No. 08/07

Welcome to FAO’s NWFP-Digest-L, a free e-mail journal that covers all aspects of non-wood forest products. Back issues of the Digest may be found on FAO's NWFP home page:

Readers are invited to contribute to a brief evaluation of some of the on-line products of FAO and partners on Non-Wood Forest Products, Wood Energy, Forest Harvesting and Environmental Impact Assessments. Please would you take a few minutes to complete a short survey: Thank you!









1. Electronic Discussion on NWFPs

From: C. Chandrasekharan,

As part of the Asia Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study, APAFRI and FAO are jointly holding a series of internet-based discussions (e-discussions) on science and technology scenarios in the forest sector in 2020. The discussion has been launched on APAFRI’s website (, since Mid-June 2007.

The topic of non-wood forest products has now been posted for discussion for the period of 30 July to 16 August 2007. I have been asked to moderate the discussion and to summarize the responses. The outcome of the e-discussion will depend on the number and quality of inputs received.

The purpose of this note is to personally request you to kindly visit the website of APAFRI’s e-discussion and to provide your valuable response regarding the topic of non-wood forest products. I look forward to receiving your contribution.

For more information, please contact:

C. Chandrasekharan
(Formerly with FAO Forestry Department)
TC 15/174 Prathibha,
F-1 Althara Nagar
Trivandrum – 695010
Tel: ++91-471-2720053


2. Non-wood News

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

FAO's NWFP programme has just published the latest issue of Non-Wood News (no. 15), our biannual bulletin covering all aspects of NWFP. Special Features in this issue highlight the role of NWFP in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and NWFP use and markets in the Amazon sub-region.

This issue – together with all previous issues – is available from our NWFP home page at:

If you would like to receive a hard copy, please send an e-mail to:

We look forward to receiving your contributions for the next issue (January 2008).


3. Picking berries protects rain forests best, study shows

Source: Reuters in ENN Daily News, 18 July 2007

Small community projects for picking fruits and nuts are the best way to alleviate poverty and protect the Amazon and other tropical forests, but are largely ignored by governments, a study showed Monday.

Communities harvesting natural products generate more long-term income than many national parks or big timber companies, said a report by the International Tropical Timber Organization, or ITTO, released at a forestry conference in northeastern Brazil.

"Someone depending on a forest for income and habitat will look after it," said Andy White, one of the report's authors. "We need people in forests."

The 200-page report is based on 20 case studies on three continents, ranging from raising bees in Africa to making bamboo chopsticks in China.

The ITTO, an intergovernmental group promoting the conservation and trade of tropical timber, says communities living in the forest have a "longer time horizon for resource management" than big timber companies.

For example, in Nepal, the extraction of juice from the Bel tree by local communities is rejuvenating degraded forests and helping prevent unsustainable timber extraction, the report said.

Community forest management has increased in recent years with political decentralization and the recognition of historic land tenure rights in several countries. But such efforts must overcome red tape, competition from big business and government indifference, the study said.

In Brazil, local forest communities are often displaced by loggers, farmers and miners, and many lack the infrastructure to bring products to the market. Rural workers and tribal Indians delivered a letter Sunday to Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva, urging the government to come up with a policy and financial aid for community forest projects.

"If the government dedicated only a fraction of its farm aid to forestry management, you would see a conservation revolution in the Amazon," ITTO Executive Director Manoel Sobral Filho said.

Each year, country-sized chunks of the Amazon are burned or cut down by loggers, ranchers and speculators.

For full story, please see:


4. UNEP launches 2010 Biodiversity initiative

Source: Afrique en ligne, France, 18 July 2007

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has inaugurated a multi-million dollar effort to track the fate and fortune of the world's biological diversity, the UN agency said in a media communiqué issued here Wednesday.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), The 2010 Biodiversity Indicator Partnership aims to complete a set of indicators that will allow the international community to better assess whether conservation efforts are succeeding towards the target of “reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010”.

Under the new US$8.8 million partnership, which has secured over US$3.6 million from the GEF, a wider range of existing and new indicators will be brought together to gain greater and deeper insight into whether the 2010 Biodiversity Target is on course.

"This new partnership helps ensure that the bar is raised around the globe for accounting for biodiversity loss," GEF chief executive officer, Monique Barbut, said in the communiqué.

The official said the biodiversity challenge was "no less urgent a public issue than the climate change crisis", adding that the move would "help move biodiversity to the front burner and help ignite policy makers to take informed action."

"It is more important than ever for the biodiversity community to elevate its discourse and to reinforce the relevance of biodiversity conservation to sustainable economic development in the 21st Century," she added.

Several indicators already exist which are giving an insight into how well the world is addressing the biodiversity challenge.

According to the UNEP, The Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by IUCN- the World Conservation Union- estimates that nearly one in four mammals, one in three amphibians, and one in eight birds is threatened with extinction. The main driving force is human impact ranging from deforestation and pollution to over-exploitation for food and as part of the illegal wildlife trade.

Protected areas, considered an important strategy for conservation of plants and animals, also contribute to another of the biodiversity indicators while at the same time forming part of assessment of the success of the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

The Goals, due to be met by 2015, cover poverty eradication up to the provision of safe and sufficient drinking water.

The indicator of Protected Areas shows that around 12 percent of the Earth's land surface is currently covered by more than 105,000 protected areas. However, the area of sea and ocean under protection is relatively tiny: just 0.6 percent of the ocean's surface area and 1.4 percent of coastal shelf areas are protected.

Other existing indicators include forest cover and the generation of nitrogen from sources such as fossil fuel burning, industry and fertilizer, which can impact on biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

Some of the new indicators, emerging from a list chosen by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), include threats to biodiversity; the degree to which forests, farmlands and fisheries are managed in a way that protects biodiversity; the extent to which people are affected by changes in biodiversity and the contribution of traditional knowledge to the biodiversity target.

There will also be a focus on the components of biodiversity including genes, species and ecosystems. Several of the new indicators will require a comprehensive gathering of data exercise including trends in the spread of invasive alien species and trends in the health and well being of communities dependent on the goods and services provided by local ecosystems.

For full story, please see:



5. Bamboo: Panda poop to be recycled into souvenirs

Source: The Associated Press, 30 July 2007 (in Washington Post, USA)

The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base has come up with a dung-for-profit scheme that turns droppings from the endangered species into odour-free souvenirs ranging from bookmarks to Olympic-themed statues of the animals, state media and base officials said Monday.

The facility in the southwestern province of Sichuan houses about 40 bamboo-fed pandas who produce less than a ton of excrement a day.

"We used to spend at least 6,000 yuan ($770) a month to get rid of the droppings but now they can be lucrative," Jing Shimin, assistant to the base director, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The products will be made at a local handicraft company mostly from undigested bamboo culled from the panda waste through a special process, Xinhua said.

An official who answered the phone at the Chengdu facility said the dung is "carefully selected, smashed, dried and sterilized at 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit)." He refused to give his name but said the products will be of all colours because they will be dyed.

"They don't smell too bad because 70 percent of the dung is just remains of the bamboo that the pandas are unable to digest," Jing said.

While no price has been set, he said the most expensive souvenirs will contain a panda hair - collected from the wild - in each package.

In March, base officials said they were looking into making high-quality paper from the fiber-rich panda excrement, inspired by a trip to Thailand, where they found paper made from elephant dung. The Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand already sells multicoloured paper made from waste produced by its two resident pandas. Making paper there involves a daylong process of cleaning the faeces, boiling it in a soda solution, bleaching it with chlorine and drying it under the sun.

The panda is one of the world's rarest and most beloved animals, with about 1,590 living in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and the western province of Shaanxi. Another 180 have been bred in captivity.

For full story, please see:


6. Butterflies: East Africa feels the butterfly effect

Source: Mail and Guardian Online, Kenya, 29 July 2007

Beating the air with her homemade net, Aicha Ali chases a swirling black and turquoise butterfly. Far from indulging in a frivolous pastime, this Kenyan mother is earning crucial family income. "I like capturing butterflies; it's fun because I make some money," she says, puffing after a frantic chase in the forest's sandy trails.

Arabuko Sokoke on the Kenyan coast is known for its rare species of butterflies, which a development project called Kipepeo ("butterfly" in Swahili) is helping export to exhibits and museums in Europe and North America.

Forest dwellers in neighbouring Tanzania have also benefited from such butterfly-farming initiatives, which not only increase the local community's economic wealth but also help protect the environment.

"I need the forest to feed the butterflies," Aicha explains.

Only a few years ago, she and most of the 100 000 villagers living around Arabuko Sokoke "had a negative perception of the forest", says Kenyan scientist Maria Fungomeli.

They saw the forest as little more than a refuge for the monkeys and elephants attacking their farms and a hostile growth that should be cut down to harvest timber, says Fungomeli, assistant director at Kipepeo project.

Deforestation is threatening what is the largest block of coastal forest remaining in East Africa as well as the rare animal species it shelters, such as the golden-rumped elephant shrew.

But what conservationists call "the butterfly effect" has started to pay off, both for Arabuko Sokoke and its inhabitants. About 800 families now live thanks to the sale of butterflies. Flying handkerchiefs, emperor swallowtails and African blue tigers are some of the rare species collected at Kipepeo, fetching between $1 and $3 a piece for visiting tourists.

"I would be foolish to cut trees," says Suleiman Kachuma (42), a villager who earns between $15 and $23 a month from his work with Kipepeo, double what he used to make selling timber.

Pelisitna Isaac is equally adamant about the changes butterfly farming have brought to her lifestyle. "We did go hungry now and then, but now we can meet the needs of the children: medical care, school fees uniforms," she says, sorting pupae at the project's collection centre.

Kipepeo, launched in 1993 with funds from the United Nations Development Programme, buys only pupae. The villagers therefore have to breed the butterflies after capturing them.

George Jefwa closed his shop down a few years ago to build his butterfly "farm": a large, netted wooden cage teeming with multicoloured butterflies. He has learnt to identify dozens of different types of butterflies and moths, and regularly collects their eggs from the cage.

Jefwa then places them in a plastic box for five days and drops the newly morphed caterpillars on plants, where they feed before the penultimate stage of their transformation into pupae ready for export.

In Tanzania's Usumbura mountains, butterflies are also revolutionising local traditions. Farmers who had been earning a meagre living producing cash crops such as coffee and bananas are now reaping the rewards of butterfly farming, says the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.

The community will earn $50 000 in 2007 from the project, the group said in a recent statement. "The forests are better protected now. The community knows that the base populations of butterflies and host plants must be conserved if the enterprise is to continue," the statement said. "A recent survey found much higher conservation awareness among butterfly farmers compared to those not involved in the venture."

Kenya's Kipepeo project has been so successful with the local population that it is struggling to find buyers for the thousands of pupae collected in Arabuko Sokoke.

"We get 200 000 pupae a year. But we market only 25% of them," says Fungomeli.

She explains that gaining new markets is crucial to keep the project alive and bring on board those villagers who are still chopping down the forest's endangered tropical trees. -- AFP


7. Butterflies: Kenyans sell butterflies to save rainforest

Source: Reuters in, 3 August 2007

KAKAMEGA FOREST (Reuters Life!) - If you decorated the hall of your wedding party with hundreds of exotic butterflies shipped in from an African rainforest, your friends might think you stylish, extravagant, even decadent. But according to some Kenyan entrepreneurs, you could be helping save one of east Africa's last remaining patches of natural forest, home to thousands of rare species.

Countries that are poor but rich in flora and fauna are increasingly seeking new ways to save wildlife from poverty and population pressure. Most rely on visits from dollar-bearing eco-tourists.

For the people of western Kenya's Kakamega forest, though, there is more than one way to make money from your wilderness. Besides tourist lodges and tree nurseries growing valuable species of timber and herbal medicines, they set up a farm which cultivates butterflies for export in 2001.

Buyers range from European scientists studying the behaviour of forest-dwelling creepy crawlies to fashion designers and New York socialites wanting to spruce up their parties. Shikami says scientists in Europe request species to study their diets, anatomy or mating habits. A fashion designer ordered some to match her dress at a function.

Successful butterfly farming is tough. First, you have to catch at least two members' of the species you want -- different sexes. Then you have to persuade them to mate. When the eggs hatch, you feed the caterpillars on their favourite forest leaves until they wrap themselves in a cocoon. The insects have to be exported in pupa form or they will not last the journey. "Some of them hatch in just a few days, so you need to ship them out quick," said butterfly farmer Benjamin Okalo.

Besides butterflies, Kakamega's forest dwellers are planting and harvesting trees for commercial wood and medicines, including the red stinkwood, hailed as a cure for prostate cancer. Other plants cure malaria and stomach ailments, locals say.

"We estimate 70 percent of these plants have medicinal properties, but only a fraction have been discovered," John Atsango, who guides tourists for the Kenya Forest Department, told Reuters. Atsango said a local pharmacy had started manufacturing herbal medicines using the plants for export markets. "We are worried big drug companies will steal the secrets and patent them -- I'm not allowed to tell you what half of these plants do," he said.

Conservationists say the undiscovered medicinal properties of many plant species is one of the strongest arguments for saving biodiversity.

Limited markets

Kakamega is the eastern most patch of what was once a vast rainforest stretching from the jungles of west Africa across the Congo into modern day Kenya, before much was chopped down. Kenyan authorities are keen to halt the retreat of forests in a country mostly characterized by dry savanna and semi-desert. Only 36 of Kakamega's 238 sq km (92 sq mile) is protected.

But some conservation groups are sceptical about whether schemes harvesting forest products besides timber can make a big difference.

"The problem is there just aren't enough markets for butterfly pupae," says Andrew Plumptre of the Ugandan branch of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "It's good for relations with the community, but I don't think it raises a lot of money for conservation."

Shikami admits the sums of money involved are small -- pupae go for as little as $1 each -- but she puts that down to unscrupulous middlemen. "We need our own direct market," she says. "We could make a lot more money."

For full story, please see:


8. Cinnamon helps fight against bird flu

Source: World Poultry Net, 8 August 2007

Technology has been created whereby cinnamon extract is used as an air disinfectant against bird flu in airports, or as a daily supplement that protects people against the common flu.

Tel Aviv University technology transfer company Ramot has signed an agreement with Frutarom, a multinational neutraceutical company based in Israel, for applying a technology of using a cinnamon extract in a whole host of applications from disinfecting the air as a spray against avian flu in airports, to a daily supplement that protects people against the common flu. The discovery was made by Professor Michael Ovadia, of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology.

Ovadia's initial experiments proved to be true - his savoury cinnamon extract was able to quickly and efficiently immunise chicken embryos from the Newcastle disease virus, one which costs the poultry industry in the US alone millions of dollars a year.

Apparently further studies on avian influenza H9, Sendal virus, and Herpes Simplex 1 also achieved positive results. "Not only was the extract able to neutralise the viruses, it also showed for selected viruses that it has the potential to immunise against them as well."

Besides human applications, Prof Ovadia sees that cinnamon fills an important niche in the agricultural industry where chicks need to be immunised by hand against the deadly Newcastle disease virus. Applying his research to the global scale could only be done with the help of a large company, which is where Frutarom comes in. The Israeli-based flavour and food additive company has grown in the last 10-15 years from US$10 million a year to a projected US$350 million by the end of 2007.

The review says that the University is going to take this know-how from a food supplement to protect people from illness to neutraceuticals in drugs, also realising that it can be used in agriculture against bird flu.

For full story, please see:


9. Cinnamon: Lower blood sugar levels by eating cinnamon

Source:, FL, 26 July 2007

According to the July issue of Consumer Reports on Health, if you consume at least three quarters of a teaspoonful of cinnamon each day, it could reduce your blood sugar levels by 7 percent.

You could get the same effects with an even smaller amount of the brown spice, based on a Dec. 2003 study in the Journal Diabetes Care. The study reported that if you ate as little as one-quarter of a teaspoonful of cinnamon daily for 40 days, you could also decrease your sugar levels by 18 percent.

For full story, please see:


10. Cork: Plastic, not axes, threatens cork forests

Source: Reuters in ENN Daily News, 6 August 2007

TEMPIO PAUSANIA, Sardinia -- If you buy a bottle of wine with a metal screw-top or a plastic cork, you won't just be thumbing your nose at tradition. You may also be dooming the world's cork forests.

That is the view of environmentalists and cork producers who have joined forces to protect cork oaks -- and the unique habitat they provide -- from competition in the wine trade.

Alternative 'corks' are ever more common, as synthetic and aluminium wine closures have grabbed a 20 percent share of the market, up from just 2 percent in 2000, according to wine industry consultant Stephane Rein of Rein Consulting. She says that could increase to 35 percent by the end of the decade.

"Silicone corks are not a problem for quality wines, they'll always use cork," said Battista Giannottu, an agronomist who works with a consortium representing Sardinia's cork producers. "But the mass market, which is 80 percent of the total, might (use synthetic corks). That's not just an economic problem but an environmental one."

The Quercus suber, or cork oak, which grows on both the European and African sides of the Mediterranean, provides the raw material for practically all the 20 billion wine corks used every year. The way cork is harvested -- shaved off the sides of trees like the way a sheep is shorn -- means forests continue to thrive as they give up their valuable bark.

In Sardinia, the only region in Italy that produces cork, the forests are a haven for wild boar, a species of hawk native to the island and Sardinian deer.

The highly endangered Iberian lynx roams the cork forests of Spain and Portugal, the global leader in cork production; in North Africa the forests provide a habitat for Barbary deer.

A cork oak must be at least 30 years old before the first harvest and, even then, the gnarled, porous 'virgin cork' is not good enough to make wine closures. It will take another 10 years for the bark to grow back and be good enough to make corks. That means a poor rate of return compared with other trees which might be planted in such areas, such as the fast-growing eucalyptus which competes with cork oaks for land.

"It isn't a tree which gives a lot of one thing -- it gives a little of a lot of things," said Nora Berrahmouni of WWF, an environmental group working to protect cork forest habitats.

The undergrowth is a patchwork of fragrant shrubs, including ones that produce the myrtle, a berry gathered to make Sardinia's liqueur Mirto -- an extra source of forest income.

More than 80 percent of the world's cork production is used for bottle closures. The rest is used for building materials and in items like fishing tackle and badminton shuttlecocks.

The best quality cork -- which is the least porous and has no cracks or flaws -- makes the best grade of stopper sold at a premium for wines made to be matured in the bottle.

Lower grades are used for cheaper wines: cork granules are agglomerated with a type of glue to make the dense champagne corks that must withstand the pressure of sparkling wine. Offcuts are glued to plastic discs to make the type of stoppers found in some sherry bottles.

As well as being cheaper alternatives, plastic and metal do not pose the same risk of "corking" the wine -- when a chemical called TCA is present in the stopper and gives the wine a "mouldy" odour.

But cork producers and environmentalists are fighting back. Aiming to cash in on the demand for 'green' products, they have started to produce corks certified 'environmentally friendly' under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme, an 'eco-label' system already widespread for timber products.

Backers of the FSC scheme hope 'green' wine buyers will prefer a bottle with the FSC label. Cork makers hope it can guarantee their future by differentiating their traditional product from the upstarts.

"This could be a niche," said agronomist Giannottu. "Plastic and aluminium closures cannot compete against it."

For full story, please see:


11. Cork is still king, but wine lovers still swayed by taste

Source: Salem-News.Com, USA, 27 July 2007

Despite the increasing use of metal screwcaps to seal bottles of fine wine and protect their contents from the mouldy cardboard flavour brought on by fungal contamination – also know as “cork taint” – the public hasn’t yet bought in, according to new studies.

Screwcap closures for wine remain largely unpopular with consumers, but new research from Oregon State University suggests that all is not lost.

Winemakers who provide more wine tastings and increase consumers’ exposure to alternative closures are helping them understand that a fine pinot noir or Chardonnay sealed with a screwcap can be equal in quality and worth the same price as wine closed with traditional natural cork.

“We have found that an individual’s liking for the way a wine tastes can override bias associated with a the type of closure used on the bottle, when deciding whether to buy a wine,” said Anna Marin, an associate professor in Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Increased exposure to the screwcaps through winery-organized tastings and events that give consumers a chance to try the wine may assist in bettering the image of screwcaps.”

In the United States, wine drinkers remain predisposed to natural cork despite research results indicating an inability to detect a difference in the taste, smell, appearance or “mouth feel” among bottles of Chardonnay and merlot closed with synthetic cork, natural cork or metal screwcaps, said Marin.

To determine the level at which knowledge of the closure type affected perceptions of quality and cost, OSU researchers enlisted a panel of tasters to rate two wines twice; first without knowing how the bottles were sealed, then with the closure information in front of them.

During the first tasting of a Chardonnay and a merlot, the subjects were given no information that could affect judgment of quality, such as type of wine or variety, label information including brand, price and closure type, said Marin, who conducts research at OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland. “In the second tasting, the only additional information given to the tasters was about the type of closure on the bottle,” she said. “This information alone affected the testers' perception of the wine quality.”

The researchers also found that consumers expected to pay less for a bottle of wine with a screwcap because they believed the wine to be of lower quality.

However, the greatest impact on whether or not a consumer would purchase a wine was the degree to which they liked the taste.

The research appeared in the summer issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

For full story, please see:


12. Honey: Comvita manuka honey makes US breakthrough

Source: New Zealand Herald, 24 July

New Zealand’s Comvita Ltd says its patented "advanced wound care dressing" has become the first using manuka honey for wounds and burns to receive marketing clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA approval heralded an important milestone for Comvita's wound care business, said the company's chief executive Brett Hewlett.

The global advanced wound care market is worth more than US$4 billion ($5.07 billion), of which the US makes up US$2.3 billion. "An ageing population and increase in diabetes will continue to be strong drivers for this fast growing category," he said.

Some biologically active honey gathered from manuka contains the compound methylglyoxal, which helps it to battle bacteria causing stomach ulcers, and to promote wound healing.

Wound-care products using the honey have become increasingly valuable as they have also proven effective against some antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

About 50 per cent of all non-traumatic leg amputations in the United States are due to infected diabetic ulcers, with a five-year mortality rate ranging from 39 per cent to 68 per cent. Other wounds and burns raise concern over antibiotic resistant super-bugs such as MRSA, in which a significant percentage of the infections kill patients.

Comvita -- which controls about 70 per cent of the biologically-active manuka honey harvest in New Zealand -- said today it had also completed its A$6 million ($6.68 million) takeover of Australian wound care specialist Medihoney.

For full story, please see:


13. Karite: Breakthrough botanical for joint pain

Source:, USA, 26 July 2007

The shea nut is making inroads as a proven way to combat inflammation and joint pain, naturally. The inflammation reducing properties of shea nut compounds called triterpenes make it the most powerful inflammation fighter of any known botanical.

If you are dealing with joint pain and want to begin or continue an exercise program, shea could be an important part of your plan to stay active and keep joint pain at bay, according to Len Smith, President & CEO of BSP Pharma which makes FlexNow (TM) Joint Formula, a dietary supplement with only one active ingredient shea nut triterpenes. "It's a vicious cycle," said Smith. "If your joints ache, you are less likely to exercise. And if you don't exercise, your joint problems are likely to get worse," he says. The power lies in the unique complex of shea nut triterpenes that occur naturally in the shea nut -- the pit of the fruit of the karite tree, gathered in the wild in Africa.

Shea has been known for centuries for its health benefits as a food and topical preparation. It's the same source of shea butter, long a component of quality cosmetics and even gourmet chocolate. The inflammation reducing qualities of shea have only recently been discovered.

Pharmacological and clinical research has confirmed inflammation reducing properties of the shea nut triterpenes. Unlike glucosamine and MSM, shea nut triterpenes work to reduce inflammation directly, stimulating joint health. And some of the best and brightest minds in joint inflammation and arthritis research are taking a fresh look at shea nut triterpenes. Clinical studies can be found by visiting

For full story, please see:,146730.shtml


14. Medicinal plants: Fighting poverty with herbs and medicinal plants

Source: Yemen Observer, Sana'a, Yemen, 17 July 2007

Scientists from all over the world have recently begun deliberations on the role of herbal, medicinal and aromatic plants in improving the livelihoods of the rural poor.  Addressing researchers attending the regional expert workshop held at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas Aleppo, Syria, Dr. Mona Bishay, director of the Near East and North Africa division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development said that several obstacles hinder the full exploitation of the potential of herbal, medicinal and aromatic plants in reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of rural people in the region. 

“Poor local technology, inadequate business and entrepreneurial skills and awareness on quality requirements, limited knowledge on properties of HMAPs beyond traditional knowledge, and limited access to intellectual property rights restrict production and the use and marketability of the HMAPs,’’ said Bishay.  Underscoring the need to analyze and find means to address the obstacles, Bishay said the most important handicap was the inability of the collectors and growers of such plants to take advantage of potential markets, due to lack of access to resources, inadequate extension and training services, lack of improved technology and business skills, insufficient marketing information and local organizational skills that could enable them to take advantage of emerging market opportunities.

Dr. Mahmoud Solh, director general of ICARDA, said it was regrettable that indigenous knowledge on HMAPs was not backed up with adequate use of modern technology, despite the fact that folk medicine still serves 80 percent of the rural population in the world.  “HMAP sector faces various challenges and constraints, such as over-exploitation of naturally occurring species, fragmented approaches and projects that address only limited aspects of selected HMAP value chains, lack of quality control standards of locally produced HMAPs and products, and poor distribution of benefits in value chains,” said Solh. 

“Our partners in National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems possess rich knowledge on HMAPs and this gives us a great opportunity to add valuable new crops to our joint knowledge of eco-geography and farming systems in the NENA region,” said Solh, elaborating ICARDA’s role in research on HMAPs. “Tremendous room for growth and export opportunities are available if quality products are available that can compete with other suppliers. New science and technology can be deployed to understand potential new uses for processing, transforming, and adding value to natural products – with the purpose of generating income for poor farmers.” 

Dr. Remi Kahane, executive secretary of the Global Horticulture Initiative, emphasized the need to promote HMAPs through effective marketing and product development to support small farmers.

The three-day workshop focused on evolving strategic directions in finding solutions to the challenges, constraints and prospects of using herbal, medicinal and aromatic plants in improving the livelihoods of the rural poor.
For full story, please see:


15. Medicinal plants: India sows the seeds while China reaps the harvest

Source: Hindustan Times, India, 18 July 2007

China's medicinal plants exports are 10 times India’s and here’s why: most of India’s medicinal herbs and plants are exported to China in the raw form, where they are processed and re-exported as expensive supplements to the $60 billion global market. But India is waking up to the opportunities.

“A lot of Indian exports go to China in the raw form, where they process, value-add and export it to the global market. To counter this, India is setting up export and processing zones in three states for the cultivation and processing of medicinal plants to capture the growing demand for alternative therapies abroad,” Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh told the Hindustan Times.

In 2006, medicinal plant exports from India were worth $200 million (Rs 800 crore) as compared to China’s $5 billion. The global market for medicinal plants is expected to cross $5 trillion by 2050.

The export zones — to come up in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir — will help cultivators move away from collecting from forest areas to farming herbs and plants. “As much as 60 per cent of India’s exports are in the crude form, 30 per cent are finished and 10 per cent are partially prepared. Despite the country’s traditional knowledge of herbal medicines, our biggest export is isabgol (psyllium husk),” says Ramesh.

Manufacturers of alternative medicines such as the Himalaya Drug Company and the Bangalore-based Sami Labs have shown interest in being anchor investors and are guaranteeing purchase of the yield.

“It will be a public-private partnership where the state government will identify the land, the central government will provide the infrastructure, farmers will be mobilised through cooperatives and the private sector will buy the plants, process and sell them as finished products,” says the minister.

The bulk of the investment will be from the private sector. “The initial investment is expected to be not more than Rs 20 crore ($30 million), including the setting up of processing, testing and quality control labs,” says Ramesh.

Currently, medicinal plant cultivation is very small in India. The heath ministry says forests contribute to more than 90 per cent of the medicinal plants used for manufacturing medicines, and it fears that the growing demand for herbal products is putting an unsustainable demand on forests and threatening several species with extinction.

For full story, please see:


16. Moss plays important role in flood prevention

Source: Malaysia Star, Malaysia, 23 July 2007

PETALING JAYA: You may not pay much attention to it at all, but the diminutive moss plays an important role in retaining water in catchment areas. 

This comes as a significant discovery to researchers in the field of bryology (the study of bryophytes - commonly known as mosses) especially since it has always been assumed that trees were more important in slowing water from running off when it rains, which in turn helps to prevent floods. 

According to research carried out in Genting Highlands, just one square metre (2-3cm thick) of a particular moss found there can store one metric tonne of water for a week.  

Prof Mohamed Abdul Majid from the Universiti Malaya Biological Science Institute said the destruction of forests also meant that the moss growing on branches would be destroyed. 

Speaking to reporters after the launch of the five-day World Conference of Bryology here, Prof Mohamed said there were numerous other uses for mosses that were only now being explored.  "The ability to easily manipulate the genes of a moss to 'tell it what to do' has yielded many promising results," he said. 

He added that Mount Kinabalu, in Sabah, probably contained the most diverse number of mosses in the world with more than 1,000 species present. 

International Association of Bryologists president Prof Janice M. Glime said mosses have been found to contain anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties.  

Prof Mohamed added that one of the mosses which had anti-cancer properties was found in Cameron Highlands by world-renowned researcher Y. Asakawa from the Tokushima Bunri University in Japan.  "This is why it is important to research it. It is a largely untapped field and we still don't know enough about mosses and its potential in medicine," Prof Janice said. 

She added that some countries have used mosses for insulation, air-conditioning or purely aesthetic purposes. 

Prof Janice noted that in Australia and parts of America, the use of mosses in horticulture or to provide fuel has depleted the amount present in forests prompting the need for harvesting guidelines. 

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17. Myrica gale: Two pints of bog myrtle and a packet of crisps, please...

Source: Scotsman, United Kingdom, 22 July 2007

IT IS probably the best bog myrtle in the world... one of the world's leading brewers is to create a new beer using the obscure Scottish moorland plant that was once used to flavour medieval beverages.

Vikings and native Scots once drank a brew made from bog myrtle (Myrica gale), a shrub which grows on boggy ground in the north of western Europe, long before the Romans brought hops to Britain.

Now the Danish brewing giant Carlsberg is planning to use bog myrtle to flavour a new version of one its range of strong 'bock' lagers. The firm has signed a supply deal with Scottish company Highland Natural Products, which has already been instrumental in bringing several bog myrtle lines to the market.

Richard Constanduros, HNP's managing director, said it was a "landmark deal" between a small Highland company and a giant in the world of beverage production. "This clearly demonstrates that small companies can provide the innovation that big companies need to stay ahead of the market, and I foresee huge benefits for the Highland rural community in Scotland," he said.

He added that the contract could lead to repeat orders and possible interest by Carlsberg in some of the other flavours the company is producing.

Some micro-breweries in Scotland already use bog myrtle as a chief ingredient in specialist beers. But beer experts said the interest being shown by Carlsberg, which is Britain's fourth-largest brewer, would give it a major boost.

The use of bog myrtle as a major beer ingredient died out more than 500 years ago. Although used extensively as flavouring in Britain during the Middle Ages, it was gradually replaced by hops, which could be more easily grown on agricultural land closer to centres of population.

Bog myrtle is a distinctive shrubby plant which grows on wet, acidic heathland, bogs and moors.

Beer-making aside, it has had many uses in the past, including as a medicinal product for wounds, stress and coughs, as well as a midge repellent.

Earlier this year, high street chemist Boots launched a new Botanics Sensitive Skin product incorporating bog myrtle after five years of research and development. It has sourced its raw material from bog myrtle plantations in the Highlands.

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18. Truffles: Summer rain boosts UK truffle harvest

Source: Independent, UK, 6 August 2007

Farmers across the UK have been counting the cost of the summer's devastating floods - but one corner of the industry has received an unexpected boost from the heavy rainfall.

Hunters and farmers of truffles have reported a huge increase in the number and quality of the fungi growing on roots of trees and the trend will continue as the main harvest gets under way throughout August.

Nigel Haddon-Paton, the owner of Britain's first commercial truffle-growing company, recently returned from a secret plantation he farms with a friend and found the sought-after fungi growing in abundance. "We had a pretty good year last year but this time there's a huge amount in evidence," he said. "We're not going to pick them just yet but, like any crop, truffles need water and thanks to this year's heavy rain they can be found right on the surface."

Although France and Italy are generally regarded to be the world leaders in the truffle market, some species found in Britain can be eaten and can fetch a high price on the international market.

The heavy rainfall during June and July has particularly benefited the summer truffle, a caramel-coloured fungi which is the main British species that is farmed and eaten in restaurants.

One entrepreneur set to benefit is the biologist Dr Paul Thomas whose business, Plantation Systems, has pioneered a way of cultivating summer truffles in the UK. Dr Thomas used his expertise as a biologist to find a way of impregnating the roots of trees with truffle fungus in the laboratory and then transferring the saplings onto one of four plantations across the UK.

According to Dr Brian Spooner, head of mycology at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, thousands of species of fungi in Britain will have benefited from the increased rainfall. "Recently we've had a number of drought years and, on the whole, fungi won't do much in dry weather," he said. "This year has been quite different. We've had some quite nice collections brought into Kew already and some of the truffles seem to be coming up early, although they will grow throughout the year."

The expected bumper harvest will be particularly welcome to the UK's small number of truffle farmers who are hoping that chefs and the wider public will be interested in buying local truffles rather than more expensive foreign variants.

Dr Thomas believes truffles are undergoing something of a renaissance in Britain. "A few years ago the main problem in the UK was that most people simply hadn't heard of truffles or didn't know what to use them for," he said. "But truffles were once a very popular part of our culture."

(* Britain's summer truffle, the only variant grown in the UK that is eaten, is a caramel-coloured species with white veins that has a nutty and sometimes gritty consistency and can fetch up to £300/lb.)

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19. Vitex donian: Baboons use contraceptives

Source: Cosmos, Sydney, Australia, 26 July 2007

SYDNEY: Nigerian baboons appear to be self-medicating with a wild plum that has a contraceptive effect. This is the first known example of an animal deliberately ingesting a contraceptive plant.

Biologists have found that fruit and leaves of the Vitex donian plant, otherwise known as the African black plum, are affecting female baboon hormones and preventing pregnancy in a similar way to the human contraceptive pill.

"The hypothesis that [this fruit] can regulate sexual behaviour… is very exciting and, if supported, could have a major impact on the study of primate reproduction", commented primatologist Wendy Saltzman, at the University of California in Riverside, USA.

After detecting unusual progesterone levels in olive baboons (Papio anubis) in Nigeria's Gashaka-Gumti National Park, British researchers set out to probe the effect of the plum on the primate's reproductive biology. They tracked two troops of baboons and recorded their consumption of the plum as a proportion of their total diet.

"The plant directly affects sexual signalling," which is controlled by hormones, said James Higham, study biologist at Roehampton University in London, England and lead author of a study due to be published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

Sexual swelling in females – where the rump and genital area becomes red and swollen – is activated by hormone levels, and in turn causes males to be more attracted to females and encourages sexual advances. However, the researchers found that consuming the plums increased progesterone levels and decreased the length of the period of sexual swelling during the normally receptive part of the female cycle.

The experts observed the wild baboons and estimated their hormone levels from faeces for a five-year period from 2001. They learnt that the increase in progesterone levels correlated with an exclusive period when the baboons consumed the black plum during the annual rainy season.

Further analysis revealed that every year there was a six-week period where no births were recorded from either troop, which correlated with a hiatus of mating activity.

Higham's team don't believe that the contraceptive effect is intentional. The baboons may be self-medicating for another purposes and the contraceptive effect is likely a side effect, said Higham; "There is evidence of medicinal plant use in primates, but this tends to be associated with apes, especially chimpanzees."

Plants of the same genus as the black plum have been used in traditional African medicine and are renowned for their anti-microbial and insecticidal properties. Current medical trials are testing compounds in the plants for use in commercial drugs.

Higham argues that the baboons may be using the plant to self-medicate, as the medicinal properties would make the plant invaluable during the rainy season when female and infant mortality rates peak. Infection rates and discomfort also increase when female baboons experience sexual swelling, so there's a chance they could be medicating to avoid this too. However, further research is required to confirm these behaviours, he said.

It's hard to say if the baboons could be deliberately using a contraceptive, commented Lesley Rogers, professor of neuroscience and animal behaviour at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. "Actions that affect consequences not minutes or days but months later would be very hard, if not impossible to conclude… in terms of consciousness," she said. If that were the case – "that's a big deal."

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20. Brazil: Price of Brazil nuts plummets in Acre

Source: O Rio Branco, 2 August 2007

This year alone, the native Brazil nut groves in the regions of Alto Acre, Baixo Acre and Iaco/Purus, have produced over ten thousand tons of Brazil nuts, according to more optimistic forecasts in the extractivist sector.  Despite the increased production, the price-per-can of Brazil nuts has plummeted on the regional market, as it is currently R$-14.00, when last year, it was as high as R$ 17.00.

Once more the Brazil nut gatherers have been penalized by the absurdly high prices practiced on the market.  Gatherer families now have to produce twice as much to receive the same amount in cash as last harvest.  Due to the low prices received, extractivist cooperatives and associations are paying between R$ 13.00 and R$ 14.00 a can, depending on how far away the product is.

"We buy about 1 200 tons of Brazil nuts from native groves", disclosed the president of the Cooperative Central for Extractivist Commercialization of the State of Acre - Cooperacre, Manoel José da Silva.  He said that its purchases correspond to only 10% of regional production, but this amount was only achieved because of funds from the National Supply Agency - Conab, through an credit advance program of the Ministry of Agrarian Development - MDA, in the amount of 1.5 million reals.  Some 40 tons of Brazil nut production are being processed by the Brasiléia Cooperative Processing Plant, to address domestic market demand.

The cooperative currently sells its processed Brazil nut production in the following markets: Brasília (capital of the Federal District), São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (southeast), and Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (southern Brazil). 

Competition - Unfair market practices of Brazil nut processing cooperatives in Ribeiralta, in the Department (state) of Pando- Bolivia, the monopoly of the Mutran export company (based in Belém, Pará), and chronic lack of working capital, has led cooperatives in Acre to buy only 10% of regional production, thus lowering prices in production areas.

This emergency action by Cooperacre was only able to ensure minimum prices for 420 extractivist producers, who live in the regions of Vale do Acre, Baixo Acre and Purus. The Agro-extractivist Cooperative of Xapuri - Caex and the Agro-extractivist Cooperative of Producers from Brasiléia - Capeb, with some 900 members, was unable to participate in the advanced purchasing program of the federal government due to problems in the rendering of accounts from the previous year.  The president of Cooperacre also stressed that cooperative and association members, linked to the cooperative, are being trained to track production from native groves to the gate of the agro-industry.  This measure is to completely remove the risk of toxins (during the drying process), considered the main quality-related problem with the product.

The goal of its community management activities is to obtain the coveted FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label for production from Acre, to gain access to the international market.

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21. Cambodia promotes mulberry trees planting, silkworms feeding for silk production

Source: People's Daily Online, China, 23 July 2007

Cambodian government is encouraging farmers to expand the mulberry trees planting and silkworms feeding under the "one village for one product" policy to produce silk to fulfil the demands in domestic and foreign markets, a senior official said on Monday.

There are up to 20 hectares of land to plant mulberry trees in Sre Cheing commune, Chom Kiri district in Kompot province, Sun Kunthor, an advisor for Cambodian government and secretary general of the committee of one village one product, told Xinhua. "I saw mulberry trees and silkworms grew well there," he said, adding that the government wants to develop that place with roads and water dams.

We are using the techniques and seeds from China to plant mulberry trees in Chom Kiri district, Son Kunthor said.

He said some Chinese experts told him that the weather in Cambodia is good for silkworms feeding and they can harvest their products in the whole year. "In Cambodia, we need to feed the silkworm for 20 to 30 days before it can spin strings of silks, but in China it will need about 45 days," he quoted an expert as saying.

The expert said that 100 kg of silkworm cocoon can yield 20 to 22 kg of silk, he added.

"We have the plan to establish the Association of Mulberry Tree Planters to protect the benefits of our silk products," he said, "When we expanded our land for planting mulberry trees to 800-1000 hectares, foreign investors will come here to set up a factory to make silk for exporting."

"If we can produce raw materials of silk in the country, local people will have jobs," he said, adding that it will help promote higher living standards, reduce poverty, stop labour migration and increase the national revenues.

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22. Canada: Maple syrup harvest bittersweet

Source: Montreal Gazette, Canada, 17 July 2007

Despite a disastrous maple syrup crop in the lower St. Lawrence region this year, the product's provincial marketing board predicts the overall 2007 harvest will still yield a record $200 million plus in sales.

Charles-Felix Ross, secretary-general of the Federation des producteurs acericoles du Quebec, said it will mark the second consecutive year a below-normal size crop sets a new sales mark after the 2006 harvest sold for the previous high of $180 million.

Even though a recent survey of the federation's 7,300 maple-production farm operators calculated a yield of 61.7 million pounds (the industry still uses the imperial weight system), a 10-per-cent drop from last year, Ross noted there is an equal percentage increase in sales and exports.

He credits stronger promotions domestically and growing interest in the health benefits of maple syrup south of the border for the product's increasing popularity.

An average crop is 78 million to 80 million pounds, while a bumper crop is 100 million pounds, so Ross called this year's yield very small.

One of the main reasons was what Ross called the "catastrophic drop" experienced by about 900 maple-farm operators in the Bas-Saint-Laurent area of eastern Quebec who saw their production plummet by 50 per cent to 70 per cent this spring because of bad weather, resulting in financial losses of more than 40 per cent.

The losses threaten to throw some operators into bankruptcy.

Since maple syrup doesn't qualify for crop insurance, the federation is pushing the provincial government to help the troubled maple-farm operators until they can share in the sale of this year's yield - which won't be paid out until mid-March.

The only recourse at their disposal is the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization Program, which integrates stabilization and disaster protection. It is funded 60 per cent by Ottawa and the balance by the provinces, which each manage the program. Frederic Lagace, who is a spokesman for vacationing Quebec Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard, confirmed that there were meetings last month with the federation about offering assistance.

He said that the department is now waiting for the affected maple-farm operators to submit their files indicating their losses.

Quebec accounts for 93 per cent of Canada's maple syrup and produces 80 per cent of the world's supply, 60 per cent of which is consumed in the U.S.

About 2,000 maple-farm operators produce 80 per cent of Quebec's maple syrup.

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23. India: Over 400 native herbal plants on verge of extinction

Source: Zee News, India, 27 July 2007

Expressing concern over rampant uprooting of thousands of medicinal plants in different parts of the country, chairman of National Biodiversity Authority S Kannaiayan said as many as 427 native herbal plants (medicinal plants) were on the verge of extinction.

If the trees were uprooted then the property of the herb itself might get affected, he said at a function of private college here last evening. "We can only pluck the leaves and use it as raw material."

He said as per a World Health Organisation survey, 80 per cent of people in the developing countries were using only native and traditional medicines for ailments and better health. This had increased the need for medicinal plants.

Referring to India, he said there were about 15 000 medicinal plants in the country, and the main reason for the rich herbal plant diversity was the country's climate.

India stood second to China in the export of medicinal plants, and the country exported plants worth Rs 3000 crore a year. More than 500 organisations were involved in the export of herbs.

He later told newsmen that a people's biodiversity register was being created at a cost of Rs 10 crore to document the information on the country's rich flora and fauna

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24. India: Exports sops elude herbal products

Source: Economic Times, India, 17 July 2007

KOLKATA: For their role in employment generation, textiles (including handlooms), ready-made garments, handicraft, leather, marine and processed agricultural products have been granted, under the latest export incentive package, 3% hike in DEPB rates on FOB value of their exports and on packing materials, to ward off the rupee appreciation. But all these export sops elude minor forest produce and value-added products, which provide employment to thousands of tribals.

This is because exports of these products are dependent on sourcing of raw materials/inputs from within the country and not on imported stuff. Cashing in on the country’s vast pool of minor forest produces (MFPs), including medicinal plants and their growing demand in the global market, exports of these products have been growing at 20-25% over the past few years.

In FY07, India earned Rs 3,972 crore from exports of MFPs and their value-added extracts, bulk of which are from medicinal plants. With nil import content, this was the country’s net forex earning without any outgo from the national exchequer on DEPB account. But this feature of nil import content has deprived these products to clinch any benefit from the rupee appreciation. Rather, due to this factor, exporters have to face a tremendous erosion in margins thanks to 12% appreciation in the rupee value.

MFP exporters are facing a harrowing time for one more reason. Due to the disorganised nature of the sector, exports from 95% of MFPs are below Rs 50 crore. Thus, the standard input-output norms number is not granted to them, which makes them ineligible to claim DEPB against packing materials.

Given the scenario, such products could fight rupee appreciation if special duty credit under Visesh Krishi and Gram Udyoug Yojana is doubled to 10%, said PK Shaw, chairman of Shellac and Forest export Promotion Council (Shefexil).

So there is no question of claiming DEPB on export, which these products are not getting at present.

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25. Kenya: KEFRI wants ban on bamboo lifted

Souce: Business Daily Africa, Kenya, 26-July-2007:

Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) wants a ban on bamboo harvesting lifted to enable farmers enter the multi-billion shilling global trade in the product currently dominated by China, Japan and Thailand.

Mr Samson Mogire, a bamboo product expert at KEFRI, said they had sent fact finding missions to the Asian nations to learn methods of sustainable exploitation of the forests.

The ban on bamboo harvesting was imposed in 1989 by the then President Moi and its use later restricted to select public institutions. KEFRI said the fear of over exploitation that led to the imposition of the ban no longer stood as the plant had rejuvenated into extensive bamboo forest cover.

To mitigate against possible over exploitation, KEFRI is teaching farmers how to propagate the plant in central Kenya, with financing from the United Nations Development Organisation (Unido).

“We are teaching farmers how to grow bamboo on their own farms using cuttings and rhizomes,” said Mr Mogire. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants, deemed to be the best solution to the rapid decline of hardwood forests globally.

A bamboo tree takes an average of three years to mature and is a good protector of water catchment areas. To increase the commercial value of the tree, KEFRI is training artisans on the use of bamboo in the making of furniture and office fittings.

The bamboo’s versatility and unique qualities allow it to be put into a wide range of uses.

Its lightness and exceptional toughness make it appropriate for use in fencing, making bridges, canoes, water pipes, furniture, chopsticks, food steamers, toys, martial arts weaponry, and musical instruments.

Its fibre is also used in basketry and pulp-making, while its leaves are used in thatching and other forms of shading.

In China, the bamboo is looked upon as one of the drivers of economic growth due to the critical role it plays in the manufacture of paper. Coarse bamboo paper is still used to make money in many Chinese communities. The Chinese also use bamboo as a natural steriliser and anti-bacterial disinfectant. It is also used in the manufacture of sanitary material, towels, blankets, underwear, T-shirts, napkins, absorbent pads and food packing.

Besides, in Asia, millions of people also consume bamboo shoots. Mr Mogire, who learnt bamboo uses while working on a Chinese government funded project in Ethiopia, said the plant could offer employment opportunities for hundreds of farmers countrywide.

Locally, the tree does well in the Aberdares, Olengurueni, Molo, Western province and parts of the Coast.

Mr Jackson Mutie of Nakumatt Mega said the supermarket stocks bamboo products such as jamvi, a carpet used in roofing houses. “Businessmen use them for the construction of buildings including hotels and lodges,” said Mr Mutie.

Despite the promising prospects, exploitation of the bamboo still faces a number of hurdles, including lack of awareness of its potential among local communities.

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26. Malaysia is taking steps to ensure that the trade in gaharu is sustainable

Source: Malaysia Star, 31 July 2007

GAHARU, the aromatic resin from Aquilaria trees, was previously regarded as worthless woodchips but authorities are quickly realising their value and are tightening relevant rules.

States in Peninsular Malaysia have been told to keep a close eye on extraction of the heartwood by emphasising on enforcement of Section 15 of the National Forestry Act 1984, which requires any removal of the valuable product to be accompanied with a removal pass.

The latest move by Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department is to develop a uniform grading system for the fragrant resin. Deputy director-general (planning and development) Datuk Dahlan Taha says the absence of a standardised grade has hampered administration and regulation of the non-timber forest product.

“The 10% royalty payment is currently based on weight and not on the quality. The government is losing out on revenue collection. Hence, we organised a workshop in June and produced a grading system.

“We are recommending four grades: A Super, A, B and C. The proposed system will be tabled at the next state forestry directors’ conference for consideration and adoption next month. Before that, we will discuss the matter with our Sabah and Sarawak counterparts in the hope that we can agree on a national grading system,” says Dahlan.

The former Kelantan forestry director was instrumental in activating the licensing system for gaharu in the state. In his current position, he is encouraging all states to pay attention to the forest product that is coveted by both local and foreign poachers. He claims that greater awareness has led to better protection of the heartwood against illegal collection, as indicated by zero arrest in the last two years.

The department is also directing replanting of gaharu species in logged production forests. So far, 215ha have been planted. The oldest is a four-year-old plot in Kelantan. The lure of the highly-priced resin has also promoted commercial planting of the species as well as research into artificial inoculation of the stem. In the wild, a gaharu tree produces the resin as a biological response to contain infection from bacteria, fungi and pathogens. The resin would cover wounded areas and blackenthe whitish heartwood to produce gaharu.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, gaharu is being introduced as a potential income-generating crop to be planted alongside vegetable farms in agroforestry programmes.

Meanwhile, the government is capping export of gaharu, internationally known as agarwood, at 200 tonnes this year.

In 2004, all eight Aquilaria species and a species of Gyrinops that also produces aromatic resins were included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) to ensure survival of the species in the wild. A listing in Appendix II subjects trade in the species to the Cites permit system that covers export, import and re-export.

Since it began issuing Cites export permits for the substance in 2002, the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB, the Cites management authority for timber and timber-related products) has registered export of 1.3 million tonnes of woodchips and sawdust. The highest volume was 357 tonnes in 2003.

Initially doubted by the Cites Secretariat which demanded to know the justification for the quota as it was felt to be too high, Malaysia escaped trade suspension when it convinced the Secretariat that the precautionary principle was applied in determining the harvest quota and that it would not diminish wild populations.

MTIB licensing and enforcement director Norchahaya Hashim says Malaysia presented its arguments based on data from the 4th National Forestry Inventory which showed there to be at least three million stands of Aquilaria, mostly A. malaccensis, in peninsula forests. “The quota was derived from a conservative estimation that only 10% of the matured trees would be impregnated with the resin,” she explains, adding that Malaysia is working towards a more comprehensive management plan with new information on the biology and trade level and aims to submit the information to Cites by year-end.

However, oil products from gaharu still escape Cites scrutiny due to its exclusion from the Customs export prohibition order. Norchahaya reveals that the Customs and Excise Department is in the final stage of amending the order to control the export of processed gaharu in oil form. “Gaharu derivatives like oil and the high-grade, resin-embedded wood would be subjected to declaration under the export prohibition order soon,” she assures.

As high-grade agarwood becomes scarce, local collectors are resorting to processing lower grade woodchips into oil to increase their profit margins. Gaharu distillation plants have sprouted in several parts of the country. Although states in the peninsula are trying to monitor the amount of extraction through its licensing scheme, it is believed that some are slipping through the cracks and these unspecified volumes are turned into oil products that elude the Cites permit and the government taxation system. Hence, accuracy of the official extraction volume is doubtful.

While the export loophole is likely to be plugged soon, a similar effort was not made simultaneously to address the issue of import. The Customs import prohibition order does not cover gaharu oil products. Therefore, MTIB has not issued any Cites import or re-export permits to date.

A fairly recent phenomenon is the mushrooming of agarwood shops in Kuala Lumpur where traders openly tell customers that their raw materials were sourced from neighbouring countries. Many also operate distillation plants in the suburb or purchase the oil from local processors.

Norchahaya dismisses this as sales gimmick. “They are just capitalising on the belief that gaharu from outside Malaysia is of better quality to boost sales.”

Nevertheless, she says MTIB is working with KL City Hall, which issues business licences to traders, to monitor their operations.

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27. Papua New Guinea: Manila Copal (Agathis lapillardieri)

From: Mathew Sasngombi,

Copal is an alcohol soluble resin obtained by tapping the bark of Kauri Trees (Agathis Spp). It is also known in the trade as "Manila Corpal"

Copal is mainly used in paint industries, for oil and spirit varnishes, paint and lacquers. It is also used in formulation also containing synthetic resins.

The resource area is East Sepik Province, Wewak, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Mathew Sasngombi
P.O. Box 1353
Wewak, ESP
Papua New Guinea


28. Paraguay: 'Sweet herb' may be green gold for Paraguay

Source: Independent Online, South Africa, 18 July 2007

Asuncion - Paraguay is hoping a small herb that is not trafficked, addictive, or even fattening, could prove to be the real thing that the food industry has been waiting for.

Stevia - Latin name Stevia rebaudiana bertoni - has been used for centuries by the Guarani native people to sweeten their drinks, being 300 times sweeter than sugar with none of the calories.

Now the 60 centimetre high shrub has caught the eye of the granddaddy of soft drinks, Coca Cola, and its poor, small Latin American home is hoping the cash tills will soon start ringing.

Coca Cola and Cargill, one of the top US food companies, recently unveiled plans to make a stevia-based sweetener under the trade name Rebiana.

And even though the herb is not yet authorised for consumption in the United States and has only a limited use in the European Union, it is already popular in Asia where China has planted thousands of hectares (acres) of rural land with the shrub.

"Coca-Cola's announcement has sparked a giant interest," said Nelson Gonzalez, head of the stevia chamber of commerce, a trade group of producers under the aegis of Paraguay's ministry of industry.

The market for stevia has grown in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador in South America, as well as in China Japan and South Korea, but the US Food and Drug Administration has termed stevia an "unsafe food additive", while the European Union allows its sale only as a food supplement or in cosmetics.

"World demand is enormous," Gonzalez said. "But the sugar lobby wants to stop the importation of this natural, safe, revolutionary product."

Studies at the medical school at the University of Asuncion found stevia had a long list of beneficial properties, being an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial agent useful in the battle against diabetes, high blood pressure and tooth decay. But it is finding it hard to shake off fears over carcinogens which have dogged its sister, chemically manufactured sweeteners, saccharine and aspartame.

In 10 years, plantations of stevia, which is native to northwest Paraguay, have grown from 350 to 1 500 hectares. Officials hope to increase that 10-fold over the next five years through cloning, which is more effective than planting the seeds.

However, the largest producer of stevia is not Paraguay, but China, which has 20 000 hectares under cultivation.

Paraguay's stevia pioneer, the company Emporio Guarani, grows the plant and extracts the sweetener in its plant in Luque, 10 km outside Asuncion, and is not worried by China's influence on the market.

"The land of the stevia is right here," said manager Maria Teresa Aguilera, whose phone has not stopped ringing with calls from companies around the globe, following Coca-Cola's announcement. "Thanks to our climate, we can raise three crops while China grows one," she said.

Besides its claims to safety, stevia has another advantage over aspartame: it is stable to 200°C so it can be baked.

A kilogram of stevia crystals, extracted from 12 kilograms of leaf, is worth $40 to $100, depending on its purity.

Knowing that Paraguay, half of whose six million inhabitants live in poverty, may be sitting on a gold mine, authorities are now launching a bid to win international recognition as the stevia plant's country of origin.

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29. Uganda's 'sex tree' under threat

Source: BBC News, UK, 25 July 2007

The soaring demand for a tree which some Ugandans believe can boost a man's libido and virility, may lead to its extinction, researchers warn.

The most popular part of the slow growing Citropsis articulata tree, locally known as omuboro, is its roots. Ugandan lecturer Maude Mugisha says this means the whole tree is uprooted to satisfy the consumer's needs.

Found mainly in forest reserves, the tree's aphrodisiac qualities are yet to be scientifically proven.

The experts' concern was revealed during a symposium in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on conserving and improving the use of endemic plant species.

A by-product of the tree was actually on sale outside the conference venue. The vendor said he had been growing the tree himself, and extracts a powder which is steeped in hot water and drunk as a beverage.

Conference participants also shared their experiences about the popular stimulant.

It is said that the tree's stimulating effects are only evident in men.

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30. United States: Ginseng labelling act introduced in Congress

Source: American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), 5 August 2007

Legislation was introduced in both the US Senate and House of Representatives yesterday that would require that ginseng (Panax spp.), when sold in its whole form, is labelled to identify its country of harvest.

Senate Bill 1953, the Ginseng Harvest Labeling Act of 2007, was sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), while the companion bill, House Resolution 3340, was introduced by Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI).

In his floor statement and in a release on his website, Sen. Feingold noted that the bill has long-standing support from ginseng farmers and the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin as well as the support of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the United Natural Products Alliance.

Feingold stated that American ginseng grown in Wisconsin – where 90 percent of U.S.-grown ginseng is cultivated – “is of the highest quality,” but that “smugglers will go to great lengths to label ginseng grown in Canada or Asia as ‘Wisconsin-grown.’” He also stated that this legislation is intended to correct this problem, and is “a simple but effective way to enable consumers to make an informed decision.”

“This bill will ensure that buyers of whole ginseng root are given truthful information as to its source, without creating unnecessary labelling requirements for other herbal ingredients or for finished herbal products,” said Michael McGuffin, AHPA’s president.

For full story, please see:


31. Vanuatu defends its famous drink

Source: BBC News, UK, 18 July 2007

The tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu is battling to defend the reputation of its national drink, a bitter peppery concoction called kava, which is famous for its medicinal, stress-relieving properties.

Since 2000, kava has been banned by many European countries, following claims that the herbal remedy can cause severe liver damage.

Now Australia has imposed tight new import restrictions because of concerns that it is being abused in some Aboriginal communities.

But in Vanuatu, kava drinking remains an essential evening ritual, as the roots of the Piper methysticum plant are washed, chopped, mashed (ideally with a stick of dry coral) and strained into coconut cups.

"Everyone knows here that kava is not dangerous," said Dr Vincent Lebot, a kava expert and enthusiast, based in Vanuatu. "It is not like alcohol or nicotine. It is not addictive."

Many people on these remote islands believe that kava has been unjustly demonised. They claim that the herb - once widely available globally in pill form as a natural treatment for stress and anxiety, and known as "kava kava" - was encroaching on the turf of international pharmaceutical companies.

Now Vanuatu's case has been strengthened by a new report from the World Health Organisation which appears to rule out a link between kava and liver damage.

"Kava cleared!" a recent headline in the local newspaper in Port Vila proclaimed.

Instead, local people point to Kava's stress-relieving properties. "It relaxes you," explained Chief Selwyn Garu, enjoying his second cup at dusk. "In fact, I'm struggling to talk right now!" "Beer makes you excited. It sets people at each others' throats. But kava makes you want to sit still."

Despite the new restrictions imposed by Australia, kava traders in the Pacific are now hoping to revive their export industry, which has been badly damaged by the bans in Europe and elsewhere.

Chief Selwyn - one of Vanuatu's most senior tribal chiefs - is optimistic. "If you think about big markets, if they open up to kava, then it's going to be [as popular as] the Cuban cigar."

But Vincent Lebot is more wary. "I'm not sure. In Europe, consumers are already scared. The damage is already done."
For full story, please see:


32. Vietnam: Salt-marsh forests threatened by illegal digging for impotence-curing worms

Source: Vietnam News VNS, 28 July 2007

HCM CITY — Increasing numbers of people are visiting the Can Gio salt-marsh forest to dig for Dia Sam (Sipunculus). According to Tran Minh Long, the leader of Loi forest guards at An Binh Hamlet, An Thoi Dong Commune in HCM City, this activity seriously damages the forest’s ecological system.

Dia Sam is a type of worm which plays an important role in enriching the ground and helping forest trees grow better.

"Recently, Dia Sam has become a special dish in HCM City and it is also exported to China. That’s why digging for worms in the forest has become so popular," said resident Sau Xe.

Dia Sam often hide on wet land under bushes. People can dig it up easily and only need to use a hoe.

A regular digger named Hai can collect 3kg of Dia Sam per day. As a kilo of the worms fetches VND12,000, a digger can earn a generous income which pays much more than other jobs.

Rach Moc, a protected forest is considered the best place to dig for Dia Sam. More and more people are visiting the area to dig for the worm illegally.

"It is difficult to arrest people because they go further and further inside the forest and use sophisticated camouflage to hide in the bushes and trees," said Nguyen Phan Thuan, leader of Thanh Nien Guard. Once they see the guards, the diggers immediately hide deep in the forest and there are not enough guards to properly protect large areas of land.

Due to a lack of knowledge about forest protection, most diggers just think of their own immediate benefits. They don’t realise that digging Dia Sam damages forest land and tree development or that their activities have a destructive effect on the whole ecological system.

"Once the Dia Sam are caught, many old mature forests are destroyed. The forestry situation is getting worse without the Dia Sam to help improve the quality of the soil," explained Thai Dac Giang.

Can Gio is crying out for help to stop the widespread Dia Sam hunting.

For full story, please see:


33. Zimbabwe: The drug that's got everyone talking

Source: Financial Gazette (Harare), 26 July 2007

University of Zimbabwe scientists recently announced a breakthrough in producing a herbal cocktail remedy, named Gundamiti, which they claim reduces HIV viral load in a patient's bloodstream by up to 90 percent within two months of therapy.

Yesterday, the scientists met the public during a discussion forum convened by SAfAIDS. The forum featured the drug's key researcher, Dr Peter Mashava, and offered independent scientists an opportunity to provide an objective critique of Gundamiti. The discussion was also convened to afford people living with HIV, nutritionists and Aids Service Organisations (ASOs) a space to seek clarification on the status of Gundamiti as a drug, and its future in HIV and Aids management in Zimbabwe.

Dr Mashava opened the proceedings by presenting his findings in finer detail.

"Gundamiti is based on three plants," said Dr Mashava. "These plants have different levels of effectiveness (against HIV) but they work well in synergy."

Mashava explained the plants had been selected after testing 600 species of plant in Zimbabwe to see which plant would act against HIV. He also outlined the methodology that had been used to screen the plants, including liver function tests, kidney function tests and full blood counts on volunteers who had participated in the trials.

Mashava also announced that while researching on Gundamiti, his team had discovered a number of other herbs that can be taken separately by people living with HIV as a remedy for opportunistic infections such as fever, diarrhoea, swelling of the lymph nodes and herpes zoster.

To critique the presentation was a fellow scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, Dr Duri. Dr Duri said he would have wished to see the research widen its scope and include more standard tests. He singled out the exclusion of Kaposi's sarcoma from the opportunistic infections cited in the research as a glaring omission, saying the condition was so prevalent as to warrant inclusion.

Other members from the medical profession and civil society also gave a critique of Dr Mashava's findings, with the scientists responding to all questions one by one.

Lynd Francis from The Centre, renowned for its herbal garden, told the forum that she had been taking Gundamiti for 12 years. She attested to its medicinal properties.

Dr Mashava said there were plans to scale up production of Gundamiti, but the only limiting factor was funding. Mashava has filed a patent for Gundamiti in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation countries and South Africa. The scientist said he had also initiated contact with the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe to have Gundamiti registered as a drug. Gundamiti currently costs $600,000 for a month's supply.

"We are hoping to increase production and provide sufficient Gundamiti to those who want it," he said.

For full story, please see:



34. Poverty Reduction and Forests. Tenure, Market and Policy Reforms

3–7 September 2007

Bangkok, Thailand

It is often assumed that the potential for forests to contribute to poverty reduction is much larger than presently realized. Different approaches to improve the governance and management of forests have been explored, including community forestry and other participatory arrangements for forest management. Though these efforts have contributed to better rural livelihoods, much rural poverty persists in forest areas. Restrictions in access to forests and use and marketing of forest products limit the potential of forests to contribute to poverty reduction.

The wider issues and trends affecting the relationships between forests and poverty are to be explored in this conference, as well as major initiatives in policy and administration of forest lands and their impact on local people, especially the poor. Reforms in forest tenure, markets for forest products and services and forest policy and administration aimed at alleviating poverty will be critically examined, and opportunities for enhancing forests’ contributions to poverty alleviation identified. This forms the basis for the discussion on the regional agenda for rights and resources in Asia.

The conference is being organized by RECOFTC, in collaboration with other Rights and Resources Initiative partners, and many other organizations and donors that are concerned for poverty and forest issues. The purpose of the conference is to:

    • Set an agenda for the next four to five years to insure that forest management is contributing to poverty alleviation and livelihoods of those who depend on forests

    • Identify the role of forests, forest communities, enterprises and administration in advancing poverty alleviation and economic development and

    • To strengthen existing and build new strategic networks of key stakeholders to advance tenure, market and policy reforms.

The conference will focus on the Asia-Pacific region, but experiences and lessons learned from other regions will also be included.

For detailed information, visit or



35. International Conference on Sustainable Forest Management and Poverty Alleviation: Roles of traditional forest-related knowledge

17-20 December 2007

Kunming, China

Traditional knowledge has greatly contributed, and still does, to the world’s natural and cultural heritage by sustaining the production of multiple goods and services that enhance livelihood security and quality of life. This conference will provide a platform for sharing of information and exchanging experiences related to Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge (TFRK) in the Asia Pacific region. The conference will also highlight the importance of TFRK towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable forest management. It should also encourage further development on incorporating TFRK in models of sustainable practices.

Last Date for abstract: 31 August 2007

For more information, please contact:

Email: Liu Jinlong, or visit or



36. Blogging Underutilized Species

From: Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species, underutilized-species@CGIAR.ORG

We have set up a blog dedicated to underutilized species. This is an information exchange tool that complements the GFU portal. We hope this will stimulate further thinking, learning, discussing.

A link to it can be found on GFU's home page.

For more information, please contact:

Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
Via dei Tre Denari 472/a
00057 MACCARESE (Fiumicino)
Rome, Italy
tel: +39 06 6118-302
fax: +39 06 61979661


37. Rainforest Alliance online database now features more than 1,000 conservation projects in the Americas

From: Melissa Krenke, Rainforest Alliance,

The Eco-Index (, an online database of conservation projects in the Americas created by the Rainforest Alliance, now features more than 1,000 projects in English and Spanish. The site also recently started including projects in the United States and Canada, making it the premiere vehicle for the conservation community to share information about initiatives in the Americas.

The Eco-Index has grown steadily since it was launched in January 2001 with 70 projects. Now, the 1,000 plus projects in the database represent the work of more than 700 non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and government ministries in the Americas. Project profiles outline contact information, summaries, objectives, funders, budget, accomplishments, lessons learned, methodology, links and reports.

The Eco-Index also offers a variety of other resources to conservation researchers. Users can check out a bimonthly bulletin called the Eco-Exchange about environmental issues and success stories in the Americas and read interviews with conservation leaders and field staff.

Users can also subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter in English or Spanish that lists new projects that have been added to the Eco-Index. An average of 20 projects are added or updated on the Eco-Index each month. Project directors can submit descriptions of their projects on questionnaires available on the site or by emailing Eco-Index staff fact check, edit and translate the questionnaires into English and Spanish. Brazil-based project profiles are also translated into Portuguese.

The Eco-Index is also home to the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHMSI) Pathway (, a clearinghouse of information about migratory species conservation in the Americas; and the Eco-Index of Sustainable Tourism (, a searchable database of sustainable tourism operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Eco-Index is sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s International Division and Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coral Reef Conservation Fund; the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund; the Inter-American Development Bank; the Spray Foundation; and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program of Costa Rica. For sponsorship information, visit


38. Other publications of interest

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Bisht, S., and Ghildiyal, J.C. 2007. Sacred groves for biodiversity conservation in Uttarakhand Himalaya. Curr. Sci. 92(6):711-712.

Blake, S., Strindberg, S., Boudjan, P., Makombo, C., Bila-Isia, I., Ilambu, O., Grossmann, F., Bene-Bene, L., de Semboli, B., Mbenzo, V., S'hwa, D., Bayogo, R., Williamson, L., Fay, M., Hart, J., and Maisels, F. 2007. Forest elephant crisis in the Congo Basin. PLoS Biol. 5(4):945-953.

Ceballos, G. 2007. Conservation priorities for mammals in megadiverse Mexico: the efficiency of reserve networks. Ecol. Appl. 17(2):569-578.

Corlett, R.T. 2007. The impact of hunting on the mammalian fauna of tropical Asian forests. Biotropica 39(3):292-303.

Giuliani, Alessandra. 2007. Developing Markets for Agrobiodiversity. Earthscan and Bioversity International. ISBN 9781844074686

This book from Bioversity International describes a study, conducted in Syria, of how communities are developing markets for local products derived from neglected and underutilized plants. Based on concrete case studies, the data and processes documented in the book show the potential of biodiversity to make a significant contribution to livelihood security in communities that inhabit difficult environments with unique resources. The study also highlights the importance of local cultural knowledge and institutions in sustainable development of biodiversity markets.

Griffiths, T. 2007. Seeing RED? Avoided deforestation and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. Forest Peoples Programme, Moreton-in-Marsh, UK

Gubbi, S. 2007. Rights of forest dwellers in India. Oryx 41(1):16.

Isermann, M., Diekmann, M., and Heemann, S. 2007. Effects of the expansion by Hippophae rhamnoides on plant species richness in coastal dunes. Appl. Veg. Sci. 10(1):33-42.

Muller-Landau, H.C. 2007. Predicting the long-term effects of hunting on plant species composition and diversity in tropical forests. Biotropica 39(3):372-384.

Nuñez-Iturri, G., and Howe, H.F. 2007. Bushmeat and the fate of trees with seeds dispersed by large primates in a lowland rain forest in western Amazonia. Biotropica 39(3):348-354.

Pattanaik, C., and Reddy, C.S. 2007. Medicinal plant resources of Gandhamardan hill range, Orissa: an urgent need for conservation. Natl. Acad. Sci. Lett. 30(1-2):35-38.

Peres, C.A., and Palacios, E. 2007. Basin-wide effects of game harvest on vertebrate population densities in amazonian forests: implications for animal-mediated seed dispersal. Biotropica 39(3):304-315.

Purohit, V.K., Phondani, P.C., Dhyani, D., Rawat, L.S., and Maikhuri, R.K. 2007. Ginkgo biloba a living fossil: need conservation initiatives. Natl. Acad. Sci. Lett. 30(1-2):31-33.

Teder, T., et al. 2007. Monitoring of biological diversity: a common-ground approach. Conserv. Biol. 21(2): 313-317.

Stoner, K.E., Vulinec, K., Wright, S.J., and Peres, C.A. 2007. Hunting and plant community dynamics in tropical forests: a synthesis and future directions. Biotropica 39(3):385-392.

Vellak, K., Vellak, A., and Ingerpuu, N. 2007. Reasons for moss rarity: study in three neighbouring countries. Biol. Conserv. 135(3):360-368.

Wright, S.J., Hernandéz, A., and Condit, R. 2007. The bushmeat harvest alters seedling banks by favoring lianas, large seeds, and seeds dispersed by bats, birds, and wind. Biotropica 39(3):363-371.

Wright, S.J., Stoner, K.E., Beckman, N., Corlett, R.T., Dirzo, R., Muller-Landau, H.C., Nuñez-Iturri, G., Peres, C.A., and Wang, B.C. 2007. The plight of large animals in tropical forests and the consequences for plant regeneration. Biotropica 39(3):289-291.

Wunder, Sven. 2007. The Efficiency of Payments for Environmental Services in Tropical Conservation. Conservation Biology 21 (1), 48–58.


39. Web sites and e-zines

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

BioAssess - The Biodiversity Assessment Tools Project

The Biodiversity Assessment Tools Project is developing a tool box for assessing the impacts of policies on biodiversity in Europe. In addition the project is measuring the impact of land-use change on biodiversity across Europe's biogeographic regions.

Mapping the changing forests of Africa

Article includes map of great ape distribution.

World-Bamboo blogspot



40. Can trees grow on Mars?

Source: Independent Online, South Africa, 16 July 2007

Mexico City - Scientists are using the pine-forested slopes of a Mexican volcano as a test bed to see if trees could grow on a heated-up Mars, part of a vision of making the chilly and barren red planet habitable for humans one day.

Planetary scientists at Nasa and Mexican universities believe if they can warm Mars using heat-trapping gases, raise the air pressure and start photosynthesis, they could create an atmosphere that would support oxygen-breathing life forms.

Getting trees growing would be a crucial step. The scientists' quest has taken them to the snow-capped Pico de Orizaba - a dormant volcano and Mexico's tallest mountain - to examine trees growing at a higher altitude than anywhere else on Earth.

"It sounds like science fiction, but we think it's feasible," said research professor Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez, who has spent nine years examining Pico de Orizaba's pine forests. "We have experienced warming our planet with greenhouse gases, but on Mars we could do it faster with more powerful gases," he said in his lab at Mexico City's UNAM university.

The first human mission to Mars is seen 10 to 15 years away, and the warming-up process could start 50 years later, Nasa scientist Chris McKay said. There will also be ethical issues to overcome. "It's playing gardener more than playing God, but the ethical questions are important," McKay said.

By pumping in highly insulating gases like methane or nitrous oxide, the scientists think they could heat Mars to 5 degrees Celsius from minus 55 C now. That would match temperatures where trees grow at 4 200 metres on Pico de Orizaba.

Having trees on Mars, as opposed to only simple plant forms like algae or lichens, would open the possibility of humans one day being able to breathe Martian air.

The scientists are studying what makes trees refuse to grow above a certain point, where temperatures drop and the air becomes thinner, to see how easily they could grow on Mars.

For full story, please see:


41. Indian state plants 10 million trees in one day

Source: Raw Story, USA, 31 July 2007

India's most populous state planted more than 10 million trees in a single day Tuesday as part of an environmental awareness drive, authorities said.

Farmers and students were mobilised to plant the record number of trees across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 160 million people.

"In fact, we have overshot the target," said state forestry chief V.N. Garg in the capital Lucknow, who said the final figure was still being calculated. "Our target of planting ten million trees was overshot because of the overwhelming response we received."

Less than a tenth of the state's landmass is under forest cover, compared to the national average of 23 percent. Garg said thousands of farmers and students planted 60 percent of the trees, with the Uttar Pradesh forestry department accounting for the rest.

India's record was previously held by the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where more than 850,000 trees were planted in one day in 2006.
For full story, please see:


42. Join search for Wales’ ancient trees

Source: ic Wales, United Kingdom, 17 July 2007

BRITAIN has more ancient trees than anywhere else in northern Europe – but three-quarters of us don’t know it.

Now Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust, is asked people to help find companions to gnarled old favourites like the Pontfadog Oak, the Llangernyw Yew and the Talley Abbey Ash. Already out hunting are broadcaster Clive Anderson, writer Bill Bryson, and model Nell McAndrew. And Rupert Bear, who was drawn for many years by Alfred Bestall in his cottage in Beddgelert, is leading the hunt for younger children.

The aim is to help the trust to create the first interactive map of ancient trees in Britain as a first step towards safeguarding ancient treasures that can be older than many cathedrals and castles.

“It’s simple to do – you just find your tree and hug it. The fatter it is, the older it is,” says Clive Anderson, who is President of the Woodland Trust.

To join the Ancient Tree Hunt and record the trees they find and their stories, people are asked to go online at or

Anyone from children to adults can take part, by finding living history in their parks and gardens and fields.

Trees, which can live to for up to 5,000 years, are some of the oldest living things on the planet and the UK has more ancient ones than any other country in Northern Europe.

A new Woodland Trust survey shows that ancient trees are widely loved by the public and 95% of adults in Wales and West region say it is as important to secure the future of ancient trees as it is to protect man-made ancient monuments.

Although 75% had no idea that the UK has the most ancient trees in Northern Europe, 89% said it was important to identify where the ancient trees are.

Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said this support was encouraging, because ancient trees were vital to Britain’s landscape, history and wildlife. “Different trees become ancient at different times, but an ancient oak is likely to be at least 400 years old,” she said. “Many are much older, and yews can live for thousands of years. We think there may be half a million ancient treasures to be found.”

For full story, please see:



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last updated:  Friday, August 28, 2009