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NWFP-Digest-L
No. 17/11

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: www.fao.org/forestry/site/12980/en.

You can take part in contributing to the continued success of this newsletter by sharing with the NWFP community any news that you may have regarding research, events, publications and projects. Kindly send such information to NWFP-Digest-L@mailserv.fao.org: We also appreciate any comments or feedback.

A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.
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2011 International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/ or www.fao.org/forestry/en
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IN THIS ISSUE:

PRODUCTS

COUNTRY INFORMATION

NEWS

EVENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

MISCELLANEOUS

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PRODUCTS

  • Bamboo: A green biofuel for Africa?

Source: Asian Scientist Newsroom, 2 December 2011

Bamboo may be the key to combating soil degradation and massive deforestation in Africa as an alternative source of energy.
Sub-Saharan Africa has over 2.75 million ha of bamboo forest, equivalent to roughly 4 percent of the continent’s total forest cover.
A partnership among African nations and communities, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), and China are working to replace forest wood, on which 80 percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa depends for its fuel needs, with bamboo charcoal and firewood.
At the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa today, initial successes with bamboo charcoal in Ethiopia and Ghana have prompted calls across the continent for greater investment in this “green biofuel” that can fight deforestation and mitigate climate change.
“Bamboo, the perfect biomass grass, grows naturally across Africa and presents a viable, cleaner and sustainable alternative to wood fuel,” said Dr. J. Coosje Hoogendoorn, Director General of INBAR.
“Without such an alternative, wood charcoal will remain the primary household energy source for decades to come — with disastrous consequences,” Dr. Hoogendoorn said.
Burning wood has a significant impact on the climate, with African households releasing the equivalent of 6.7 billion tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by 2050, according to estimates by scientists.
In terms of health, the burning of fuel wood claims the lives of an estimated 2 million people every year — mostly women and children — who inhale the smoke. Continued widespread indoor use of forest wood charcoal as a household fuel could cause 10 million premature deaths by 2030.
Years of deforestation, particularly in hard-hit Somalia, have eliminated fragile forests and turned sparsely forested dry lands and pastures into useless desert, according to researchers from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).            While it takes seven to ten tons of raw wood to produce one ton of wood charcoal, the entire bamboo plant, including the stem, branch and its rhizome, can be used to produce charcoal, making it highly resource-efficient, with limited wastage. Its high heating value also makes it an efficient fuel.
Also, bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, and tropical bamboos can be harvested after just three years, rather than the two to six decades needed to generate a timber forest.
China is a global leader in the production and use of bamboo charcoal, made through the controlled burning of bamboo in kilns, whether traditional, metal, or brick. The sector is worth an estimated US$1 billion/year and employs over 60 000 people in more than 1 000 businesses.
Together with Chinese partners, including the Nanjing Forestry University and WENZHAO Bamboo Charcoal Co., INBAR’s Bamboo as Sustainable Biomass Energy initiative is now transferring China’s advanced bamboo charcoal technologies to sub-Saharan Africa.
For full story, please see: www.asianscientist.com/topnews/bamboo-charcoal-firewood-africa-inbar-cop17-unfccc-2011/

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  • Bamboo: Colombian architect leads bamboo building crusade

Source: Los Angeles Times (USA), 29 November 2011

When it comes to uses of bamboo, many think of chopsticks, panda food or patio furniture. Instead, Simon Velezen visions bus stations, churches or bridges.
The Bogota, Colombia-based architect is leading a global crusade for new uses of the plant, a giant member of the grass family, as a strong, eco-sustainable, aesthetically pleasing material that can substitute for wood and concrete in many projects.
Velez was long a lonely advocate, with most of his colleagues viewing bamboo as fit only for use as a finishing material in matting or plywood. But the ideas espoused by the 62-year-old architect are slowly taking root.
Velez's dramatic bamboo structures won the 2009 Principal Prince Claus Award in the Netherlands, which cited his "progressive approach to culture and development." His designs have materialized in projects as far-flung as Chinese resorts, the Expo 2000 Hanover trade fair and in Mexico City's Zocalo, or historic central square.
Construction on his most ambitious project yet, a bus terminal the length of three football fields, begins early next year in the Aguablanca barrio of Cali in southwestern Colombia. The design features an enormous tile roof that takes advantage of bamboo's sturdiness.
Swiss architectural historian Pierre Frey describes Velez as a leader in the "vernacular" movement in architecture, a school of design using local materials and anchored firmly in a designer's surrounding "context."
After waging a 20-year battle, Velez achieved a milestone: getting bamboo on the list of approved construction materials in Colombia's building code. That victory, two years ago, came in the face of stiff opposition from fellow architects and structural engineers, motivated, he said, partly by "class prejudice."
"In Colombia, there is a stigma attached to bamboo as being the 'wood of the poor,' and many architects turn their noses up at it," said Velez, adding that bamboo traditionally has been used in housing and communal structures built by indigenous and impoverished communities. "But I have discovered it has a lot of advantages."
Those advantages include its beauty and inherent strength, which, when figured as a weight-to-resistance ratio, is twice as strong as steel, according to Velez. Unlike most woods, bamboo is easily and rapidly replaceable; it grows like a weed in Colombia and many other tropical countries, as fast as 30 yards in six months.
"You can almost watch it grow," said Ximena Londono, a Cali-based consulting agronomist who is president of the Colombian Bamboo Association.
Given the world's environmental imperatives, including climate change, deforestation and endangered aquifers, Velez said it is only a matter of time before bamboo makes its own case as a logical replacement for traditional woods in construction projects.
Hearing Velez speak at a conference at the University of Hawaii in 1996 was a pivotal experience for architect Darrel DeBoer of El Sobrante, Calif., author of "Bamboo Building Essentials" and a specialist in bio-sustainable construction. He has built structures with soybeans, recycled newspaper and bales of hay.
The lecture introduced DeBoer to the possibilities of using a living material that regenerates itself yearly and can produce between four and 18 times the biomass of different types of trees over a comparable period. The bonus, he said, is that bamboo has much stronger fibre, "giving you the ability to span longer distances."
For full story, please see: www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-colombia-bamboo-20111129,0,3037760.story

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  • Bushmeat from endangered animals feeds hungry: study

Source: National Geographic, 21 November 2011

Research published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted in rural Madagascar found that consuming bushmeat had a measurably positive impact on children’s nutrition. The researchers “estimated that a loss of access to wildlife as a source of food — either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources — would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anaemia”.
Among children in the poorest households, the researchers added, “there would be a three-fold increase in the incidence of anaemia. Left untreated, anaemia in children can impair growth and cognitive development.”
The research was primarily supported by the National Geographic Society Conservation Trust and the National Science Foundation.
The scientists reasoned that because most people get their bio-available iron primarily from meat, consuming bushmeat would mean lower incidence of clinical anaemia. They tested this theory by examining the diet and hemoglobin levels of 77 children (all under 12 years old) every month for a year. The youths live in a remote part of eastern Madagascar in the Makira Protected Area, which is often called one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots.
Kids who ate such bushmeat as captured lemurs and bats did show higher levels of iron-containing hemoglobin in their blood, even after researchers say they factored in such variables as consumption of domesticated meat, household income, sex, age and nutritional and disease status. The scientists also noted that meat from domestic livestock is prohibitively expensive in this highly impoverished, remote area.
They found that among locals, bushmeat accounted for up to 20 percent of overall meat consumption. This despite the fact that hunting of most species in the area is illegal, though enforcement remains a challenge for the cash-strapped government.
When asked if his study could be interpreted as a case for sustainable hunting of wild animals in the area, many of which are endangered, lead researcher Christopher Golden replied “It is difficult recommending hunting sustainably as it is illegal according to Malagasy national law. In order to abide by conservation laws, and to provide opportunities for dietary sufficiency, livestock alternatives would need to be developed.”
Lia Fernald, a UC Berkeley (California, USA) associate professor in the School of Public Health who worked with Golden on the study, said in a statement, “It is clearly not environmentally sustainable for children to eat endangered animals, but in the context of remote, rural Madagascar, households do not always have a choice.”
She added, “In places where a diverse range of nutritious food is unavailable, children rely upon animal-sourced food — milk, eggs and meat — for critical nutrients like fats, protein, zinc and iron. What we need for these children are interventions that can provide high-quality food sources that are not endangered.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone is on board with that idea, either. Priscilla Feral, president of the animal rights group Friends of Animals, told News Watch via email, “When lemurs and bats are wiped out of Madagascar, do goats appear to feed children, or do plant-based diets provide the best means for feeding a hungry world?”
Golden responded, “I think her viewpoint is valid. Unfortunately, in areas without fortification and supplementation programs in place, it is extraordinarily difficult to have a diet adequate in iron without consuming meat. This is not to say it is impossible, but there is a reason that over 2 billion people are afflicted with anaemia. In these tropical developing countries, malaria and intestinal parasites are adding burdens to people’s micronutrient deficiencies. Everyone can get an adequate diet in protein from vegetables. However, it is not as easy with iron.”
Golden added, “I think our study supports a solution that develops dietary diversity both in vegetarian and meat form.” He explained that just giving an iron supplement can lead to drops in zinc, calcium, magnesium, which leads to reduced immunity, especially to malaria. “A very quick technical fix here is not the solution. We need to improve diets through partnerships between public health and development organizations,” he said.
Golden’s work also further complicates what had been an emerging picture of bushmeat, that it was largely not going to feed hungry impoverished children, but rather wealthy elites in African cities, who view meat from lions, lemurs and gorillas as a luxury good. Some have suggested that it may provide some kind of link to an increasingly urban population’s roots to the land. Others point out that poachers are often better paid and better equipped than government agents, swooping in with Jeeps and helicopters.
Golden told us, “In many places in Africa and Asia bushmeat is definitely a luxury item and we tried to be careful that the policy implications from our study in rural Madagascar should not be applied everywhere that bushmeat is eaten. Developing meat alternatives will not work in those instances because the bushmeat is actually preferred.”
But regarding his study population, Golden said, “In this area of Madagascar, less than five percent of what is hunted is sold. It is almost entirely a subsistence form of food acquisition for people in desperate need of the nutrients. This study brings a tension between biodiversity conservation and human health and livelihoods because it is truly the food of the poor.”
For full story, please see: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/11/21/bushmeat-feeding-children-madagascar/

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  • Cork: USA — Study shows that 94 percent of U.S. wine consumers prefer natural cork

Source: The Sacramento Bee (USA), 1 December 2011

Natural cork remains the overwhelming choice for U.S. wine drinkers because it conveys higher quality than alternative closures, according to a recent survey by Tragon Corp., among the leaders in sensory evaluation and market research, the Company announced today.
According to the survey, 94 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to purchase wine with natural cork. A nearly equal number, 93 percent, said that natural cork conveys high or very high quality.
"These results are remarkable because we rarely find such overwhelming agreement among consumers," said Rebecca Bleibaum, Tragon's Vice President, Sensory and Consumer Insights. "We consider 70 percent to be a powerful plurality, but 94 percent positive purchase interest is almost unheard of."
Other key findings included:

  • Only 45 percent of respondents said they would consider purchasing wine with a screw-cap. 72 percent said they would consider wines with a synthetic closure.
  • For gifts, dinner parties and special occasions, as many as 90 percent of respondents said they would prefer wines sealed with cork. 60 percent of respondents said wines with synthetic closures were inappropriate for gifts, and 78 percent indicated they would not consider giving screw-capped wines as gifts.
  • Compared to similar Tragon studies conducted in 2004 and 2007, consumer opinion changed the most for screw-caps, with the closures having reached their peak of popularity in 2007. Compared to four years ago, the closure is now seen as less appropriate for all occasions.
  • Half of respondents thought that wines with a screw-cap were of low quality. Only 11 percent indicated that screw-caps conveyed high quality.
  • Synthetic closures have gained acceptance among consumers for everyday use, although respondents showed little preference for one closure over another for this category of use.

            The web-based survey was taken by 347 consumers throughout the San Francisco and Chicago metropolitan areas in October 2011. The majority of survey participants have been enjoying wine for a minimum of a decade and consume it at least once a week. About half of the participants spend US$9 to US$15/bottle of wine but seldom spend more than US$25. The survey was commissioned by the Cork Quality Council and can be viewed at: www.tragon.com/news/ .
For full story, please see: www.sacbee.com/2011/12/01/4092315/study-94-of-us-wine-consumers.html

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  • Ecotourism is not bad for wildlife in the Amazon

Source: www.mongabay.com, 23 November 2011

Ecotourism does not hurt biodiversity, and in some cases may even safeguard vulnerable areas, concludes a new study from the Amazon in Mammalian Biology. Surveying large mammals in an ecotourism area in Manu National Biosphere, the researchers found that ecotourists had no effect on the animals. However, the researchers warn that not all ecotourism is the same, and some types may, in fact, hurt the very animals tourists come to see.
Still in the Amazon, researchers saw only benefits to ecotourism, cataloguing 85 percent of large mammals in the ecotourism area as are found in the entire park.
"We could not find any way in which the richness of species has been affected," explains lead author Salvador Salvador in a press release. "No species sensitive to the presence of humans was lacking and although we were unable to calculate population density, species like the tapir (Tapirus terrestris) or the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu peccary) were abundant, even compared to virgin forest areas."
In addition, ecotourism could even support wildlife populations. According to Salvador, ecotourism in the Amazon tends to focus on areas near rivers, preserving some of the forest under the greatest pressure from settlers.
"These areas are home to species that are attractive, spectacular and easily visible such as the alligators, the giant otter and macaw clay licks," explains Salvador.
Salvador cautioned, however, that this study should not be seen to cover other ecotourism options, saying "a [photographic] safari in Kenya is not the same as what we studied in the Amazon rainforest." Most ecotourism in the Amazon is conducted by hiking or in boats.
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1123-hance_ecotourism_amazon.html

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  • Edible insects: Getting to the good stuff

Source: Discovery News (USA), 22 November 2011

A University of Chicago freshman, Matthew Krisiloff, is the president of Entom Foods, a company encouraging people to seriously consider insects as a food source. He and four other students started the company last year.
Entom Foods aims to make Americans feel more comfortable eating bugs by removing elements that turn many people off — eyes, wings, legs, and crunchy exoskeletons. Eventually, the company hopes to produce processed bug-based foods, such as insect cutlets. Krisiloff hopes marketing the insects in a familiar form will remove the "ick" factor and encourage more people to add insects to their diets.
The company plans to market insects like crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers, which are already farmed commercially for use as animal feed.
Entom Foods is still investigating different methods for processing the insects. One possibility is high-pressure processing, a technology used in the shellfish industry. In this process, a machine is used to break the bond between the exoskeleton and the protein inside.
"That is practical for shellfish like lobster and shrimp, but we are not sure if it would be economical for insects, just because they are so much smaller," Krisiloff said. "There would be a lot more manual labour, because incisions still have to be made to extract the meat."
While they research processing options, Krisiloff and his colleagues are also educating people on the benefits of adding insects to their diets.
According to Krisiloff, these insects are more environmentally sustainable than traditional livestock.
"From every 10 kg of livestock feed, you can produce about 1 kg of beef," he said. "For every 10 kg of feed, you can produce anywhere between 7 and 9 kg of insect meat. That is a significantly larger yield than traditional livestock."
When it comes to nutritional value, some insects have as many nutrients as conventional sources of protein. Grasshoppers, for example, have 20.6 g of protein per 100 g of insect, compared to the 25.8 g of protein provided by an equivalent amount of lean beef.
Every 100 g of grasshopper contains 35.2 mgs of calcium, approximately three times the amount found in beef.
Krisiloff said despite the environmental, nutritional, and culinary advantages of eating bugs, erasing the stigma surrounding insects will be a challenge.
The practice of consuming insects, also known as entomophagy, is common in many countries, but bugs have never been a staple of American diets. Rob Walker, an anthropology professor at the University of Missouri, said this is because people make culinary choices based on return rates.
"Return rate is how many calories you are going to get out of a food, divided by the amount of time it takes to get it," he said.
People consume the foods with the highest available return rates, and essentially ignore everything else.
"In some places in the world, there are insects that are large and not all that hard to get," Walker said. "In those places, you find these nice insects that are good to eat, and people, sure enough, will eat them."
One such place is Paraguay, where palm grubs are large and plentiful. The insects congregate in rotting logs, so it is easy to harvest a bunch at once.
They have a high return rate, too. An hour of harvesting and preparation yields 1 500 to 2 400 kilocalories' worth of food, making the insects a popular protein source for Paraguayans.
To get that kind of return rate from grocery stores in America, however, insects need a boost in their palatability factor — with or without wings.
For full story, please see: http://news.discovery.com/animals/edible-insects-getting-to-the-good-stuff-111122.html

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  • Edible insects: What would a diet of bugs do to the body?

Source: BBC News, 3 December 2011

What would a diet of spiders and flies do to the body? Is there enough nutritional value in these insects to sustain human life?
Yes — in part, say experts, if eaten with fruit and vegetables to provide missing vitamins and minerals.
"It is estimated that about 70 percent of the world's population eats insects as a regular part of their diet," says entomologist Stuart Hine, from the insect department at London's Natural History Museum.
"They have about the same amount of protein per 100 g as cheese, eggs, fish and meat. And in many insects, it is higher. But there is a difference between what is in it and what we can digest."
Insects are already widely eaten, although not in the West. Edible insects are on sale in the UK, but mainly in restaurants catering for adventurous eaters and in gourmet food halls.
Yet, the growing interest in edible insects means they may soon be the subject of new European food safety laws. The European Commission is consulting with suppliers, retailers and national watchdogs such as Britain's Food Standards Agency to find out if we are eating more insects and other "novel foods".
In parts of Africa and Asia, where protein sources are scare or expensive, bushtucker eating is an everyday occurrence, says Hine.
"They eat any available source of protein — insects, caterpillars, beetle larvae, which are greater in number and larger than in the UK. Not that there is a lot of meat on them.
"But to eat them raw is just crazy. Most cultures that eat insects eat them cooked, usually fried, with the legs and wings and any spiky bits removed. We do not have the enzymes in our digestive system to break these down."
How to get over that in-built yuck factor? Start your bushtucker quest with something akin to a dish you already enjoy. For those who like prawn stir-fry, Hine recommends replacing the seafood with its land-based namesake — sky-prawns (locusts).
Fish and chip fans may find woodlice fritters a palatable substitute. And instead of crisps, Hine recommends baked mealworm larvae. "At our tasting sessions children quite like these."
Most people eat insects without even realising it. There are no figures available, but some estimates put it at about 500 g/year. Muesli can inadvertently contain beetle and moth larvae, says Hine. "And 20 percent of imported dates have a small caterpillar inside."
Hine surmises that our forebears probably ate a bushtucker-style diet.
"Field workers in the 1600s and 1700s had little more than gruel when times were hard, and they would have picked up what they found in the fields such as slugs— not big slimy ones, but milk slugs — and beetle larvae."
In 1885, Victorian author Vincent M Holt wrote the book Why Not Eat Insects?, complete with suggested menus, such as slug soup, boiled cod with snail sauce and gooseberry cream with sawflies.
In the UK, edible insects are calorie-neutral — it takes more energy to collect a bucket of bugs than you gain by eating them.  In the future, though, we could farm them or offer poorer countries an income from exporting
But this spirit of edible adventure lives on at events such as New Zealand's annual Wildfood Festival in Hokitika, now in its 23rd year. Popular stalls are those selling grasshoppers, huhu grubs and crocodile and kangaroo bites.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15851472

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  • Ginseng: Conservation and the American ginseng

Source: Southern Fried Scientist (USA), 20 November 20 2011

Ginseng, the ubiquitous, all-encompassing darling of the alternative medicine and natural health movements, itself a stocky, unassuming root, is in trouble. Prized as a curative additive in everything from sports drinks to dietary supplements, the vast majority of commercial ginseng is farmed in two Canadian provinces and Wisconsin. While commercial stocks remain robust, it is wild ginseng that fetches the highest market price, up to US$1 200/pound, and is used in some high-end ginseng containing products and traditional and alternative medicines. The leading exporter of wild ginseng is the United States, where 85 000 pounds are legally harvested and exported primarily to Hong Kong every year.
You could be forgiven if you thought that wild ginseng was a product of Asia. Ginseng’s historic cultivation and collection traces its roots to The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, The Republic of Korea, northern China, eastern Siberia, and Vietnam. Heavy and ever increasing demand has rendered Panax ginseng (Asian Ginseng) functionally extinct in the wild. This has resulted in increased demand for wild Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng), which now faces the same fate.
Ginseng suffers from many of the same traits that doom fish stocks. It is slow to mature, requiring up to five years to produce offspring, and has a relatively low reproductive rate. Canadian wild ginseng populations are already depleted and are barred from international export by CITES. American ginseng does not enjoy such protection. Combine all that with a huge financial incentive to over-harvest and American ginseng is on the fast track to extinction.
There are few studies assessing the current viability of American ginseng populations. A few forest services monitor wild ginseng plants, particularly in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, and there is an active movement to encourage harvesters to replant around where they harvest. While legal harvests are not permitted until the plant produces seeds, it is difficult to monitor.
Despite its wide appeal, there is almost no awareness of the conservation issues surrounding wild ginseng and the environmental cost of a huge and international demand. The end of wild ginseng may not be the end of the world, but it will be a slightly poorer world to live in.
For full story, please see: www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=11926

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  • Medicinal plants: Liquorice named “Medicinal plant of the year 2012”

Source: TRAFFIC, 21 November 2011

Liquorice has been selected as “Medicinal plant of the year 2012” because of its paramount importance to human well-being world-wide.
The selection was made by a panel from the University of Würzburg, WWF and TRAFFIC and was announced today at an event organized by WWF Germany.
“Liquorice is special because it can quickly soothe sore throats and coughs and was used centuries ago to treat coughing, hoarseness and asthma by Ancient Greek and Egyptian physicians,” said Professor Johannes Mayer, an expert on the history of medicinal botany at the University of Würzburg.
According to the mediaeval German nun, Hildegard von Bingen, or Saint Hildegard, liquorice can help lift peoples’ moods and has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antispasmodic actions, and can also protect mucous membranes.
The liquorice plant is a woody shrub native from the Mediterranean to East Asia, the Americas and Australia, and grows up to 1 m tall and is a member of the Fabaceae (pea family). It is widely cultivated for its medicinal properties, and also for use in beverages.
Only the root is utilized, from which a wide variety of compounds — 400 to date — have been isolated. Among the most important is glycyrrhizin, a chemical that possesses almost 50 times the sweetening power of cane sugar.
Today, liquorice is used as an important ingredient “gan cao” in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), while in Germany, Europe’s major consumer and trader in medicinal plants, around 500 tonnes of liquorice are imported each year, 100 of them consumed domestically in medicinal teas.
The root is also used in confectionary and in many herbal liqueurs. In Japan, liquorice is used mainly in medicine although also as an ingredient of cosmetics.
“The healing properties of liquorice make it a key constituent of any natural pharmacy,” said Susanne Honnef, a conservation expert at WWF Germany. “In recent years, the German public has become increasingly aware of the intrinsic value of natural medicines, and as a result the medicinal plant trade has experienced a true renaissance. However, this can place pressure on wild plant populations, placing them in danger of over-exploitation.”
WWF and TRAFFIC are trying to counteract such pressures, and in 2010 helped introduce the FairWild Standard, an international standard to ensure the wild collection of medicinal and other plants is carried out sustainably.
The FairWild Standard combines strict rules to ensure environmentally sound, socially just and economically sustainable collection of wild plant resources, and serves as a basis for certification of plant products and as a basis for the development of laws and regulations governing their trade.
For full story, please see: www.traffic.org/home/2011/11/21/liquorice-named-medicinal-plant-of-the-year-2012.html

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  • Natural fibres: Silk versus synthetic fibres

Source: University of Oxford, 23 November 2011

Scientists at the Universities of Oxford and of Sheffield have demonstrated that natural silks are a thousand times more efficient than common plastics when it comes to forming fibres. A report of the research is published this week in the journal Advanced Materials. The finding comes from comparing silk from the Chinese silkworm to molten high density polyethylene (HDPE) — a material from which the strongest synthetic fibres are made. The researchers used polarized light shining through a disk rotating over a plate to study how the fibres are formed as the two materials are spun.
Silk is a natural protein fibre, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori, reared in captivity. The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colours.
Silk is one of the strongest natural fibres but loses up to 20 percent of its strength when wet. It has a good moisture regain of 11 percent. Its elasticity is moderate to poor: if elongated even a small amount, it remains stretched. It can be weakened if exposed to too much sunlight. It may also be attacked by insects, especially if left dirty.
HDPE forms filaments at over 125°C and in addition requires substantial energy input in the form of shear force applied to the material in its molten form. Silk, in contrast, in the same set-up form filaments at ambient temperature and in addition requires only a tenth of the sheer force. If the energetic costs of melting HDPE are included for comparison, silks become a thousand times more efficient.
The discovery of a low-energy method for fibre formation has led the researchers to view silks as a new class of polymers they call aquamelts.
"When aquamelts are quickly stretched they lose water, which helps them lock in fibre formation like a ratchet," said Dr Chris Holland of the Oxford Silk Group, part of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. "This does not happen with your everyday plastics which need to be cooled to preserve the fibres, making them inefficient and harder to process."
"Silk produced by spiders and silk moths demonstrates combinations of strength and toughness that still outperform their synthetic counterparts. Not only are silks superior to man-made fibres, they are produced at room temperature with just water as a by-product."
Dr Chris Holland said: "Combining the best of polymer science with biology we were able to determine how much energy is required to form these two fibres. And it seems that we have discovered some fundamental differences between natural and synthetic materials. With hundreds of millions of years of R&D in fibre production it is not surprising that silkworms and spiders have found ways to conserve energy while still making superior fibres."
For more information, please see: www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2011/111123.html

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  • Natural fibres: Bamboo — the key to establishing a fabric industry in Sri Lanka

Source: Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), 4 December 2011

The ubiquitous bamboo growing on riverbanks and gardens provides a livelihood to many artisans engaged in cottage industries such as basket weaving. Now, the humble bamboo is set to change the face of yet another traditional but neglected industry: handloom fabrics. This is thanks to the innovative ideas of one of Sri Lanka’s leading handloom designers, Anuradha Yahampath.
Hailing from the first family of the handloom Industry, Anuradha earned her degree in textile design in the UK. Returning to Sri Lanka after a further stint in the UK, she re-joined KANDYGS to assist her parents and has since then made an impact with her keen sense of design and colour.
Always passionate about sustainability and her Sri Lankan identity, she has lobbied for government support to revive the traditional handloom sector, and was rewarded for her efforts with approval from the Ministry of Economic Development to undertake a pilot project with 60 weavers in two villages in Divulapitiya.
The revival of handlooms is important to Sri Lanka not only because it has an important historical background but also the end product can be sustainable as long as you use the right raw material and the ability to have an individualistic design. Most of all it has immense entrepreneurship opportunities mainly for rural women of Sri Lanka. The export potential in the modern world for such a product is high.
Today the handloom industry is highly dependent on the import of cotton yarn for its production. For its long-term survival, however, the cottage level handloom industry cannot be completely dependent on imported cotton yarn. Growing cotton in Sri Lanka on a large scale has proved in the past not viable as cotton plantations require a large amount of land and more importantly divert huge quantities of water from food production and export crops, given that 15 000 to 20 000 litres of water are required to produce just one kg of cotton.
Bamboo, which is the largest member of the grass family and the fastest growing woody plant, grows in diverse climates without the need for fertilizer and pesticides. The water use efficiency of bamboo is high; it regenerates itself after harvesting eliminating the need for replanting and is a good carbon sink. Thus the bamboo plant is a sustainable and versatile resource.
Bamboo fabric has several highly attractive features: it is soft like cashmere and shines like silk, a permeable and actively breathing fabric thus perfectly suited for tropical climates, does not cling to the body, and is highly water absorbent. This last feature makes bamboo fabric a popular choice for babies’ nappies and clothes.
Bamboo yarn has to be imported from China at present, but, with the support of the relevant ministries, bamboo could be grown on a larger scale. It could be grown not only in home gardens, but also along river banks and forest reserves, and, combined with small scale processing plants associated with handloom centres, bamboo fabric could play a pivotal role in ensuring the livelihood of cottage level handloom weavers. With a vibrant garment industry it may even be possible for Sri Lanka to carve itself another niche in world markets with bamboo clothing, which is currently gaining popularity in the US and Europe.
For full story, please see: www.sundaytimes.lk/111204/BusinessTimes/bt34.html

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  • Shea butter project offers hope from Scotland to Ghana

Source: BBC News, 21 November 2011

A rain-lashed steel cabin in the hills above Inverclyde (Scotland) may seem as far from the heat of Africa as it is possible to be. But it provides a unique link offering hope from Greenock (Inverclyde) to Ghana.
Shea butter, a product of a wild-growing nut in northern Ghana, is at the heart of a successful pilot project which is about to go into full production. A Greenock-based charity, Trade Right International (TRI), organized the production of shea butter, a more valuable product widely used in cosmetics as a moisturiser, salve or lotion.
The nuts have, for centuries, been gathered by impoverished women and vulnerable children, earning just 75p /day. Now more than 1 000 women are engaged in the work, earning twice as much.
Trevor Gregory, chief executive of TRI, said it was providing fair trade income for some of Ghana's poorest people in an area of subsistence agriculture. A school in northern Ghana has been funded by the efforts of TRI
"When they are working with us, their income goes up to about £ 1.50/day," he said.
"They are able to pay for school fees; they are able to pay for medical fees.
"And it also means during the 'hungry months' they have told us they are not selling their children into bonded labour or child trafficking, and we are actually transforming the community as a result."
The shea butter is now transported in bulk to Greenock in 6 m containers to be turned into premium soap and cosmetics.
TRI is currently putting together a funding package of £350 000 to develop the business employing 20 people who will receive nationally-recognized training qualifications to help them progress further in employment.
A supermarket chain, based in the south of England, and a number of specialist spa outlets are in negotiations to sell the soap, and plans are under way to extend the range to liquid soaps, creams and baby soaps.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-15822974

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  • Wildlife: Second MoP of the Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats

Source: Earth Negotiations Bulletin in IISD Reporting Services

Gorillas have long been recognized for their important role in the ecosystems they inhabit and, as charismatic primates, considered a flagship species that serve as symbols and rallying points to stimulate conservation and action. Both the Gorilla gorilla (the Lowland and Western species) and Gorilla beringei (Eastern and Mountain Gorillas) are classified by IUCN as critically endangered and endangered respectively. Gorilla gorilla spp are also listed on Appendix I of CMS and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Global numbers continue to decline, despite current conservation efforts, principally due to: the bushmeat and wildlife trade; urban creep; forestry, deforestation and energy; mining; armed conflict; disease; and ecotourism. As the forest ecosystems that gorillas inhabit provide important ecosystem services, through being vital carbon sinks and important rainfall generation areas, their long-term health depends on a number of animals, including gorillas who assist in seed dispersal. The protection and conservation of gorillas and their habitats is important to continue their role in the environment, and secure the livelihoods associated with them.
CITES was established as a response to growing concerns that over-exploitation of wildlife through international trade was contributing to the rapid decline of many species of plants and animals around the world. The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animal and plant species does not threaten their survival.
The Year of the Gorilla 2009 campaign was established to increase attention and focus on conserving gorillas in the wild. Through the campaign activities held throughout the year, it aimed to raise awareness and educate the wider public on gorillas’ importance, the threats they face and ways to counteract these threats. The YoG also sought to raise funds for conservation projects, attract public and political support for gorilla conservation and support the implementation of the “Gorilla Agreement.”
Against this backdrop, the second Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) of the Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats (the Gorilla Agreement) under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) met from Saturday 26 to Sunday 27 November 2011 in Bergen, Norway. The session was attended by parties, non-party range states, other governments and Ngos.
MOP2 addressed: the election of three experts in forest management and conservation, environmental law and wild animal health to the Technical Committee (TC); the outcomes of the International Year of the Gorilla (YoG) 2009; the institutional arrangements for the Agreement; the review of Action Plans; and cooperation on law enforcement.
To view full summary of the MoP, please see: www.iisd.ca/ymb/cms/gorillas/mop2/

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  • Wildlife: REDD needs to move quickly as forest degradation decimates Africa’s wildlife, says leading conservationist

Source: CIFOR, 4 December 4 2011

The degradation of Africa’s forests is decimating its wildlife, said Helen Gichohi, President of the African Wildlife Foundation, and she called for REDD+ funding to move more quickly to save the continent’s forest.
“Deforestation rates in Africa are already four times the world average and are accelerating,” Gichohi said in a keynote speech at Forest Day 5 in Durban. “The disappearing forests, the overgrazed rangelands, and conversion to crop agriculture of grasslands and wetlands that had served as drought refugia all have diminished the resilience of the system.”
The need for practical solutions to safeguard Africa’s forests has reached a tipping point, with recent droughts decimating both wildlife and livestock across one of Kenya’s premier wildlife and tourism ecosystems, said Gichohi.
“It was heartbreaking to see the national park and neighbouring community areas outside strewn with wildlife and livestock carcasses. Wildlife populations plummeted and the pastoralists lost 80 percent of their livestock,” she said.
Estimates suggest that 9 percent of forest cover has been lost between 1995 and 2005 across sub-Saharan Africa, representing an average loss of 40 000 km² of forest/year. For example, Kenya has lost the majority of its forest cover to settlement and agriculture, leaving only 1.7 percent coverage.
This is undermining national development and conservation efforts and most importantly putting at risk the livelihoods of millions of people through diminished climate regulation services that forests provide.
“Forests are important to national governments for economic growth and development. They are vital to Africa’s magnificent and unique wildlife and they are important globally for the biodiversity they hold, climate stabilisation and other services they provide. These values sometimes compete with one another … and these competing needs are being reconciled to enable people to prosper and the wildlife of Africa to survive,” Gichohi said.
While money is available globally for climate change mitigation and adaptation, not much is flowing to people and forest communities where it could transform livelihoods and biodiversity.
National mechanisms are urgently needed to fast-track implementation on the ground of responsibly planned REDD+ systems, she said, to deliver local initiatives to address climate change and the threat it poses to both people and ecosystems.
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/5670/forest-degradation-decimating-africa%E2%80%99s-wildlife-%E2%80%93-redd-needs-to-move-quickly-says-leading-conservationist/

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Untitled Document
  • Wildlife: Crash of wildlife populations in Africa

Source: The Ecologist, 1 December 2011

The reported crash of wildlife populations in the Maasai Mara reserve in Kenya is the most well-publicized example of a crisis that is unfolding throughout East Africa.
The region’s “Big Five” species and other wildlife are currently facing their most serious crisis in modern times. Significant populations of elephants, lions, rhinoceros and other species are on the decline, threatening not only the regions fragile ecosystems but also economic livelihoods that depend on ecotourism revenue. Elephant populations are particularly vulnerable.
Following the 1989 ban on ivory, the poaching of sub-Saharan African's elephant population was reduced to a mere trickle. However, over the past couple years there has been dramatic increase in poaching activities and a sharp decline in elephant populations.
In May this year, a shipment of 115 pieces of illegal ivory (packed into 13 metal boxes and weighing 1 304 kg) was seized at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
For full story and for The Ecologist’s “Wildlife Special”, please see: www.theecologist.org/investigations/natural_world/1152619/is_there_room_for_wildlife_as_africa_grapples_with_development.html

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COUNTRY INFORMATION

  • Brazil: Connecting the Amazon Rainforest

Source: http://thenetwork.cisco.com/, 28 November 2011

Ten years ago, Virgilio Viana was a lonely voice in the Amazon. His approach to preserving the health of the ailing "lungs of the world" set him apart from the many rainforest activists who focused purely on protecting the environment. The key to helping the rainforest, Viana maintained, was to help its guardians — the people who live in it.
Viana, who today is one of Brazil's leading experts on the Amazon, has spent the past decade pioneering a strategy to do just that. The nonprofit he heads, the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS), focuses on reducing deforestation by investing in those who dwell there, improving their livelihoods and teaching them to make better use of forest resources. The group's main goal and challenge is also its eight-word mantra: "To make forests worth more standing than cut." And, perhaps surprisingly, one of its most powerful tools is broadband connectivity.
"It makes a huge difference," says Viana, whose unique approach is gaining traction in Brazil and around the world. "Reducing deforestation is not primarily an issue of more police and enforcement. It is about education, awareness and economic alternatives, and for those things connectivity is very important."
The broadband connection, provided by satellite and paid for by the state of Amazonas, is bringing distance learning to the rainforest and helping Viana realize a dream of establishing "small universities" there. So far, FAS has built four campuses, each located in a state-protected area of the rainforest, and a fifth is on the way. Known as conservation and sustainability centres, or nuclei, each is equipped with classrooms, lodges for teachers and students, a healthcare centre and a digital centre housing a satellite antenna and computers with Internet access.
Viana says the benefits of the broadband service are myriad. The most obvious is the education of children who would otherwise have little or no formal schooling, due largely to vast distances to cities and a lack of roads. With FAS, children travel by boat from their homes to the nearest nucleus, staying for 10 to 15 days of every month. There, in addition to workshops on subjects like forest and fisheries management, they attend virtual, interactive, real-time lessons in subjects like Portuguese, math and science taught via telepresence by teachers hundreds of miles away in Manaus, the largest city in Amazonas. Local teachers guide the process, assisting with exercises, homework and so on.
"If it was not for the Internet connection, we would not have education beyond fourth grade or elementary school," says Viana, who previously served as Secretary of State for the Environment and Sustainable Development in Amazonas.
But educating kids is just the start. Viana says bringing education and the Internet to the heart of the jungle also reduces the migration of forest dwellers to cities, where many lack the skills to survive and all too often fall victim to prostitution, drugs and other urban ills. And since it is often the brightest kids who are the first to leave for the city, providing greater educational opportunities in the rainforest helps to retain talent there, Viana says.
"Having broadband discourages this brain drain," he says."The more bright and educated people we have in the rainforest, the more likely we are to come up with solutions to make forests worth more standing than cut."
The health centres in the nuclei use Skype for telemedicine sessions between doctors in Manaus and patients in the rainforest, with local resident nurses liaising between the two, Viana says. Broadband connectivity also provides access to markets for small businesses that are taking root in the jungle. For example, some forest communities are investing in tourism and can now advertise lodging and other services via websites, he says.
Borrowing a concept minted by famed Brazilian Amazon expert Samuel Benchimol, Viana says this water-cycling action of the rainforest constitutes an "environmental service," and that those who ensure its continuance should, like providers of other services, be compensated. To that end, Amazonas state has joined forces with Brazil's largest private bank, Bradesco, to fund a scheme that pays cash to rainforest dwellers in exchange for trees left standing.
For example, to qualify for a payment of 600 reais (US$360) a year, a family must attend a two-day training course on environmental awareness and commit to zero deforestation and ecological practices to prevent forest fires. Instruction is largely geared towards changing economic incentives. Case in point, attendees learn they can earn more money by selling Brazil nuts than by illegally selling the timber of the Brazil nut tree.
Viana says there's evidence that this scheme, known as "Bolsa Floresta" (forest allowance), combined with FAS's education program, is working. According to a 2010 INPE report, forest fires decreased by more than 50 percent in one sustainable development reserve where FAS has teamed up with the state and the Marriott International hotel chain to carry out a project to reduce deforestation and degradation.
For Viana, it all comes down to education and changing the economic equation.
For full story, please see: http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=566170

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  • Finland: “Akwé: Kon” collects traditional Sámi knowledge

Source: www.forest.fi, 2 December 2011

The words Akwé: Kon come from the Mohawk language spoken in North America. The original meaning of the words is "everything in creation”. However, in UN language they mean the principle that indigenous peoples’ traditional relationship to and knowledge about nature must be preserved.
The principle was formulated in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but its adoption is voluntary for the participating countries. A Finnish working group planning its adoption suggested that the principle should be followed in all planning and guidance of land use in the Sámi homeland in Finland.
The responsibility for this was delegated to several public authorities: the Ministries of the Environment and of Agriculture and Forestry, the state-owned forestry company Metsähallitus, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Lapland, the Sámi Parliament, the Regional Council of Lapland and the municipalities in the Sámi homeland in Finland: Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki.
While the working group was still dealing with the matter, Metsähallitus decided to test the Akwé: Kon principles in the Hammastunturi wilderness area in Upper Lapland, where the management and land use plan was being updated. Last spring, Metsähallitus and the Sámi Parliament established an Akwé: Kon group, which continues its work until next spring, when the management and land use plan will be finalized.
Akwé: Kon demands that the representation must be balanced in terms of several aspects: the structure of livelihoods, age and sex, for example. This can also be seen in the make-up of the Akwé: Kon group. The group will comment on the preparation of the management and land use plan continuously.
Ms. Elina Stolt, Area Manager in Metsähallitus, who is responsible for the Akwé: Kon work in Metsähallitus, says with pride: “This is the first time in the world that these principles are being applied in practice.”
It was expressly suggested that Metsähallitus should prepare permanent guidelines to implement the principles.
Ms. Pirjo Seurujärvi, Park Superintendent of Metsähallitus in Northern Finland, was a member of the working group planning the adoption of the Convention. She says that Metsähallitus’ management and land use plans are not the only areas where the principles can be utilized. ”Good examples are land use plans for commercial forests and general urban and rural land use plans,” says Seurujärvi.
Metsähallitus’ work has already led to one concrete result. The management and land use plan of the Hammastunturi wilderness area is going to include the right to gather raw materials for traditional Sámi crafts from nature free of charge.
However, there are some exceptions: raw materials cannot be taken from strictly protected parks, and they may not be sold on to third parties — though the products made of them may be sold freely.
”The decision introduces an important principle,” says Stolt. ”Now nobody will need to check whether anyone sees them break off a few small branches for craft work,” says Stolt.
For full story, please see: www.forest.fi/smyforest/foresteng.nsf/tiedotteetlookup/BB9B87BEABA7A90CC2257959002E0A8D

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  • India: Scientists revive indigenous honey bee

Source: Times of India, 28 November 2011

With a view to promote cost effective traditional beekeeping and increase pollination through indigenous honey bees, entomologists and apiculture scientists at the Dr Y S Parmar University of forestry and horticulture in India have devised low cost technology beehives made from locally available material and are creating awareness and providing training to farmers for reviving the retreating indigenous honey bees and adopt apiculture as profession.
One such project is being carried out at horticulture station at Seobag in Kullu, where efforts are being made to revive traditional beekeeping and the indigenous honeybee.         Scientist and expert of apiculture Dr J K Gupta said: "Native honeybees (Apis cerana) have been playing a key role in the mountain ecosystem by enhancing agricultural productivity as they are natural pollinators for a range of fruits and crops. The survival rate of indigenous honeybees is higher, as compared to the exotic species (Apis mellifera, which were introduced in the hills in 1962) as they are better adapted to the harsh climate and the yield is more as well as cost of maintaining them is also less."
Senior scientist of the university and principal investigator implementing the apiculture project at Seobagh in Kullu, Dr J P Sharma, said: "The native bees had been thriving on logs and other natural material and creating beehives in the traditional wooden houses in the hills. However, with a change in housing material, increased use of pesticides, fungicides, and a host of other reasons the indigenous bees have faced a decline. In order to revive the retreating native bees, we [at the university] have devised a low cost technology of mud hive for rearing indigenous honey bee.”
According to Dr Sharma: "The low cost mud hive is called a fixed beehive because it is fixed at one place and cannot be shifted from one place to another like wooden beehives. This hive has the qualities of both the modern as well as the traditional hives. It is made of easily available local material including clay, cow dung, stones, grass, straw and wooden sticks."
This technology is cost effective, and after undergoing a five-day training course farmers can easily start beekeeping with A. cerana in hills with this hive.
For full story, please see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Scientists-revive-indigenous-honey-bee/articleshow/10898331.cms

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  • Myanmar: Deforestation threatens Myanmar’s breadbasket

Source: The Asia Sentinel in Regional Information Networks, 18 November 2011

Part of Myanmar’s breadbasket in the country's centre is fast deteriorating and the area may face greater food insecurity without immediate action, local NGOs are warning.
"If we [wait], it will be too late and too hard to rehabilitate," said Aung Myint, General-Secretary of the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar, which calls on residents in the dry zone to work with agencies to boost tree planting, soil conservation and water management.       The regions of Mandalay, Magway and Lower Sagaing, which comprise the dry zone and experience some of the lowest rainfall levels in the country, form the breadbasket for crops that require little rain. But the maize, cotton, pulses, beans and sesame are threatened by soil breakdown and deforestation occurring at an "alarming" pace, according to U Ohn, from the national NGO, Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association.
The Forest Ministry estimated in 2006 that the region — home to one-third of the country's more than 55 million population — was losing 800 ha of forest annually, in its most recently submitted report to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Forests covered 31.8 million ha, or 48 percent of the country in 2010. On average, it has lost just over 1 percent of its forest cover every year since 1990, or more than seven million hectares in all, according to FAO’s 2011 State of the World's Forests report.
The government reported reforesting 117 414 ha in the dry zone from 1994-2006, the most recent year for which such data was submitted to UNCCD. The cultivable land that remains in the dry zone has been broken down through erosion, tree cutting for firewood, poor planting practices, overgrazing and urbanization — which means less food, say local agencies.
At this pace, a "severe food crisis" could unfold over the next decade if the soil is not saved, said Aung Min Naing, the dry zone's coordinator for the international NGO ActionAid.        While greening efforts are important, boosting food security demands a "comprehensive development effort" to protect the poorest from the impacts of weather variability, said Marcus Prior, World Food Program's Asia spokesman.
"Vulnerability in this area is cyclical — always more severe during the lean [dry] season, when work is scarce, wages lower and basic food prices higher."
The country's dry season lasts on average from late October to May. Food consumption was inadequate for 65 percent of families surveyed in Magway Division in December 2009, while 12.1 percent of children under two years old were acutely malnourished in Mandalay Division in August 2009, according to multi-agency surveys.
After the country signed the UNCCD in 1997, the government founded the Dry Zone Greening Department with local and international NGOs. But need outstrips the limited activities and access.
"The coverage of agencies [working in the dry zone] is still low, less than 30 percent of the total need," said Aung Min Naing.
For full story, please see: www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3964&Itemid=189

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  • Oman: Hunt for frankincense and myrrh

Source: www.adelaidenow.com (Australia), 26 November 2011

In the Dhofar region of southern Oman, in the desolate Baal Thayfer — the "Place of Camel Droppings" — lies frankincense country. It is home to Boswellia sacra, the source of the ancient world's most highly prized commodity. For millennia people have scraped the bark of this tree, allowed its sap to harden into small nuggets, then picked them off and heated them over embers. Religious ritual across the Mediterranean and the East depended, and in places, still depends, upon thick, sweet frankincense smoke to transport supplications heavenwards.
At the height of the Roman Empire, Dhofar was exporting immense quantities of frankincense, by ship to Yemen and thence up the Red Sea, and by camel caravan overland to Petra and the Mediterranean.
The smell of a Frankincense nugget is pungent and impossibly exotic. The golden, almost luminescent Hawjari frankincense, from the trees of Wadi Hawjar, an isolated valley behind Sumharam, is top quality. Lower grades — Najdi, Shazri, Shaabi — are darker and coarser, down to imported frankincense from Somalia, the latter a fortieth of the price.
Myrrh, also a tree resin, is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha. It is burnt in the ancient world at funerals and today is prosaically, a decongestant for children. Oman produces its own myrrh from groves near Harwib on the Yemeni border.
For full story, please see: www.adelaidenow.com.au/ipad/hunt-for-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh/story-fn3o6wog-1226204741345

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  • Peru: Five amazing fruits from the jungle

Source: Peru this week, 3 December 2011

The Amazon rainforest is said to host half of the world's plant and animal species. While local indigenous people had a diet including thousands of jungle fruits, modern societies eat just a fraction of them, so there is plenty of room for growth. Here are five fruits that come from the jungle and could end up in supermarkets around the world.

  • Mocambo: Think of the Mocambo (Theobroma bicolor) seed as a less-famous sibling of the fruit world. It shares the genus of the famous Theobroma cacao tree. The mocambo grows principally in the western Amazon, which is its homeland, and has a sweet pulp. Most vendors stick to just selling the fruit's seeds, which reportedly taste like peanuts when roasted.
  • Acai: The acai berry comes from the palm tree Euterpe oleracea, which grows in large abundance in the Brazilian Amazon, but which can also be found in Peru. In the early 2000s, it was marketed as a miracle fruit, with incredible antioxidant properties. Health food companies sold the juice for upwards of US$40/bottle.
  • Aguaje: The aguaje fruit, and powders and extracts derived from it are high in Vitamin A content (five times greater than that of the carrot). The fruit itself comes from the aguaje palm Mauritia flexuosa, a major component of the ecosystem in and around Amazonian wetlands, and tastes like a carrot.
  • Arazá: Arazá is hard to find outside the jungle, because no one has found a good way to ship it without spoiling the fruit. Arazá's acidity makes it undesirable for eating off the tree (Eugenia stipitata), but it is delicious when turned into a juice, jam or dessert. Even better, the arazá has more than twice as much Vitamin C as an orange.
  • Camu camu: The camu camu berry is like acai with actual nutritional value. Camu camu is being marketed around the world as the cure for everything from the common cold to arthritis. While such claims are probably overblown, the berry of the Myciaria dubia tree does have the second-highest concentration of Vitamin C of any known fruit in the world. A small-scale study in Japan showed it reduced the risk of hardened arteries.

For full story, please see: www.peruthisweek.com/food-126-Five-amazing-fruits-from-the-Peruvian-jungle/

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  • Tanzania: Spice town that lets you smell and taste Zanzibar

Source: East African, 4 December 2011

Zanzibar boasts of white sandy beaches and the history-rich alleyways of Stone Town, but a visit to the archipelago is not just about seeing the islands — it is about smelling and tasting them, too.
Spice traders crowd downtown market stalls, the pungent scent of their wares hanging in the air. Hawkers offer visitors a whiff of cinnamon or a taste of spiced coffee, but these dried and powdered products are a far cry from the spices in their raw form.
Private landowners have created miniature spice plantations where tourists can sample a variety of spices in their natural form — blades of lemon grass freshly picked from their bushes or ginger roots still covered in damp soil.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are typically the first tastes of the tour, being the spice most important to Zanzibar’s economy. The archipelago earned its nickname of the “Spice Islands” in the 1800s, after Omani settlers introduced the clove tree to the region.
Other spices were introduced over time, but cloves remained the main cash crop for exporters: during the 19th century, the archipelago was the source of 90 percent of the world’s supply of cloves.
Zanzibar’s economy today remains dependent on clove exports, even though only 7 percent of the world supply comes from the Isles.
Cloves are picked as unopened flower buds from the evergreen clove tree. After being dried, they are ground or used whole in cooking, especially as a key ingredient in chai masala. Aside from their culinary uses, they are also commonly used as painkillers in dental emergencies.
Cloves may be the centrepiece of Zanzibar’s economy, but they are not as common in kitchens as another spice on the tour: peppercorns (Schinus spp.). Peppercorns are the world’s most-traded spice and grow on a vine, like tiny grapes along a stem. The fresh green kernels pack an eye-watering punch, even when eaten raw. Depending on how they are picked and dried, they either become black, white, or green pepper.
While peppercorn is the most common spice, a third plant wins the award for versatility: cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum). The roots, bark, branches, and leaves of the cinnamon tree can each be used for different degrees of flavour, the bark being the most pungent in odour and taste. Dried and pulverised, the cinnamon tree bark is used to make cinnamon powder, or dried whole to become cinnamon sticks.
Cinnamon is often paired with nutmeg and mace, two more spices found on the tour.
Both impart a stronger, hotter flavour, and grow intertwined inside the pithy nutmeg fruit: red ribbons of mace encircle the hard shell of the nutmeg seed, which is about the size of a brazil nut.
Nutmeg (from the Myristica fragrans tree), the sweeter of the two, is made when the flesh of the seed is dried, then ground or grated. Mace has a more delicate and peppery flavour, and is made from the dried membrane that surrounds the nutmeg seed. Nutmeg trees take at least seven years to begin producing fruit and do not reach their full production until after 20 years; this makes them a valuable trading commodity.
Vanilla (V. planifolia) is perhaps one of the most intoxicating and valuable spices on the tour. It starts out not as a nut or a bark, but as an orchid. Vanilla pods grow dangling from a vine wrapped around a host tree, looking like french beans that got lost in the rainforest.
The vanilla beans have to be carefully harvested, dried, and aged before they can be used as flavouring, a process that takes at least six months. Once the beans are processed, the pods can be used whole, ground into a powder, or turned into a liquid extract.
Cacao (from the Theobroma cacao tree) also lurks on the spice tour, looking nothing like its final product. This fundamental ingredient in chocolate is found within the green rind of the cacao pod, which holds about 30 seeds. The seeds, about the size of an almond, are embedded in a slightly sweet, slimy white fruit. When they are dried and ground, the paste — called chocolate liquor — can be separated into two different products: Cocoa powder and cocoa butter.
Eventually all these spices and others like cardamom, cumin and annatto, end up in the market stalls of spice hawkers in Stone Town.
And while the booming spice exports of Zanzibar are largely a thing of the past, tourists can stock their suitcases with fragrances and flavours for friends back home, keeping that trade going just a little bit longer.
For full story, please see: www.theeastafrican.co.ke/magazine/Spice+town+that+lets+you+smell+and+taste+Zanzibar++/-/434746/1283842/-/116tq52/-/

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  • UK: First genetic library of UK’s fungi

Source: BBC News, 18 November 2011

Fungi might be one of the world's most diverse kingdoms of life, but we know surprisingly little about them. Now this is about to change with scientists creating the first genetic library of the UK's fungi.
Providing a splash of colour before winter hits, the fungi at Deer Park Farm in Devon are putting on a spectacular display. They come in every variety: from red, fairytale-like toadstools to slimy, alien tentacles poking out through the soil.
These steep fields contain some of the UK's rarest varieties of a family of fungi known as waxcaps, and they have attracted the attention of scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.
The researchers are collecting samples of DNA to take back to the lab for analysis. They are starting to create a genetic database of the UK's fungi, beginning with the waxcaps.
Dr Martyn Ainsworth, a senior researcher in fungal conservation from Kew, says: "It is a huge kingdom, and relatively under-explored and under-studied.
"I think we know so little about them because, scientifically, they are hard to work on. We can grow a certain number in the lab, but there is a whole host of fungi that we would recognize as mushrooms and toadstools in our woodlands, and some of the most commercially important ones such as ceps, porcini and chanterelles, which we cannot grow in the lab. This has held back a lot of research."
But, fungi, which fall between plants and animals on the tree of life, are the hidden helpers of our environment: they recycle waste and dead matter, and provide plants with water and nutrients.
"They are absolutely fundamental to ecosystems. Fungi are really the behind-the-scenes team that are doing all the work," adds Dr Ainsworth.
One basic question that the team is trying to answer with the genetic library is just how many species of fungi there are. Currently, the UK is thought to contain anywhere between 12 000 to 20 000 species, but Dr Bryn Dentinger, a senior mycologist from RBG Kew, is trying to find the unique gene sequences that will help conservationists gets a handle on this number. He says: "Because of their cryptic nature, fungi are very difficult to identify by morphology alone. But now, with genetic techniques, we finally have the tools here we can accurately diagnose the number of species we have at a much faster rate than before."
Early results already suggest that some waxcaps that were currently considered to be single species, could actually be two or more distinct species.
"There is a lot of hidden diversity that DNA sequencing is allowing us to reveal," Dr Dentinger added.
But despite their apparent abundance, scientists are still concerned about the future of some species of fungus. Habitat destruction and nitrogen pollution from fertilisers are causing serious declines, and one group that has been particularly affected is the waxcaps. In fact, their sheer presence is now used as an indicator to show that a grassland habitat is healthy, and a glut of waxcaps can lead to an area being given a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) conservation designation.
Researchers do not know how many species of fungi there are in the world. The researchers from Kew say that delving into the DNA of fungal species will help to conserve them — because if we are unsure of how many species there are, how can we keep track of the ones we are losing?
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15726717

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  • UK: Bringing bees and business closer

Source: The Guardian, 11 November 2011

Honey has been used by humans for centuries, for sweetening foods to making alcoholic beverages and curing ailments. Pharaohs were buried with it, Greeks and Romans revered it for its culinary and medicinal properties. And today it as still as useful in the medicine cabinet, as the kitchen, to treat colds, hayfever and potentially hospital superbugs.
But has honey ever been used to bring people together and raise awareness about the plight of the bees whose industriousness transforms nectar from flowers into the "food of the gods"?
That is the aim of the Honey Club, which launched on Thursday in London's King's Cross. A collaboration between international brand consultants, Wolff Ollins, and charity, Global Generation, the club will draw its members from local businesses. In return for a membership fee, companies will be able to send employees to bee-themed events as well as receive a few jars of honey from the rooftop hives on Wolff Ollins' office. Surplus honey — and the two hives next to its roof top vegetable garden could produce 80 lbs in the summer — will be sold locally and the money reinvested in the social enterprise.
"We have created a business model with the young people where honey is not just a commodity but a way to bring communities together and to help bees thrive," says Amy Lee, a Wolff Ollins strategist and one of the drivers behind the initiative.
Events will include cooking with honey, bee-friendly urban gardening and documentary screenings on the demise of the honeybee.
The Guardian's sustainability manager, Hannah Judge-Brown, says: "Bees have a lot to teach us and the life of the healthy hive is rich in metaphor for the life of a healthy, sustainable office or any community of people working together. There needs to be good morale for it to work, everyone has their purpose and works together to achieve the goal of the whole, being efficient in using resources and energy, and sharing the surplus."
The most important lessons corporates could learn from the beehive are that the workforce shares the toils of their labour — in the bees' case the honey they produce to feed themselves over the winter. Those that do not contribute — the workshy male drones — are kicked out of the hive at the end of summer. And the queen bee, despite her regal title, far from being a ruler of the bee colony is a slave to her workers, fed by them when they want her to lay thousands of eggs, starved when they do not — all for the good of the whole colony.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/11/bees-business-corporate-beehive?newsfeed=true

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  • USA: FSC US and Alliance renew commitment to Family Forest Certification

Source: International Falls Journal, 3 December 2011

The Forest Stewardship Council-US and the FSC Family Forests Alliance have renewed their agreement to work together on common goals for supporting family forest certification.
“Smallholders continue to be under-represented in the FSC forest certification program,” said Ian Hanna, FSC-US Director of Business Development. “We are continuing to make every effort to increase the engagement of family forest owners in the FSC program and our relationship with the FSC Family Forests Alliance is an important component of this effort.”
Forest certification is a process of inspecting forest management practices to ensure that standards of responsible forestry are being met and maintained. The standards include protections for water quality, wildlife habitat, replanting of trees, and many other considerations for the environment and the community. Certified forests have demonstrated compliance with these standards, and the owners and managers can market their products as certified forest products. Timber products as well as NTFPs, such as maple syrup, can be marketed from certified forests.
Forest owners seek certification for many different reasons. Some landowners are interested in the independent inspection and the opportunity to improve practices. Other landowners are interested in accessing markets that are seeking certified products, including printers and publishers that are asking for certified paper products as well as green building programs that reward the use of certified wood in construction.
Certification provides value to forest owners by creating market opportunities as well as benchmarks for measuring and evaluating current practices. Certification provides value to consumers and the community by helping to identify products that come from well managed forests. Purchasing certified forest products helps further support responsible forest management.
Since 2006, the FSC Family Forests Alliance has provided a national mechanism for bringing together individuals and organizations committed to promoting responsible forest stewardship through FSC standards. The Alliance provides a forum for communication, cooperation, and information sharing.
“The Alliance has worked to shine a light on the challenges that family forest owners face when pursuing certification and we have worked with our partners to create solutions and demonstrate working models of successful family forest engagement,” said Kathryn Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners, a Minneapolis-based non-profit, and current Secretariat of the FSC Family Forests Alliance.
The renewed memorandum of understanding between FSC-US and FFA reaffirms each organization’s commitment to advance family forest certification in the U.S.
“With the launch of the new FSC forest management standard and the inclusion of Family Forest Indicators for streamlining the audit process, there are new opportunities to provide services and benefits to woodland owners,” said Fernholz.
For full story, please see: www.ifallsdailyjournal.com/view/full_story/16632095/article-FSC-US-and-Alliance-renew-commitment-to-Family-Forest-Certification

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  • USA: Can the American chestnut tree be revived?

Source: The Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA, USA), 3 December 2011

Mrs. Sara Fitzsimmons, 34, is the American Chestnut Foundation's regional science coordinator and a Penn State research technologist working to reintroduce the American chestnut back into the forests of the East Coast.
The American chestnut grew for centuries from Georgia to Maine, accounting for 25 percent of the trees in the forests. A fast-growing straight tree, it produced an easy-to-work, rot-resistant lumber used to build everything from bassinets to caskets. Chestnut was the wood that took people from cradle to grave.
The trees can grow 110 ft high and 15 ft wide in the right climate, produce a wealth of nuts to sell, and are great food for wildlife. Chestnut trees reliably produce nuts, as they bloom later in the season than oaks, avoiding flower-killing frosts.
In the mid- to late-1800s, Asian chestnuts were imported to America for their large nuts but brought along a nasty fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, which causes chestnut blight. Within 50 years, 400 million American chestnuts were wiped out by the disease.
The tree persists in forests, but according to Mrs. Fitzsimmons it is "functionally extinct or endangered." Sprouts emerge from American chestnut stumps, live maybe eight to 15 years, get the blight and die, sometimes producing nuts in the process. The species has ceased being sustainable.
That is where the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) comes in. The focus of its work is to create a tree with an American growth characteristic but with the blight resistance of the Asian varieties. Even though the Asian varieties produce large nuts, they do not grow straight like the American tree and are therefore not prized for lumber. By using a series of breeding techniques, crossing and back crossing American trees with Asian varieties, there is hope that the tree will be brought back.
Mrs. Fitzsimmons estimates that about three-fourths of the 1 000 trees planted from seed in 2007 a West-Virginia orchard she is visiting will be blight-resistant and retain the sought-after American growing characteristics.
But only time will tell, as the trees can live 20 or 30 years, be blight-free, and then succumb to the disease.
This orchard is filled with what are called B2F3 trees, some of which are already 15 ft tall. There is another orchard of 900 trees nearby, filled with the latest cross called B3F3. It is the species that the ACF hopes will be the future for the American chestnut. Both orchards belong to an anonymous grower who's passionate about the foundation's mission.
The ACF is always looking for help growing from interested parties. They are also searching for surviving American chestnut trees to increase diversity in the breeding process.
School groups, garden clubs and individuals all can make a difference bringing the tree back from its endangered status.
Mrs. Fitzsimmons is not sure she will see the resurrection of the species in her lifetime but hopes her work will benefit coming generations. She explains why it is important for foundation members and individuals to act now.
"To see people looking forward into the future and doing things not for themselves, but for their grandchildren or great grandchildren."
For full story, please see: www.post-gazette.com/pg/11337/1194262-47.stm

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  • USA: Students forage in California park for weekend Fungus Fair

Source: 2 December 2011, San Francisco Bay Guardian (USA)

Late fall is the time for the fleshy bodies of fungi to find their way to the moist, earthy surface.
This time of year, mushroom specialist and biology teacher JR Blair can be found at McClaren Park with students from San Francisco State University collecting hundreds of species of mushrooms for the much-anticipated Fungus Fair, hosted at the University of California (Berkeley).
“All of the mushrooms are collected the Friday before the fair,” Blair said. ”Between 100 and 200 species of mushrooms are sorted and brought to (the exhibit) by Friday night.”
Blair was featured on the video series “Science on the Spot”, foraging around McClaren Park sniffing, tasting, and delicately handling the mushrooms to identify the species. “It is like an Easter egg hunt,” said Blair in the video.
The collected mushrooms are spread over several tables and meticulously labelled, providing an elaborate mushroom gallery of all shapes, sizes, colours and smells.
The Fungus Fair has been an annual event for 41 years with exhibits that show mushroom hunters how to identify edible species and workshops that demonstrate how to grow your own on pieces of wet newspaper.
Around 200 volunteers, comprised of UC Berkeley and SF State students, help to gather mushrooms and run the different exhibit stations. The fair includes live cooking demonstrations, informational exhibits on poisonous, hallucinogenic, medicinal, and microscopic mushrooms and family-friendly workshops on how to make spore prints.
“Foraging for mushrooms puts me in touch with nature, slows me down,” said mushroom enthusiast and Fungus Fair coordinator Lisa Gorman. “I am stopping, breathing more deeply and observing. The process compels me to attend to a world and kingdom other than my own.”
For more information, visit the Mycological Society of San Francisco web site: www.mssf.org/fungus-fairs/index.html
For full story, please see: www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision/2011/12/02/students-forage-sf-park-weekend-fungus-fair

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  • Zimbabwe: On patrol with wildlife defenders — the last hope for black rhinos?

Source: The Ecologist, 1 December 2011

On one side of the road is the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, a 124 000-acre stretch of pristine wilderness that is home to 57 species of large mammal, including 84 of Zimbabwe’s 500-strong black rhino population. On the other is a barren patch of land, once home to a thriving game reserve, but now a grazing spot for a motley crew of goats, donkeys and cows. Where the land beyond Malilangwe’s border is green and liberally dotted with trees, all that can be seen on the other side is the odd blasted shrub, a gaggle of mud-walled thatched huts and vast stretches of red-gold sun-baked soil.
The Ecologist is in Zimbabwe but the contrasting roadsides speak volumes about the challenge facing conservationists all over Africa: how do you balance the needs of human populations with those of wildlife? Even more importantly, in an age of increased demand for rhino horn, ivory and animal bones for use in Chinese medicine, how do you protect the animals in your care?
For former Royal Marine Mike Ball, the man who heads up the Malilangwe Trust’s anti-poaching team, the Scouts, it means you do everything in your power, even to the point of taking on a pride of lions to save a rhino calf.
The real threat to the rhinos lies not with lions, however, but with the South Asian appetite for horn. “It is mostly for traditional medicine,” says Richard Thomas of wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, “but it has also become a status symbol for the wealthy, which explains why bracelets have been found.”
Rhino deaths have gone through the roof in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, and although exact figures are hard to come by in Zimbabwe, it is clear that the local rhino population is also falling victim to the trend. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature [IUCN], current poaching levels in Zimbabwe are unsustainable and threaten to wipe out population gains made in the mid-1990s. What’s more, says the report, poachers are becoming increasingly sophisticated: “In Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, quieter methods to kill rhino to avoid detection (i.e. no gunshot noise) have been employed, including the use of veterinary immobilizing drugs, poison and cross-bows.
This points to a growing and cunning sophistication in the illicit procurement of rhino horns and the involvement of marksmen with specialised skills and equipment. These methods are working on a global scale. Just one month ago, the last Javan rhino in Vietnam met its death at the hands of poachers, and while the Ecologist was in South Africa and Zimbabwe for this report, six rhinos were killed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in a single day. But it is not just the big beasts that are falling prey to poachers. Small scale subsistence poaching is also taking its toll on game such as impala, klipspringers and guinea fowl. So far, the Malilangwe Trust has taken a three-fold approach to dealing with the problem: anti-poaching patrols, community involvement and tourism. And with only one rhino taken to date, it is an approach that appears to be paying dividends.
Perched high up on a hill, overlooking a lake created by the damming of the Chiredzi River back in the 1950s is Pamushane; a stunning luxury lodge run by South African eco-tourism specialists, Singita. It does not get huge numbers of British tourists, although it does attract plenty of well-heeled Americans, a couple of Hollywood superstars and the odd despot’s son. Clientele aside, what the lodge also does is provide employment for locals and funds to pay for conservation operations, although as General Manager Mark Saunders points out, most of the conservation cash comes from Malilangwe’s trustees. Either way, the goal as far as tourism is concerned is to make enough money to make the Trust’s conservation and community objectives self-sustainable while having as little impact on the environment as possible. But while tourism is an ongoing project, the work having the biggest impact on current poaching levels is that being done by the Scouts.
Malilangwe’s anti-poaching team is a 70-strong squad of local Shangaans — many of whom are former poachers themselves — employed to patrol the boundaries of the reserve and make it as formidable a target as possible for anyone with killing animals in mind. Although much of what they do takes place on the reserve, they also work with officials in the neighbouring Gonarezhou National Park, who are faced with the daunting challenge of securing an area the size of Belgium. It is no easy task as the authorities in charge of protecting South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which is the size of Wales, will attest. Unlike Gonarezhou and Kruger, Malilangwe benefits from having its own solar powered fence but that does not mean that break-ins are not attempted. “It is a full time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day job,” says Mike. “We are dealing with pretty sophisticated poachers who can come in at any time really, day or night, so we have to pretty much have to protect it 24 hours a day.”
For full story, please see:
www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/1152451/on_patrol_with_zimbabwes_wildlife_defenders_the_last_hope_for_black_rhinos.html

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NEWS

  • Central African countries agree plan to strengthen wildlife law enforcement

Source: TRAFFIC, 15 November 2011

Delegates from eight central African countries last week agreed an Action Plan for strengthening enforcement of national wildlife laws in the region.
The new Action Plan will ensure better cooperation and intelligence sharing between enforcement officers in Central Africa, to help tackle large-scale poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Central Africa.
Convened by His Excellency Raymond Mbitikon, Executive Secretary of the Commission of Central African Forests (COMIFAC), the meeting brought together representatives from the COMIFAC member countries — Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Also attending were a number of partner organizations who would be assisting in the implementation of the Action Plan, including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), FTNS (Tri-National Sangha Foundation), LAGA (Last Great Ape Organization), MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants), PFBC (Congo Basin Forest Partnership), RAPAC (Central Africa Protected Areas Network) and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).
The “Plan d’Action Sous-Régional des pays de l’espace COMIFAC pour le renforcement de l’Application des Législations nationales sur la Faune Sauvage” (COMIFAC Regional Action Plan for Strengthening National Wildlife Law Implementation) covers the period 2012–2017.
It consists of four components looking at cooperation and collaboration among relevant wildlife law enforcement and prosecution authorities; investigations at key border and transit points, domestic markets and transboundary areas; effective deterrents and prosecutions; and awareness of illegal wildlife trade issues.
“This Action Plan underlines the commitment of Central African governments to address the illegal wildlife trade, which remains a key threat in the region to conservation of animals such as elephants and great apes,” said Stéphane Ringuet, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Central Africa.
The finalized Action Plan will form the basis of a wildlife enforcement network in Central Africa, similar to networks operational or in development in Central America, Europe, South and South-East Asia.
A roadmap for implementation of the Action Plan was also agreed at the meeting, including submission of the Action Plan for formal endorsement at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers of COMIFAC countries.
For full story, please see: www.traffic.org/home/2011/11/15/central-african-countries-agree-plan-to-strengthen-wildlife.html

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  • Crisis is boosting “Slow Food” movement: founder

Source: AFP, 18 November 2011

The Slow Food movement's global campaign for "good, clean and fair" food is receiving a boost from the economic crisis, its founder Carlo Petrini said on Friday.
"Society is all the more receptive to our arguments, now that we are facing a triple crisis: financial, environmental and energetic," Petrini told AFP on the sidelines of the Euro Gusto food fair in western France.
"We consume a lot more energy than we produce, and that is especially problematic when it comes to food," argued the Italian, who was warmly welcomed on the stalls vaunting rare varieties of farm produce, from cabbage to saffron.
"Human greed has destroyed our soil fertility, water, biodiversity. The Earth is not an infinite resource," he warned. "We need to strengthen the true drivers of sustainable farming, small and medium-sized farmers."
Founded in 1986, Petrini's movement is headquartered in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, and has signed up some 100 000 people in more than 160 countries.
It aims to educate people about traditional and wholesome means of production and defend biodiversity in food supply.
Petrini argues that the key to changing the way we produce food is through "glocal" action — linking up local initiatives using technology to create a global force, the "multinationals of tomorrow."
"Only at a local level can people become a force for change again, more than just passive citizens," he said.
For full story, please see: www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hB-6h2GVU3LALg24gnldPqalecgg?docId=CNG.e4b061d7ef64be93b265dfd540fa0fbb.221

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  • Development and Environment: The Nexus

Source: Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator, UN Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) in IISD Reporting Services, 29 November 2011

Heading towards Rio+20, governments and civil society must raise their eyes to assess the situation and prepare for commitments commensurate to the challenges. Extreme poverty and the degradation of the environment will be at the centre, as two sides of one coin. It cannot be that both the poor and the planet bear the brunt of crises, such as when water, energy and food become unaffordable or when resources for fighting climate change and its impacts are diverted for other needs. People and the Planet are too big to fail!
Since the Stockholm Conference of 1972, the world community has agreed never to speak of the global environment without also addressing the issue of development, in the sense of improving the lives of people from the poorest nations. This is how the Brundtland Commission, 10 years later, considering the necessity of growth in poor countries, came to the concept of sustainable development.
Over time, this phrase has acquired a larger meaning and actually signifies the advancement of all societies, developed or developing, bringing together on an equal footing improvements in social equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability with a special consideration for safeguarding the livelihood of future generations. This concept has become familiar to most governments, but it often has been understood as a specialty of environmentalists. And it is a fact that environmentalists are usually more open to the other pillars of sustainable development than practitioners of the economy or specialists of social affairs are themselves aware of ecological constraints, especially in times of crisis, such as a recession, when politics tends to disfavour the environment and international cooperation. As governments move into fire-fighting mode, they are tempted to shelve the less seen and less noisy, but no less burning, threats of world poverty and a planet under stress.
Therefore, leaders and heads of governments, but also ministers of finance and social affairs, should prepare for and attend Rio+20 with their environment colleagues, to avoid short-term or fragmented and incoherent policies.
As an overarching and universal concept, sustainable development applies to all countries, each one having its own way to implement it, following the relevant parts of a universal checklist like, for instance, Agenda 21. That is one of Rio+20’s objectives: getting all countries, developed or developing, on a sustainable development track. Tool boxes and road maps will be welcome. And it would be useful that an accountability mechanism could review all stakeholders’ commitments: States, local governments, business, etc.
One of the best results of the stronger link between environment and development is that the two communities work more closely together. It has now been clearly demonstrated that the health of natural capital is even more important to the poor than to the rich. It would be a pity that some misunderstanding of the words “green economy” — which in fact refer to implementation of sustainable development — could hinder negotiations on the way to Rio. The environment must not be a collateral victim of a misunderstanding, nor of a political divide.
All countries, whatever their level of advancement, not only should develop in a sustainable manner, with or without help from the international community, but they also belong to the Earth and have the duty of keeping the planet healthy and hospitable.
No powerful voice really speaks on behalf of the global commons: the atmosphere, the oceans, the vital ecological infrastructures, the animals and plants. And to make it worse, we hear of scary planetary boundaries, thresholds or tipping points. Can someone tell us if we have passed one?
Indeed, all ecosystems rely on the working order of the ecosphere which sets the priority framework of all environmental policies and calls for equity between the world’s inhabitants’ needs and greed. An elegant word has appeared recently in our conversations: nexus, to illustrate that issues are interlinked. But the nexus of all nexuses is the planet, which remains the blind spot, not only because it is difficult to assess its state, but above all because there is no political forum to take care of it, except for a bunch of famous conventions striving in isolation to solve one element of the nexus. Of course if some crucial pillar of the biosphere falls apart, it will be difficult for any country to develop. Therefore, Rio+20 should not forget to take care of planet Earth, even though the notion has a romantic flavour to some pragmatic and seasoned negotiators.
For full story, please see: http://uncsd.iisd.org/guest-articles/development-and-environment-the-nexus/?utm_source=lists.iisd.ca&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UNCSD+Update+-+29+November+2011+-+Sustainable+Development+Policy+%26+Practice

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  • Silent forests and famine in east Africa

Source: Guardian (UK), 25 November 2011

This article was written by Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai in September, shortly before her death. It addresses some of the main issues she and the Green Belt Movement were intending to raise at the UN climate summit, which started in Durban, South Africa, on 28 November 2011.

In 2011 the worst drought in 60 years engulfed the east of Africa, forcing millions into a desperate struggle to survive. Poor governance intensified the consequences: a drought, not unusual for this part of Africa, became a famine, in which untold human suffering was guaranteed.
Governments could have planned for the drought (after all, some regions have not seen good rains for four years) and helped their people adapt to the realities of global warming. They did not.
This is the International Year of Forests. What we know is that intact forests are essential to stabilizing local climates and securing the livelihoods of Africa's farmers, herders and entrepreneurs. However, some governments, institutions and organizations are aggressively promoting the planting of exotic species of trees at the expense of indigenous ones as a solution to both drought and climate change. It is not.
One of the most important environmental benefits indigenous forests provide is regulating climate and rainfall patterns; through harvesting and retaining rain, these forests release water slowly to springs, streams, and rivers; this reduces the speed of water runoff and with it, soil erosion. Indigenous forests and trees also play an important role in spiritual and cultural life.
Exotic trees, like pine and eucalyptus, cannot offer these environmental benefits. They eliminate most other local plants and animals. Like invasive species, they create "silent forests" that are devoid of wildlife, undergrowth and water. Tragically, exotic tree plantations in the tropics have taken the place of indigenous forests, often through "slash and burn" practices that destroy biodiversity and turn what used to be forest into agricultural or grazing land.
Through the Redd+ initiative, the international community has committed itself to protecting and rehabilitating indigenous forests. Redd+ is intended to save the world's remaining indigenous forests, whose destruction is responsible for about 17 percent of climate-warming carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere each year. It also seeks to bolster the capacity of communities to mitigate and adapt to the negative effects of climate change (including drought and floods).
For governments and private enterprise to support Redd+, and at the same time welcome the planting of exotic trees at the expense of indigenous forests, is a contradiction. This is especially true for countries like Kenya, where indigenous forest cover is less than 2 percent and mainly remains in watershed areas. Establishing plantations of exotic trees in watershed areas and on private farms is bad environmental, economic, and social policy. In the long run, communities will be without reliable rainfall, rivers, productive soils, and food.
In Kenya and other tropical countries more than 60 percent of the population still live in rural or forested areas. These communities will become poorer and more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change — and the nation will experience more severe and regular droughts that in turn will challenge livelihoods, food security and industry — since Kenya (like Brazil and, increasingly, China and India) relies on hydropower.
The benefits provided by indigenous forests and trees are worth trillions of US dollars each year. No market value is given to clean drinking water, clean air and food that sustains life, unlike the dollars that can be assigned to timber sales. The lure of money obscures the real value of essential environmental services and livelihoods of local communities as they are sacrificed for short-term economic gains.
Environmental damage can take a long time to take root. Some years back Kenya imported a eucalyptus clone from South Africa. In South Africa now the government's Working for Water programme has as its main objective the removal of eucalyptus and other invasive species from sources of water. Today we are seeing that many rivers in Kenya have less water than they used to, or have dried up altogether.
Governments must demonstrate a commitment to standing forests and the rehabilitation of degraded forests. This can be done only if national laws that encourage continued deforestation and forest degradation are reformed; and if communities are supported to plant appropriate trees. If none of this happens, considerable financial resources will be invested without achieving reductions in poverty and other development gains. As the world can see in the east of Africa, there is no time to waste.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/25/silent-forests-famine-east-africa?newsfeed=true

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  • UN’s first International Forest Heroes Awards short list announced

Source: UNFF, 4 December 2011

The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat announced today that a jury composed of senior members of international organizations has short-listed fifteen finalists for the first ever International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards in 2011.
“The UNFF Forest Heroes Programme and Awards was launched as part of our International Year of Forests 2011 activities to identify and honour the countless individuals around the world who are dedicating their lives to nurturing forests in quiet and heroic ways” said Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat and member of the jury panel. “The programme aspires to spotlight everyday people working to make positive changes for forests.”
The actions taken by the short-list of nominees being announced today embody innovative and grassroots initiatives, tapping into the multiple values of forests: from an oyster fisherman’s discovery of the positive role of forests in maintaining clean water for his oyster beds to two young girl scouts mounting a campaign against major opposition to require that the source of palm oil for girl-scout cookies is only from sustainable sources.
“The Forest Heroes program, launched by the UN Forum on Forests, is destined to become a grand new tradition, placing an annual spotlight on individuals who are showing extraordinary courage and determination in saving the forests of the world,” said Mr. Jan A. Hartke, from the Clinton Climate Initiative and member of the jury panel. “These Forest Heroes inspire governments, businesses, and NGOs to work together to protect one of the critical life support systems of the planet, sequestering carbon, preserving biodiversity, reducing poverty, and providing a host of benefits to over one billion people who depend upon them,” he added.
Since its launch in February of this year, global observance of the International Year of Forests has been dedicated to raising public consciousness on issues of sustainable management and catalyzing actions in the development and conservation of all types of forests.
“The full picture of what forests offer is much more than simply economic values and carbon. Forests cover 31 percent of the total global land area, securing livelihoods for 1.6 billion people, shelter and sustenance for land-based biodiversity and climate control. To enhance these benefits, increased investments and greater action is needed, at all levels, in support of sustainable forest management and rehabilitation of degraded forest lands," said Mr. Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General for Forestry at FAO and member of the jury panel.
Three finalists from each region are in the running for one prestigious award in each region. The range of experience for each hero varies, with some having life-long experience with forests, including an 84-year old, and 15 and 16 year old, who are just starting out. The impact of some of the heroes is far reaching, with their projects being duplicated on national and global levels.
“The finalists for the Forest Heroes award demonstrate the many different ways individual initiative and innovation can lead to change: organizing communities to protect or restore forest ecosystems, teaching children the importance of forests, or advocating for reform of public policies or corporate practices – all are important,” said Ms. Frances Seymour, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and member of the jury panel.
Winners will be announced and awarded at the Forests 2011 closing ceremony at the United Nations in New York in January 2012. The UNFF will feature the stories and work of all five winners on the International Year of the Forest 2011 website to inspire and influence all of us.
For more information, please contact: Mita Sen, Programme Officer, United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, 1 UN Plaza, DC I-1244, New York, NY 10017, USA; Tel: +1 917 367 5069; Fax: +1 917 367 3186; Email: sen@un.org; Web: www.un.org/esa/forests

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EVENTS

Closing ceremony of the International Year of Forests
Geneva, Palais des Nations
13 December 2011
The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section with the Republic of Poland and the United States of America will host a Policy Talk on "The future of forests in Europe and North America" based on the recently published ECE/FAO Outlook Studies. It will include an interactive panel discussion with high level experts answering questions on biodiversity, climate change, energy and trade related issues.
The Policy Talk will be followed by a Closing Ceremony and reception. On that occasion, a "United Nations Tree" will be brought inside the Palais des Nations and decorated using contributions from Geneva-based Missions; all symbolizing forests in their countries.
For more information, please contact:
Elina Warsta
Forestry and Timber Section
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 917 2872
Email: elina.warsta@unece.org
www.unece.org/iyf-closing.html

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Reminder: Conference on NWFPs for Sustained Livelihoods
Bhopal, India
17-19 December 2011
The importance of NWFPs to rural livelihoods and alleviating rural poverty is well documented. It is estimated that about 60 million highly forest dependent people in Latin America, West Africa and Southeast Asia, and an additional 400 to 500 million people especially communities living inside and on the fringes of forest areas depend on NWFPs for food, shelter, medicine, cash income etc. Apart from meeting subsistence and cash income needs of the dependent communities, NWFPs also support large number of small to large scale enterprises engaged in processing and/or trading of NWFP and NWFP based products.
While there is growing appreciation of the importance of NWFPs for rural households, especially of the very poor, there are also concerns about the potential impact of NWFP collection on biodiversity.
Nevertheless, many positive developments are happening around the globe in the field of NWFP management. It is against this backdrop that the Minor Forest Produce Federation of Bhopal, India is organizing an international conference on NWFPs .
The conference gives an opportunity for researchers, policy makers, managers, professionals from different private sectors in Asia and other regions of the world to exchange and share methodologies, approaches, information on products, market and lessons learnt from NWFPs conservation and development initiatives.
For more information, please contact:
NWFP Conference Secretariat
Minor Forest Produce Processing and Research Centre
Barkheda Pathani, BHEL Township
Bhopal (M.P.), India
Tel: +91-755-2417670
Fax: +91-755-2417670, 2552628
E-mail: ntfpcon.secretariat@gmail.com
www.nwfpcon.com

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LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEB SITES

36.       Wildlife in a changing climate
Source: FAO Forestry News (www.fao.org/forestry/en/)

This FAO publication analyses and presents how climate change affects or will likely affect wild animals and their habitats. Although climate change has already been observed and monitored over several decades, there are not many long-term studies on how the phenomenon is affecting wildlife. There is growing evidence, however, that climate change significantly exacerbates other major human-induced pressures such as encroachment, deforestation, forest degradation, land-use change, pollution and overexploitation of wildlife resources. Case studies are presented in this book that describe some of the body of evidence, in some instances, and provide projections of likely scenarios, in others.
For more information, please see: www.fao.org/forestry/30032-043e91af6fddb0d073537f6249fd0cc2e.pdf

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37.       The Ecologist: Wildlife Special
From: The Ecologist E-newsletter, December 2011

This special issue of the environmental magazine The Ecologist is dedicated to wildlife. Stories include: “On patrol with Zimbabwe's anti-poaching squad,” “How to end illegal wildlife poaching,” “The human face of conservation: bringing community and wildlife together,” among others.
For more information, please see: www.theecologist.org/investigations/natural_world/1152619/is_there_room_for_wildlife_as_africa_grapples_with_development.html

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38.       Other publications of Interest
From: NWFP Programme

Arai, N. Yamamoto, M. 2011. Succession of traditional craftsmanship in rural mountain areas: focusing on a Japanese lacquer producer in Tochigi Prefefecture. [Japanese]. Bulletin of the Utsunomiya University Forests. 47, 41-56. 7 ref.

Agnihotri, A. K. Shital, K. S. Khatoon, S. Rawat, A. K. S. 2011. Validation of traditional claims of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) — the Indian ginseng. Applied Botany Abstracts. 31: 2, 160-180. many ref.

Auffret, A.G. 2011. Can seed dispersal by human activity play a useful role for the conservation of European grasslands? Appl. Veg. Sci. 14(3):291-303.

Bergstrom, B.J. 2011. Endangered wolves fall prey to politics. Science 333(6046):1092.

Chiarucci, A., Bacaro, G., and Scheiner, S.M. 2011. Old and new challenges in using species diversity for assessing biodiversity. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London. [Biol.] 366(1576):2426-2437.

Dalle, S.P., Pulido, M.T., and de Blois, S. 2011. Balancing shifting cultivation and forest conservation: lessons from a "sustainable landscape" in southeastern Mexico. Ecol. Appl. 21(5):1557-1572.

Donnelly, R.E., Katzner, T., Gordon, I.J., Gompper, M.E., Redpath, S., Garner, T.W.J., Altwegg, R., Reed, D.H., Acevedo-Whitehouse, K., and Pettorelli, N. 2011. Putting the eco back in ecotourism. Anim. Conserv. 14(4):325-327.

Downsborough, L., Shackleton, C.M., and Knight, A.T. 2011. The potential for voluntary instruments to achieve conservation planning goals: the case of conservancies in South Africa. Oryx 45(3):357-364.

Fisher, B., Edwards, D.P., Giam, X.L., and Wilcove, D.S. 2011. The high costs of conserving Southeast Asia's lowland rainforests. Front. Ecol. Environ. 9(6):329-334.

Foerster, S., Wilkie, D.S., Morelli, G.A., Demmer, J., Starkey, M., Telfer, P., and Stei, M. 2011. Human livelihoods and protected areas in Gabon: a cross-sectional comparison of welfare and consumption patterns. Oryx 45(3):347-356.

Martin, Michel Gauthier, and Jacobs, Douglass F. Walnut (Juglans spp.) ecophysiology in response to environmental stresses and potential acclimation to climate change. Annals of Forest Science, 2011; 68 (8): 1277 DOI: 10.1007/s13595-011-0135-6

Meeus, I., Brown, M.J.F., De Graaf, D.C., and Smagghe, G. 2011. Effects of invasive parasites on bumble bee declines. Conserv. Biol. 25(4):662-671.

Nath, V. Khatri, P. K. 2011. Traditional knowledge on ethno-medicinal uses prevailing in tribal pockets of Harda and Raisen districts of Madhya Pradesh. Indian Forester. 137: 9, 1071-1076. 31 ref.

Peters, V.E., and Nibbelink, N. 2011. The value of fruit security for the conservation of a neotropical frugivore in human-dominated landscapes. Biodivers. Conserv. 20(9):2041-2055.

Printes, R.C., Rylands, A.B., and Bicca-Marques, J.C. 2011. Distribution and status of the Critically Endangered blond titi monkey Callicebus barbarabrownae of north-east Brazil. Oryx 45(3):439-443.

Robinson, J.G. 2011. Corporate greening: is it significant for biodiversity conservation? Oryx 45(3):309-310.

Salvador, S., Clavero, M., and Leite Pitman, R. 2011. Large mammal species richness and habitat use in an upper Amazonian forest used for ecotourism. Mammalian Biology (76): 115-123.

van der Ploeg, J., Cauilan-Cureg, M., van Weerd, M., and De Groot, W.T. 2011. Assessing the effectiveness of environmental education: mobilizing public support for Philippine crocodile conservation. Conserv. Lett. 4(4):313-323.

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39.       WEB SITES and E-ZINES
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Bees in the Big Give
From 5-9 December, Bees for Development Trust is taking part in “The Big Give Christmas Challenge.” For one week only all online donations to our Honey Bees in Africa project will be doubled by “The Big Give.”
http://new.thebiggive.org.uk/projects/view/13574

Sacred Natural Sites
Emerging out of 13 years of work of the IUCN Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas, the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative builds an alliance of custodians, traditional knowledge holders, conservationists, academics and others in support of the conservation and revitalization of sacred natural sites and territories. The initiative is guided by custodians and advisors from different professions and walks of life. As a basis for guiding its development, they make use of a preliminary action plan. Leading up to the action plan was the development of the IUCN UNESCO Sacred Natural Sites – Guidelines for Protected Area Managers and the book Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture.
http://sacrednaturalsites.org/

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MISCELLANEOUS

  • Combining traditional knowledge and climate science

Source: Reuters Alert Net, 26 November 2011

Bouba Mal Yaya is a herdsman from the Fulani-Mbororo peoples in Chad. Along with his fellow herders, he had been expecting good grazing for his cattle this year but this has not been the case.
He is confused and frustrated. He had always been able to rely on his people’s age-old knowledge of their ecosystem to sustainably manage grazing. This traditional knowledge has been used by his people to develop strategies to cope with seasonal weather patterns and manage their meagre resources.
The community has typically looked to the elders for predictions on rainfall distribution, drought and other seasonal patterns. Now, it would appear that the reliability of their prediction is undermined by increasingly unpredictable weather and climate conditions. Their livelihoods and future as a culture are under threat.
The cause? Climate change. Mbororo herders travel over great distances to graze their livestock. The impact of climate change has reduced the capacity of their traditional grazing lands with droughts and dwindling resources pushing them to herd their livestock further afield.
Some have lost their stock and have been forced to change their way of life, becoming semi-nomadic or sedentary. These lifestyle changes are not easy, and the pastoralists experience extreme hardship and loss of culture. The decreasing reliability of the elders’ predictions has had an impact on their trustworthiness within the community, further destabilizing life for these people.
The situation is frustrating for everyone involved, especially considering that information which could help the pastoralists maintain their traditional way of life is already at hand. Climate change experts use modern monitoring and forecasting systems to generate a vast amount of information on past, present and future climate scenarios at international, regional and national scales.
The difficulty arises in communicating this information to grassroots level in a language that the people understand and that takes account of their traditional knowledge, prediction methods and existing local approaches to decision-making.
In a bid to adapt to the changing conditions and maintain their customary way of life, the Mbororo peoples are coming together with other pastoralists, meteorologists and African policy makers.
They share information relating to traditional and scientific knowledge and outline their needs. They also look at how to improve the exchange of data, knowledge and information needed to improve policy making to boost resilience to climate change at grassroots level.
Thanks to the contributions of the pastoralists, climate change experts are developing a greater understanding of traditional knowledge. This will enable them to package their information in a more manageable and user friendly way for the local community.
By making use of innovative information and communications technologies and participatory mapping techniques pastoralists hope to provide scientists with valuable insights into local weather and climate patterns and reporting on the impact of climate change. This essential data will enrich the information base available for research and analysis, ultimately developing more nuanced and locally accurate weather forecasts.
For full story, please see:  www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/combining-traditional-knowledge-and-climate-science-in-chad

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  • Global carbon emissions reach record 10 Billion tons, threatening 2 degree target

Source: ScienceDaily, 4 December 2011

Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased by 49 percent in the last two decades, according to the latest figures by an international team, including researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia.
Published on 4 December in the journal Nature Climate Change, the new analysis by the Global Carbon Project shows fossil fuel emissions increased by 5.9 percent in 2010 and by 49 percent since 1990 — the reference year for the Kyoto protocol.
On average, fossil fuel emissions have risen by 3.1 percent each year between 2000 and 2010 — three times the rate of increase during the 1990s. They are projected to continue to increase by 3.1 percent in 2011.
Total emissions — which combine fossil fuel combustion, cement production, deforestation and other land use emissions — reached 10 billion tonnes of carbon in 2010 for the first time. Half of the emissions remained in the atmosphere, where CO2 concentration reached 389.6 parts per million. The remaining emissions were taken up by the ocean and land reservoirs, in approximately equal proportions.
Rebounding from the global financial crisis of 2008-09 when emissions temporarily decreased, last year's high growth was caused by both emerging and developed economies. Rich countries continued to outsource part of their emissions to emerging economies through international trade.
Contributions to global emissions growth in 2010 were largest from China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation and the European Union. Emissions from the trade of goods and services produced in emerging economies but consumed in the West increased from 2.5 percent of the share of rich countries in 1990 to 16 percent in 2010.
For full story, please see: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111204144648.htm

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  • Walnut trees may not be able to withstand climate change

Source: Purdue University (Indiana, USA), 30 November 2011

Warmer, drier summers and extreme weather events considered possible as the climate changes would be especially troublesome — possibly fatal — for walnut trees (Juglans spp.), according to research at Purdue University (USA).
For over five years, Douglass Jacobs, a professor of forestry and natural resources, and Martin-Michel Gauthier, a former doctoral student under Jacobs who is now a research scientist in the Ministry of Natural Resources in Quebec, Canada, studied the physiology of walnut trees, which are economically significant in Indiana, USA for their lumber and veneer, and in other areas for their nuts. They found that the trees are especially sensitive to particular climates.
"Walnut is really restricted to sites not too wet or dry. It has an extremely narrow range," said Jacobs, whose findings were published in the December issue of Annals of Forest Science.
"We suspect and predict that climate change is going to have a real impact on walnuts. We may see some type of decline of the species."
Specifically, walnuts would have difficulty tolerating droughts that could be associated with a changing climate.
"Changes in moisture could restrict its ability to survive without irrigation," Jacobs said. "Almost all climate change models predict that climates will become drier."
Walnuts are also sensitive to cold, so much so that they have developed a defence mechanism against late frosts. Jacobs said walnut trees do not begin sprouting leaves until almost a month after other trees in the spring.
That defence mechanism could be compromised by extreme weather events associated with climate change scenarios. Late spring frosts after walnuts have developed leaves could kill trees. "That, on top of the increase in temperatures, would be a problem for walnut," Gauthier said. "The trees would basically shut down."
In California, more than 500 000 tons of walnuts were sold for more than US$1 billion in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
At Purdue's Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, a walnut breeding program is attempting to identify trees that can be used in different climates, Michler said.
One goal is to find walnuts that may be able to stand up to the heat or cold stresses that trees could be subject to in a changing climate. The center is looking at seeds that come from mature trees to see if the seeds have attained defense mechanisms against changes already seen in climate.
"That could be the strategy that trees have," said Charles Michler, project leader of the Centre. "The trees that are mature now may be affected by climate change, but the seeds they produce may be adapting through genetic changes."

For full story, please see:www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/111128JacobsWalnut.html

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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012