigenous medicine are referred to when information is available. It was hoped that the case study would provide a valid model of an approach and method for assessing marketing practices of non-wood forest products, in particular for medicinal plants.
Specific sections of the report cover methodology, demand and supply in the case study area, demand and supply potential, analysis of main marketing factors, institutional and infrastructural support to marketing, and conclusions and recommendations. The work is illustrated with many photographs, figures and tables. [See also under Events and under International Action for more information on medicinal plants.]

For more information and for
copies of this publication, please contact
Mr Leo Lintu, Senior Forestry Officer,
Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.
E-mail: leo.lintu@fao.org

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