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NWFP-Digest-L
No. 5/12

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.

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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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IN THIS ISSUE:

PRODUCTS

COUNTRY INFORMATION

NEWS

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

MISCELLANEOUS

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PRODUCTS

  • Bamboo: Bamboo bikes put Zambian business on right track

Source: CNN, 31 May 2012

Making the most of the southern African country's bamboo plants, two Americans and two Zambians have set up a company that is crafting high-end, lightweight bicycles with frames made out of the locally-grown wooden weed.
Dubbed Zambikes, the company is putting its custom-built Zambian bikes on roads around the world, offering pedal enthusiasts a unique ride while helping to empower local communities back home.
"It is a plus to have a product that is grown in Africa, made in Africa and exported to everywhere else in the world," says Zambikes co-founder Mwewa Chikamba.
Eye-catching, super light and extremely durable, bamboo bicycles have gained traction in recent years, becoming a popular alternative to traditional steel or aluminium bikes. The material, one of nature's fastest growing resources, has great shock absorbing abilities that contribute to a smooth and eco-friendly ride."It is a green project and we are encouraging other entities and industries to look at ways and means of bringing down levels of pollution," says Lusaka-born Chikamba, 43.
The idea for Zambikes first surfaced in 2004 when two young Americans, Vaughn Spethmann and Dustin McBride, visited Zambia on a six-week university field trip. The two college friends were impressed by the hospitality of Zambians but also witnessed first-hand the economic hardship that many of the country's people were suffering.
"We noticed that unemployment was well over 60 percent," says 27-year-old Spethmann. "Everybody we talked to did not have jobs or could not find jobs and when we looked around nobody had decent bicycles."
Spethmann and McBride decided to return to Zambia straight after their graduation. They teamed up with Chikamba and fellow Zambian Gershom Sikaala and together they set the Zambikes operation in motion in July 2007. So far, the company, which employs some 40 people, has produced about 500 hand-made bamboo frames, but this year alone it expects to crank out another 450.
With a price tag of around US$900, the company's bamboo bikes are primarily aimed at the international market, with countries such as Japan, Singapore, Germany, Brazil, Finland and the United States driving demand.
Spethmann says the bamboo is chosen carefully for its quality and thickness. It is then cut and treated before being dried and placed in a jig. The frame is then joined with glue and wrapped in natural fibres and affixed to its conventional metal components. "It is quite labour intensive — each frame takes between 40 and 60 man hours to make," says Spethmann. "Every piece of bamboo has different colours, different bends, so every frame is unique."
For full story, please see: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/31/business/bamboo-bicycles-zambia-zambikes/index.html

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  • Bamboo: Another significant step forward for bamboo industry in South Africa

Source: www.news24.com , 28 May 2012, 13:09

The establishment of a bamboo industry in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) has taken another step forward with the launch of a small bamboo weaving and craft making project at Chintsa this week. The five crafters involved in the project will be helping to assess the readiness of the South African market for bamboo products.
The project is being driven by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) as one of its strategic agro-processing initiatives in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation. Project Manager Ken Bern say it was one of two business plans for small bamboo value-adding projects received after a Bamboo Symposium last year — the other is at Ndakana.
Bern says one of the “biggest risks” associated with the bamboo project is marketing.
He says the Chintsa project includes all the elements of a larger project from harvesting through to production, adding that although it is a small project “it will help feel out the market’s needs and size”.
Currently, the group is weaving with their hands using young wet bamboo which is more pliable to make a range of products including bird feeders, wine racks, ladders and trellises.
For full story, please see: www.news24.com/MyNews24/Another-significant-step-forward-for-Bamboo-industry-20120528

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  • Birch syrup: Move over maple syrup

Source: National Public Radio (Washington D.C.), 21 May 2012

Latvians have been celebrating the end of their long, snow-filled winters with a fresh spring tonic tapped from their ubiquitous birch trees since the 17th century. As the ice begins to melt and the ground warms, families gather around their birch trees to tap the sap. At its peak, the sap runs clear.
Birch sap makes a refreshing drink with just a hint of sweetness, almost like water with fresh lemon or lime, but without the tartness. According to Latvian birch juice producer Linards Liberts. It can be made into sparkling wine, fermented lemonade and birch sap syrup, which tastes similar to maple syrup, but more complex, tasters say.
But birch sap is probably still a long way off from being popular in the US. Latvian chef Martins Ritins likes to drink the juice at its freshest — within the first six hours of tapping. He taps enough sap in one season to last him all year long. "When it is sunny, you can get 20 litres (4.5 gallons) a day from one tree. The season runs two to three weeks. Each tree produces a slightly different taste," he says. The trees tapped for birch sap are the white or silver ones, yet they all have their own distinct taste signature — some more earthy, some sweeter than others, he says.
Ritins explains birch sap only contains 1 to 2 percent sugar, unlike maple, which has 8 percent sugar content. It is hailed for its detoxification qualities, and high Vitamin C and mineral content.
For full story, please see: www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/05/21/153194426/move-over-maple-syrup-birch-syrup-may-challenge-your-sweet-rule

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  • Bushmeat: African monkey meat that could be behind the next HIV

Source: The Independent, 25 May 2012

Deep in the rainforest of south-east Cameroon, poachers make their money from the illegal slaughter of gorillas and chimpanzees. They disperse but make it known that they are not keen for their activities to be reported; the trade they ply could not only wipe out critically endangered species but, scientists are now warning, could also create the next pandemic of a deadly virus in humans.
80 percent of the meat eaten in Cameroon is killed in the wild and is known as "bushmeat". The nation's favoured dishes are gorilla, chimpanzee or monkey because of their succulent and tender flesh. According to one estimate, up to 3 000 gorillas are slaughtered in southern Cameroon every year to supply an illicit but pervasive commercial demand for ape meat.
"Everyone is eating it," said one game warden. "If they have money they will buy gorilla or chimp to eat."
Frankie, a poacher in the southern Dja Wildlife reserve who gave a fake name, said he is involved in the trade because he can earn good money from it, charging around £60/adult gorilla killed. "I have to make a living," he said. "Women come from the market and order a gorilla or a chimp and I go and kill them."
Cameroon's south-eastern rainforests are also home to the Baka — traditional forest hunters who have the legal right to hunt wild animals, with the exception of great apes.
Felix Biango, a Baka elder, said the group used to hunt gorilla every few weeks to feed his village, Ayene, but has stopped since Cameroon outlawed the practice ten years ago. However, he says that every week, three or four people come from the cities to ask the group to help them to hunt wild animals, such as gorillas and chimpanzees.
While the Baka no longer hunt primates for themselves, Mr Biango says that they still kill gorillas for the commercial trade and will eat the meat if they find the animals already dead.
Though Cameroonians have eaten primate meat for years, recent health scares have begun to raise fears about the safety of the meat. "In the village of Bakaklion our brothers found a dead gorilla in the forest," Mr Biango said. "They took it back to the village and ate the meat. Almost immediately, everyone died — 25 men, women and children — the only person who did not was a woman who didn't eat the meat."
Three-quarters of all new human viruses are known to come from animals, and some scientists believe humans are particularly susceptible to those carried by apes. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now widely believed to have originated in chimps. Apes are known to host other potentially deadly viruses, such as ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered.
Babila Tafon, head vet at the primate sanctuary Ape Action Africa (AAA), in Mefou, just outside the capital Yaounde, believes the incident that Biango describes could have been caused by an outbreak of ebola, but cannot be sure because no tests were carried out.
AAA now cares for 22 gorillas and more than 100 chimps — all orphans of the bushmeat trade.
Mr Tafon tests the blood of all apes arriving at the sanctuary. He says he has recently detected a new virus in the apes — simian foamy virus, which is closely related to HIV. "A recent survey confirmed this is now in humans, especially in some of those who are hunters and cutting up the apes in the south-east of the country," he said.
Viruses are often transferred from ape to human through a bite, scratch or the blood of a dead ape getting into an open wound. There is a lower risk from eating cooked or smoked primates, but it is not completely safe.
Bushmeat is not only a concern for Cameroonians. Each year, an estimated 11 000 tons of bushmeat is illegally smuggled in to the UK, mainly from West Africa, and is known to include some ape meat.
The transfer of viruses from ape to man is a primary concern for the international virology research and referral base run by the Pasteur Centre in Yaounde. Each week, it screens more than 500 blood samples for all manner of viruses, and alerts major international medical research centres if it finds an unfamiliar strain.
Professor Dominique Baudon, the director of the Cameroon centre, says he is concerned that the bushmeat trade is a major gateway for animal viruses to enter humans worldwide, due to the export trade.
For full story, please see: www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/african-monkey-meat-that-could-be-behind-the-next-hiv-7786152.html

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  • Cinnamon: What is Saigon cinnamon?

Source: www.nwitimes.com, 23 May 2012

This wonderfully aromatic herb is just one member of the Laurel family, a botanical clan numbering upwards of 4 000 representatives. Saigon cinnamon’s cousins include sassafras and avocado.
Among the three cinnamon-like cassia trees and the one true cinnamon itself, Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi) offers the richest source of the essential oil (1 to 5 percent) that distinguishes these herbs in both the kitchen and the medicine chest. Indeed, so concentrated is the oil in a stick of Saigon cinnamon that it is reported to spark when exposed to a flame. Where true cinnamon — which hails from Sri Lanka  — offers a mild, subtle flavour, the cassia cinnamons — most notably Saigon cinnamon — are characteristically sweet. Both the tangy bite and the sweetness of red hot candies flow from the high oil content found in this Vietnamese spice.
Medicinally, the cinnamons are valued by diabetics for their ability to lower blood sugar. Folk remedies also look to cinnamon to treat gas, stomach cramps, high blood pressure and difficult menstruation.
Saigon cinnamon is an evergreen tree native to mainland Southeast Asia. Named after Vietnam’s largest city, this medicinal plant is nowhere to be found within the wide sweep of that southern urban area. Rather, Saigon cinnamon thrives in the Central Highlands. More akin to the cassia clan than its cousin — the true cinnamon — this botanical offers the same basic culinary and medicinal treasures.
For full story, please see: www.nwitimes.com/niche/get-healthy/healthy-living/herbal-healer-what-is-saigon-cinnamon/article_c68f7e75-e0e1-5e3b-8d32-23665ff0f834.html

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  • Cork: In praise of cork

Source: The Telegraph (UK), 30 May 2012

Cork comes from the bark of the Mediterranean cork oak, and new processing techniques mean that 21st-century cork interiors include carpet underlay, upholstery covering, wallpaper, thermal insulation and those parquet-style floors. But the best thing about cork is that it is probably the greenest building material available. Not only is it a recycled material from a renewable source but its use protects the last remaining habitat of the Iberian lynx, the Iberian imperial eagle and other endangered species. It also provides jobs for thousands of Portuguese and Spanish cork workers.
Yet less than ten years ago, ecologists were warning that the remaining Mediterranean cork forests were dying out. The vogue for screw-top wine bottles was decimating the cork stopper industry, the raison d’être for their conservation.
However, a combination of cork forest farmers improving the reliability of cork wine stoppers and increasing acreage of cork forest becoming FSC-registered has meant a renaissance. Bark is harvested every nine years and each tree lives for up to 200 years.
Cork tiles and wallpaper come from waste material produced in wine-stopper manufacture. Cork’s natural insulation properties have inspired researchers to view it as an alternative to synthetic materials, such as polyurethane foam. It has extremely low thermal conductivity: walls lined with cork lose heat slowly. In tests, it outperforms breeze blocks, bricks, plasterboard, cement and plywood.
“Cork was used quite extensively in the house-building industry until the Fifties, when oil-based products out competed it on price,” says Allan Creaser, director of Cork Insulation, a company at the forefront of cork research for buildings. “It is now coming back into vogue because it is natural and is the only completely carbon negative building material.” At £23/m² for 100 mm thick boards it is more costly than synthetic insulation, but Allan says that overall, the final difference is only slight, as cork does not require finishing.
Architect Susan Venner is one of the first home owners in the country to use cork cladding on a period building to try to reduce heat loss. Dark brown 180 mm-thick boards cover the north-facing wall of her Victorian terrace in south London. “It has performed brilliantly,” she says. Her house is monitored by University College London’s Bartlett Faculty of Research for the Built Environment. “Air pockets in the cork trap heat and although it gets wet when it rains, moisture does not penetrate into the lower layers and just dries out again when the rain stops. It is naturally mould-resistant so it does not rot either.” Heat loss through the walls has been reduced by a factor of ten.
Cork is a super-insulating alternative to conventional foam underlay, blocking out cold air from underneath floorboards and still allowing wood to breathe. At £1.50/m², it competes well on cost and does not disintegrate as foam does.
For full story, please see: www.telegraph.co.uk/property/greenproperty/9300003/Green-living-in-praise-of-cork.html#

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  • Edible insects: The food that really bugs us

Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 29 May 2012

If you did not know insects might be part of your daily diet you are not alone. Recent revelations about the use of crushed cochineal insects in our food have been provoking outrage from consumers.
In March, US coffee chain Starbucks came under fire after it was exposed for using cochineal extract in its strawberry frappuccinos, smoothies and pastries. More than 6 500 people signed a Change.org online petition asking Starbucks to stop using the crimson dye extracted from cochineal insects to colour products such as its Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino because it was not vegan and consumers "do not want crushed bugs in their designer drinks" said the website. The company backed down and said a tomato based extract would be used instead. "What originally began as a story to inform vegans that their Starbucks' Strawberry Frappucino was no longer safe to consume ended up being an issue that bothered many people," said the website.
In this country, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, says that cochineal is used in a variety of everyday products including savoury sauce, flavoured milk, confectionery, cake, dip, dairy dessert, ice cream and yoghurt and "must be listed by its name “cochineal,” “carmines,” or “carminic acid” or by its food additive number 120".
It seems that when it comes to eating insects whether they are disguised in a strawberry frappuccino or visible in a bug stir fry, most people only have one reaction — disgust.
"Disgust is an emotion that evolved to protect us against threats, contagious disease and toxic substances, by motivating us to keep our distance, and making the idea of putting potentially poisonous or infected stuff in our mouth utterly foul," says Dr Daniel Kelly, author of Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust and an assistant professor of philosophy at Purdue University in the US.
"Finding out that you have been unknowingly ingesting ground up creepy-crawlies with your breakfast seems like a situation almost perfectly designed to push people's disgust and outrage buttons," he says.
But while we are mostly disgusted by eating insects other countries embrace it says Kelly. "There is a lot of cultural variability in what people find disgusting, and what they are willing to eat without batting an eye," he says. "The idea of eating any kind of insects might seem inherently repulsive to many Westerners, but that is not a universal sentiment. People from other cultures with different traditional cuisines can be much more comfortable eating what we Westerners might consider revolting, likewise they might consider some of what we enjoy disgusting."
In her new book That's Disgusting: Unravelling the Mysteries of Repulsion, Rachel Herz writes that countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico have a huge appetite for bugs with the most popular dishes being "deep-fried crickets, barbecued larvae and grilled tarantulas". The emotion of disgust evolved "to engender an avoidance of rotten and toxic food" she writes and we learn which foods are disgusting through our cultural heritage. Many Westerners enjoy eating pungent cheeses, says Herz, for example, Brie and Gorgonzola but they would probably be disgusted by the idea of eating Natto, a fermented soybean dish enjoyed by the Japanese which smells "like the marriage of ammonia and a tire fire". Many Asians meanwhile "regard all cheese — from processed American slices to Stilton — as utterly disgusting and the literal equivalent of cow excrement."
One person who is not disgusted by eating insects is entomologist Skye Blackburn. "Eighty per cent of the world's population eats bugs on a regular basis so we are actually in the minority that don't," she says. For Blackburn the bug business has never been better. She offers a range of products through her Butterfly Skye's Bug Shop including chocolate covered crickets, mealworm cookies and lollies containing edible crickets, mealworms or scorpions. "We are currently expanding our range of edible insect products and at this stage we sell over 1 000 Creepy Creature candy lollipops per week. Several stores through Australia sell the lollipops and we get a lot of sales directly through our website," she says. Blackburn is also in demand at food festivals and corporate cooking demonstrations.
In the future Herz believes our aversion to eating insects could be reversed from disgusting to virtuous. "If entomophagy (insects as food) became popular, a way to end world hunger would be within reach." She could be right. According to the Guardian, a policy paper on the eating of insects is being formally considered by FAO and there are plans for a world congress in 2013. Suddenly cochineal does not seem so bad.
For full story, please see: www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/the-food-that-really-bugs-us-20120525-1z9fz.html#ixzz1wR8SMJKf

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  • Fungi: Tempting but toxic mushrooms? Drug promises new cure

Source: www.msnbc.com (USA), 20 May 2012

The toxic death cap mushroom, known scientifically as Amanita phalloides, can destroy the liver of people who eat it. A drug being studied in the U.S. derived from milk thistle seeds may help.
When unusually rainy weather near Washington, D.C., produced a bumper crop of mushrooms last fall, it also sparked a surge in mushroom poisonings. Four people in two weeks showed up at area hospitals with life-threatening liver damage after picking and eating tempting fungi that turned out to be toxic. “We thought it was a good mushroom because it sprung up in our backyard,” one of the victims, Frank Constantinopla, 49, of Springfield, Virgina, told reporters at the time. But the treat Constantinopla plucked and stir-fried with noodles was actually the feared death cap toadstool responsible for most mushroom fatalities worldwide. Within days, he was in a local hospital on the brink of liver failure.
Constantinopla’s liver — and his life — were saved, however, by an investigational drug derived from an old folk remedy: the seeds of the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum), a doctor who treated him told an expert panel on Sunday. As mushroom foraging continues through the spring, fungi fans should take note.
“It is a treatment and well-described in our hepatology [science of the liver] literature, but it is not readily available,” said Dr. Jacqueline Laurin, a liver transplant specialist at the Georgetown Transplant Institute, part of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “We need to make it easier for people to get it.”
Known as Legalon, the drug is an intravenous form of silibinin, milk-thistle extract, which may turn out to be an antidote to mushroom poisonings that sicken hundreds of people in the U.S. every year, sometimes leading to death. It is being tested in a clinical trial led by Dr. Todd Mitchell, a California doctor who developed the "Santa Cruz Protocol" for treating mushroom poisoning.
Nearly 6 000 people reported contact with suspicious mushrooms in 2010, and more than 1 300 people got sick, according to latest figures from the American Association of Poison Control Centres. Some 500 people suffered moderate to major injuries and at least one person died. Most of the victims were sickened by the Amanita phalloides varieties that produce amatoxins, which shut down liver function.
Laurin presented the four cases in quick succession that alarmed Georgetown doctors during Digestive Disease Week, a gathering of experts in the field. The study was conducted through the Georgetown University Medical Center.
When Constantinopla was transferred with incipient (or early stage) liver failure, he was treated under an exemption of Food and Drug Administration rules that allow a one-patient, one-time use of an unapproved drug. But when another victim showed up with dire symptoms after eating mushrooms, followed by two more, the hospital was forced to convene an emergency meeting of its institutional review board to grant approval for those patients to be treated, too.
“We knew it was not out of the realm of possibility that another person could show up with mushroom poisoning,” Laurin said.
Without good treatment, the mortality rate for amatoxin poisoning can be 50 percent. The toxins basically shut down the protein-making apparatus of cells in the liver, causing the organ to fail.
“I think we are actually pretty close to being ready to go to the FDA,” said Mitchell, who noted that he has no financial interest in the drug.
Mushroom experts, known as mycologists, are encouraged by the prospects of silibinin becoming available in the U.S., though they do not necessarily believe it is a certain cure — or that all patients need the treatment. “With good medical care now, 90 percent (of victims) will survive, with or without silibinin," said Michael Beug, chairman of the toxicology committee of the North American Mycological Association.
But Beug said that having the drug could help avoid the rush to extreme treatments, such as transplants.
For full story, please see: http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/20/11758793-tempting-but-toxic-mushrooms-drug-promises-new-cure?lite

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  • Moringa oleifera and its role in a green economy

Source: African Science News, 2 June 2012

Trees have played a critical role in maintaining safe levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and providing food to animals for millions of years. Trees remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. At present the world is covered by approximately 30 percent forest or less than four billion ha. Global deforestation continues at around 13 million ha/year.
Additionally, the loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than does the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
However, planting trees, including the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) can play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change and contribute positively towards building a Green Economy.
The moringa tree is one of the most useful plants in existence. Because of its wealth of vitamins, minerals and proteins, moringa is a rich source of nutrients.
In Kenya; the Solace Community Based Organization have planted more than 250 000 moringa trees and its group members are now getting a direct income.
Biochemists call the moringa tree the most densely rich protein ever discovered. Per gram, fresh Moringa leaves contain as much protein as eggs, as much calcium as four glasses of milk, as much vitamin C as oranges, as much potassium as three bananas and three times more iron as in spinach. And they contain per gram four times as much (pro-) vitamin A as in carrots.
The moringa tree could be fundamental in a green economy and can significantly improve the livelihoods of the local communities.
For full story, please: www.africasciencenews.org/en/index.php/entertainment/52-environment/475-moringa-tree-and-its-role-in-green-economy

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  • Moringa oleifera: Why moringa can reduce sickle cell crisis — Experts

Source: The Nigerian Tribune, 31 May 2012

In developing tropical countries, moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. The immature pods are extremely nutritious, containing all the essential amino acids along with many vitamins and other nutrients.
The pods also yield between 38 and 40 percent of non-drying, edible oil known as Ben Oil. This oil is clear, sweet and odourless, and never becomes rancid. Overall, its nutritional value most closely resembles olive oil.
Now, researchers in a new study, which investigated the potentials of the seed, flower and leaf of Moringa oleifera, have suggested this multipurpose plant could play a role in the management of Sickle cell disease (SCD), if incorporated into the diet of affected persons.
In the study, the researchers tested the effects of extracts made from Moringa oleifera seeds, flower and leaf extract on red blood cells and found they were able to reverse a red blood cell that had sickle back to its normal shape. The study found that the extracts (namely methanol, ethanol, butanol, chloroform, and ethyl acetate) of the seed and flower demonstrated a higher anti-sickling activity in comparison to the leaf extract. But the seeds’ aqueous extracts exhibited a higher percentage reversal of sickling of all the tested parts of the plant. However, sickling reversal was more pronounced at the highest tested concentration (20 mg/ml).
The 2012 study, which was documented in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Bioallied Sciences, was titled: “Moringa oleifera Lam. (Moringaceae) grown in Nigeria: In vitro antisickling activity on deoxygenated erythrocyte cells.”The researchers wrote: “These findings suggest that Moringa oleifera may play a role in the management of SCD, by incorporation of its fractions into recipes. More extensive biological evaluation and further studies will be necessary for the chemical characterization of the antisickling principles.
Sickle cell disease has become a challenge in the African continent with about 89 percent of global sufferers of SCD. About 25 percent of the SCD patients in the world are in Nigeria.
For full story, please see: http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/natural-health/41782-why-moringa-can-reduce-sickle-cell-crisis-experts

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  • Spices: Scientists discover how tumeric strengthens immune response in fighting new infections

Source: www.medicaldaily.com, 25 May 2012

Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric (Curcuma longa) — an orange-yellow spice that is commonly found in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine and has been used for 2 500 years in India's traditional Ayurvedic remedies — increases levels of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide or CAMP protein that helps the immune system fight off various bacteria, viruses or fungi that the body has never been exposed to.
Previous research has also found that vitamin D can also increase levels of CAMP proteins, the only known antimicrobial peptide of its type in humans that can kill a wide variety of bacteria, including ones that cause tuberculosis and sepsis, a severe condition in which the bloodstream is saturated by bacteria. However, high amounts of vitamin D in the body can be toxic, and can cause more calcium to be released in the blood leading to hypercalcemia, which can cause symptoms such as poor appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Researchers reporting Friday in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry say that the latest discovery could pen new research avenues in nutrition and pharmacology.
"This research points to a new avenue for regulating CAMP gene expression," said Adrian Gombart, an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the Linus Pauling Institute in Cornvallis, Oregon said in a news release."It is interesting and somewhat surprising that curcumin can do that, and could provide another tool to develop medical therapies," he added.
Gombart and his team compared the effectiveness of curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids in increasing the expression of the CAMP gene. While omega-3 fatty acids appeared to be useless in increasing the protein, laboratory experiments showed that curcumin nearly tripled levels of CAMP in human cells.
"Curcumin, as part of turmeric, is generally consumed in the diet at fairly low levels," Gombart said. "However, it is possible that sustained consumption over time may be healthy and help protect against infection, especially in the stomach and intestinal tract."
Curcumin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is also being studied by British scientists as being an effective compound to fight cancer. Earlier this month, researchers in the cancer trial said that they hope curcumin will increase the success of chemotherapy while reducing side-effects. "We have shown that [curcumin] has well over 100 mechanisms of damaging cancer cells, particularly colon cancer cells," Professor Will Stewart of England's University in Leicester told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "One of the major mechanisms is affecting the way that they grow blood vessels into themselves," Stewart added.
For full story, please see: www.medicaldaily.com/news/20120525/10044/curry-curcumin-infection-immunity.htm

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  • Stevia: Miracle sweetener may have a sour note

Source: Reuters, 23 May 2012

The meteoric rise of a natural, healthy alternative to sugar — a holy grail for the food industry — might just be a little too good to be true.
In two years stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a plant used for centuries by Paraguay's Guarani Indians, has shot to prominence in products by Coca-Cola, Danone and Merisant. Encouraged by distrust of artificial sweeteners and demand for natural products, they have turned to extract of stevia, which is up to 300 times sweeter than traditional beet or cane sugar. The problems are the aftertaste, the cost, and possible hurdles in defining it as natural in some European Union markets.
Initial sales and projections are impressive but the plant's extracts have a strong aftertaste, often compared to liquorice, and are far more expensive than artificial sweeteners including aspartame, saccharin and sucralose.
To ease stevia's taste some products still include sugar in their recipe.
Poor consumer feedback also led dairy giant Danone to work on a new recipe for its stevia yoghurts marketed under its leading low-calorie brand in 2010. "We are trying to find solutions to erase this liquorice taste but it is not easy," Marilise Marcantonio, Communication Director for Danone Fresh Products, said. "Consumers are looking for natural products — but not at any price."
Some scientists also note that a technique to extract Rebania-A, derived from stevia leaves, through ethanol, rather than water, to obtain purer and sweeter products could mean stevia may not be able to be marketed as "natural" in some EU countries, undermining the current marketing strategy.
"They are advertising stevia as a miracle," marketing consultant Sam Waterfall said. "If consumers begin to feel they are misled, this could be a real disaster."
France is keenly watched as a testing ground for Europe, having cleared stevia-based products in late 2009. New checks and administrative hurdles delayed its approval at EU level until November 2011.
Stevia has been used for decades in Japan and has spread in the United States since 2008, where sales rose over 60 percent in 2011.
Since early 2010 its extracts have been used in France in low-calorie products ranging from soft drinks to yoghurts, jam and tabletop sweeteners, with some products recording triple-digit rises in sales last year. "It is a revolution. In two years an ingredient has been able to turn the sweetener market upside down," said Olivier Badinand, Marketing Director for Europe of Merisant, maker of Canderel, leader in France's tabletop sweeteners market.
Stevia's market share among high-intensive sweeteners is still less than 1 percent but growth rates are impressive. Volumes jumped over 50 percent in France last year, and are expected to more than double in 2012 and quadruple by 2014.
Despite taste and cost misgivings, the surge in sales to date, EU clearance and growing demand for low-sugar products correlated with a rise in obesity, has prompted food giants to launch new products.
For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/23/us-sugar-stevia-idUSBRE84M0Y120120523

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  • Stevia: Explaining stevia's bitter side

Source: www.sciencecodex.com, 31 May 2012

The human tongue has just one type of receptor for detecting sweetness but about 25 different ones for bitter flavours. Scientists at Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE) have now identified the two receptors, hTAS2R4 and hTAS2R14, that detect the bitter after taste of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana).
Extracts from the subtropical plant are up to 300 times sweeter than conventional sugar. They also contain almost no calories and are less harmful to teeth. Yet stevia, or sweet leaf, as it is more commonly known, also has its disadvantages: At high concentrations, it elicits liquorice-like aromas and leaves a bitter after taste.
The scientists tested the taste intensity of different concentrations of Stevia components with trained volunteers. The results of those sensory tests combined with the initial cell experiments revealed that the structure of glycoside molecules plays a key role in determining sweetness or bitterness in stevia. "If a molecule has more glucose molecules attached to it, it is sweeter and less bitter," explains Prof. Thomas Hofmann, Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science at TUM. The Steviol glycoside rebaudioside D, for example, comprises five glucose molecules and is around five times sweeter and two-thirds less bitter than dulcoside A, which has just two glucose molecules.
"Steviol glycosides activate two bitter receptors on the human tongue, and this elicits a bitter after taste in the mouth," confirms Anne Brockhoff at the German Institute of Human Nutrition. These new findings could help minimize the bitter taste of stevia products at an early stage in production processes. "They could open the way for selective cultivation measures or targeted purification during the development of stevia products, enabling manufacturers to focus on the sweetest candidates," confirms TUM scientist Thomas Hofmann.
For full story, please see: www.sciencecodex.com/explaining_stevias_bitter_side-92449

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  • Wildlife: Africa’s ambitious experiment to preserve threatened wildlife

Source: Caroline Fraser, Yale Environment News 360, 14 May 2012

“They are Angolan refugees returning home,” biologist Mike Chase tells reporters. He is not talking about people. He is talking about elephants, moving out of his native Botswana, step by ponderous step. On their backs are riding the hopes of one of the most ambitious ecological experiments on the planet, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA.
The largest such project in the world, at more than 170 000 miles², KAZA is the size of Sweden and involves five countries — Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — boasting the biggest population of elephants on earth, one quarter of a million.
During Angola’s prolonged civil war, an estimated 100 000 elephants were slaughtered, their ivory sold to buy arms. In 2001, a year before the war ended, fewer than 40 were left in the country’s Luiana reserve. Six years later, after Namibia and Botswana agreed to open a strategic 22-mile gap in a maze of border and veterinary fencing (keeping wild buffalo or infected cattle from contaminating Botswana’s herds), Chase counted 8 000. Bull elephants had scouted Angola’s thinly-populated southern reserves, found conditions to their liking, and returned to northern Botswana to lead herds home to Angola. Once there, they skirted landmines, having perhaps learned through bitter experience how to sniff them out. Their message was clear: Give us a way back, and we will come.
Launched in March after a treaty signing last August, with US$26 million pledged by Germany’s development bank, KAZA requires five sovereign nations to tiptoe through similarly explosive territory, setting aside old grievances and compelling national interests. If they succeed, KAZA may help lift people out of poverty and protect one of the last functional large-scale ecosystems left on the continent: the Okavango Delta, a massive wetland that waxes and wanes annually as rivers pour off the Angolan highlands, fanning out into the baking Kalahari and drawing some of the region’s most threatened wildlife — black rhino, African wild dog, and hundreds of species of birds.
In just one of KAZA’s parks, Zambia’s Kafue, tourism could grow from less than US$5 million annually to almost US$50 million in little more than a decade, according to a consultant’s report. That could be multiplied across the conservation area, which contains more than 40 protected areas: national parks, forest and game reserves, and community conservancies.
But the project faces daunting obstacles: insufficient funding, conflict between people and wildlife, fear of disease outbreaks among cattle, and a recently reported steep decline in wildlife numbers. Critics are also concerned that the project may end up enriching foreign tourism companies rather than local communities.
Westerners think of parks as pristine, but as one expert puts it, “Wilderness areas with no human impacts do not exist in Africa.” Only well-established national parks, such as Bostwana’s Chobe, have no human inhabitants; fewer still thrive on the traditional model of armed guards and fences. KAZA — not a park but a “transfrontier conservation area”— has a human population perhaps as high as 2.5 million. Over half its land is communally managed, used for subsistence farming or grazing. While the idea of linking parks across borders has been around since 1932, recent developments in southern Africa have created urgency around transfrontier plans, particularly bottlenecks wrought by fencing (required by the EU’s subsidized beef export market), which effectively trapped tens of thousands of elephants in northern Botswana.
“An Africa without fences” is the vision of the Peace Parks Foundation. Founded in 1997, it has enrolled every country in southern Africa in the effort, raising millions from donor countries, encouraging private investment, and supporting colleges to train wildlife rangers and tourism staff. Progress has not been without pitfalls: The group was vilified for its high-handed, top-down approach as it expanded South Africa’s Kruger National Park into Mozambique. While peace parks are dismissed by one Cape Town academic as another “grandiose scheme... foisted upon Africa,” there are now ten in the region, with four more in the planning stage, ranging north to Tanzania.
An idea kicking around international circles since the early 1990s, KAZA was self-consciously designed to be a grassroots affair. Early supporters — including Conservation International, the WWF, and the Wildlife Conservation Society — looked to Namibia’s home-grown and highly successful conservancy movement, which had presided over a resurgence in the country’s wildlife, decimated during the long struggle against occupation. At independence, in 1990, Namibians wrote conservation into their constitution, and the fledgling republic soon backed community-based conservation groups — called conservancies — to create jobs.
At the news that a single elephant hunt might be worth US$10 000, “word went through communities almost overnight,” says Chris Weaver, Director of WWF in Namibia. “Poaching stopped very, very quickly.” Communities eagerly registered to guard, monitor, and manage their wildlife and have reaped benefits from ecotourism, controlled hunting, and sustainable harvesting of wild plants. Popular and effective, 71 conservancies have been registered so far, creating 1 700 full time and 8 000 seasonal jobs and earning roughly US$6 million in 2010, with communities investing the money in health clinics and schools. As conservancies build corridors across the country, Namibia has protected almost 40 percent of its land and earned a reputation as a spectacular place to see rhino, cheetah, desert lions, and other wildlife.
KAZA hopes to capitalize on that model, using conservancies to reestablish wildlife corridors between existing parks and reserves. Of the five KAZA partners, only Angola, one of the poorest countries in the world, has no community-based program. Zimbabwe, grandfather of such management schemes in the 1980s, is also lagging in the final years of Robert Mugabe’s rule, blocked from receiving foreign funding. Botswana presents a mixed picture. Known for high-end ecotourism in the Okavango, it launched a network of trusts in 1993, eventually involving some 10 percent of the population, but its heavily-bureaucratized system has been less successful than Namibia’s.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/kaza_ambitious_africa_experiment_to_preserve_threatened_wildlife/2527/

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  • Wildlife: Rhino horn poaching on the rise

Source: The Ecologist, 18 May 2012

The poaching of live rhinos for their horns, although certainly not a new phenomenon, is becoming an ever increasing threat to their survival. Despite an international ban on the trade of rhino horn since 1993, media reports have documented a growing number of incidents over the past few years, cumulating in a record high of 448 rhinos killed in South Africa last year. Compared to the 333 animals that were killed in 2010 and just 15 animals/year on average only a decade ago, this is a worrying trend.
The sharp increase in recent years has been caused by the demand for their use in traditional medicines. Rhino horn has been used for centuries as a perceived cure for fever and rheumatism, but has become more popular as a growing affluent class in countries such as Thailand now have more money to spend on these products. A belief also seems to have taken hold in Vietnam that rhino horn can prevent, and even cure, cancer which, despite a lack of scientific evidence, has fuelled demand in this country too. Consequently, the price of rhino horn has soared to around £60 000/kg, twice the value of gold and platinum, and now more valuable on the black market than diamonds and cocaine.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/investigations/natural_world/1380947/how_rhino_horn_poaching_fuels_criminal_gangs_in_uk_and_europe.html

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  • Wildlife: CITES Secretary-General testifies on wildlife trade before US Senate Committee

Source: IISD Reporting Services, 24 May 2012

In testimony delivered before the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate, John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), highlighted that illegal trade in wildlife is happening at a scale that poses an immediate risk to both wildlife and people.
At the hearing, titled "Ivory and Insecurity: The Global Implications of Poaching in Africa," Scanlon called for: more coordinated enforcement responses at global, regional, sub-regional and national levels; making better use of modern enforcement techniques and technologies; attracting additional financial and human resources at national and international levels; and suppressing more effectively the demand for illegal trade. He noted the increasing involvement of organized crime syndicates in wildlife crime, particularly in illegal trade in African elephants and rhinos. Scanlon pointed to data submitted by CITES Parties to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which indicates that large-scale ivory seizures are at an all time high. He underlines that the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (COP 16) will be an opportunity for Parties to send a strong political message on combating the illegal trade in wildlife.
For full story, please see:
http://biodiversity-l.iisd.org/news/cites-secretary-general-testifies-on-wildlife-trade-before-us-senate-committee/

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COUNTRY INFORMATION

  • Brazil: President vetoes major parts of Bill to open up forests

Source: The New York Times, 26 May 2012

President Dilma Rousseff on Friday vetoed portions of Brazil’s new Forest Code, a bill drafted to open big areas of protected forests to large-scale agriculture. The decision by Ms. Rousseff, which removes 12 articles from the bill, alters legislation sought by powerful agricultural groups.
The Bill had provoked outrage among environmentalists, some business leaders and cultural icons, especially over a provision that effectively granted amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested some areas. Responding to these concerns, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the President’s line-item vetoes ruled out amnesty. Still, Ms. Rousseff’s action fell short of the expectations of environmental groups, which had wanted her to veto the entire bill.
Details about the changes to the Bill were sparse on Friday, with Brazil’s powerful Agriculture and Livestock Confederation withholding comment. The official text of Ms. Rousseff’s alterations, which include dozens of suggested changes to the Bill in addition to the vetoed portions, is expected to be published on Monday.
For full story, please see:  www.nytimes.com/2012/05/26/world/americas/brazil-president-vetoes-parts-of-bill-to-open-forests.html?_r=1

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  • Brazil: Indigenous community seeks survival through carbon credits

Source: IPS in Reuters AlertNet, 30 May 2012

Less than 45 years ago, the Paiter-Suruï, an indigenous people living deep inside the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, had never been in contact with the outside world. Today they hope to ensure their survival through the complex mechanisms of the carbon market.
Inhabitants of the Sete de Setembro territory, an area of around 250 000 ha stretching between the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso near the border with Bolivia, the Paiter-Suruí have experienced a tumultuous history over the past few decades. Just three years after their first contact with outsiders in 1969, they came close to total extinction: their population of 5 000 was reduced to a mere 300 by the diseases brought by the invaders of their territory. Today they number 1 350 and are determined to survive.
Suruí is the name anthropologists gave them. Paiter is what they call themselves: it means "we, the true people" in the Tupí-Mondé language that they speak.
The Suruí Forest Carbon Project, established by the Paiter-Suruí community four years ago and officially certified in April, involves mechanisms to offset carbon dioxide emissions such as preventing deforestation, to keep carbon stored in the trees, and reforestation, to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. These mechanisms form part of the REDD+, promoted by the UN as a means to mitigate climate change.
Since 2005 the Paiter-Suruí have planted 14 000 trees from 17 native species, including cocoa and coffee trees, precious hardwood trees like mahogany, and fruit trees such as açaí palms, after decades of struggling to protect the rainforest from incursions by loggers, miners, poachers and settlers.
"We want to benefit our people and develop in accordance with our needs in the region, placing value on what the forest produces. A green economy policy essentially means planning for sustainable use," Chief Almir Suruí, the leader of the Paiter-Suruí people and a member of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, said.
To achieve their sustainability goals, the Paiter-Suruí work in partnership with various NGOs and government institutions, such as the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio), a state agency that facilitates the creation of financial mechanisms and tools to guarantee income for the community.
The Suruí Carbon Project involves the conservation of more than 12 000 ha of forest for a period of 30 years, Angelo Dos Santos, a Funbio coordinator said." For every year of the project, the Suruí guarantee that a certain volume of carbon will not be emitted, and it will be offered on the carbon market," he explained. "Over the next 30 years, the Suruí people will accumulate eight million tons of carbon dioxide through avoided deforestation." By selling these avoided emissions on the carbon market, "they will be paid for not deforesting," said Dos Santos.
It is estimated that the community will collect a total of US$40 million over the course of the project, based on the current market price of US$5/ton of carbon.
The Paiter-Suruí already produce more than 4 000 tons of organic coffee and 10 000 tons of cashew nuts, reported Chief Almir, with business plans created for both production lines. In the meantime, "the Paiter-Suruí Fund will collect resources from donations, multilateral banks, companies and the sale of carbon credits," said Dos Santos.
This is clearly an exceptional case: the first financial mechanism created by an indigenous community to ensure its survival and safeguard its way of life.
For full story, please see: www.trust.org/alertnet/news/brazilian-indigenous-community-seeks-survival-through-carbon-credits

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  • India: Maharashtra OKs shooting tiger poachers on sight

Source: Associated Press in the Huffington Post, 23 May 2012

A state in western India has declared war on animal poaching by sanctioning its forest guards to shoot hunters on sight in an effort to curb rampant attacks against tigers and other wildlife.
The government in Maharashtra says injuring or killing suspected poachers will no longer be considered a crime. Forest guards should not be "booked for human rights violations when they have taken action against poachers," Maharashtra Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam said Tuesday. The state also will send more rangers and jeeps into the forest, and will offer secret payments to informers who give tips about poachers and animal smugglers, he said.
No tiger poachers have ever been shot in Maharashtra before, though cases of shooting illegal loggers and fishermen have led to charges against forest guards, according to the state's chief wildlife warden, S.W.H. Naqvi.
But the threat could act as a significant deterrent to wildlife criminals, conservationists said. A similar measure allowing guards to fire on poachers in Assam has helped the northeast state's population of endangered one-horned rhinos recover.
"These poachers have lost all fear. They just go in and poach what they want because they know the risks are low," said Divyabhanusinh Chavda, who heads the WWF in India and is a key member of the National Wildlife Board, which advises the prime minister. In many of India's reserves, guards are armed with little more than sticks.
India faces intense international scrutiny over its tiger conservation, as the country holds half of the world's estimated 3 200 tigers in dozens of wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s, when hunting was banned.
Illegal poaching remains a stubborn and serious threat, with tiger parts in particular fetching high prices on the black market thanks to demand driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, 14 tigers have been killed by poachers in India so far this year — one more than in all of 2011. The tiger is considered endangered, with its habitat range shrinking more than 50 percent in the last quarter-century while its numbers declined from the 5 000-7 000 estimated in the 1990s, according to the IUCN.
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/maharashtra-poaching-indian_n_1538392.html

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  • India: The opportunities and challenges of harvesting gums and resins

Source: The Hindu, 29 May 2012

Unscientific harvesting practices and deforestation has had an impact on the tapping of gums and resins, both NTFPs, according to Girijan Cooperative Corporation general manager Manohar Mishra.
Participating in the national workshop “Gums and Resins — livelihood opportunities and challenges” organized by Kovel Foundation on Monday, Mishra said that the forest products are employed in a wide range of food and pharmaceutical products and in several other technical applications.
They form an important group of NTFPs and are the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry. These products, particularly gums, enter into world trade in a significant way and are indicative of the potential for NTFPs for value addition at various stages from harvesting of raw materials to the end uses. Their importance can be observed in many areas, like livelihood security of forest dependent people, especially in tribal economies, and its usage in the traditional system of medicine and in industrial applications.
Kovel Foundation CEO V. Krishna Rao said that the main objectives of the workshop are to discuss the prevailing issues in the gums and resins sub-sector and to identify opportunities and challenges, prepare a national level action plan integrating conservation and regeneration into livelihood portfolios, and to send recommendations to the Government.     An exhibition was arranged in which NTFPs including gums and resins and medicinal plants were on display to create awareness among the participants.
For full story, please see: www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/article3468564.ece

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  • India: Deforestation causing decline of local fruits in Goa

Source: Times of India, 21 May 2012http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/images/pixel.gif

Increasing deforestation and hardship involved in picking local summer fruits like kanntan, jambola, chunna and zambh have meant that the exotic summer delicacies are available in meagre quantities in Goa's markets year after year.
Deforestation to make way for urbanization has ensured that collecting the fruits has become tougher for local vendors. The older generation of vendors, who would gather the fruits traditionally from the wild for sale, are also going down in numbers.
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/images/pixel.gif            "We come from villages, but we too do not get these fruits easily now. Earlier, there was more forest cover in the villages. We have to roam deeper in the hills to pick these fruits now. The younger generation of sellers do not want to pick the fruits as the profits are not as much. Our generation is getting old and because of our age we cannot climb the hills," Ramu Naik, a vendor from the Ponda market, said.
Many younger vendors said that instead of beating the odds to pick the fruits, they prefer to buy them from villagers living in interiors of Goa who harvest them and supply to the vendors for a price. Most of these fruits in the Mapusa market come from the interiors of Pernem and Bicholim talukas and in Ponda market from Darbandora and other surrounding areas, the vendors explained.
An elderly vendor at the Panaji market, Anandi Chodankar, said, "The government has cleared a vast forest area in the name of development, then how are we supposed to survive? This is our earning during the summer and they are destroying it. If the destruction is not stopped now, we will get to see even fewer of these wild fruits from next year."
The low availability of kanntan, jambola, chunna and zambh has led their prices to soar for the few buyers who still want to gain from the goodness of these seasonal wild fruits.
Director of Agriculture, S. S. Tendulkar, said that the production of these wild fruits has not gone down except in the case of jambola. "Apart from urbanization and industrialization, social change is also a prominent reason for their decrease in the market. Today's generation does not know much about these fruits and their delicacy. Chunna for example are found all over the Taleigao plateau, but you barely see passerbys picking them."
For full story, please see: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-21/goa/31800291_1_fruits-local-vendors-ponda-market

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  • Kenya: As rains change, Kenyans turn to planting indigenous trees

Source: Reuters AlertNet, 28 May 2012

Living at the edge of Kenya’s massive Mau forest complex, Emmanuel Kosen, has been around long enough to see some dramatic changes in the local climate.
The Mau complex is one of the most important forests of east Africa, storing and channelling rain essential for irrigation and hydroelectric power. But for more than 30 years, the forest has been degraded as people have cleared trees to create space for homes and agriculture, selling the wood for timber and charcoal. This activity, much of it illegal, has had an impact on the climate which worries locals and experts alike.
Now the Kenyan government is joining with NGOs to reforest the damaged areas with millions of indigenous trees that are more adaptable to the increasingly harsh climate than the invasive species that have sometimes replaced them.
Experts believe that the change in temperature around the Mau complex is a result of the loss of more than one quarter of the tree cover. “Forests regulate a micro-climate in an area, causing a cooling effect, which increases the amount of rainfall,” said Alexander Alusa, a climate change policy advisor in the office of the prime minister.
About 107 000 ha of the Mau complex have been felled, with the bulk of the destruction occurring during the past ten years as a previous government tolerated illegal settlement on the land. Today the forest covers about 273 000 ha.
The government’s Vision 2030 plan aims to increase forest cover to 10 percent, with each household required to have at least 1 percent of its land planted with trees.
The Mau reforestation is being led by a number of groups, including Green Belt Movement, a local environmental and anti-poverty non-profit, the Kenya Forest Service, a state corporation, and Ewaso Ng’iro South Development Authority, a regional organization.
The previous felling of indigenous trees, often accompanied by the burning of their roots to clear the land, meant that they had no possibility of regenerating, said Isabella Masinde, a technical advisor in the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources. Frequently, these trees were replaced by invasive species destructive to the environment and the soil, she added.
At the National Gene Bank of Kenya, part of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, indigenous seedlings are being produced for planting on deforested land. A research officer at the gene bank, Charles Ndiege, says up to five species are suitable for the Mau forest. Apart from being better suited to the climatic conditions, these species can be worth more than other species as timber, according to Masinde.
“Indigenous trees such as Prunus africana have greater values. It is a hard wood that has good-value, as well as (being) good for carving to make ornaments,” she said.
Farmers in Narok district, where some of the Mau forest is situated, have begun to plant trees and form nurseries to produce seedlings.
For full story, please see: www.trust.org/alertnet/news/as-rains-change-kenyans-turn-to-planting-indigenous-trees

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  • Pakistan Forests Institute (PFI) assesses future scenarios for forest resources and communities

Source: http://pakobserver.net (Pakistan), 3 June 2012

To offset the effects of climatic change and global warming in the country, the Pakistan Forests Institute (PFI) in Peshawar has completed a comprehensive study to determine the possible scenarios of climatic change in Pakistan’s various ecological zones and its impact on forests resources.
“It is the first professional attempt to address the emerging issues of climate change and global warming and its overall impact on the environment and weather of the country and region,” official sources in PFI said on Sunday. The results of the study will help design adaptation and mitigation measures in the forestry sector to counterbalance the effects of global warming and climatic change.
A PFI official said a mapping exercise has been undertaken to monitor forest cover in all districts of the country with the help of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing Technology (RST). This would help provide valuable and authentic information regarding the precise extent of national forest cover and land use pattern and changes therein over time.
To strengthen the forestry sector in Azad Jummu and Kashmir (AJK), a study on 3rd Party Evaluation of Management Interventions (PEMI) in forests of AJK has been completed to help its government in planning and devising appropriate strategies for sustainable conservation, protection and development of forests resources.
For a growing economy and booming construction industry, the PFI official said wood and other forest products are playing a vital role in improving the socio-economic condition of poor people.
“Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are an important source of revenue for forest dwellers and play a key role in poverty alleviation,” a PFI official said, adding quality research is being carried out to bolster economic production and the marketing of medicinal plants as well as the development of silk technology.
For full story, please see: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=153035

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  • Peru: Timber extraction in Brazil nut forests set to rise unless better regulated

Source: CIFOR Blog, 24 May 2012

In the Peruvian Amazon, uncontrolled timber extraction from concession forests destined primarily for the harvesting of Brazil nuts could overtake the amount extracted from logging concession areas, warns a new CIFOR study. Existing regulations in Brazil nut forests must place tighter controls on timber extraction without compromising the needs of local people who access the forest for nut harvesting activities.
“Timber is a very important resource in the region as is the Brazil nut. However, since 2004, a reform in the law which allows timber extraction within Brazil nut concessions has prompted overharvesting due to weak legal enforcement and a set of much lighter requirements than those applied to extract timber from timber concessions,” said Manuel Guariguata, co-author of “El aprovechamiento de madera en las concesiones castañeras (Bertholletia excelsa) en Madre de Dios, Perú” and scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
“Without an integrated forest management system that includes a minimum set of legal standards and good practices that are flexible to the needs of local people, then the loopholes in the law could lead to timber overexploitation in Brazil nut concessions,” he added.
Straddling the borders of Brazil and Bolivia, Madre de Dios is a region rich in biodiversity, including Brazil nut trees and wood resources. Approximately 65 percent of the local population depend on logging activities while 25 percent obtain up to half of their annual income from the harvesting and selling of Brazil nuts.
Since 2000, several forestry and wildlife laws were introduced to promote the sustainable use of forest resources in order to improve the economic and social benefits for communities working in forest-related activities.
In 2002, in response to social and economic problems in the Tambopata region, where people were unable to obtain the rights to extract timber on their land, a decree enabled the extraction of timber in forests originally allocated for the exclusive harvesting of Brazil nuts. Two years later, the government specified a maximum-harvest limit of 5m³/ha.
It was envisaged that the new decree would give Brazil nut harvesters the opportunity to complement their income by allowing them to extract wood from their concessions.
However, low taxation rates and weak legal requirements imposed by the government — much tighter in logging concession areas — led to tenfold increase in logging in Brazil nut forests between 2004 and 2006. Overall, from 2004 until 2009, wood extraction in Brazil nut forests was comparable and sometimes even greater than extraction activities in logging concession areas.
The findings highlight the need for further research into the impact on Brazil nut resources for local livelihoods. “We need to have more information to see if this is having an impact on the Brazil nut trees, however there is not much research available yet. CIFOR is currently in the process of working with the Nut Harvesters Association to get a better understanding of the situation,” said Mary Menton, CIFOR scientist and co-author.
Despite revoking the decree in 2007 due to concerns from environmentalists, NGOs and nut harvesters about the viability of extracting wood in Brazil nut areas, it seems that the change in the law has come too late. Logging permits continue to be issued and little progress has been made to close the loop holes which have allowed logging limits to be exceeded, and in some cases, resulted in illegal logging from outsiders.
The paper suggests that improvements in the legal and technical requirements for extraction and an integrated management approach to “harmonize” wood and Brazil nut extraction, instead of a “complementary” one, is needed to ensure that the overall rates of extraction do not increase.
“To achieve it, there should be a transparent dialogue among the regional actors involved in the extraction activities, with some kind of local ownership, without the interference of short term plans or other vested interests,” Guariguata concluded.
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/9080/in-peruvian-amazon-timber-extraction-in-brazil-nut-forests-set-to-rise-unless-better-regulated/

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  • Peru: Megadiverse, and biodiversity-aware

Source: Inter Press Service (IPS), 25 May 2012

One of every two Peruvians knows what "biodiversity" means, and most would stop buying products that are not socially or environmentally responsible, according to an international survey that for the first time included this megadiverse South American country.
The Biodiversity Barometer, published annually over the past four years by the Switzerland-based Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT), measures awareness of biodiversity and related aspects like conservation and sustainable development among consumers, companies and the media.
This year’s study, conducted by the global research company Ipsos and launched on 12 April in Paris, surveyed 8 000 consumers in Brazil, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, the UK, the United States, and Peru, which is considered one of the 15 most megadiverse countries in the world.
In Peru, Ipsos interviewed 1 000 people in Lima and the cities of Arequipa (in the south) and Trujillo and Chiclayo (in the northwest).
Just over half (52 percent) of the respondents said they had heard of biological diversity and knew what the term meant. That puts this South American country in the middle of the report’s biodiversity awareness list, just behind the United States (53 percent), and ahead of Germany (42 percent) and India (19 percent).
However, the proportion is low compared to that of Brazil, which heads the list with 97 percent awareness.
In the case of Peru, 90 percent of those surveyed said they had heard of species loss and deforestation, which hurt biodiversity. And their main sources of information on biodiversity were TV ads (44 percent), TV programmes and documentaries (43 percent), and school and university (42 percent).
The study also gauged consumer interest in buying natural food and cosmetic products, which directly tap into local biodiversity. On this point, 88 percent of Peruvian respondents said they preferred cosmetic products with natural ingredients, while 89 percent said they paid close attention to environmental or ethical labels — such as organic or fair trade — in general, and 78 percent said they did so when they bought cosmetics.
Respondents in Peru thus exhibited greater interest in buying such products than the consumers interviewed in the United States, Germany or the UK.
The sustainable and responsible use of natural ingredients, and a supply chain in which all participants share in the benefits and are paid a fair wage, form the basis of ethical biotrade. The UEBT, which promotes these practices, sees the Barometer as a way of fostering public debate on the issue among authorities, companies and society.
There are a growing number of associations and companies interested in participating in ethical biotrade and implementing these practices, said Fernando Mendive, head of the Takiwasi laboratory, which produces medicines and cosmetics using plants and natural ingredients from the Amazon rainforest in the northern region of San Martín.
Takiwasi works with 400 Quechua indigenous families in the jungles of San Martín, in the cultivation and harvesting of plants. The organization forms part of the Biodiverse Peru project — a UEBT partner — and works with companies and the government to guarantee that local producers benefit from the success of these businesses.
For full story, please see: www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107925

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  • South Sudan: Forests dying in violence

Source: Inter Press Service (IPS), 26 May 2012

South Sudan is losing its forests. And with no unified policy to deal with the situation the government is at odds, with one ministry saying that the loss of forests is a necessity for farming and another warning of the dire environmental consequences if this continues unchecked.
Several decades of war, during which the country’s environment was neglected, coupled with post-independence challenges and tension with Sudan, have resulted in environmental degradation here. And it is largely caused by rampant deforestation.
Isaac Woja, an agriculturalist and natural resources management expert, said the rate of deforestation was of concern. "The rate at which people are cutting trees is worrying. If this trend continues future generations are going to suffer. South Sudan may become a desert like what you see in the north," he told IPS.
While there is no information on the exact number of forests in the country, according to 2009 figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, forests and woodlands cover an estimated 29 percent of the land area in South Sudan or 191 667 km².
A study conducted in 2010 by FAO — the Forest Resources Assessment — estimated that a high rate of up to 2 776 km² of forests and other wooded land were being lost annually in South Sudan.
The cutting down of forests to clear land for cultivation started in 2005 after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which formally ended the recent civil war (from 1983 to 2005) between the then south and north Sudan.
However, deforestation has worsened since independence as South Sudanese who have been living as Internally Displaced Persons in Sudan began returning. According to the U.N. in the last 18 months alone 350 000 people have returned from Sudan. In addition, an unspecified number of people have also returned from neighbouring countries following South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2011.
South Sudan’s government has allocated the returnees land to settle on, including in areas near forests. Many have resorted to farming as a way to earn a living, and have begun clearing nearby woodlands for cultivation.
In an interview with IPS, the Director General in South Sudan’s Environment Ministry, Victor Wurda Lotome, warned that although investing in agriculture would help the country’s economy, if the environmental risks associated with mechanized, commercial agriculture are not considered, the damage to the environment could outweigh the financial benefits.
"Much as we are eager to increase food production and ensure food security in South Sudan, and as much as we want to promote agricultural investments, it is important to squarely address environmental sustainability. There must be safety nets to prevent vulnerable people from the consequences of drought resulting from environmental degradation,” said George Okech, South Sudan Country Director for FAO.
Woja explained how a drought could result from deforestation: "Forests also help in the making of rain. Deforestation means that in the years to come the affected areas will receive less or no rainfall at all." However, South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Betty Achan Ogwaro said it was impossible for farmers in the greater Equatoria region, which contains a large number of woodlands and forests, to cultivate land without cutting down any trees.
For full story, please see: www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107930

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  • New Zealand's natural heritage threatened by 20 years of environmental inaction

Source: WWF, 28 May 2012

Less than a month before world leaders meet at a major environmental summit, a new report warns that New Zealand is failing to protect some of its iconic species and habitats following a series of broken promises made at the Earth Summit 20 years ago.
“Beyond Rio” is released today by global conservation organization WWF ahead of next month’s meeting on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, the location of the groundbreaking 1992 Earth Summit. At the historic summit, New Zealand signed up to a series of agreements to tackle climate change, conserve biodiversity and live more sustainably. However WWF’s report reveals the nation is falling short on important commitments made on greenhouse gases, water quality, land and marine biodiversity, fisheries and education for sustainability.
Chris Howe, Executive Director of WWF-New Zealand said, “Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, is now a land of polluted rivers and lakes, rising greenhouse gas emissions, pressured marine ecosystems and disappearing bird and mammal species. “While it is important for the government to constructively engage in the upcoming summit, we should not lose sight of the many commitments that already exist. If New Zealand’s political leaders had made good on the promises made back in 1992, then we would not be faced with such a battle to turn things around. ”
Although the picture looks bleak, the report points to solutions that can help New Zealand improve its environmental record and restore integrity to its international commitments.
For full story, please see:
http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?204975/New-Zealands-natural-heritage-threatened-by-20-years-of-environmental-inaction

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  • UK: Foraging — in season now

Source: The Ecologist, 28 May 2012

With summer finally upon us, those with gardens will be rolling their sleeves up, ready for the annual sprucing up session. But before you dump every weed in sight in the compost bin, contemplate the culinary possibilities of keeping them around.
“There is lots of really good stuff that you could use that are common weeds,” says professional forager, Fergus Drennan. “Familiarize yourself with the common garden weeds as many of them are edible and really nutritious.” Seasonal weeds such as procumbent yellow sorrel are rich in vitamin C, while dandelion is packed with vitamin A and stinging nettles pack a serious protein punch.
Check what you are picking before you eat it though or you could be in for a nasty surprise. ‘The absolute strict rule is that you must be able to identify a plant 100 percent and know it to be edible in the condition that you have found it,” emphasises Drennan. “There is a lot of fear in the UK about picking things; partly it is down to ignorance but also because we do not have a huge tradition unlike in Europe.”
So where do you start? According to Drennan, woodland, coastal areas, field marshes and rivers are all prime foraging locations, although even your local park will have some gastronomic opportunities available — if you know where to look. “Choose your location for foraging carefully,” advises Drennan. “The greater the range of habitat, the greater the biodiversity so the greater number of plant species available.”
Here is Fergus’s pick of the finest, wild ingredients Mother Nature has to offer in June.

  • Wild strawberries: Wild strawberries are smaller, more delicate and have a more intense flavour than their conventional counterpart. They are generally found in woodlands, meadows and hillsides. “It is a challenge to get them at the perfect stage of ripeness,” says Drennan. The challenge is partly down to the fact that unlike traditional strawberries, wild strawberries are not guaranteed to be in an easily reachable spot, although they are pesticide and fertilizer-free, and taste all the better for it. They are rich in vitamin C and are known for their high level of antioxidants.
  • Marsh samphire (genus Salicornia): Although it looks a bit like seaweed, succulent marsh samphire tastes nothing like it and grows on land beside salt marshes, creeks, beaches and estuaries. Marsh samphire is a relatively small plant that tends not to exceed 30 cm in height and is rich in vitamins A, B and D. Traditionally picked on the longest day of the year, It can be pickled or eaten raw but is generally steamed.
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa): The Burdock plant generally grows up to around 70 cm tall and can be identified by its round, purple flowers. Burdock root is popular in Japanese cuisine and is commonly referred to as gobo, although in the UK, you will have to do your homework before picking any — under the Countryside Act of 1981, foraging for burdock is illegal without the landowners’ permission. The root is also high in potassium.
  • Darwin’s barberry (Berberis darwinii): Darwin’s barberry is a small, blue-purple berry that usually ripens towards the end of June. It grows on an ornamental plant, which is typically found around municipal buildings, parks and gardens. It grows no more than 10 ft tall and is known for its striking yellow and orange flowers. “It is one of those plants which are never cultivated for its fruit,” says Drennan.
  • Lime leaves: This hand-sized, heart-shaped leaf is found on a deciduous, grey-barked tree that’s found in gardens all over the UK.

For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/food_and_drink/1399575/in_season_now_what_to_eat_during_june.html

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  • USA: Concrete jungle forages to feed the hungry

Source: www.atlantaintownpaper.com (USA), 1 June 2012

If you live in urban Atlanta, chances are a mulberry tree is staining the sidewalk purple just blocks from your door. Until recently, this bounty was wasted. Now, it is feeding Atlantans who need it most.
In 2009, Craig Durkin and Aubrey Daniels saw wild apples rotting in the street, while the city’s hungry and homeless struggled to find food. A few friends, buckets and afternoons later, Concrete Jungle took root. The all-volunteer non-profit gathers the unclaimed native produce that flourishes in Atlanta soil, delivering it to organizations like Hosea Feed the Hungry and The Children’s Home in Decatur. Last year, they donated 3 209 lbs — everything from apples and pears, to loquats and persimmons.
“Concrete Jungle is a common-sense, connect-the-dots, solution-based organization.” Robby Astrove, an environmental educator and fixture in Atlanta’s eco-activism community, met Durkin in late 2009 on a hiking tour of Atlanta’s Beltline.
Concrete Jungle’s online Food Map allows users to add trees that are “pickable” — either publicly or by owner permission. Every “pick” is volunteer-manned and organized by “scouts” who track which trees are fruiting and schedule accordingly. Picks happen May through November and at least every weekend after July. Thanks to an early crop, more than 50 lbs have already been donated for 2012.
Undonated spoils are frozen or, in the case of apples and pears, mashed into cider during the free annual Cider Fest, held in early October. Volunteers, new trees to pick, supplies and funds are always needed. Interested readers can learn more at concretejungle.org, which is regularly updated with upcoming picks, produce counts and news about their latest venture.
For full story, please see: www.atlantaintownpaper.com/2012/06/edible-city-concrete-jungle-forages-to-feed-the-hungry/

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NEWS

  • Andean Community (CAN) considers coordinated effort against illegal trade in flora and fauna

Source: IISD Reporting Services, 23 May 2012

The Andean Community (CAN) recently held a workshop to discuss options and proposals for subregional coordination mechanisms to combat illegal traffic in species of wild Amazonian fauna and flora. The workshop, held 22-23 May 2012, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, was organized by the Government of Bolivia and CAN's biodiversity programme, BioCAN, with support from the Government of Finland.
The workshop discussed possible coordination mechanisms and tolls, and reviewed proposed guidelines for identifying opportunities for subregional collaboration in prevention and control of illegal wildlife trade consistent with international regimes, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). BioCAN intends to strengthen the national efforts of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to control illegal wildlife trade, promote information exchange between them and implement a regional campaign on the prevention and control of illegal actions affecting wildlife.
The workshop is the first carried out under BioCAN's Plan for Capacity Building in the area of Amazon wildlife management. Three more subregional meetings are planned on sustainable management of priority species, conflicts related to wildlife management, and integration of the ecosystem approach to wildlife management.
BioCAN, created in 2007 with funding from Finland, and in its second phase since June 2010, has the mission of contributing to the quality of life of CAN member countries in their Tropical Andes-Amazonian Regions "through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in an equitable manner respectful of cultural diversity."
For full story, please see: http://biodiversity-l.iisd.org/news/can-considers-coordinated-effort-against-illegal-trade-in-flora-and-fauna/

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  • Bees: Commonly used pesticide turns honey bees into “picky eaters”

Source: ScienceDaily 24 May 2012

Biologists at the University of California (UC), San Diego have discovered that a small dose of a commonly used crop pesticide turns honey bees into "picky eaters" and affects their ability to recruit their nestmates to otherwise good sources of food.
The results of their experiments, detailed in this week's issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, have implications for what pesticides should be applied to bee-pollinated crops and shed light on one of the main culprits suspected to be behind the recent declines in honey bee colonies.
Since 2006, beekeepers in North America and Europe have lost about one-third of their managed bee colonies each year due to "colony collapse disorder." While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe pesticides have contributed to this decline. One group of crop pesticides, called "neonicotinoids," has received particular attention from beekeepers and researchers.
The UC San Diego biologists focused their study on a specific neonicotinoid known as "imidacloprid," which has been banned for use in certain crops in some European countries and is being increasingly scrutinized in the United States. "In 2006, it was the sixth most commonly used pesticide in California. It is sold for agricultural and home garden use," said James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research project with graduate student Daren Eiri, the first author of the study. "It is known to affect bee learning and memory."
The two biologists found in their experiments that honey bees treated with a small, single dose of imidacloprid, comparable to what they would receive in nectar, became "picky eaters.” “In other words, the bees preferred to only feed on sweeter nectar and refused nectars of lower sweetness that they would normally feed on and that would have provided important sustenance for the colony," said Eiri. "In addition, bees typically recruit their nestmates to good food with waggle dances, and we discovered that the treated bees also danced less."
The two researchers point out that honey bees that prefer only very sweet foods can dramatically reduce the amount of resources brought back to the colony. Further reductions in their food stores can occur when bees no longer communicate to their kin the location of the food source.
"Exposure to amounts of pesticide formerly considered safe may negatively affect the health of honey bee colonies," said Nieh.
The two scientists said their discoveries not only have implications for how pesticides are applied and used in bee-pollinated crops, but provide an additional chemical tool that can be used by other researchers studying the neural control of honey bee behaviour.
For full story, please see: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524092926.htm

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  • Bees: France to ban pesticide possibly linked to decline of bees

Source: Yale Environment News 360, 1 June 2012

French authorities plan to ban a pesticide made by the Swiss company, Syngenta, after scientists said the pesticide’s use could be linked to a sharp decline in bee populations known as colony collapse disorder. France says it plans to withdraw the permit for farmers to spray Cruiser OSR, a pesticide used to protect rape seeds.
The government took the action after the French Health and Safety Agency, ANSES, agreed with a recent scientific study suggesting that a low dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die. Other studies worldwide also have linked colony collapse disorder to increased pesticide use in agriculture. Syngenta has disputed the study involving thiamethoxam, saying the amounts of pesticide used in the research were far higher than the quantities used by farmers. The company has two weeks to submit its own evidence contradicting the government’s findings.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/france_bans_pesticide_thiamethoxam_linked_to_bee_decline/3490/

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  • Bees: Lessons from the life of bees

Source: Boston Globe, 24 May 2012

A special event in Plymouth (Massachusetts, USA) centred on a film about bees and beekeepers called “Queen of the Sun” promises to be a honey of an evening.
Called “A Night of Food Film” by its collaborators, the evening includes the feature film, inventive tastings of locally sourced cuisine from the market’s farmers and food-makers, and a speakers’ panel of local beekeepers spiced with the plantation’s foodways expert.
Directed by documentary filmmaker Taggart Siegel, “Queen of the Sun” is about the bee crisis caused by billions of honey bees going missing from their hives, a development with catastrophic potential for world agriculture. Beekeepers, scientists, and social critics have wrestled with causes of the disaster both small and large, from microbes to fundamental man-made shifts in the balance of nature.
Siegel said he made the film after learning about the importance of the disappearing bees and reading a quote attributed to Einstein: “If bees die out, man will only have four years of life left on earth.” While the truth of that assertion has been disputed, the undisputed importance of bees to our environment led him to spend three years making the film.
The film does not get mired in predictions of doom. “It is what people can do in little places that make a difference,” Wall said.
What makes a difference to the 2 June event at Plimoth Cinema, the ongoing film program that offers independent and foreign films in an area that does not get them anywhere else, can be summed up in a word — food.
Plymouth Farmers’ Market, an established market that is launching its new outdoor home at the plantation on 7 June, is arranging food for the event from its vendors. The biggest impetus for the European importation of honey bees into America turned out to be the need for wax to make candles, said the plantation’s culinarian.
For full story, please see:
www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/05/24/night_of_food_film_in_plymouth_shows_film_on_bees_and_their_keepers/

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  • Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) launches first ever Wangari Maathai Award

From: CPF, 16 May 2012

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) has launched its first ever Wangari Maathai Award to honour and commemorate the impact of this extraordinary woman who championed forest issues around the world. The award in the amount of US$ 20 000 will be given in recognition of outstanding contributions made by an individual to preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests and to communicate the key role forests play in rural livelihoods and the environment across generations.
The Wangari Maathai Award, given for the first time in 2012, was created by CBD, CIFOR, FAO, GEF, ICRAF, ITTO, IUCN, IUFRO, UNCCD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC, UNFF and World Bank, all members of the CPF.
Nominations will be reviewed by an international jury of renowned and authoritative personalities, who will also take into consideration such elements as empowering civil society, fostering social commitment, promoting networks and improving the valuation of forests in society.
            Eligibility: Applicants should be nominated by a third party. Nominees may be persons, living or recently deceased, who have made exceptional contributions to forests. Professional and research contributions will only be considered if they are conducted outside of normal work-related responsibilities. Applications received from a nominee’s kin or business partner are not eligible for consideration. Applications related to grassroots initiatives are particularly encouraged.
Selection: The closing date for receipt of nominations is Friday, 15 June 2012. The awardee will be selected by a jury nominated by CPF members, which will take into account gender and regional balance when considering potential awardees.
            Announcement: The awardee will be notified of their selection via email in late August, once the jury has concluded its work. This year’s Wangari Maathai Award will be presented on 27 September 2012 on the occasion of the first anniversary of Wangari Maathai’s death, during the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) and 3rd World Forestry Week (WFW) meetings. The awardee will be welcomed to receive their award in person.
To submit an application: Send a nomination for the award to the CPF Secretariat at cpf@un.org.
For more information, please contact:
CPF Secretariat, The United Nations Forum on Forests
DC1-1245, One UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Email: cpf@un.org

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  • Global biodiversity panel launched

Source: Scidev.net in www.dawn.com, 1 May 2012

A global science assessment panel for biodiversity, modelled on the International Panel on Climate Change, was launched in Panama City on 21 April.
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES) was agreed to in June 2010 by more than 230 government representatives from more than eight countries.
Its aim is to influence global policy by providing policymakers with scientific assessments on a range of issues affecting environmental sustainability.
Specific themes will be decided on in 2013 at the panel’s first plenary meeting, but work on reviewing existing assessments — such as 2005’s global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment — will begin immediately.
Anne Larigauderie, Executive Director of Paris-based international biodiversity research programme DIVERSITAS, told Nature News: “Our community sees this as an extremely important step in order not to waste any time until the first plenary meets”.
The panel will be hosted in Bonn, Germany, which beat competition from countries including Korea and India, and promised funding for capacity building in developing nations.
Its annual budget, estimated to be between US$5–13 million, is yet to be confirmed, but a trust fund will be established to receive voluntary contributions.
Also still in negotiations is the selection of scientists to sit on the panel — organizations such as DIVERSITAS will be invited to make nominations.
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said: “I hope that this body will allow biodiversity to be better taken into account in sustainable-development strategies, as the IPCC has for climate change over the past 20 years”.
For full story, please see: http://dawn.com/2012/05/01/global-biodiversity-panel-launched/

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  • New app launched delivering herbal database

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 28 May 2012

Elsevier Australia has this week launched Clinical Herbs (http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/clinical-herbs/id523213839?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2) an excellent new medical app for local students and practitioners alike. Offering a refreshing alternative to bulky textbooks, the Clinical Herbs app delivers a comprehensive herbal database directly to the user's iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Clinical Herbs is the first resource of its kind; linking evidence-based Phytotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic therapies and herbal monographs in an easily-searchable, illustrated database.
The app comprises 100 percent new content from eight highly-qualified expert contributors. Its scientific rigour and easy accessibility make it a valuable and convenient tool for health care professionals from a wide range of fields.
This handy app features the herbal therapeutics of an expansive list of medical conditions. Users can search by herb or by condition and add personal notes and bookmarks as they go.
Each herbal monograph includes high-quality images as well as information on that herb's chemical constituents, pharmacological activities, clinical efficacy, dose form, dosage, side effects and precautions. The clinical efficacy of all herbal therapies is ranked based on the Levels of Scientific Evidence defined by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), so users can be confident they can trust the content in Clinical Herbs.
For more information, please see: www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/05/27/prweb9544736.DTL#ixzz1wBvAisS3

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  • This forest is our forest

Source: The New York Times, 31 May 2012

Twenty years ago, the world came together in Rio de Janeiro for a historic summit meeting to tackle the environmental issues that threaten the very sustainability and preservation of our planet. Now, as world leaders and thousands of other participants prepare for the Rio+20 Conference, we are facing an even more urgent set of environmental challenges.
The pace of global climate change has worsened, representing a fundamental threat to the planet’s health and environmental well-being. And there is little indication the world’s leaders are ready to meet the challenges of building an environmentally sustainable future.
But there is some good news to report — and it is coming from the world’s forests, a critical front line in the effort to slow climate change and conserve biodiversity. In a largely unreported global movement, some 30 of the world’s most forested countries have adopted an innovative idea for protecting forests: granting ownership rights to communities that reside in them.
Almost 90 percent of the laws granting such rights have been passed since the first Earth Summit in 1992, demonstrating that a global consensus can produce real change. A new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative — a global coalition of organizations working for forest-use reforms — presents a growing body of evidence that in places where local communities have taken ownership of forests, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Protected areas, owned by indigenous communities in Asia and Latin America, have lower rates of deforestation, forest fires and, above all, carbon emissions.
Since forests also provide for the livelihoods of tens, even hundreds, of millions of people, clarifying and recognizing ownership rights is helping to spur economic growth and raise living standards.
In Brazil, which is hosting the Rio+20 summit — formally the UN Conference on Sustainable Development — deforestation rates have significantly declined, even as incomes in indigenous forest communities have increased. Brazil has moved toward this goal by giving communities the legal protections to keep out ranchers, loggers and others seeking to destroy their forests.
Yet the progress we have seen across the globe has been uneven, and the potential to build on it stands at risk. As chronicled in the R.R.I. report, most of the new laws that recognize customary rights circumscribe those rights and are applied at limited scale.
In Africa, nearly eight out of ten laws that recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and communities do not allow them to exclude outsiders — a critical element of land ownership. Even where legal rights exist, complicated bureaucratic procedures often make it difficult to realize them. In Mozambique, for example, to qualify for “community concessions” local communities must provide six copies of a topographical map identifying all the detailed geographical features of the land. Not surprisingly, in 2009 — a decade after the act was passed — no concessions had been granted.
Worse still, some of the countries with rights on the books now find themselves at the centre of a growing and troubling land grab by commercial investors focused on clearing forests for agriculture, with little concern for the local communities that call them home.
Recent efforts by wealthy ranchers to weaken land rights in Brazil illustrate this growing threat. In the face of rising food, mineral and energy prices, this fierce competition for land will only increase, making the need for strongly established community rights more important than ever before.
For all of these reasons, Rio+20 must build on the success of its predecessor and serve as a new impetus to expand and strengthen community rights to the world’s forests. This means ensuring that billions of hectares of forest are turned over to local communities; it means engaging with the private sector to help clarify groups’ rights to land and forest; and it means creating new public/private partnerships, such as those that have been used to combat other global issues like H.I.V.-AIDS and malaria, to build public support for ownership rights. Above all, it means ensuring that the rights already recognized by governments are fully realized in local communities.
Taking action on these fronts will set us on a powerful course for a more sustainable and equitable future — just as it did 20 years ago. Actions that simultaneously strengthen human rights and achieve sustainable development are an unusual win-win. The fact that they also help stop deforestation and climate change makes them an even more attractive and urgent option.
At a time when the struggle against global warming seems more daunting than ever, our two decade-long experience with community forestry shows that we have within our means the ability to turn the tide.
For full story, please see: www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/opinion/this-forest-is-our-forest.html?_r=1

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  • WFI Fellowship Programme accepting applications

From: World Forest Institute, World Forestry Centre, Oregon (USA), 25 April 2012

The World Forestry Center (WFC) is a non-profit forestry education organization based in Portland, Oregon, USA. The World Forest Institute (WFI) Fellowship brings professionals in natural resources to conduct a practical research project at the WFC.  In addition to projects, Fellows participate in weekly field trips, interviews and site visits to Northwest forestry organizations, research labs, universities, public and private timberlands, trade associations, mills, and corporations.
The Fellowship is a unique opportunity to learn about sustainable forestry from the Pacific Northwest forestry sector, and to work with colleagues from around the world.  Fellowships are open to any country, including U.S. citizens. The Fellowship program offers partial scholarships through the Harry A. Merlo Foundation, but all applicants must be able to cover at least 50 percent of the program fee. Over 85 Fellows from 27 countries have participated to date.  Applications are accepted year-round.
            Applicant Profile: Natural resource managers and educators looking to broaden their knowledge on some aspect of forest management and policy; forest industry professionals seeking exposure to the US forest sector; graduate or doctoral students completing a thesis/research project and needing a base of operations; mid-career professionals seeking a career change and wanting to delve into a new field.
For more information and how to apply, please contact:
World Forestry Center
4033 SW Canyon Road
Portland, Oregon 97221
http://wfi.worldforestry.org/index/international-fellowship.html

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  • Why trees matter

Source: The New York Times, 11 April 2012

Trees are on the front lines of our changing climate. And when the oldest trees in the world suddenly start dying, it is time to pay attention.
North America’s ancient alpine bristlecone forests are falling victim to a voracious beetle and an Asian fungus. In Texas, a prolonged drought killed more than five million urban shade trees last year and an additional half-billion trees in parks and forests. In the Amazon, two severe droughts have killed billions more.
The common factor has been hotter, drier weather.
We have underestimated the importance of trees. They are not merely pleasant sources of shade but a potentially major answer to some of our most pressing environmental problems. We take them for granted, but they are a near miracle. In a bit of natural alchemy called photosynthesis, for example, trees turn one of the seemingly most insubstantial things of all — sunlight — into food for insects, wildlife and people, and use it to create shade, beauty and wood for fuel, furniture and homes.
For all of that, the unbroken forest that once covered much of the continent is now shot through with holes. Humans have cut down the biggest and best trees and left the runts behind. What does that mean for the genetic fitness of our forests? No one knows for sure, for trees and forests are poorly understood on almost all levels. “It is embarrassing how little we know,” one eminent redwood researcher told The New York Times.
What we do know, however, suggests that what trees do is essential though often not obvious. Decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leach acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. When plankton thrive, so does the rest of the food chain. In a campaign called Forests Are Lovers of the Sea, fishermen have replanted forests along coasts and rivers to bring back fish and oyster stocks. And they have returned.
Trees are nature’s water filters, capable of cleaning up the most toxic wastes, including explosives, solvents and organic wastes, largely through a dense community of microbes around the tree’s roots that clean water in exchange for nutrients, a process known as phytoremediation. Tree leaves also filter air pollution. A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University found that more trees in urban neighborhoods correlate with a lower incidence of asthma.
In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call “forest bathing.” A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system, which fight tumors and viruses. Studies in inner cities show that anxiety, depression and even crime are lower in a landscaped environment.
Trees also release vast clouds of beneficial chemicals. On a large scale, some of these aerosols appear to help regulate the climate; others are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. We need to learn much more about the role these chemicals play in nature. One of these substances, taxane, from the Pacific yew tree, has become a powerful treatment for breast and other cancers. Aspirin’s active ingredient comes from willows.
Trees are greatly underutilized as an eco-technology. “Working trees” could absorb some of the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that run off farm fields and help heal the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. In Africa, millions of acres of parched land have been reclaimed through strategic tree growth.
Trees are also the planet’s heat shield. They keep the concrete and asphalt of cities and suburbs ten or more degrees cooler and protect our skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays. The Texas Department of Forestry has estimated that the die-off of shade trees will cost Texans hundreds of millions of dollars more for air-conditioning. Trees, of course, sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that makes the planet warmer. A study by the Carnegie Institution for Science also found that water vapour from forests lowers ambient temperatures.
A big question is, which trees should we be planting? Ten years ago, a shade tree farmer named David Milarch, a co-founder of the Champion Tree Project, began cloning some of the world’s oldest and largest trees to protect their genetics, from California redwoods to the oaks of Ireland. “These are the supertrees, and they have stood the test of time,” he says.
Science does not know if these genes will be important on a warmer planet, but an old proverb seems apt. “When is the best time to plant a tree?” The answer: “Twenty years ago. The second-best time? Today.”
For full story, please see: www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/opinion/why-trees-matter.html?_r=2

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EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Professor in Forest Economics and Forest Planning

From: University of Freiburg (Germany), June 2012

The Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg in Germany seeks to appoint a professor in forest economics and forest planning, to commence on 1 April 2013.
The successful applicant is expected to represent the field of Forest Economics and Forest Planning in research and teaching. This comprises the management of forest enterprises, forest economical instruments, economics of ecosystem goods and services, as well as forestry and timber markets. The successful candidate is expected to have a comprehensive understanding of the management of forests and other natural resources and the ability to integrate business oriented approaches with those of environmental economics.
The Professor will be responsible for teaching in Forest Economics, Forest Planning and It is expected that the successful candidate will develop and offer the relevant modules and assume coordination tasks in the relevant degree programs including international MSc courses of the faculty. In addition, an active role in the graduate School “Environment, Society, and Global change” is desired. The acquisition of substantive third party funding, the development of international research cooperation as well as collaboration in the relevant centres of the University such as the “Centre for Renewable Energy” are expected.
Deadline for applications is 16 July 2012.
For more information, please contact:
Dean of the Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Postfach 79085
Germany
E-mail: dekanat@ffu.uni-freiburg.de
www.uni-freiburg.de/universitaet/organisation/stellenboerse/?erf=y&stellenid=7991&layout=v4

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EVENTS

Rio+20 side event: Certification as a tool for greening economies
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
13 June 2012
The sustainable use of natural resources is a fundamental precondition for a green economy. FSC was set up by environmental and social organisations together with forest owners (private and community) and companies to develop a transparent and credible scheme for sustainable forest management.
Forest products play a key role in a green economy. For instance they provide construction material for zero-energy buildings and replace other resources for products and energy for environmental and scarcity reasons. It is essential to mobilize these products in complete harmony with globally agreed objectives to halt the deterioration of biodiversity, as well improving social justice and respect for people directly dependant on forests.
Come and discuss the promotion of forest certification, in particular in tropical areas, and how governments and public authorities can help mainstream the use of certified forest products.
Purposes:

  • To underline the importance of certification of tropical forests in particular as a contribution to a “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”
  • To discuss the roles governments can play in promoting such certification, on the ground as well as on the markets

For more information, please contact:
www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&type=1000&nr=167&menu=126

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Investing in locally controlled forestry at Rio+20: Fair Ideas
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
16-17 June
IIED and partners will be holding a two-day conference in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for Rio+20. This will include a session jointly hosted by the G3 and IIED entitled: “Locally controlled farm-forestry: a firm foundation for fair green economies?'
For more information and to register go to: www.iied.org/fair-ideas-shaping-solutions-for-sustainable-planet-1617-june

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Forest: The Heart of a Green Economy at Rio+20
Ribalta Eventos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
18 June 2012
This event is aimed at highlighting the role of forests and forest industries in building the green economy and fostering rural development at the resource base – the two key themes of Rio+20. Increasingly the climate-smart management of forests and the wise use of trees are seen as a collaborative effort between the public and private holders of forests, large and small private enterprises and local communities. NGOs play an important role in encouraging appropriate levels of conservation and environmental protection. Participants will learn more profoundly how the forest sector can actively and concretely contribute to a more sustainable future for society.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Jukka Tissari
FAO Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products FAO Forestry Department
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla - 00153 Rome - Italy
Tel. +39 06 57054179 – Fax +39 06 57052151
Mobile: +39 349 2375552
E-mail: Jukka.Tissari@fao.org
Skype: jttissari
www.fao.org/forestry/trade/76571/en/

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The 8th roundtable at Rio+20: Integrating forests into the global agenda on sustainable development
19 June 2012
Royal Tulip Hotel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In June 2012, one of the most important environmental gatherings in a generation will take place in Brazil – Rio+20. Organizers have identified seven key issues to form new sustainable development goals: jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans and disasters. Forests, however, have been largely excluded from most of these key issues — with only one mention in the description of “food”.
While it is important that the Rio+20 meeting explore new ground in addressing the emerging problems of the 21st century, forests must remain high on the agenda in 2012. Forests make important — but underappreciated – contributions toward solving many of the problems that are on the table at these discussions. And it is critical that Rio+20 deliver a global message that forests matter.
To ensure that this message is delivered, CIFOR will coordinate one of the most important conferences on forests alongside the Rio+20 summit. Forests: The 8th Roundtable at Rio+20 will discuss new research findings — and remaining knowledge gaps — and their policy implications for integrating forests into the solutions to four key challenges to progress toward a green economy: Energy, food and income, water, and climate.
For more information, please see: www.cifor.org/fileadmin/fileupload/events/Rio-concept-note-19032012.pdf

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Rio+20: The UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
20-22 June 2012
In 1992, countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro to develop a plan to rescue the environment. Twenty years on, the UN is leading the global effort to revisit those decisions. Through the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in 2012 — also referred to as “Rio+20” — leaders will return to Rio to review progress, affirm ongoing efforts and design new ways to meet the most urgent needs of the planet and its people.
The main objectives will be to: secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development; Assess the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments; and address new and emerging challenges.
For more information, please see: www.fao.org/rioplus20/en/

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LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEB SITES

46.       Model Forest Network Recipe Book
From: International Model Forest Network (IMFN), May 2012

The IMFN Secretariat is pleased to announce the release of this cookbook, which features NTFPs from Model Forests around the world. A Model Forest is a large-scale, forest-based landscape where people with different concerns, values and viewpoints (communities, industry, government, indigenous groups and others) agree to work together to sustainably manage the forest, the ecosystem and the natural resources therein.
The book highlights an eclectic mix of recipes including main courses, sides, desserts and beverages...all using plants found in Model Forests throughout the IMFN.
For more information, please see:
www.mmfn.info/sites/default/files/Root/public/Recipes/IMFN_RecipeBook_Eng_FINAL.pdf?utm_source=People+and+Forests+E-News&utm_campaign=6203db66fa-People_and_Forests_E_News_May_2012&utm_medium=email

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47.       ETFRN News 53: Moving Forward with Forest Governance
From: Tropenbos International, 30 May 2012

The 29 articles in this issue of European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN) News showcase a rich diversity of examples of how forest governance has been addressed in various settings. The issue brings together experiences from a wide range of forest governance reform initiatives. Some relate to new lessons from well-established approaches to forest governance reform, such as community forestry; others relate to more recently developed initiatives, such as FLEGT.
The articles show that international instruments — such as Voluntary Partnership Agreements, forest certification and more recently, REDD+ — are important drivers to address governance in the forest sector.
Experiences described in the articles demonstrate that forest governance challenges do not have “one-size-fits-all” solutions. They also show that regardless of the entry point to initiate forest governance reform, there is always a set of underlying inter-related governance issues. Therefore, an integrated process approach is essential to successfully address forest governance reform. The participatory processes of “good” forest governance create the capacity for continuous learning and enhance the ability to adapt to lessons learned.
The full issue or each article individually can be downloaded from the ETFRN-website: www.etfrn.org/etfrn/newsletter/news53/index.html, or from the Tropenbos-website: www.tropenbos.org/publications/etfrn+news+53:+moving+forward+with+forest+governance.
For more information contact:
Herman Savenije
Tropenbos International
E-mail: herman.savenije@tropenbos.org

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48.       Other publications of Interest
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Dhakala, B., Pinarda, M., Gunatillekeb, N., Gunatillekeb, S. Dharmaparakramac, M. & Burslem, D. 2012. Impacts of cardamom cultivation on montane forest ecosystems in Sri Lanka. Forest Ecology and Management. Vol. 274, 15. Ref. 151-160.

Dlamini, C. S. & Geldenhuys, C. J. 2011. Quantities and values of selected forest medicines harvested by eight villages adjacent to natural woodlands in the four ecological zones of rural Swaziland. African Journal of Plant Science. 5: 12, 730-741. [

Chilalo, M. Wiersum, K. F. 2011. The role of NTFPs for livelihood diversification in Southwest Ethiopia. Ethiopian e-Journal for Research and Innovation Foresight. 3: 1, 44-59. 27 ref.

Dai JianYue Liang, Yao Dong, AnQiang, & Xing FuWu. 2012. Investigation of medicinal plants resources in Guangdong Shimen National Forest Park. Medicinal Plant. 3: 1, 5-8. 19 ref.

Dambatta, S. H. & Aliyu, B. S. 2011. A survey of major ethno medicinal plants of Kano north, Nigeria, their knowledge and uses by traditional healers. Bayero Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences. 4: 2, 28-34. 9 ref.

Goncalves, D. C. M. Gama, J. R. de V. Oliveira, F. de A. Oliveira Junior, R. C. de Araujo, G. C. Almeida, L. S. De. 2012. Market aspects of NTFPs in the economy of Santarem, State of Para, Brazil. Floresta e Ambiente. 19: 1, 9-16. 11 ref.

McLennan, M. & Plumptre, J. 2012. Protected apes, unprotected forest: composition, structure and diversity of riverine forest fragments and their conservation value in Uganda. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol.5, Issue 1. 79-103.

Olujobi, O. J. 2012. Harvesting practices, utilization and conservation of NTFPs in Ekiti State, Nigeria. International Journal of Academic Research. 4: 1, 134-140.

Pandey, A. K. & Mandal, A. K. 2012. Sustainable harvesting of Terminalia arjuna (Roxb.) Wight & Arnot (Arjuna) and Litsea glutinosa (Lour.) Robinson (Maida) bark in central India.
Journal of Sustainable Forestry. 31: 3, 294-309. 28 ref.

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

Donate a word to take the temperature of Sustainable Development
A new interactive website creates a collage of thoughts and feelings about sustainability from people all around the world. Just donate a word to contribute.
What is sustainability to you? What does it mean to be human? And what do you connect with the word nature? Those are the questions posed at the new website "Donate a word", launched for the Rio+20 conference.
The Nordic Council of Ministers wants to collect words from all over the world to make a global collage of thoughts and ideas about sustainable development. Do people in China think about sustainability the same way people in Canada do? Are the ideas of South Africans about the issue the same as those of the Swiss? And what unites Brazil and Bhutan?
www.norden.org/donateaword

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MISCELLANEOUS

50.       Memo to Rio+20: “green economy” does not mean monetizing nature
Source: The Guardian, 29 May 2012

The 1992 Rio Earth summit established "sustainable development" firmly in the global political lexicon— even though the term meant, and continues to mean, different things to different people.
As the Rio+20 anniversary conference approaches, a battle rages over the definition of another term: "green economy". "A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" is a key conference theme. It sounds good, but what does it mean?
According to one of the official preparatory documents: "Several delegations proposed the valuing of ecosystem services and internalizing of environmental externalities as key elements of a green economy, as well as green accounting; while some delegations cautioned against further marketization of nature's services."
The jargon masks some diametrically opposing views. On one side, many northern governments are saying we trash the natural world because we do not value it properly. So far, so good. But they go on to confuse "value" with "price", which is where it all starts to break down. They argue that to conserve or protect the resources and functions we need from nature, we need to ascribe a financial value to them and bring them into the market. Then we will pay the proper price for nature and stop destroying it.
The UK government is a big advocate of this approach, having bought heavily into the recommendations of a report on the subject by a team led by the former Deutsche Bank employee Pavan Sukhdev. It has gone as far as publishing a white paper that commits to pushing the agenda, both in the UK and on the international stage.
A market-based approach to dealing with natural resources is not an entirely new concept. The idea behind the UN's REDD+, for example, is that if the carbon stored in forests is valued and quantified, forests will be seen as more valuable standing than they would be cut down.
But by allowing companies to "offset" their logging by planting tree plantations, REDD+ has opened the door to the legal destruction of rainforests. It has also led to the confiscation of land from people who often do not have formal ownership deeds to the land they have used in common for generations. For example, in Uganda more than 22 000 people were evicted from their land, allegedly at gunpoint, to allow the New Forests Company, a UK firm, to plant trees to earn carbon credits.
Yet the UK and other governments would have us expand this approach to protecting biodiversity, the delivery of fresh water, and any other areas where there might be a profit to be made from nature. The result would be the further privatization of essential elements of our planet to which we all share rights and have responsibilities.
The co-option of the term green economy to mean commodifying and marketizing nature is made worse because it is in danger of dominating the Rio+20 summit at the expense of some of the really positive policies being proposed. These include ending massive subsidies for fossil fuels and other dirty industries, supporting greener industries instead, and moving away from taxing social goods (such as labour) towards taxing social bads (such as pollution).
At the People's summit, citizens from all over Brazil and beyond will be meeting to discuss the sort of world they want and work out how we might get there. Powerful and incredibly inspiring ideas and experiences, like food and energy sovereignty — the right of peoples to choose their own food and energy systems, rather than having them determined by global markets — will be shared and worked towards.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/may/29/rio-20-green-economy-monetising-nature

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last updated:  Tuesday, June 19, 2012