No. 12/07

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Since this is the last issue of 2007, we would like to wish all our readers a very happy and healthy 2008.


1. Acorns: Wildlife benefiting from abundant acorns

2. Acorns: Older oaks produce most acorns

3. Argan oil in skin care grows in popularity in USA

4. Bamboo: China builds world's first bamboo road bridge

5. Bamboo: Chinese scientists: Cloned bamboo genes may mean more food for people

6. Bamboo in India: Plague of rats hits Indian state

7. Bamboo in India: Tribals thrive on fragrance, bamboo

8. Bamboo in India: 21 234 ha brought under bamboo plantation

9. Bushmeat: Bonobo ape – Congo preserve for man's closest relative

10. Christmas trees: Opt for locally grown natural trees

11. Cinnamon in pictures: Sri Lanka's spice of life

12. Cork: The battle of cork continues to divide the Italian wine world

13. Cupuaçu: The Today Show touts cupuaçu

14. Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) harvesting benefits San people

15. Honey in India: Businessman opens 'honey hut' in Shimla

16. Honey in New Zealand: Imports must stop for good

17. Mushrooms: Wild mushroom can fight prostate cancer: Israeli researchers

18. Sandalwood in Australia: WA sandalwood set to dominate world trade

19. Sandalwood in India: Smuggling has hit sandalwood production in the country

20. Shea nuts in Ghana– clarification of a recent article

21. Truffles: Giant truffle sets record price


22. Afghanistan: Hope from honey

23. Bhutan: Medicinal plants spell millions

24. Brazil: Getting back to nature: Brazil’s Natura uses plants to cut carbon

25. Canada saves the forest

26. Costa Rica plants 5 million trees

27. India: Patent rule change to aid biodiversity protection

28. Indonesia: An innovative forest project in Indonesia creates alternatives for illegal loggers

29. Jamaica: Young scientist of the year working to establish 'Jamaica-pharma'

30. Philippines: Pandan prop roots found suitable for handicrafts

31. Philippines: Malunggay in the city - Urban farmers can grow wonder tree

32. Rwanda: The science behind moringa

33. Sierra Leone: Project saves Gola rainforest from logging

34. South Africa: Traditional medicines face threat

35. Uganda: Local herbalists call for support

36. Uganda: Japan govt funds bark-cloth project

37. Uganda plans to boost forest cover


38. EU study to explore economics of biodiversity loss

39. Having the climate cake and eating it, too

40. New study finds biodiversity conservation secures ecosystem services for people

41. Researchers build new model of bio-exploration

42. Traditional knowledge: Village reps to discuss preserving traditional knowledge


43. Forest insects as food: humans bite back. A workshop focused on Asia-Pacific resources and their potential for development


44. Other publications of interest


45. Amazon being destroyed 'faster than predicted'

46. Good News for the forests: First bible printed on FSC-certified paper

47. Indonesia: Forest loss 'yields meagre financial benefits'



1. Acorns: Wildlife benefiting from abundant acorns

Source:, FL, USA, 8 December 2007

Squirrels won't have to worry about finding enough nuts to store this winter. It's a bumper year for acorns.

To many, an abundant acorn crop means more debris to sweep off the sidewalk. To the state's wildlife, however, lots of acorns on the ground spell good fortune.

Some years, only a handful of acorns appear on each tree, but in other years, oaks produce an exceptional abundance of acorns. When a tree produces a ridiculously abundant crop of nuts, it is called a "mast" year. This usage of the word "mast" comes from a Middle English word for "meat" and suggests that Native Americans were not the only humans for whom the acorn was a major dietary staple.

Mast years occur every four to seven years, but their timing is still a mystery. Numerous theories exist about factors influencing the variability in the mast ranging from weather to geography to the life cycles of predators.

It has even been postulated that the cycles developed as a survival technique. Low acorn production years lead to a decline in predator population. If a low production year is immediately followed by a year with a big acorn crop, the chances for acorn and seedling survival are enhanced.

The most likely reason for high production seems to be weather-related. When spring weather at the time of oak flowering has been warm and dry, the mast seems to be increased.

Mast years are important to wildlife.

Throughout the United States, almost 100 animal species rely on acorns as a major food source. Acorns, which are highly digestible and rich in carbohydrates, serve a wide range of animals in a variety of ways.

In low crop years, the birth-rate for some species of wildlife, such as gray squirrels, will decline the following year. Because of the increased competition for food, some species have a tough time surviving.

This year's crop means that more young are likely to be produced by animals that forage for acorns.

Wildlife plays a big part in forest regeneration. Squirrels, blue jays and other wildlife are crucial to oak regeneration. When acorns drop like marbles out of the trees, many animals help distribute these seeds in the forest. Squirrels can bury hundreds of acorns, at least some of which will take root.

For most gardeners, however, abundant acorns mean having to deal with the oak seedlings in the spring. While not every acorn will sprout, many will.

For full story, please see:


2. Acorns: Older oaks produce most acorns

Source: The Birmingham News -, AL, USA, 8 December 2007

Because it takes so much energy to produce a bumper crop, not even the strongest oak can accumulate enough food to produce back-to-back large crops. Really strong acorn production happens every 4-10 years.

In a good year, the oak tree will have many flowers. With good weather, tiny scale-covered acorns (called nubbins) begin to grow. They then mature and become full grown and ripe acorns by late summer. The chances of one acorn making it all the way to being a tree are very slim. For every 10,000 acorns, only one will become a tree. The reason for this varies.

Little insects called weevils like to plant their seeds inside acorns before they mature. That larvae can take out 40 percent of the acorn crop. Other culprits are well known, squirrels and birds (especially blue jays and woodpeckers) hide them in the ground for winter feeding. This number tends to be much smaller than what the oak tree itself hides by shedding its leaves. These leaves end up covering most of the acorns, with most of these rotting and/or moulding and therefore not becoming a source of food.

For full story, please see:


3. Argan oil in skin care grows in popularity in USA

Source: (press release), NY, USA, 3 December 2007

Argan Oil is extracted from the Argan Tree, of which there is only one forest in the world. Located at the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco, it has been called "The Tree of Iron" because of its existence for hundreds of years in such a harsh environment. It also has been said to be the most medicinal plant on the planet. Because of its multitude of medicinal and cosmetic properties, it has been used as a natural, organic remedy for centuries in Morocco. From its fruit are extracted this oil with marvellous cosmetic virtues.

Very rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and more, Argan Oil is famous for its pure natural hydrating and revitalizing properties, and an anti-wrinkle product made by mother nature. It is ideal for dry skin, as it softens and prevents aging due to extreme climatic conditions (sun, wind, cold, pollution, and dry climates). It is also perfect for regenerating and nourishing dry hair and strengthens nails. is one of very few companies in the USA that imports and distributes this special beauty treatment. Argan Oil can be applied directly to the skin because it absorbs very quickly, or often argan oil is used in cosmetic products

For full story, please see:


4. Bamboo: China builds world's first bamboo road bridge

Source: China Daily, China, 13 December 2007

Changsha -- An eight-ton truck passed over a bamboo bridge in south China on Wednesday, marking the completion of the world's first bamboo road bridge, claimed the designers.

The bridge, 3.4 meters wide and nine meters long, looks like a concrete bridge from the top and side, but its nine bamboo girders can be seen from beneath and it is covered by bamboo boards.

It allows a maximum load of 90 tons with a service life of 20 to 30 years.

Fiberglass-reinforced plastics were also used in construction to ensure safety, said Xiao Yan, dean of the college of civil engineering of Hunan University, where the bridge was designed.

Villagers in Daozi town, Leiyang city, Hunan Province, were amazed by the bamboo bridge that workers took less than 10 days to assemble. Parts of the bridge were made in a workshop before being transported to the town, said Dr. Shan Bo, a member of the design group.

Xiao Yan said bamboo could cut the cost of footbridges in cities and bridges in the countryside by half.

For full story, please see:


5. Bamboo: Chinese scientists: Cloned bamboo genes may mean more food for people

Source: Xinhua, China, 6 December 2007

Beijing -- Scientists in east China said that they had succeeded in copying some genes of the bamboo plant, a development that they said could lead to better food supplies for people.

Genetic material extracted last week from bamboo plants could delay the flowering and seeding phases of paddy rice, which could improve the crop yields and pest-resistance of a staple food for China's 1.3 billion people, the researchers said.

The experiment was the culmination of 10 years of research by Lin Xinchun, associate professor of Zhejiang Forestry College, and his colleagues.

The trigger for bamboo flowering, which occurs as part of the plant's natural life cycle every 60 to 120 years, has long confounded scientists. "Even if a scientist starts studying bamboo the moment he is born, the chance is rare for him to observe bamboo flowering," said Lin.

Bamboo plants are the sole food for China's endangered giant pandas. After flowering, the bamboo dies. Unless there is another species of bamboo nearby that the pandas will eat, the animals face starvation.

Lin and his team have built up a database of DNA related to bamboo flowering, which they are trying to decode. This information could be used to cultivate new types of bamboo with predictable flowering periods, taking the uncertainty out of the pandas' food supply.

If we achieve the goal, it would be a real blessing for our giant pandas," said Lin.

For full story, please see:


6. Bamboo in India: Plague of rats hits Indian state

Source: BBC News – UK, 12 December 2007

The government in India's north-eastern state of Mizoram has decided to increase wages and food grain supplies to villagers hit by a plague of rats.

The state's heavy flowering bamboo crops attract hordes of rats, a phenomenon known locally as Mautam. Not only do the rats thrive on the bamboo flowers, they also then go on to destroy the farmers' crops. The Mizoram council of ministers has doubled daily wage rates so that villagers can cope with food shortages.

"We have also decided to increase the weekly allotment of rice to the villagers so that they have enough to eat," Mizoram Home Minister Tony Tawnluia said after a meeting of the council. Every adult villager is now getting 2kg of rice per week - with minors receiving half that amount.

Mizoram has been reeling under an acute shortage of food grain because of the wanton destruction of crops by rodents. The rat population has multiplied several times because of the abundance of food created by the flowering of bamboo crops.

The food crisis has been made worse by the massive destruction caused by unprecedented monsoon downpours this year, which damaged hundreds of homes, roads, fish ponds and paddy fields.

The state government has declared Mizoram a "disaster area", and has asked the central government for extra cash to mitigate the suffering of the people.

Most Mizo farmers have not sowed rice or corn this year, fearful that the rats would eat all their crops.

Plant Protection Officer James Lalsiamliana says that Mautam struck the Mizo Hills in 1910-11 and again in 1958-59. He says that it is now back with a vengeance. "It will affect more than 30% of Mizoram's land area and much of the area where crops are grown," he said. "It cannot be stopped, we can only do damage control."

A report by India's forest and environment ministry predicts that at least 5,100 sq km of Mizoram's forest area (out of a total of 6,446 sq km of forest) will be affected by the Mautam in 2007.

More than half of Mizoram's population of nearly 900,000 people are farmers.

The Mizoram agriculture department anticipates a crop shortfall of at least 75% in 2007-2008 because of farmers not planting.

Desperate to control the rising rat population, the state government announced a reward of one rupee for every rat killed. During 2006 alone more than 200,000 rats were killed. The killing continues but the rats keep coming in hordes.

It was in October 2005 that the initial heavy flowering of the bamboo was first noticed at Chawngtlai bamboo forest in the southern district of Champhai. It then spread rapidly in 2006 and the situation is now worsening.

For full story, please see:


7. Bamboo in India: Tribals thrive on fragrance, bamboo

Source: Newindpress, Tamil Nadu, India, 24 November 2007

Maredumilli: The incense stick and furniture- making units introduced by the Forest Department’s AP Community Forest Management (APCFM) under the ‘Livelihood Activity’ programme in the tribal hamlets has yielded desired results and over 15,000 tribal families in the State are earning their livelihood under the project.

Bamboo furniture is in great demand in European countries and the Forest Department has taken up the ‘value addition programme’ under APCFM funded by the World Bank, and has been training tribals in making various products with bamboo.

After the National Bamboo Mission (NBM) identified bamboo as one of the major means of alleviating poverty in agency areas, the Forest Department started raising bamboo to make incense sticks as many companies were purchasing the splints from the tribals.

Later, the villagers started making household furniture, wall hangings and other decorative items with splints and these have caught on in the market.

Forest department officials said bamboo cultivation was taken up in many tribal hamlets and the Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSS) were asked to nurture the plantation programme.

In East Godavari district, tribal women started a Common Facility Centre (CFC) at Maredumilli in Rampachodavaram division and have been selling the splints to various incense stick-making companies,’’ the officials said.

Chief Conservator of Forests (Rajahmundry circle) N Prateep Kumar said the department had provided cross-cutting machines and slicers to the VSS members for making splints which are supplied to Sankranthi Agarbathi Company, Bangalore, Ambika Durbar, Eluru, Cycle Brand Agarbathi, Adoni and other companies.

Rampachodavaram sub-DFO CV Satyanarayana, who is supervising the project, said the tribals took up the activity at Pydiputta village two years ago.

Some 82 VSSes from Addara Veedhi, MM Valasa, Dorlapeta, Pamuleru, Santhapeta, Valmikipeta and Kurthawada hamlets are eking out their livelihood through the activity at present.

The local tribals also make culinary use of bamboo and savour ‘bamboo soup’ and ‘bamboo chicken’ (chicken skewered on bamboo splints and roasted).

‘‘The men bring bamboo from the groves and cut them with machines. Each bamboo is cut into eight or ten pieces. We prepare about 5 kg of these per day, which costs about Rs 40,’’ said Dhuda Siromani of Maredumilli village. Another tribal Gaddam Arogyamma added: ‘‘We cut the splints at home, dry them and sell them to incense-stick manufacturers.

Each woman earns about Rs 1,200 per month. Some VSS members prepare furniture and other products with bamboos. This is the third successive year we are doing this work.’’

For full story, please see:


8. Bamboo in India: 21 234 ha brought under bamboo plantation

Source: Press Information Bureau (press release), India, 3 December 2007

The National Bamboo Mission of Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has been implemented in 25 States in the country with an objective to promote the growth of the bamboo sector through area based regionally differentiated strategies and to increase the coverage of area under bamboo in potential areas, etc. So far, an amount of Rs.98.93 crore has been released to various States and as per their initial reports, an area of 21234 ha has been brought under bamboo plantation.

The partnership has been useful in setting up nurseries, raising bamboo plantations and training of farmers/entrepreneurs in bamboo cultivation.

This information was given by Shri Kanti Lal Bhuria, Minister of State for Agriculture in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.

For full story, please see:


9. Bushmeat: Bonobo ape – Congo preserve for man's closest relative

Source: Xinhua, China, 23 November 2007

Beijing -- The Congolese government is setting aside more than 11,000 square miles of tropical rain forest for the endangered bonobo -- a great ape most closely related to humans and found only in Congo -- with help from conservation groups and U.S. agencies.

The area amounts to just over 1 percent of vast Congo — but that means a park larger than the state of Massachusetts and only slightly smaller than the entire country of Slovakia.

Environment Minister Didace Pembe said the area was denoted as a protected reserve last week as part of the administration's goal of preserving 15 percent of its forest as protected area. The Sankuru announcement increased the amount of protected land in Congo to 10 percent from 8 percent, he said.

The Sankuru Nature Reserve aims to protect a section of Africa's largest rain forest from the commercial bushmeat trade and from deforestation by industrial logging operations in the central part of the country known as the Congo Basin.

Sally Jewell Coxe, president of the Washington-based Bonobo Conservation Initiation, said the group has been working to establish the reserve since 2005, when it started meeting with leaders in villagers that ring the area to persuade them to stop hunting the ape.

Bonobos — often lauded as the "peaceful ape" — are known for their matriarchal society in which female leaders work to avoid conflict, and their sex-loving lifestyle.

The bonobo population is believed to have declined sharply in the last 30 years, though surveys have been hard to complete in war-ravaged central Congo and estimates range from 60,000 to fewer than 5,000 living, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Startup funding has been provided through a grant of 50,000 U.S. dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and about 100,000 dollars from private donors, Coxe said.

For full story, please see:


10. Christmas trees: Opt for locally grown natural trees

Source: Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom, 29 November 2007

One acre of Christmas trees gives off enough oxygen to support 18 people.

That's just one of the facts highlighted by the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, which is urging people to opt for locally grown natural trees.

The group says you can recycle your tree after Christmas by taking it to the local council tip where it will be chipped and turned into compost.

"An artificial tree is not quite so easy to get rid of and is harmful to the environment as it can take hundreds of years to decompose," a BCTGA spokesman said.

"Tree farms provide habitat for wildlife and several species of birds.

"A British grown tree is even more environmentally sound - no long haul transportation is involved and all members of the BCTGA subscribe to a code of conduct which ensures their crops are sustainable and do not cause damage to the local wildlife."

The group said the Nordman Fir is the UK's favourite Christmas tree, representing more than 50% of sales, due to its fresh scent and ability to hold its needles.

The Serbian Spruce is a long-time favourite in Central Europe as its sleek profile complements a modern minimalist space.

Meanwhile, many people will be opting for the Blue Spruce with its metallic blue sheen and more unusual varieties of trees are becoming increasingly popular.

For full story, please see:


11. Cinnamon in pictures: Sri Lanka's spice of life

Source: BBC News, UK, 11 December 2007

While Sri Lanka's most famous export is tea, historically the most important has been cinnamon. In fact, so strong is the link between cinnamon and Sri Lanka that the botanical name of the spice - Cinnamomum zeylanicum - is derived from the island's former name, Ceylon.

For photos and full story, please see:


12. Cork: The battle of cork continues to divide the Italian wine world

Source: WineNews, Montalcino, Italy, 10 December 2007

The battle of the cork continues to divide the Italian wine world: the Minster of Agriculture and sommelier defend the “real” cork; Federvini and numerous producers defend synthetic corks.

For some time now, the rest of the world has accepted synthetic wine corks, which, to their advantage, do avoid the problem of “corked” wines or, wines that have been tainted by the smell of cork-wood corks. In Italy, though some producers do use synthetic corks, the Italian Wine Union (Uiv) and Federvini have now requested that they be allowed for corking DOC Italian wines as well.

”The flexibility that we request is only for DOC wines and not DOCG” – explained Federvini – “keeping in mind that these products can go to consumers that are less connected to the traditions of the producing countries. We think it is fair that this flexibility can find space in the disciplinary. On the other hand, if we made everything flexible, even the DOCG wines, which represent the category of highest qualification for our wines, it would become even more complex in indicating to consumers the various levels of the pyramid of controls”.

The Minister of Agriculture and the Head Office for the Quality of Food Products have, however, given a negative opinion in response to the request. “The only concession that we have been able to get” – reported Paolo Castelletti, the General Secretary of Uiv – “is that of allowing alternative corking for some types of DOC, with the exclusion of reserves and superior quality”.

”This position” – observed Ernest Abbona, President of Marchesi di Barolo – “puts us at odds with global distribution, which is protesting over our insistence on using cork-wood corks, a method that causes a discarding of about 10 per cent due to a cork flavour”.

It appears that there are more than a few interested parties hoping that the disciplinary will give producers more freedom to decide which type of cork to use because world markets demand synthetic corks. The use of cork-wood penalizes, for example, Italy’s exports to countries like Britain where it has become common use for wines to have screw-off tops. But, the Italian Sommelier do point out that, “In Italy, wine has been bottled traditionally with glass and cork-wood since the 1700’s”.

It will now be up to the EU, whose presidency is currently in the hands of Portugal (producer of over half of the EU’s total cork-wood supply), to decide which is the right path to take.

For full story, please see:


13. Cupuaçu: The Today Show touts cupuaçu

Source: NPIcenter (press release), Ontario, Canada, 28 November 2007

Para, Brazil - Nestled in the basin of the Amazon Rainforest grows a tropical tree whose fruit is high in antioxidants, nutrients and minerals. A cousin to the cocao tree, Cupuaçu is often referred to as the “pharmacy in a fruit”. In a recent segment featured on the Today Show, Andrew Zimmern, noted food writer, host, chef and teacher praised the many health benefits of Cupuaçu. Having been used for years by the indigenous people of Brazil as both a culinary delicacy and an all healing natural remedy, Cupuaçu had not made headway in the US. In fact according to Zimmern, “you can’t even find it in New York and when you can’t find something in NY you know it’s rare”. However, EarthFruits, one of the world’s largest exporters of Brazil’s exotic fruits is also the primary exporter of Cupuaçu, the fruit Zimmern calls “the next great superfood”.

Located in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, EarthFruits exports fruits such as Acai, Camu Camu and Cupuaçu into Europe and the United States. EarthFruits is committed to providing the latest in superfruit trends and is the only company who currently harvests, processes and exports Cupuaçu in both a powder and frozen puree.

“Because of our location in Para, Brazil and the relationship we have with the residents of the area, we are able to not only bring rare fruits like Cupuaçu to the US but also provide a sustainable income for the people living in the Rainforest,” explained Kevin Busby, EarthFruits General Manager.

EarthFruits specializes in providing tropical fruits from the Amazon to the natural health and organic foods industries. The company partners with local co-ops to obtain wild-harvested fruit from deep within the most pristine parts of the Amazon Rainforest. EarthFruits works with a number of processors in Brazil to deliver the finest quality pulps, purees, powders, and concentrates. EarthFruits guarantees minimal processing to achieve the highest nutritional profile for each batch of product. Each product is rigorously tested to ensure the highest quality. For more information, visit

For full story, please see:


14. Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) harvesting benefits San people

Source: The Namibian (Windhoek), 29 November 2007

Windhoek. The San communities, the most marginalised in Namibia, are slowly starting to reap some benefits from natural resources in the few remaining areas they are allowed to occupy, with the harvesting of devil's claw plant improving.

About 12 tonnes of the medicinal plant are expected to be collected this year and earn N$228 000 for the San, says the latest annual report of Wimsa, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa.

In 2006, following a two-year ban on devil's claw harvesting resulting from uncontrolled and unsustainable harvesting in previous years, the Na Jaqna Conservancy east of Grootfontein implemented a new devil's claw scheme under which 78 residents in the conservancy harvested and sold devil's claw to an exporter. The ban was lifted following lengthy negotiations with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Kung traditional authority in Omatako village.

It was agreed to put a detailed management and monitoring plan in place. Devil's claw harvesting by-laws were laid down by the Na Jaqna conservancy management and the traditional authority. This resulted in the issuing of permits to conservancy members in 2006 and limited, conservancy-supervised harvesting of close to two tonnes, generating about N$31 000.

This year, in conjunction with Wimsa and the Namibian branch of the Centre for Research Information in Africa (CRIAA), the San harvesters received training to hone their skills. "A total of 89 people were trained and 253 were given harvesting equipment consisting of 50-kilogram bags, stainless steel knives and drying nets," the Wimsa report stated. With 253 registered harvesters to date, and a quota of 50 kg per individual for 2007, about 12,6 tonnes would be harvest by year-end, generating approximately N$227 700 for the San. At Omega village in the Caprivi Region, which now falls in the newly proclaimed Bwabwata National Park, the mainly Khwe-speaking San harvesters also received training, equipment and transport.

The training, provided to Wimsa's extension officers by CRIAA and then passed on by them to the community, focused on producing a high quality devil's claw for export, but also on minimising the environmental impact and ensuring sustainable harvesting. "The dried product was sold to registered buyers for up to N$18 per kilogramme, whereas illegal roadside buyers typically pay around N$6 per kilogramme," the Wimsa report stated.

The San harvesters at Omega agreed that N$1,50 per kg would be paid into a community fund. The community will decide how to spend this money in the new season, possibly on equipment such as new drying nets.

Further training this year covered other villages in the area.

For full story, please see:


15. Honey in India: Businessman opens 'honey hut' in Shimla

Source: Earthtimes, London, UK, 2 December 2007

Shimla - A honey maker from Punjab has opened a unique 'honey hut' in Shimla, the summer capital of India. 'We have come up with a unique concept of honey huts for selling our honey and honey-based products. This is our first honey hut outlet in the country,' said Jagjit Singh Kapoor, owner of the venture.

'The next such outlet will be opened in Chandigarh as we plan to open around 70 honey huts across the country, although we have been exporting our products to at least 70 countries,' he added.

The outlet has been opened late Saturday in Shimla's down town Mall street.

'Besides honey, we are also selling honey-based eatables such as honey tea, honey coffee, chocolates, cakes and even popcorns with honey flavour,' said Kapoor.

'Our Doraha-based honey farms in neighbouring Punjab are spread over 60 acres where we have around 20,000 colonies of honey bees producing high quality honey,' he said.

'We are also planning to open a bee keeping research institute in Doraha,' he added.

For full story, please see:


16. Honey in New Zeeland: Imports must stop for good

Source: Press Release: Federated Farmers, 5 December 2007 (in - New Zealand)

Imports of Australian honey must be stopped for good – that’s the clear message from an important Appeal Court decision which will help keep harmful organisms out of New Zealand.

The judgment delivered yesterday found that honey or other bee products from Australia containing a potentially harmful bacterium may not be imported without both biosecurity clearance under the Biosecurity Act 1993, and an approval granted for new organisms under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. At present there is no clearance under either law.

“This judgment is an important win for the bee industry and agriculture,” said John Hartnell, chair of the Bee Industry Group of Federated Farmers.

“The success of New Zealand’s horticultural and agricultural economy is highly dependent on the honey bee for pollination, so it is vital that we keep new diseases and organisms out of our bee industry.

“The damage caused by the varroa mite over the past seven years clearly demonstrates the potential for further damage to beekeeping and pollination.

“The bee industry also welcomes the continuance of a court-ordered temporary ban on imports of honey and other bee products from Australia (excluding Western Australia, where the existence of the bacterium has not been identified).

“Now we have this a judgment, the only sensible action is to reinstate a complete ban on Australian honey imports as soon as possible. Only this will ensure that we keep Paenibacillus alvei bacterium out of New Zealand hives,” Mr Hartnell said.

For full story, please see:


17. Mushrooms: Wild mushroom can fight prostate cancer: Israeli researchers

Source: AFP, 15 December 2007

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli scientists claim that a wild mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine for a century, could treat prostate cancer, the University of Haifa said Friday.

Researchers at the university in northern Israel said they found molecules in the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom, commonly known as the reishi, which help suppress some mechanisms involved in the progression of prostate cancer.

"We already knew the mushroom could impede the development of cancer by affecting the immune system. The in-vitro trials we have done show that it attacks the cancer cells directly," chief researcher Ben Zion Zaidman told AFP.

"These results give rise to hope about developing medication to treat prostate cancer," he said of research carried out to date only in Petri dishes. The research still has to be tested on animals.

The reishi is found only in remote, wild areas, preferring a habitat of rotting plum tree trunks, sometimes oak trees, in heavily forested mountain areas.

The Chinese have tried to grow reishi mushrooms for centuries, but it was only in the early 1970s that Japanese experts managed to cultivate them.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among men, with more than 543,000 cases diagnosed worldwide each year.

For full story, please see:


18. Sandalwood in Australia: WA sandalwood set to dominate world trade

Source: ABC Online, Australia, 11 December 2007

The head of one of the world's leading fragrance companies believes the Ord Valley in Western Australia will overtake India as the major producer of Indian sandalwood.

The Ord has the only commercial crop of Indian sandalwood trees in the world.

With a global shortage, oil from the processed timber is currently worth around $US1800 per kilogram.

Georges Ferrando, from Albert Vieille, says with a processing plant due to be built in Kununurra next year, the region will become a world leader within five years.

"India is number one in supplying sandalwood oil, but I think very, very quickly, Kununurra will become the supplier number one in the world," he says.

For full story, please see:


19. Sandalwood in India: Smuggling has hit sandalwood production in the country

Source: Hindu, Chennai, India, 14 December 2007

Bangalore: Sandalwood production in the country — to which Karnataka and Tamil Nadu contribute 90 per cent — has fallen to less than a fourth of the amount produced 50 years ago, said A.K. Verma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, speaking at a seminar on sandalwood, organised by the Institute of Wood Science and Technology, here on Wednesday.

“From 4,000 tonnes produced annually in the 1960s, the figure fell to 2,000 tonnes in the 1990s, and to just 1,000 tonnes now — which is half the national demand,” he said.

Attributing this to smuggling, Mr. Verma said that a “unified law” is needed to address the issue which goes beyond State boundaries. The price of sandalwood ranges between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 4,000 a kg.

“India has been overtaken by Australia and Indonesia in the production and export of sandalwood, and we cannot afford to have this happen,” he added.

The Forest Department will take special steps to protect sandalwood trees from poachers in three areas in the State, Hoskote, Bhadravati and Shikaripur, which have a large number of old, “high girth-class” sandalwood trees that are susceptible to poaching, Mr. Verma said. “These measures will include chain linking, fencing, gate locks and strengthening of staff,” he said. The initiative will cover an area of 1,000 hectares in these three regions, and work will begin in the next fiscal. “Inventories are being prepared to assess the number of large sandalwood trees, after which a detailed project proposal will be made,” he said.

The Forest Department has sought a grant of Rs. 3 crore from the Union Government for planting sandalwood trees in 1,000 hectares in Shimoga, Hassan, Uttara Kannada and Chikmagalur districts, areas that correspond to the presence of artisans, Mr. Verma said. As much as 22,000 kg of seeds have been collected, and 300 personnel will be recruited for the planting operations next monsoon. Special stainless-steel “dibblers” have been designed by the Forest Department for the purpose.

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20. Shea nuts in Ghana – clarification of a recent article

From: Dr Peter Lovett,

Following a recent article, reprinted in NWFP-Digest-L, No. 11/07 on the sheanut industry in Ghana (Zoure, 2007), the following clarifications are offered.

Based on information around the region (not necessarily from country export figures), annual exports of sheanuts from the entire West Africa sub-region are estimated to total between 200-250,000 tons of shea kernel equivalent (to be exported as either kernels, butter or refined and finished products) in the 2007-2008 season, of which at least 50,000 tons will be sourced in Ghana (shea trees occur in about two-thirds of the land area of Ghana). Approximately 90-95% of these exports will be used to produce shea stearin of which the majority will be used in the formulation of speciality fats for use in edible products such as confectionery. Although the components of speciality fats are not all globally traded commodities; demand and prices is primarily dictated by the demand for, and supplies of, cocoa butter and palm oil.

Following discussions with a number of experts in the cocoa industry and with European regulation, vegetable stearin is no longer viewed as a competitor to cocoa, but is now recognised as a ‘helper’ in the chocolate industry. Non-cocoa butters help to smooth the economics of chocolate production, allow cheaper products for developing new markets for cocoa and can increase use of the lower value cocoa powder. Studies show that the EU directive, allowing the use of up to 5% non-cocoa fats in products traded as ‘chocolate’, has had little to no effect on exports and demands of either cocoa or the allowable non cocoa butter vegetable fats and any increased trade in both cocoa and vegetable stearin can only be attributable to increased global demand (LMC International Ltd., 2006).

The growing interest, demand and use of shea butter in the personal care sector, particularly in natural cosmetics is now attributed to the growing knowledge base and demand for this product by the industry and its consumers. As noted by a number of large buyers in the U.S. industry – availability of supplies in terms of quality, volume and price, has dramatically improved in recent years, and they are no longer restricted to purchasing from a limited number of European based suppliers but can more easily source directly from a wide range of international and African based producers and exporters.

Given this increasing demand, coupled with its existing and traditional position in the rural economy, shea butter has the potential to play a major role in Sahel and Savannah poverty alleviation. Shea is also one of the major tree species protected and managed in the traditional farmed parklands of these eco-zones. As international ‘climate change’ concerns grow, its role in environmental protection is without equal in areas such as Northern Ghana.

To meet this demand, new strategies for sourcing shea butter are being sought by international buyers across the region. These range from procurement of nuts directly from women pickers, from local middlemen or international traders – for factory extraction and refining in Africa or abroad – to the direct purchase from rural processors of high quality shea butter. For this latter approach to be economically competitive, and still ensure maximum value-addition at the community level, there is need to confront and solve many new challenges. Of critical importance to ensure women’s economic empowerment is the need to develop a new “business-orientated mindset” and encourage improvements to quality control and organisational structure in order to meet the stringent demands of the international market. The prospect of effectively achieving this goal has never been closer, but the window of opportunity is narrow.


21. Truffles: Giant truffle sets record price

Source: BBC News, UK, 2 December 2007

One of the biggest truffles found in decades has fetched $330,000 (£165,000) at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, London and Florence.

A Macau casino owner, Stanley Ho, made the record-breaking bid for the white truffle, which weighed 1.5kg (3.3lb).

Luciano Savini and his son found the highly-prized fungus after it was dug up by his truffle dog near Pisa, northern Italy, last week.

He said he was overwhelmed by the high price paid for his discovery. "The biggest truffle of the century and the most expensive truffle of the century. There are no more words to say - it is all very beautiful."

All proceeds from the auction were donated to charities.

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22. Afghanistan: Hope from honey

Source: ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland, 6 December 2007

Both Sohaila Khan, 25, and Maa Begum, 50, lived in extreme poverty in northern Afghanistan. It was a constant struggle to feed themselves and their children. "There was no light at the end of the tunnel," says Sohaila.

Until July 2006.

"We didn't even have a small piece of land where we could grow food for ourselves," says Maa Begum. For years her eldest son tried in vain to provide for nine family members with a monthly income of merely $54. He was the only one who was lucky enough to be able to find a job.

A couple of months after Sohaila’s wedding, her husband, Ahmad Khan, was forced to leave her to look for work in Iran.

The two families were considered some of the poorest and most vulnerable in their villages. So when Mission East started the agriculture project in Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan, the local councils recommended Sohaila and Maa as participants.

So, in July 2006, together with 18 other poor women, they were provided with a beehive, protection gear and training in honey production.

In just one year the honey has turned their lives around.

"This year, because of the honey, I have earned enough to send my children to school. It is a miracle. I had given up hope of ever earning my own money and being able to provide for my children," says Sohaila. Maa proudly adds: "We can now afford to buy uniforms and books and pay fees for our children to go to school. We can also afford food items and soap for washing our children."

Because of their own hard work Sohaila and Maa has been able to expand their production with more beehives. This year Sohaila harvested 87 kilos of honey. She sold 72 kilos at the local market and the money she earned pays for food, clothes and other necessities for her family.

She is truly grateful for the help and is now looking forward to the future:

"I wish to have five more beehives. And I want to help women in my village to support themselves – just as I have been helped."

There is a great demand for honey in Badakhshan in the northern Afghanistan where Maa and Sohaila live. So great that the few beekeepers in the area can’t meet the demand. That leaves a good opportunity for more people to work their way out of poverty if they are taught how to produce honey.

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23. Bhutan: Medicinal plants spell millions

Source: Kuensel, Bhutan, 17 December 2007

Medicinal plants like chirata, pipla (Piper longum) and tsoe (Rubia cordifolia) found in Bhutan’s forests could soon find their way to markets in India, according to officials of the agriculture marketing services.

Chirata, found mainly in Shingkhar Lauri in Samdrup Jongkhar, improves appetite, fights worms and cures cough, anaemia, fever and gonorrhoea.

Pipla, found mainly in Zhemgang, has special medicinal values to cure cold, cough and fever, while tsoe, found in abundance across the country, is useful in skin infections, ulcers, inflammations and other skin diseases. It also has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic action, according to officials.

“There are some companies in India, which have need of these plants to produces ayurvedic medicines,” said the chief marketing officer of the agricultural marketing services, Sangye Chewang.

Like cordyceps, export of these medicinal plants will enhance and facilitate rural income generation, said Sangye Chewang. “Only communities in the remote areas of Shingkhar Lauri and Zhemgang will be allowed to pick and sell them to Bhutanese exporters, who will then export the plants to India.”

Sangye Chewang said that, by January next year, about 15 metric tonnes (MT) each of chirata, pipla and tsoe will be exported on a commercial scale annually. “We’ve have chosen an exporter but have yet to visit the places to help organise community groups and sell these plants.”

Initial rates have been fixed at Nu 110 a kg for chirata, pipla at Nu 50 a kg and tsoe at Nu 10 a kg, depending on their abundance and difficulty in obtaining from the wild.

“It’s expected to generate more than Nu 2 million a year,” said Sangye Chewang. “That amount is just to begin with, the market is huge, and the question is whether our supply will meet the demand.”

The companies require between 5,000 and 11,000 kg of these plants a month.

Interested companies in India, Singapore and America have placed orders for some 30 species of plants, some of which are still being identified and assessed by the department of forest for sustainability. “They even want rhododendrons, pepper (thengnye) and soap-nut, which are found in our country,” he said.

Officials of the agricultural marketing services recently sent a sample of star anise (Dhomlee shee), found in Dochula and Lamperi, to be studied for a cure for Avian Flu as was deemed by scientists in America.

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24. Brazil: Getting back to nature: Brazil’s Natura uses plants to cut carbon

Source:, London, UK, 28 November 2007

Brazilian cosmetics company Natura is investing in forests and plant technology in its bid to become carbon neutral. Oliver Balch reports.

Natura, Brazil’s largest cosmetics company, is set to become the first large Latin American company to make its entire operations carbon neutral from 2008.

Natura, known as “The Body Shop of Latin America” for its use of natural products, estimates it can cut 33% of its current greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2012 and offset the rest. It hopes that investment in low-carbon technologies will enable it to make further reductions from 2012.

The company’s current direct and indirect GHG emissions measure 270,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum, according to a recent inventory of its whole value chain by Fabrica Etica, an independent Brazilian environment consultancy. It measured emissions from Natura’s supply of raw materials through to the disposal of its products.

The findings, published earlier this year, showed a 12% increase in emissions from 2005 to 2006, owing to increased production.

The majority of emissions came from extraction of raw materials (78,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum). A large amount also came from packaging (66,000 tonnes) and final product disposal (37,000 tonnes). Direct suppliers contributed to 43,000 tonnes.

“There is lots of talk about carbon dioxide reductions… but few companies are talking about their total impact in the supply chain,” says Daniel Gonzaga, Natura’s director of research and technology.

The GHG reduction measures forecast by Natura include: replacing non-renewable materials with plant-based materials (responsible for a third of all anticipated emissions cuts); increasing recycled materials in its packaging; developing biopolymer packaging with lower CO2 emissions, and reducing packaging size.

The Sao Paulo-based company also intends to phase in ethanol-based fuel for its vehicle fleet and to slim down its printed product catalogue.

In addition, Natura is investing heavily in eco-efficient product development. Mr Gonzaga, who oversees a team of four scientists dedicated exclusively to designing new eco-efficient products, says the company has “dozens of projects in the pipeline”.

He concedes, however, that the constraints of existing technology will not enable Natura to reduce its entire carbon footprint without offsetting.

The company, which also operates in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and France, has ruled out carbon credits. “There are cleverer ways to offset these emissions by selecting projects that have a stronger social contribution instead of buying credits,” Mr Gonzaga says.

Sustainable forestry projects in Brazil have been chosen as one of the main elements of Natura’s offset strategy. Such projects will typically include the reforestation of native tree species, coupled with agricultural initiatives using traditional technologies.

The company also aims to develop an accounting mechanism for carbon capture in its forest conservation projects.

Natura has already experimented with a similar approach through its Ekos range, launched in 2000. This uses organically produced materials such as cupuaçu butter, pupunha seeds, açaí pulp and Brazil nuts, all of which are sourced directly from local communities in the Amazon and other environmentally rich biomes.

Renewable energy will represent the second principal focus of Natura’s offsetting efforts. Using the shell of Brazil nuts to generate clean energy, rather than simply disposing of them, is an example of the sort of initiative the company hopes to sponsor.

For any new project, Natura has committed to use similar guidelines to those required for the purchase and sale of carbon credits in the mandatory market.

To do so, it has created an internal evaluation system to assess the innovative potential of possible compensation projects as well as their socio-environmental profile.

Karen Suassuna, Climate Change analyst with WWF-Brazil, commends Natura’s approach to cutting emissions. As a large and profitable Brazilian company, she says, Natura is sending "an important message to the Brazilian government which says that having carbon caps harms company interests."

Mr Gonzaga stresses that the decision to go carbon neutral comes after a “long track record” of environmental management dating back to the start of the company in 1969.

In 1983, for example, Natura committed to using recycled materials in its packaging. With year-on-year increases, such materials now amount to 28.7% of all packaging. Twenty years ago, Natura also began to sell refills. The average weight of each refill is almost 54% less than that of regular packaging. Since then, 2,200 fewer tonnes of packaging have been used.

In 2006, meanwhile, it introduced a line of soaps made exclusively from plant-based ingredients rather than mineral-based ones, which include petroleum derivatives. This year the company also created a pilot project to encourage sales staff to start collecting packaging from their clients and send it to recycling cooperatives.

“We have an educational role to teach and to help consumers to understand and verbalise the environmental aspects of our products,” Mr Gonzaga says.

Natura is extending its inventory system to the climate change impact of each individual product line. It expects to start carbon labelling in late 2008, stating the number of grams of carbon created by the life cycle of each product.

The company has also pledged to publish its performance on the carbon neutral commitment. The audited information will appear in its annual sustainability report, which Natura already produces in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (

According to Mr Gonzaga, “the 33% emissions reduction estimate was made on existing technology”. Developing new low-carbon technologies represents Natura’s principal challenge, he says.


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25. Canada saves the forest

Source: E-The Environmental Magazine, 4 December 2007

Canada’s federal government last week announced that it is setting aside some 25.5 million acres of boreal forest and tundra in its remote Northwest Territories province as conservation land off-limits to development and resource extraction. The move comes as the country looks for more ways to meet targets for reducing its carbon footprint as set forth under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement Canada signed onto in 1998 that aims to stave off global warming by requiring its 172 signatory nations to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.

As the largest intact forest remaining on the planet, Canada’s boreal region is one of the world’s largest “sinks” storing carbon dioxide in trees’ woody material and the surrounding soils. Major logging and resource extraction efforts in the region would release untold amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in turn exacerbating the greenhouse effect. The two huge swaths set aside last week, which resource extraction industries have been eyeing as a potential motherlode, constitute a land mass area about 11 times bigger than Yellowstone National Park. Besides storing a lot of carbon, the newly protected conservation areas (near the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and around the Ramparts River and wetlands) teems with wildlife like bears, wolves, ducks, geese and migratory songbirds.

Environmentalists cheered the announcement. “This is one of the largest conservation actions in North American history,” said Steve Kallick, Boreal Conservation Director for the Pew Environment Group. “Canada’s boreal forest is one of the most important ecosystems on the planet and it’s been neglected recently by conservationists, and it’s been under tremendous pressure from resource development.”

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26. Costa Rica plants 5 million trees

Source: Reuters UK, 6 December 2007

Costa Rica, a leader in eco-tourism and home to some of the world's rarest species, planted its 5 millionth tree of 2007 on Wednesday as it tries to put a brake on global warming.

President Oscar Arias shovelled dirt onto the roots of an oak tree planted in the grounds of his offices, reaching the milestone in the Central American nation's efforts to ward off what some experts say are the first signs of climate change.

By the end of the year, Costa Rica will have planted nearly 6.5 million trees, which should absorb 111,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, Environment Minister Roberto Dobles said.

The country aims to plant 7 million trees in 2008 as part of the newly launched program.

Along with other green-minded nations like Norway and New Zealand, Costa Rica is aiming to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero, and has set a target date of 2021.

"I don't know if we will end up being carbon neutral in 2021 as we have proposed, but the important thing is the audacity of the goal and the work we have to do," Arias said.

Costa Rica is a magnet for ecology-minded tourists who come to visit the lush national parks and reserves that cover more than a quarter of the country and are home to almost 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species including exotic birds and frogs.

Over the last 20 years forest cover in Costa Rica has grown from 26 percent of the national territory to 51 percent, though environmentalists complain that loggers continue to cut down old trees and that the national park system is under funded.

Costa Rican authorities have blamed the loss of more than a dozen amphibian species, including the shiny yellow "golden toad," on higher temperatures caused by global warming.

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27. India: Patent rule change to aid biodiversity protection

Source: Livemint, Delhi, India, 26 November 2007

Mumbai: An October proposal at the Council of Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that suggested compulsory declaration by patent applicants worldwide of the source of origin of any data related to natural resources is expected to substantially help India to protect its vast biodiversity and traditional knowledge from being exploited by private organizations that don’t share the benefits with local communities where the products originated.

The proposal, mooted by Peru and supported by several countries, including India, Brazil and Tanzania, has now led to an amendment to the TRIPS rule. A deadline for the amendment has also been extended to end-2009 as it requires the ratification of about 100 countries.

Aysha Shoukat, a patent lawyer and an intellectual property rights activist in Chennai, says: “Though India has been vigilant in legislating for the patent protection of traditional knowledge and biological related inventions, many herbs and formulations that constitute the country’s traditional medicine were appropriated by the Western pharma and nutraceutical industry without adequate compensation to the communities, which originally discovered them.”

She points to the Naga Jolokia pepper, which originates from the Naga tribal community, as one such example. “Since it has been found valuable for its medicinal properties, a genetic testing was conducted on it to isolate the responsible gene by a foreign institute,” she claims. “However, no news thereafter of follow up or benefit and compensation to the Naga tribal community has been discussed yet.”

Jeevani, an energy drink developed from a green plant grown in the Agastyar hills of Kerala, is also another case in point, she added. “In this case, despite the granting of a patent for the product to the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute at Thiruvananthapuram, there are loopholes in the system that allow circumvention and misappropriation of the traditional knowledge pertaining to this patent by others.”

The traditional knowledge of Jeevani belongs to a tribal community. New York-based Nutrisciences Innovations LLC holds a trademark for this product, which is commercially very successful in the US and Europe.

Similarly, several products, which have their quality or designs associated with geographical origins in India, had also been used by commercial organizations elsewhere without sharing the benefits with the communities who developed them originally.

Shamnad Basheer, an associate at Oxford University’s IP Research Centre, notes: “Though India has built in this provision for disclosures into its patent regime as far back as 2002, unfortunately, there are no provisions in the rules telling us as to what level of ‘disclosure’ would be sufficient in this regard.”

“I’m not sure how many patent applicants comply with this provision,” he says. “To the best of my knowledge, no patent application has been opposed or revoked on the ground that it doesn’t disclose ‘biological material’ or ‘traditional knowledge’. Therefore, one is not sure at this stage whether or not this provision is being complied with by patentees. One is also not sure if the patent office in India is really enforcing this provision and checking that every application claiming biological material is disclosing the source and origin.”

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28. Indonesia: An innovative forest project in Indonesia creates alternatives for illegal loggers

Source: World Bank Group, Washington, DC, USA, 7 December 2007

Geumpang, Aceh, Do you know how much an illegal logger earns for a tree? He makes Rupiah 500,000 ($53) per tree, taking up to a week to cut it manually. How much does an illegal log seller earn in a month? He makes at least IDR 20 million (over $2,146) in a month. That’s a small fortune in a country where the average annual income is $1,410.

This is the irony that underwrites the poverty of many places where illegal loggers live in this richly-forested region of Aceh: the loggers remain poverty stricken, the dealers cash in. In Geumpang, Pidie, there are six villages surrounding the pristine Ulu Masen rain forest. About 1,330 households or about 5,548 people live in the area, and at least half of them depend on illegal logging practices for their livelihoods. This is the challenge a World Bank-supported pilot project, the People- Based Forest Management Program, is trying to address.

In Aceh, logging is a traditional occupation which, according to the environment CSO Walhi, accounts every year for a decrease in forest cover in Aceh of 20,796 hectares. In 2006 however, deforestation hit a high of 374,327 hectares forcing the Aceh Governor, Irwandi Yusuf, a veterinary who is also a committed environmentalist, to announce a total moratorium on logging in Aceh’s forests on 6 June 2007, for a period of 15 years.

The Governor, together with the Governor of Papua Barnabas Seubu, signed a historic MoU, facilitated by the World Bank in Bali earlier this year, to prevent deforestation in their provinces which contain the bulk of Indonesia’s remaining rain forest cover.

Says the head of Geumpang sub-district, Muhammad Sabim: “I have asked the villagers not to cut down any more trees. Some of them hear me because they are afraid of being caught by the police.” The punishment is stiff: up to 15 years in jail and a steep IDR 1.5 billion ($160,00) in fines and a penalty for environmental damage caused by illegal logging of 10 years imprisonment and IDR 500 million ($54,000) in fines.

There are many around him who need to find a substitute now for lost logging incomes.

The World Bank–administered US$635m Multidonor Fund for Aceh and Nias (MDF) took up this challenge as part of its efforts to preserve the environment from the demands of reconstruction. The MDF, in partnership with the NGO Flora & Fauna International (FFI) and Leuser International Foundation is implementing the Geumpang project as part of the $ 17.5 million Aceh Forest Environment Project to create public awareness of 2.3 million hectares Leuser and Ulu Masen forests, the largest contiguous forest area in Southeast Asia. Those living in and around the forests are also encouraged to know their rights to get optimal use from forest resources.

The People-Based Forest Management Program focuses on two main projects: forest and village borders mapping and commercialization of forest products.

The mapping clearly demarcates borders between forests and the six village habitations to help monitor encroachments and create forest zoning. Mahdi Ismail, of FFI says, “We help people to understand that they are not forbidden to utilize the forests, but they must preserve it by not clearing new land and they should plant a tree for every tree they cut.”

Geumpang is famous both for its wood, and non-wood products such as rattan grasses, honey, etc while the Ulu Masen forest is famous for its rich biodiversity including the Sumatran tiger, elephants, and hundreds of species of birds.

Banta who helps FFI run the program as a facilitator said, “We support this program; we now know that we are not forbidden to utilize the forest, as long as we are not damaging it. We also know this is important if we want to have clean water sources in the future.”

Illegal logging practices in Aceh have long involved elements of the state’s law enforcement bodies so, “This program involves the people, local governments, the police, Army and an ex-combatant’s organisation in developing businesses using forest products,” says the head of Geumpang Sub-District, Muhammad Nur.

The challenge is enormous. According to Greenomics Indonesia and WWF estimates Aceh needs 814,000 to 1.58 million m3 of round timber per year during the five year reconstruction process. Doing this sustainably is challenging when a legal log is sold at Rp 6-7million ($630-730) per cubic mt, whereas an illegal log is sold for Rp 4-5 ($430-530) million per meter cubic.

“We want to help the Acehnese preserve their forest,” said Mikko Ollikainen, Environment Program Specialist, World Bank, Aceh. “Through this MDF-supported program, we are creating awareness of the importance of forests for future generations which should not be forgotten for the short-term needs of reconstruction, however important they are,” he explained.

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29. Jamaica: Young scientist of the year working to establish 'Jamaica-pharma'

Source: Jamaica Observer, Jamaica, 2 December 2007

Jamaicans have valued local plants for their medicinal properties for hundreds of years. However, what the country has been less successful at, despite this wealth of natural resources, is converting the plants into pharmaceutical drugs.

Recently awarded the Scientific Research Council (SRC)/Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) Young Scientist of the Year, Seymour Webster is taking Jamaica closer to realising a local pharmaceutical industry. The 39-year-old College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) lecturer will apply for a United States patent to protect his process to biosynthesise diapbenzyltrisulphide (DTP) in a laboratory.

But what is the significance of his work?

DTP is an extract of guinea hen weed, which according to ongoing testing by the SRC's Dr Lawrence Williams, has anti-cancer properties and can boost the human body's production of T-cells and Dendritic cells, which can help the human immune system fight the HIV virus.

"It's a very common plant throughout Jamaica," explains Webster, picking some of the weed from the car park at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Biotechnology Centre. "People in the country have been using it to make bush tea to treat headaches and colds for sometime so we knew it had medicinal properties, which is why Dr Williams started work on it."

However, when DTP is extracted from the plant itself, there are insufficient quantities to make production of the drug commercially viable.

"What has been inhibiting us from making chemicals from the plants is how do you deal with the quantity issue? We are a country of samples and the question for us is how we can get from that (samples) to actual production," said Dr Sylvia Mitchell, Webster's doctoral supervisor at the Biotechnology Centre.

Webster's biosynthesis is one answer to that problem. Having begun work in 2004, his process can produce DTP at a quantity approximately 300 times more than when extracted directly from the plant, which can help Williams and his colleagues, University of Hohenheim in Germany, capitalise on their discovery.

William has been researching DTP for twenty years, but is yet to begin human testing.

Webster is confident in the value of his discovery, given the billions of US dollars spent worldwide each year, treating cancer and HIV patients. He wants to start his own laboratory, should his discovery prove commercially successful.

"There is a new breed of patients who want drugs, but they want natural drugs; the closest to being organic and they are willing to pay money for that," he adds.

Funding has been an inevitable stumbling block and might have ended his work altogether were it not for support from the SRC, Dr Williams and sponsorship from Jamaica Broilers.

Jamaica's nascent pharmaceutical industry deserves more support, he believes, pointing to the example of Dr Henry Lowe and research partner Dr Joseph Bryant of the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology (IHV), who are negotiating with international pharmaceutical companies to produce anti-cancer drugs based on compounds he found in two native plants.

Webster points to the example of the periwinkle plant, which was being tested at UWI during the 1950s by researchers searching for a treatment for diabetes.

They sent samples to their research partners in Canada for further testing. The Canadians conducted holistic test on periwinkle - the result being that they earned patents for the anti-cancer drugs Vinblastine and Vincristine.

The discovery and profit were lost to Jamaica. Not again, hopes Webster.

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30. Philippines: Pandan prop roots found suitable for handicrafts

Source: Philippine Information Agency, Philippines, 3 December 2007

Quezon City -- Handicraft producers may now use pandan prop roots for baskets - thanks to a study of the Department of Science and Technology's Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI).

"Of the 40 Pandanus species in the Philippines, those with specialized prop roots can be tapped as an alternative material for handicrafts. These species are sabotan (Pandanus odoratissimus) from Occidental Mindoro, Pandanus alasas from Zambales and Pandanus pangdan from Ilocos Norte. They are widely distributed in the country," says FPRDI researcher Simplicia B. Katigbak.

Katigbak found that chemically treated prop roots from the three species were highly resistant to the attack of fungi and powder-post beetles. Stripped samples were dipped in 0.2% thiocyanomethylthio-benzothiozole (TCMTB) fungicide and 0.1% Deltamethrin insecticide, and then dried to 18% moisture content. The material was also pliable - it could be easily woven into a 23.40-cm long, 17.78 cm-wide and 9.52-cm deep jewellery box costing PhP 38.28 on a laboratory scale.

The Philippines is one of the world leaders in handicraft production, with exports averaging US$676,832,244M from 2001-2002. Our handicrafts are chiefly made from non-timber raw materials such as rattan, bamboo abaca, buri, woody vines and pandan. Pandan is popular due to its varied uses. Its leaves are woven into mats, hats and baskets. Likewise, its prominent prop roots are made into thread, rope for fishing lines, and tying and plating material for chairs. "If moderately harvested, the use of prop roots for handicrafts will not affect the plant's growth," according to Katigbak.

Katigbak's study was adjudged third best poster among 19 entries in the recent 20th Southern Tagalog Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (STARRDEC) Symposium on R&D Highlights held at the University of Rizal System, Main Campus, Tanay, Rizal.

For more information on the results of this study, please contact FPRDI at tel. no. (0063-49) 536-2377, email: or visit:

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31. Philippines: Malunggay in the city - Urban farmers can grow wonder tree

Source:, Philippines, 1 December 2007

Manila – Fighting hunger, poverty and malnutrition could start with something as simple as growing a tree.

The Department of Agriculture yesterday led the launching of “Malunggay in the City,” an urban farming program designed to empower poor communities in Metro Manila.

A joint project of the DA, Aktibong Kapatiran Tungo sa Iisang Bayan and the Asian Center for Grassroots Communication and Advocacy, the program aims to promote the backyard planting of malunggay or moringa (ben oil tree) in the city.

The DA has already identified 14 barangays in five cities and one municipality in Metro Manila as pilot areas for the project.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said this program will also be launched soon in urban poor communities of Metro Iloilo, Metro Davao, Metro Naga and other metropolitan areas in the country, including Zamboanga del Norte.

Through the program, these communities will receive malunggay seedlings from the DA which they can plant in their backyards or any available land plot in their barangays.

The program can help towns achieve a better quality of life and better health because of the crop’s outstanding nutritional and medicinal value, the DA said, adding that it can likewise help create greener urban communities.

The planting of malunggay will initially be carried out in 12 Metro areas including Barangays Commonwealth, Payatas and Pinyahan in Quezon City; Bagong Silang, Camarin, Tala Bukid Area and Malaria in Caloocan City; Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City; San Antonio in Makati City; Barangka and Parang in Marikina City and Sta. Ana in the municipality of Pateros.

Malunggay leaves are naturally rich in vitamins C and A, calcium, protein, iron and potassium and are also used for medicinal purposes.

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32. Rwanda: The science behind moringa

Source: The New Times (Kigali), 3 December 2007

They're calling it a miracle tree. Moringa is all the agricultural rage in Rwanda now that the government has funded the planting of 400,000 trees in cooperation with the World Food Programme. The recent joint initiative comes on the heels of several investments in moringa by many of Rwanda's African neighbours.

The plant is said to be an incredible source of energy, excellent feed for livestock, a powerful antibiotic, and a miracle medical cure. It almost seems too good to be true.

Indeed, there are researchers who have said that some of the incredible claims as to moringa's health benefits warrant further study.

"There has been a lot of hype on moringa," says John Kendall, a Canadian researcher studying the plant's ecological potential.

While there is not sufficient evidence to back up every single claim that's been made about the plant, many of them are supported by research that points to a science of moringa that's tried and true.

Juvenal Kanani, deputy dean of agriculture at the National University of Rwanda, says that moringa's potential as a source of food is largely related to its high concentrations of nitrogen. "It's an element that constitutes muscle tissue and it's also an element that helps with protein synthesis," he says, explaining that nitrogen-rich food has an even greater impact on the health of livestock.

"For monogastric animals like humans, nitrogen is very important; but ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats, can use nitrogen even more." Kanani also points to concentrations of carotene to explain moringa's reputation for having great nutritional value.

"When you analyse it for vitamins, you can find signs [that it contains much] carotene," he says. Carotene was proven to ward off cognitive decline in a study at Harvard Medical School last year. Kanani says it also helps the body synthesize vitamin A, which is essential in maintaining ocular health and a strong immune system.

In a recent report from The Philippines' Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), researchers claim that moringa leaves contain four times the amount of vitamin A found in a carrot.

But the scientific support for moringa's nutritional benefits doesn't end there. Kanani says the plant also contains a lot of calcium and phosphorous. Kanani adds that breastfeeding mothers who ingest moringa have even been found to produce better quality milk as a result of increased calcium in their diet. The BPI report found that moringa leaves contain the calcium equivalent of four glasses of milk.

Phosphorous, meanwhile, helps the body process calcium more efficiently.

"When phosphorous [levels] are not high enough, animals can not [process] calcium very well," says Kanani.

Moreover, phosphorous deficiencies can be dangerous and are commonly seen in malnourished patients. They can cause muscle-growth problems and low white blood cell counts that leave people physically weak and unable to recover from illnesses.

Not only does moringa help strengthen the immune system, it also can act to prevent illness. A 2004 report from Switzerland's University of Lausanne found an as-yet undiscovered chain of amino acids in moringa seeds that suggest the plant has antibiotic properties in addition to health benefits. Researchers placed the amino acids in isolation with e. coli bacteria and watched as they killed off bacteria cells.

"Moringa seed kernels, pounded into a powder, can be mixed with even very turbid water and, after stirring it for ten minutes, all the particles in the water will coagulate, binding together, and sink to the bottom," explains Lowell Fuglie, an American moringa expert working with the Global Initiative for the Advancement of Nutritional Therapy.

"Since the bacteria in the water are attached to the particles, the result is clear water up to 98% free of bacteria."

Fuglie says there may even be a scientific basis to recent claims that it can help patients living with HIV. Some researchers have written this off as rumour, but Fuglie suggests they may have dismissed the idea too quickly. He says there's a lot of research yet to be done.

"The high selenium content in moringa leaves is a subject demanding research, as selenium seems to have a very significant impact on reducing the effects," he says.

"Studies have shown that HIV patients given moringa leaf powder every day did enjoy greater appetites and weight gain."

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33. Sierra Leone: Project saves Gola rainforest from logging

Source:, United Kingdom, 10 December 2007

A huge swathe of African rainforest has been saved from destruction in a pioneering protection scheme.

The 75,000 hectare Gola Forest is to become Sierra Leone's second national park and has been bought in a flagship conservation project to protect it from logging and diamond mining.

The forest, close to the Liberian border, will become the focal point of a new national park network with local people being paid to protect it rather than exploit it.

The scheme is being jointly funded by the European Commission, the French government, the RSPB and US-based Conservation International.

Alistair Gammell, International Director for the RSPB, said: "We are helping the government turn a logging forest into a protected forest. It is owned by Sierra Leone and we are working with the Sierra Leonean people to conserve the area, which has rarely been done before.

"Huge amounts of carbon will be saved and the site is an excellent example to those now involved in climate talks in Bali. It is showing how richer countries can help poorer countries protect wildlife, support local communities and tackle climate change.

"It is a project that politicians in Bali seeking to cut the world's carbon emissions should be lauding, applauding and copying."

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma is expected to officially endorse plans for the national park which will help protect more than 50 mammal species including leopards, chimps and forest elephants, 2,000 different plants and 274 species of bird of which 14 are close to extinction.

The European Commission and French government are contributing more than £3 million towards the training of more than 100 staff to patrol Gola's boundaries, monitor wildlife and run education programmes.

Scientists will be encouraged to study the wildlife of the area which is expected to become a hub for eco-tourism in the country.

At the same time, a £6 million trust fund is being established to pay the park's running costs and the annual payments to local communities, representing more than 100,000 people. The RSPB and Conservation International have paid about £1m each into the fund.

The forest project is the second the RSPB is involved with. It is also working with other conservation groups in a protection scheme in the Harapan Rainforest in Sumatra where they have halted deforestation by buying the site's logging rights. The groups spent several years lobbying for a change in Indonesian laws to enable the Harapan project to go ahead. Alistair Gammell said: "In Sumatra, we are helping to rehabilitate the forest because most of it has been logged at some stage. Gola is different because much more of the area is primary rainforest and other areas have not been logged for more than 30 years. Without this project, the forest would have been destroyed within 10 years because Sierra Leone needs funds for its development."

President Koroma is planning to establish six more national parks in Sierra Leone to develop tourism as the country recovers from the civil war of the 1990s.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in Africa and was wracked by the civil war from 1991-2002.

The war was financed largely by illegal diamond mining and even now, little of the profit from diamond sales reaches government coffers so little is available for education and infrastructure.

Work with the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone to protect Gola began 15 years ago but was suspended during the civil war. A major aim of the project is to boost the long-term development of local communities whilst conserving the environment at the same time.

Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said: "Protecting Gola as a national park reflects the foresight of the Sierra Leone government and with time, Gola forest and the other parks will give the country something very special to shout about.”There are few places in the world where you will find such diversity. Gola is a magical place and it is worth saving simply because it is there."

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34. South Africa: Traditional medicines face threat

Source: Business Day, South Africa, 6 December 2007

Unfettered hunting and gathering is threatening the future of the African traditional medicines industry, according to research commissioned by the Health Systems Trust.

Demand for African traditional remedies has never been stronger, says researcher Myles Mander, who co-authored an economic study of African traditional medicines for the trust’s latest annual health review.

Rapid urbanisation, the emergence of HIV/AIDS and high levels of unemployment have helped fuel demand for the services of traditional healers, who invoke the assistance of ancestors and spirits to complement the remedies they prescribe. They typically pay more attention to the interplay between mind, body and spirit in healing patients, suggesting that their services are in high demand during times of uncertainty.

Mander’s research has found African traditional medicines are used by seven out of 10 black South Africans, from all walks of life. Many patients will use the services of traditional healers in conjunction with western medicine, particularly for chronic conditions.

It is hard to put a precise figure on the use of traditional medicines, but Mander estimates about 27-million South Africans use these remedies, driving a R2,9bn annual trade in plant and animal materials.

While there has been slow but steady progress in drafting laws to regulate traditional healers and the services they provide, the government appears to have put far less energy into ensuring there is a sustainable supply of the ingredients required for traditional medicines, he says.

There is almost no commercial cultivation of African medicinal plants. Economic interests have eroded customary controls and material is freely harvested from the wild. More than 20 000 tons of material from 770 medicinal plant species are collected from the wild each year, providing employment to more than 66 000 harvesters and traders. By contrast, less than 50 tons of medicinal plants are cultivated a year.

As a result, highly prized indigenous plants such as African wild ginger and the pepper bark tree have been harvested to the brink of extinction.

The increasing scarcity is reflected in the increasing time that harvesters have to take to find popular plants, and in the rising prices, the research shows.

The problem is not confined to SA’s floral heritage. Demand for animal parts is threatening several species, including bushbabies, the African python, monitor lizards, dwarf chameleons and vultures.

Research by Mander and the Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Trust found that about 160 vultures were sold each year in eastern SA and their parts were used in almost 60000 healing events.

“What we need is a big government project that works across all the silos, like Working for Water,” says Mander, referring to the government’s programme to combat alien plants in SA.

He believes that the government needs to create e more incentives to encourage investors. One of the reasons so few farmers are interested in cultivating medicinal plants on a large scale is the dearth of processing factories, he says, arguing this would be an ideal area to support them.

Overharvesting does not just damage the environment. It also poses risks to consumers who may fall foul of unscrupulous dealers.

SA’s legislators have taken the first steps towards regulating the sector. Last month, Parliament passed the Traditional Healers Bill, which requires only President Thabo Mbeki’s signature to bring it into effect.

It paves the way for a Traditional Healers Council which will oversee the profession, in a similar vein to the Complementary and Allied Health Practitioners Association.

“This will give patients confidence that when they go to a registered practitioner, they are assured certain standards (are met),” says Nceba Gqaleni, deputy dean of the Nelson Mandela Medical School at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a contributor to the review.

Gqaleni estimates that there are about 183000 African traditional healers practising in SA. Regulating their activities is going to be a long and challenging job,

Gqaleni says, suggesting it may take decades before SA finds a way to integrate this indigenous knowledge with western medicine. “Unlike India and China, where the monasteries started recording traditional medicine thousands of years ago, a lot of our traditional African knowledge is still only in the heads of our most experienced healers,” he says.

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35. Uganda: Local herbalists call for support

Source: East African Business Week (Kampala), 3 December 2007

Herbalists in Uganda have called on government to enact legislation to protect their intellectual property rights over medicinal plants.

The director Bamutaasa herbal joint research clinic, Dr. Daudah Mayanja said recently that if such a law was put in place, it would enhance the growth of natural medicine. He said presently herbalists don't want to share information about the herbs they use to cure different ailments because of fear of losing of property rights. He also called on the government to promote research in natural herbs and medicine to make herbal concoctions safer.

Ugandan herbalists are capable of making concoctions that treat a wide range of ailments including cancer, diabetes, and other complications.

Bamutaasa group has so far integrated both herbal and modern medicine. "Before we treat a patient we first carry out blood test to find out what ailments they are suffering from and then decide on the best herbs to give them, and in the right dosage," he said.

Bamutaasa is currently working with a South African based World Medicine Joint Clinical Research (WMJCR) to improve on the standards of herbal medicine in the country. The group also has partnerships with modern medicine doctors to promote the safety and ethical use of herbs.

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36. Uganda: Japan govt funds bark-cloth project

Source: New Vision, Uganda, 6 December 2007

THE Japanese government has funded a $90,000 project to modernise and popularise the use of bark-cloth in Uganda. According to the Uganda National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the project, to be set up in Mpigi, will encourage massive planting of fig trees for environmental and economic benefits.

The cloth is made from the bark of fig trees. The commonly used species is called Mutuba in Luganda. Its scientific name is Ficus natalensis. Others are Ntawebwa, Ntessa, Kabindi/Butana, Nabujji, Namweluka, Ennembe, Ntakile and Katana.

The bark is stripped off a living tree, which soon regenerates another bark. The fibrous material is beaten with grooved mallets to make it thin, flat and flexible before being dried.

“We want to revitalise and promote the sharing of knowledge on bark-cloth making,” said the UNESCO secretary general, Augustine Omare Okurut, during the launch of the project at the National Theatre and Cultural Centre in Kampala.

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37. Uganda plans to boost forest cover

Source: Reuters in ENN News, 5 December 2007

Kampala - Uganda will plant millions of trees in the next four years at a cost of $253 million, as it tries to restore dwindling forest cover to 30 percent of its area from 22 percent, the government said on Wednesday.

Like many African countries, Uganda suffers from rampant deforestation that dries up rivers, triggers soil erosion and threatens wildlife, especially birds and primates.

But officials in the east African country also want the massive tree planting exercise to establish a recognized carbon sink that would enable it to earn credits on mechanisms set up to help countries meet their CO2 emissions targets.

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38. EU study to explore economics of biodiversity loss

Source: Linkages Update, 13 December 2007

An EU study has been launched to support the development of cost-effective policy responses to biodiversity loss. Initiated by the German Presidency of the EU in March 2007 at the G8+5 summit of environment ministers in Potsdam, with a proposal to “initiate the process of analysing the global economic benefit of biological biodiversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the cost of effective conservation,” and modelling the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, the first phase of the study is expected to review relevant scientific and economic knowledge and case studies, providing indications of the range of costs and benefits related to biodiversity loss.

In this regard, the European Commission has launched a six-week-long call for evidence on the economics of biodiversity loss (deadline is 31 December 2007). All interested stakeholders in Europe and worldwide, including government, academic, private sector, scientific, NGO and other experts, are invited to submit contributions.

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39. Having the climate cake and eating it, too

Source: Science Daily (press release), USA, 30 November 2007

Is it possible to solve climate change, reduce poverty and save biodiversity at a single stroke? It might seem like a dream, but this is exactly the issue that is being discussed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Bali 3-14 December 2007. The key is to include reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in the Kyoto Protocol so that developing countries can be compensated for saving their forests and woodlands.

A recent paper in the African Journal of Ecology points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 20-25% of current annual carbon emissions result from loss of tropical forest. This has prompted efforts to renegotiate climate change policy to include REDD so that tropical forest nations can claim compensation for sustainable management of their natural forest resources.

But not all tropical countries are pushing for an agreement and many African countries do not appear to be participating in the discussion. Eliakimu Zahabu from the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and lead author on the paper suggests that "The lack of African action might be partly because estimation of carbon emission from the forest sector has been based on forest areas cleared entirely, i.e. deforestation, but excludes the small-scale degradation processes common in African dry forests". This means that the concepts for lowering carbon emissions from developing countries that have been worked out under the climate change agreements need rethinking.

Dr Margaret Skutsch, from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, has been studying the problem for five years "Degradation is often a different process with different drivers and needs a different instrument in Kyoto" she says, and adds "for African countries to benefit from the new policy, they need to support the idea of reduced emissions from controlling degradation in a way that reflects African realities, and to do this they need to engage in the debate."

Taking Tanzania as an example, Zahabu estimates that the country could earn $630 million annually or $119 per rural household, from the REDD policy. Prof. Jon Lovett, an expert on Tanzania biodiversity and associate editor of the African Journal of Ecology, points out that "the biggest problem in tropical forest management is paying for it: to date the preferred option has been to remove the valuable timber without any post-logging care, and then the process of degradation starts.

A REDD policy would change that so that forest managers could conserve both carbon and biodiversity, it would be an unbelievable break-through." In addition, poverty alleviation isn't just about direct payments for carbon. Prof. Lovett continues "Forests, particularly the dry forests which cover so much of Africa, are essential for people's livelihoods, producing medicines, honey, food, forage, rope, just about anything you can imagine.

Community based forest management supported by Kyoto payments would be central to poverty reduction." A simple change in policy thus has the potential to have a triple solution: carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. This looks a lot like being able to have our cake and eating it too, providing that the meeting at Bali can move towards reaching an agreement.

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40. New study finds biodiversity conservation secures ecosystem services for people

Source: ENN News, 5 December 2007

Arlington, Virginia – Healthy ecosystems that provide people with essential natural goods and services often overlap with regions rich in biological diversity, underscoring that conserving one also protects the other, according to a new study.

Titled Global Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the report confirms the value of making biological diversity a priority for conservation efforts. It shows that more than 70 percent of the world’s highest priority areas for biodiversity conservation also contain significant value in ecosystem services such as fresh water, food, carbon storage, storm buffers and other natural resources that sustain human life and support social and economic development.

Scientists from Conservation International (CI), the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, and the Global Environment Facility found that the value of ecosystem services in the 7 percent of the planet of greatest biodiversity conservation priority was more than double the global average. Overall, the annual value of the world’s ecosystem services is estimated at $33 trillion, or greater than the gross national product of all nations combined.

“This paper clearly shows that in many places in the world, strategies targeted at conserving threatened biodiversity also help protect ecosystems, thereby improving human well-being and alleviating poverty,” said Thomas M. Brooks, CI senior director for conservation synthesis and one of the paper’s authors.

The report, published in the November 2007 issue of BioScience magazine, proposes conservation strategies that protect both biological diversity and ecosystem services to increase the efficiency of dollars and efforts spent. It identifies tropical forests as places of particularly high overlap of priorities because of their biological diversity and ecosystem services essential to the welfare of many of the world’s 1 billion people living in extreme poverty.

Significantly, there are many opportunities for conserving both species and ecosystem services together, especially in the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, Madagascar, Borneo and New Guinea. Protecting these intact forests is critical to reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries while also supporting the livelihoods of traditional and indigenous peoples.

With climate change recognized as the greatest environmental threat facing the planet, the study provides a timely reminder that investments to maintain healthy ecosystems and their restorative powers is cost effective for biodiversity, the livelihoods of local people and economic development, and as a way to protect the CO2 stored in these areas from release.

“Protecting intact tropical forests is critical for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries,” said Will R. Turner, a CI ecologist who also was an author of the paper. “We need to conserve these forests for the benefit of local populations and the world as a whole.”

Restoring destroyed forests also is necessary to help damaged habitat recover, ensure the persistence of species, and restore critical ecosystem services, particularly in regions with large human populations such as Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and much of Southeast Asia.

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41. Researchers build new model of bio-exploration

Source:, VA, USA, 11 December 2007

Two land-grant universities have developed a new approach to global bio-exploration, one that returns most of the fruits of discovery to the countries that provide the raw materials on which the research depends.

The Global Institute for Bio-Exploration, a joint initiative of the University of Illinois and Rutgers University, has become a model of sustainable, non-exploitive research in the developing world.

The program began in 2003 when research teams from the two universities joined forces to work in several former Soviet Union republics under an International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups program funded with $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Based on lessons learned in Central Asia, the researchers built on this model to create the institute, which is now expanding into Africa and South America.

The institute builds relationships with and trains those in developing countries to prospect for plants that have interesting biological properties, said U. of I. natural resources and environmental sciences professor Mary Ann Lila, a co-founder of the institute.

“Rather than the typical bio-prospecting approach, where people take plants back to their labs in Western Europe or the U.S., we teach locals to conduct simple assays in the field,” Lila said. When field results identify plants with potentially useful properties, the researchers do follow-up studies in the laboratory.

“But when a discovery is made in the field with a local, the intellectual property rights stay there,” Lila said. The country is required to use any money it receives from licensing fees or royalties to develop its own research infrastructure and protect wild lands.

Pharmaceutical companies already have shown interest.

So far, the institute – also known by the acronym GIBEX – has generated 17 licensing agreements, a dozen of them from Central Asian leads, with companies hoping to make use of plants that have medical or cosmetic potential.

The program began in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Horticulturalists are drawn to the “Stans,” Lila said, because the region has a rich heritage as a center of fruit and nut production, and because many of the plants that survive there have desirable characteristics.

“The Stans are among the most inland countries in the world,” she said. “They have the coldest winters, the hottest summers. They have mountain ranges. They have plants that are incredibly stressed because of the short growing season and the altitudes. These plants may not grow well, they may not look pretty, but they’re intense with bioactive compounds.”

Kazakhstan is where the apple began. Uzbekistan is the home of Ajuga turkestanica, a plant that produces a steroid-like compound with metabolic-stimulating properties. (The Uzbekistan studies were suspended in 2006 because of political instability there.) Two species of Rhodiola, a plant with potential as an antidepressant, are found in this region, along with Artemisia leucodes, an aromatic plant related to tarragon that may be useful in treating inflammation.

The program also is developing techniques for analyzing the soup of chemical compounds in wild plants. By screening plants in the field, the researchers are able to identify biological traits that might not be detectable after harvesting the plants and bringing them into a lab. This “screens to nature” technique is a departure from the laboratory based, one-enzyme-at-a-time analysis typical of pharmaceutical research, which often fails to detect the therapeutic potential of plants traditionally used by indigenous peoples.

“Twenty-five percent of human drugs are based on a template from a plant,” Lila said. “The pharmaceutical industry is now turning back to researchers in plants to try and have new discoveries,” she said. “They’re also looking more and more outside of our borders to see what works in other countries.”

The GIBEX model supports the country of exploration in several ways, Lila said. It mines and preserves local knowledge of the medicinal properties of native plants. It trains people to appreciate and study their own natural resources. It builds science infrastructure and it reduces “brain drain,” giving educated scientists a reason to stay home and explore their own back yards, she said.

These benefits have produced widespread interest in the developing world, and the program is expanding to Africa and South America. Two major conferences on the screens-to-nature model will be held in Tanzania and South Africa in 2008. And in January a delegation from Illinois and Rutgers will train people at the Maquipucuna Reserve, near Quito, Ecuador, to apply the field techniques. (Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, is a U. of I. alumnus, as is the vice president of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.)

“We are having real partnerships with scientists in these countries,” Lila said. “This way we bring it into the country. We train the country. They stay and they develop their infrastructure there.”

The new approach also is being tried in North America, Lila said. An Illinois graduate student, Josh Kellogg, will bring the screens-to-nature techniques to Native American populations in Alaska and North Dakota. This research, the subject of Kellogg’s master’s thesis, will focus on the anti-diabetic properties of edible plants long used by indigenous people in both states.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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42. Traditional knowledge: Village reps to discuss preserving traditional knowledge

Source: Malaysia Star, Malaysia, 10 December 2007

Kuching: Representatives from 15 villages throughout Sarawak in the island of Borneo will participate in a two-day seminar starting Tuesday to discuss the documentation of their traditional knowledge on using natural resources for medicinal and other purposes.

Organised by the Sarawak Biodiversity Council (SBC), the seminar aims to help local indigenous communities preserve their traditional knowledge through proper recording and documentation techniques.

Sarawak has over 30 indigenous groups that have inherited traditional knowledge from their ancestors, much of which has not been documented.

"While many of the older generation in these communities still retain traditional knowledge, there is a concern about the loss of knowledge due to changing lifestyles and the diminishing dependence of indigenous communities on natural resources.”This has made it increasingly important that traditional knowledge be documented by the respective communities so that it will not be lost," SBC said in a statement.

It added that the documentation of traditional knowledge would in the long run contribute to the economic development of a community, such as through cultivating gardens of useful plants that could become tourist attractions in their villages.

During the seminar, participants will share their experiences in documenting traditional knowledge.

Speakers from local and international institutions will also share their expertise with the participants on various topics including the uses of medicinal plants, plant propagation and maintaining a community garden.

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Forest insects as food: humans bite back. A workshop focused on Asia-Pacific resources and their potential for development

19-21 February 2008

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Humans have consumed insects for thousands of years – in some cases as emergency food, in other cases as a staple, and in still other cases as delicacies. In modern times, consumption of insects has declined in many societies, and has often been shunned as old-fashioned, dirty, or unhealthy. Yet, among various cultures scattered throughout the world, insects remain a vital and preferred food and an essential source of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. For some members of the rapidly growing upper and middle classes of urban society, insects are “nostalgia food,” reminding them of earlier, simpler days in the rural countryside.

Worldwide, over 1,400 insect species are reportedly eaten as human food. Most are harvested from natural forests. But, while insects account for the greatest amount of biodiversity in forests, they are the least studied of all fauna. Surprisingly little is known, for example, about the life cycles, population dynamics, and management potential of many edible forest insects. Similarly, little is known of the impacts that over-harvesting of forest insects might have on forest vegetation, other forest fauna and the ecosystems themselves.

Among forest managers, there is little knowledge or appreciation of the potential for managing and harvesting insects sustainably. There is almost no knowledge or experience in manipulating forest vegetation or harvest practices to increase, maximize, or sustain insect populations. Indeed, as many insects cause massive damage and mortality to valuable commercial trees, virtually all insects are considered undesirable pests by many forest managers. What knowledge does exist in these respects is often held by traditional forest dwellers and forest-dependent people.

The capturing, processing, transporting, and marketing of edible forest insects provide interesting income and livelihood opportunities for an undetermined number of people around the world. Traditionally, these activities were all locally based and largely under-recognized. Recently, however, more sophisticated and wide-reaching marketing and commercialization of edible forest insects have been advanced, including attractive packaging and advertising. Some advocates believe that creating a wider market for food insects could provide an economic incentive for conserving insect habitat.

To further promote forest insects as human food, six major areas need to be addressed:

§ geographic information gaps;

§ improved insect identification;

§ better understanding of the ecological roles of edible forest insects;

§ assessment of the potential for rearing insects for food and other purposes;

§ post-harvest handling of insects and improved processing and storage; and

§ economic and marketing data and information.

The Chiang Mai workshop will attempt to address these issues and discuss strategies to promote edible forest insects for enhancing human nutrition and forest management. The workshop will focus on all aspects of edible forest insects, including management, collection, harvest, processing, marketing, and consumption. Social, environmental, and economic aspects will be explored, including opportunities and issues related to income and livelihoods. The focus of the workshop will be on knowledge and experiences from Asia and the Pacific, but the workshop will also draw on examples and resource persons from other regions of the world as well. Consideration will be given to insects and their edible relatives, such as spiders and scorpions.

Workshop themes and subjects:

Edible forest insects as a natural resource. Overview of current status of forest insect exploitation for food in Asia and the Pacific. Insect conservation issues. Thematic presentations by participants, with particular attention to the identified geographic gaps (i.e., Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Peninsular Malaysia, and the Pacific Islands).

Models of insect management for food and other products. Examples from beekeeping, silk worm farming and palm grub harvesting. Complementary and competing economic non-food insect products and uses (i.e., medicine, livestock feed, ritual, ornamental, IPM). The relationship of insect exploitation to the extraction of common non-wood forest products (NWFPs) and linkages to forest management.

Development potential for edible forest insects. The role of edible forest insects in food security. Insect protein as a contribution to better nutrition. Economics of collecting edible forest insects. Harvesting, processing and marketing of edible forest insects. Promoting insect eating: snacks, dishes, condiments, recipes, etc.

The workshop is co-organized by FAO and Chiang Mai University. Local support is provided by the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU), Chiang Mai University.

For more information, contact:

Patrick B. Durst

Senior Forestry Officer

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

39 Phra Atit Road

Bangkok, Thailand 10200

Telephone: (66-2) 697-4139

Fax: (66-2) 697-4445;




44. Other publications of interest

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

de Oliveira, R.L.C., Lins Neto, E.M.F., Araújo, E.L., and Albuquerque, U.P. 2007. Conservation priorities and population structure of woody medicinal plants in an area of Caatinga vegetation (Pernambuco state, NE Brazil). Environ. Monit. Assess. 132(1-3):189-206

Dehnen-Schmutz, K., Touza, J., Perrings, C., and Williamson, M. 2007. A century of the ornamental plant trade and its impact on invasion success. Divers. Distrib. 13(5):527-534.

Gaoue, O.G., and Ticktin, T. 2007. Patterns of harvesting foliage and bark from the multipurpose tree Khaya senegalensis in Benin: variation across ecological regions and its impacts on population structure. Biol. Conserv. 137(3):424-436.

Koh, L.P. 2007. Impacts of land use change on South-east Asian forest butterflies: a review. J. Appl. Ecol. 44(4):703-713.

Semwal, D.P., Saradhi, P.P., Nautiyal, B.P., and Bhatt, A.B. 2007. Current status, distribution and conservation of rare and endangered medicinal plants of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Central Himalayas, India. Curr. Sci. 92(12):1733-1738.



45. Amazon being destroyed 'faster than predicted'

Source: ABC Online, Australia, 6 December 2007

The international conservation group WWF is warning that climate change and deforestation are combining to destroy the Amazon rainforest far more quickly than previously thought.

The WWF says almost 60 per cent of the rainforest could be lost or severely damaged by 2030.

The group says destruction of the Amazon would release billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, exacerbating temperature rises. If much of the Amazon was gone, the earth would also lack "one of the key stabilisers of the global climate system".

The report's author, scientist Dan Nepstad, says the Amazon forest is vitally important for the globe's climate. "It's not only essential for cooling the world's temperature but also such a large source of freshwater that it may be enough to influence some of the great ocean currents, and on top of that it's a massive store of carbon," he said in a media release on the WWF website.

WWF's managing director for the Amazon, Dr Meg Symington, says the Amazon must be conserved if the world is to combat climate change. "Up to 60 per cent of the Amazon could be either destroyed or severely degraded by the year 2030, given current trends with agricultural and livestock expansion, combined with the effects of forest fires and logging and drought," she said. "The implications of that for global climate, and for bio-diversity and for human livelihoods would be profound."

For full story, please see:


46. Good News for the forests: First bible printed on FSC-certified paper

Source: E-Wire (press release), TX, USA, 29 November 2007

New York. The Rainforest Alliance applauds the publication of the first Bible to be printed on paper from forestlands certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the global standard-setter for responsible forest management. This achievement resulted from collaboration between Canada-based paper giant Domtar, Bible publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. and environmental nonprofit Green Press Initiative.

The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Daily Bible is printed on paper that includes recycled content and comes from forestlands certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, the leading certifier of forestlands to FSC standards.

"Kudos to Thomas Nelson, Domtar and Green Press Initiative for working together to achieve this important first in the publishing industry," said Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance. "This is further evidence of the growing trend among publishers to improve their sourcing strategies and lessen their environmental impact by seeking out environmentally preferable papers."

The area of FSC-certified forestlands has nearly doubled in the past three years to a total of more than 224 million acres (more than 90 million hectares) and has opened up an increasing supply of certified wood products. Several hundred pulp providers, mills, merchants and printers have earned FSC Chain-of-Custody certification.

For more information on Green Press Initiative, visit

For full story, please see:


47. Indonesia: Forest loss 'yields meagre financial benefits'

Source: SciDev.Net, 28 November 2007

Converting Indonesian forests and peatlands for various agricultural land uses has released huge amounts of greenhouse gases with little economic benefit, according to a new report.

The report, by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Indonesian partners, was released last week (21 November).

Data on changes in land use — such as deforestation for oil palm, rubber, coffee and mixed agroforestry — and carbon emissions in the provinces of East Kalimantan, Jambi, and Lampung were collected between 1990 and 2005.

The provinces make up 16 per cent of Indonesia and account for 16 per cent of the country's emissions, so they are considered relatively representative.

Researchers found that less than two per cent of the 400 megatonnes that the provinces emit per year, largely through 'slash and burn' land clearing, yield a clear economic benefit of more than US$15 per tonne of carbon dioxide.

But sustainable economic benefits can be achieved with low carbon emissions, says Sonya Dewi, head of the Spatial Analysis Unit of ICRAF. She said in a press release that high prices for palm oil and rubber means these crops can be profitable and that using land with low original biomass makes their cultivation environmentally feasible.

Greenomics Indonesia executive director, Elfian Effendi, says the government of Indonesia should use the country's potential for reducing emissions to benefit economically.

Indonesia has 36.5 million hectares of prime rainforest and conservation areas, the economic value of which is estimated at US$105–113.7 billion in carbon trading schemes.

The country's 38.7 million hectares of productive timber forest could add another US$111.46–120.74 billion, bringing total economic benefits from Indonesia's function as a carbon sink to US$216.4–234.4 billion.

Effendi also suggests that Indonesia should be compensated for not releasing 7,000 megatonnes of carbon stored in its forest and peatlands.

Meine van Noordwijk, regional coordinator for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said that international mechanisms — to be discussed at the upcoming UN Climate Change meeting in Bali— must not only look at forests but all types of land for their potential to reduce emissions.

For full story, please see:



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last updated:  Monday, August 24, 2009