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NWFP-Digest-L
No. 6/12

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

EVENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

MISCELLANEOUS

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PRODUCTS

  • Bamboo: Bali goes green with bamboo buildings

Source: AFP in The Jakarta Globe, 10 June 2012

Strong, light and cheaper than steel poles, bamboo is ubiquitous across Asia as scaffolding. So much so that in recognition of the material's versatility, the Indonesian island of Bali has made it an emblem of sustainable construction, replacing buildings of concrete and steel with far greener alternatives.
An entire school, luxury villas and even a chocolate factory are the latest structures to rise from bamboo skeletons as the plant's green credentials and strength are hailed.
The factory, which opened last year and produces organic drinking chocolate and cocoa butter, is the latest in a string of buildings on the island, including homes and businesses, to be built of bamboo.
Erected in the village of Sibang Kaja between the resort island's smoggy capital Denpasar and the forests of Ubud, the factory is the initiative of specialty food firm Big Tree Farms.
"Bamboo is unmatched as a sustainable building material. What it can do is remarkable," Big Tree Farms co-founder Ben Ripple, 37, told AFP.
"It grows far more quickly than timber and does not destroy the land it is grown on," said Ripple, an American from Connecticut. "Our factory can be packed up and moved in days, so if we decided to shut it down one day, we are not going to damage the rice paddies we sit on."
The 100 ha of paddies sit inside a so-called "bamboo triangle," with the factory, school and villas standing at each of the three points.
Such ambitious bamboo projects in Bali are mostly driven by eco-conscious foreigners. With studies showing construction to be one of the world's least sustainable industries — eating up around half of the globe's non-renewable resources — sustainable construction is slowly taking root around the world.
It is among the key topics for discussion at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which opens on 20 June in Rio de Janeiro.
"In Hong Kong and China, they make new skyscrapers of concrete and glass using bamboo scaffolding. But here, the workmen stood on steel scaffolding to build this bamboo building. That's always seemed funny to me," said head of admissions at the bamboo school, Ben Macrory. "In most parts of Asia, bamboo is seen as the poor man's timber."
Bamboo — technically a grass — has been used in building for centuries because of its impressive strength-to-weight ratio.
Jules Janssen, an authority on bamboo in the Netherlands, says that the weight of a 5 000 kg elephant can be supported by a short bamboo stub with a surface area of just 10 cm².
One reason bamboo is so environmentally-friendly is the speed at which it grows, according to Terry Sunderland, a scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia. "In building-quality bamboo will grow between six and 10 m/year," he said.
But even bamboo has its drawbacks. Without intensive treatment, it is prone to rotting after exposure to water. It also catches fire relatively easily, which is why many countries limit bamboo structures to just a few storeys.
For full story, please see: www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/bamboo-points-way-to-green-construction-in-indonesias-bali/523485

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  • Cinnamon: New health benefits of super food “spice” cinnamon uncovered

http://analytics.apnewsregistry.com/analytics/v2/image.svc/SFGATE/RWS/www.sfgate.com/MAI/ga20120621prweb9626313.DTL/E/ProdSource: The San Francisco Chronicle, 21 June 2012

The healing powers of the natural spice cinnamon have been well documented in recent years. Cinnamon — referred to both as an herb and a spice (the term “herb” is a subset of spice) — is found underneath the bark of a Cinnamomum tree commonly grown in South East Asia and Sri Lanka. There are two types of cinnamon commonly used in Western Culture marketplace known as Ceylon and Cassia.
A recent medical research has uncovered several new key medical benefits of one of the world's most versatile and sweet tasting natural herbs including new ways of reducing blood sugar levels for people who suffer with Type 2 Diabetes. Recent research conducted by the American Diabetes Association uncovered information which has shown how effective cinnamon can be towards reducing blood sugar levels for Diabetic patients.
In a recent study conducted by Dr. Alam Khan at the American Diabetes Association, a group of 60 people were tested to see how the introduction of cinnamon could potentially decrease glucose levels in the blood. The results of the study showed that a total of 40 out of 60 people tested, (66 percent) showed a decrease in glucose and LDL and HDL Cholesterol when consuming up to 6 g of cinnamon on a daily basis.
The results of this study confirmed that intake of 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon/day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with type 2 Diabetes and suggest that when people who suffer with type 2 Diabetes include cinnamon in their daily diet this could reduce risk factors often associated with diabetes and even cardiovascular diseases.
Cinnamon is a versatile herb and is used for many health treatments and ailments beyond Diabetes. Cinnamon is also one of the most powerful antioxidants available naturally. It has the second highest content of antioxidant property among all spices.
According to the study by Peter Ward from University of Michigan, Cinnamon can significantly reduce inflammation often associated with pain, redness, swelling and heat. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde that is used to arrest the release of inflammatory agents from the cell membrane.
For full story, please read: www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/06/21/prweb9626313.DTL#ixzz1yWH7jy1E

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  • Cork: Engineers have their eye on cork

Source: University of Delaware (USA), 18 June 2012

Cork, known for its use in such low-tech applications as wine bottle stoppers and bulletin boards, now shows promise as the core material in composite sandwich structures for use in high-tech automotive, aircraft and energy applications.
A research team at the University of Delaware is investigating this natural material as an environmentally friendly solution for quiet sandwich composites. They recently published a paper on their work in Scientific Reports, an online, open-access research publication from the publishers of Nature that covers all areas of the natural sciences.
“Cork is a natural product with intriguing properties,” says Jonghwan Suhr, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and an affiliated faculty member in the Centre for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware.
“It is energy absorbing, tough, lightweight and impact resistant, and it has excellent vibrational and acoustic damping properties. Its unique cellular arrangement also results in good thermal properties, and it’s impermeable to moisture.”
Suhr was adviser to the lead author on the paper, James Sargianis. The third member of the team was Hyung-ick Kim, a postdoctoral researcher at CCM who is an expert in mechanical characterization of advanced materials.
Sargianis’s graduate research focused on exploring natural material-based sandwich composites with enhanced noise mitigation. Cork turned out to be one of the most promising alternatives to traditional sandwich structures.
Suhr explains that composite sandwich structures — typically made from synthetic foam cores or honeycomb materials bonded to carbon-epoxy face sheets — are commonly used in aerospace applications because they offer high bending stiffness and are very lightweight. However, he says, they are also good at radiating noise, which is not a desirable feature in an airplane. The current solution is to line the interior with four to six inches of glass fabric, but this increases weight and reduces space inside the cabin.
In the recently reported study, the researchers compared sandwich structures made from a natural cork agglomerate core with those using a core made from a high-quality synthetic foam called Rohacell.
“Cork radiates little to no noise and is inexpensive. It is also sustainable and environmentally friendly because there are no carbon emissions associated with its production,” says Suhr.
For full story, please see: www.udel.edu/udaily/2012/jun/cork-sandwich-composites-061812.html

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  • Edible insects: Crawling onto menus

Source: BBC, 13 June 2012

In places like Columbia, the Republic of Korea, and the Philippines, eating insects as a snack or with a meal is no big deal, but in Europe and the United States, the idea of chomping down on a crunchy critter makes many people squeamish.
A few ambitious chefs are determined to change all that. Toloache, a restaurant in New York City, serves up tacos de chapulines or grasshopper tacos, inspired by chef Julian Medina’s upbringing in Mexico City. “We would snack on dried grasshoppers, enjoying them as someone enjoys popcorn,” Medina said. “At first customers are sceptical of the taco, but when they try them, they are pleasantly surprised. Many come back to try them again.”
In the Netherlands, the restaurant Specktakel recently hosted a five-course bug buffet, which included samosas with a mash-up of bugs known as “insect crumble”, mealworms and duck, and chocolate fondant with worms. Though the buffet was a special occasion, the chefs promise to keep at least one insect dish on the menu at all times.
Those looking for a more subtle introduction to entomophagy (the scientific term for bug-eating) can visit the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the insecectarium serves up gourmet bug-eats every day at 10 am. From chocolate “chirp” cookies (baked with crickets as well as the usual chocolate chips) to cucumber sandwiches topped with queen ants, the dishes are all aimed at making eating bugs more routine.
“We eat so many odd things, like eggs, organ meat and honey, which is bee vomit when you think about it,” said Zach Lemann, visitor programs manager at the insectarium. “Why not eat bugs? Insects are healthful for people, but they also taste good. They are much more efficient at converting plant matter into edible tablefare than livestock, so there is an environmental benefit as well.”
Lemann recommends that the first-time bug eater try house crickets, as they have a good, nutty taste even when eaten roasted and plain. But when it comes to versatility, nothing beats the fried wax worm (a type of caterpillar), which can be used in salty, spicy, and sweet dishes.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20120612-worldwide-weird-edible-insects-crawl-onto-menus

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  • Ecotourism: Coffee, daisy trees and finches

Source: The Financial Times, 19 June 2012

As the home of giant tortoises and inspiration of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galápagos Islands are a popular destination for tourists wanting to explore their wonderful wildlife. This has had a profound impact on the islands’ economy, provoking steady desertion of farms in the inner upland areas as people have moved to the coast where jobs in marine tourism are less arduous and better paid.
This presented an opportunity to Scott Henderson and his wife, Maria Elena Guerra. Nine years ago, they were working as conservationists on Santa Cruz, the most populous island, and wanted to set up their own ecological venture. “We decided the time had come to stop telling everyone else how to conserve Galápagos and start doing it ourselves,” Mr Henderson says.
The obvious place to buy land was on the coast, but the couple started to look inland at the highlands, which have become heavily degraded through deforestation and “invasion” by non-native species, and where property is much cheaper. In 2004, they bought an abandoned five-acre farm at a price that would have only bought a small plot by the sea, naming it Lava Java. Attempting to clear the virulent weeds, they discovered coffee plants growing underneath, planted by the previous owner who decided they were not economically viable and wrote them off. They had samples of the first year’s harvest of 30 lbs of beans evaluated by experts, and discovered it was a good variety suitable for cultivation.  So they bought more land, hired help, and the next year produced 300 lbs of organic beans.
They also planted 3 000 indigenous trees, mostly endangered species such as the giant daisy tree, “Scalesia”, (Scalesia pedunculata) found nowhere else in the world. Soon, the farm became home to seven of the 14 finch varieties described by Darwin and an endangered species of petrel.
Gradually, without any advertising or marketing, tourists began to arrive, attracted by Lava Java as a place to see a restored ecosystem and an alternative day out to viewing the island’s exotic sea life.
The beans are roasted on site and sold locally, which is much more cost-effective than selling to mainland Ecuador.
Cattle rearing was responsible for much destruction of the natural forest and ground species. Coffee grows well under the native tree cover. The fact that Lava Java’s coffee is organic does not make much difference to sales, but it does appeal to ecotourists.
The farm’s revenues from tourism help generate the US$35 000/year it needs to run.
Lava Java now has 30 acres, produces about 5 000lbs of roasted coffee annually and attracts about 40 visitors/week. It has reached break-even and, with the support of Conservation International, where Mr Henderson has his day job, ten more eco coffee farms have started up.
Protecting the ecosystem of the Galápagos involves balancing land and water, inhabited and uninhabited areas, as well as the conflicting needs of nature, people and the economy.
Mr Henderson says: “The coffee farm is about proving that production need not come at the cost of nature, which is normally the missing link in building a sustainable environment.”
For full story, please see: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1fd776f4-abdc-11e1-a8a0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1yVsK1Hbh

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  • Foraging: The future of “famine foods,” unconventional edibles in the garden

Source: The Washington Post, 6 June 2012

They are called poor people’s foods. Plants foraged by starving folk and scavenged when crops succumb to drought: They are what you eat just to get by. Many are unusually rich in nutrients, have medicinal value and may even taste good. But because they’re free for the taking they get little respect.
Scientists in fields such as ethnobotany study them and the ways they are eaten. But the true experts are indigenous people all over the world who have inherited them as part of their culture.
To the rest of us, who rely for our food on an alarmingly few species of plants grown on an industrial scale, these wild edibles are a gardener’s curiosity that may hold the key to a more sustainable way of feeding the world in the years to come.
A treasure house of knowledge about survival plants can be found on the Famine Foods web site (www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/faminefoods/ff_home.html sponsored by the horticulture department of Purdue University (Indianapolis, USA). Browsing through its database, you might be surprised to see a number of foods that are in your yard, such as the leaves of forsythia (Oleaceae or olive family) — eaten in China with oil and salt — or a garden narcissus that the French turn into flour. Will times ever be so bad that you will need to nibble the edible leaves of your expensive Japanese maple? Unlikely. But it is useful to know that a pesky species like shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), a common weed, is a nutritional powerhouse, and that roots from the evil, tree-smothering kudzu vine, steamed and eaten, could someday save your life.
For the most part, though, these names are mysterious and surprising in their numbers. There are well over 1 000 listed, and many more could be discovered by searching beyond the world’s standard fare. It seems that all parts of a plant are tried — leaves, stems, root, seeds, bark — until someone who is as indomitable as the plant itself finds a way to consume it.
Even more important are the tricks to reduce the toxicity that some foods possess, knowledge that’s in danger of being lost as these plants lose their habitats or fall further into obscurity. As the world’s population expands, we will need crops that grow when nothing else will.
Robert L. Freedman, who created and compiled the database and whose “Notes on the Famine Foods Web site” gives a fine account of the subject, writes that there is no time to be lost in studying and rescuing both the plants and their lore. “Among these, known famine plant species may provide alternatives to costly Green Revolution approaches to providing staple crops for areas of the world in greatest need of food production self-sufficiency.”
And who knows which among them might someday be culinary darlings?
For full story, please see: www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-future-of-famine-foods-unconventional-edibles-in-the-garden/2012/06/05/gJQA47BPJV_story.html

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  • Foraging: Washington forager inspires others to learn about wild, forgotten foods

Source: www.npr.org, 20 June 2012

For Langdon Cook, a walk in the woods is not that different from a walk through the produce section of the supermarket. He is a writer, blogger and all-around outdoorsy type, but in outdoorsy Seattle, Washington (USA), he has made his name primarily as a forager.
In the back of his car, he already has a basket full of morels, porcinis and coral mushrooms — the fruits of about ten miles of hiking, he says. He lists the foods at hand just in this section of the forest (which he does not want to disclose for fear of upsetting other foragers): fiddlehead ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris); stinging nettles (Urtica dioica); and miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata).
"[Miner's lettuce] tastes a little bit like say those expensive French baby lettuces that you might buy for a lot of money in the market. You can harvest it for free right within the Seattle city limits," he says.
Cook is the part of a nucleus of dedicated foragers in Seattle. One of his friends is award-winning chef Matthew Dillon, who has made foraged foods a mainstay of several restaurants. Another friend is Jeremy Faber, a legendary forager who has built the company, “Foraged and Found Edibles” that supplies restaurants with foods that cannot be cultivated.
Of the three, Cook is the prosyletizer. His book, Fat of the Land, and the blog (http://fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com/) of the same name, are dedicated to the possibilities of overlooked foods.
Take devil's club (Oplopanax horridum). It grows in marshy areas, and is the bane of backpackers in the Northwest, although Alaska's Tlingit tribe consider the plant medicinal. "It is a nasty, prehistoric-looking plant that has these big parasol-shaped leaves, and the leaves have spines on them," he says. "But, we can have our revenge by eating the buds in the springtime." He describes the buds' flavour as akin to "inhaling the forest."
In another era, a plate of weeds may suggest poverty, but Cook and others like him have elevated foraging to a fine dining experience.
"The forager's golden rule is that you never, ever eat a food you cannot identify with 100 percent certainty," he says. The dangers go beyond mushrooms. The northwest has plenty of poisonous greens, such as poison hemlock — the stuff that killed Socrates. "It looks like wild parsley. Or a wild carrot. That is a family where you really have to know your stuff," Cook says. Cook eats things only after he finds a record of other people eating them — especially local tribes, for whom none of this is particularly new. Ethnographies of native life are his primary source of information for potential "new" foods.
Thanks to Cook and others, interest in foraging as a way to reconnect with the land is growing beyond a few specialists and chefs — so much so that Seattle is developing the first urban food forest open to foragers.
For full story, please see: www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/06/20/155423555/seattle-forager-inspires-others-to-learn-about-wild-forgotten-foods

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  • Foraging: As foraging gains ground, ethical issues emerge

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 10 June 2012

For many in the Bay Area (San Francisco, USA), which has been at the forefront of the foraging movement, scavenging for wild foods can lie somewhere between religion and business. It is considered a way to reconnect with nature and opt out of the industrial food system, and it has also become a trendy feature on restaurant menus and in pop-up marketplaces.
But where is the tipping point between picking a bit of California cuisine and denuding our riparian environments and robbing animals of the food they need?
Jonah Raskin, professor and chair of communications studies at Sonoma State University, explored that in a recent Bay Nature magazine article. Raskin, 70, grew up foraging shellfish on Long Island before author Euell Gibbons stalked the wild asparagus. When Raskin moved to Sonoma County, he collected wild blackberries and mussels and learned about mushrooming from some of the older Italian families around Occidental.
Because mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of subterranean fungi, foragers claim they can be sustainably picked. A long-term study by Simon Egli and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Research Institute, published in 2006, offered some support for that, finding no decrease in abundance or diversity in picked plots compared with control plots. Trampling, however, caused a 30 to 40 percent decrease in the number of fruiting bodies.
Fungi, including edible mushrooms, have complex relationships with native trees and animals, so their survival is a concern for wildland managers. Insects are the primary mushroom predators, and frogs feed on the insects. Turtles, jays and squirrels eat the fruiting bodies. Some rare orchids are dependent on their association with particular kinds of fungi.
Even amateur foragers succumb to greed. "I am bothered by people who are motivated by the idea that they are getting something for free," Raskin said. "They see themselves as Robin Hoods, liberating stuff without thinking about the larger picture. If you call them on it, they will say: ‘I am just getting a few mushrooms. What is the problem?' ”
Leading field trips for Forage SF, a band of local foraging advocates who also organize monthly Wild Kitchen dinners and Underground Markets, Kevin Feinstein, co-author of The Bay Area Forager, reinforces sustainable harvesting and respect for private property and park rules.
"Foraging can be ecologically devastating, or it can be regenerative," he said. "It depends on how it is done." He has acknowledged the limits to sustainable foraging. "In many areas, such as the Bay Area, the human population is far too big to sustainably eat local foraged food. Foraging is getting more and more popular, and this concerns me when greedy people jump in to make a buck. Others get into foraging with good intentions and for the right reasons but do not know enough to do so in a sustainable manner."
For full story, please see:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/10/HO891O5F30.DTL

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  • Frankincense: Frankincense ice cream in Salalah, Oman

Source: www.cntraveller.com, June 2012

Frankincense, the fragrant resin of the Boswellia sacra tree, grows wild in Oman's southwestern Dhofar province. A source of ancient wealth, it is still harvested and utilized by locals who burn it as an incense to perfume homes and repel insects; it is also ingested, dissolved in water as a cold remedy, and chewed like gum to clean the teeth and sweeten the breath.
In a 21st–century example of East meets West, American entrepreneur Trygve Harris has become a Dhofar celebrity by inventing the world's first frankincense ice cream. Harris, 48, moved to Salalah, Dhofar's port city, five years ago to source natural aromatics for her Manhattan-based essential oils company, Enfleurage, and she became a fan of the full cream milk sold by the Dhofar dairy farm belonging to the head of state, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. As an experiment, she infused the milk with the frankincense oil she distills from the sap of trees that grow near Mugsayl Beach; these trees, she says, produce a resin with a spicy, orange note.
From June through September, Dhofar residents and visitors line up at Harris’s artisanal ice cream stand in Salalah's Hafah souk, the country's biggest frankincense market, across from The Arabian Frankincense Store.
For full story, please see: www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2012/06/frankincense-ice-cream-oman-travel-middle-eastern-food

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  • Fungi: Turkey tail mushrooms help immune system fight cancer

Source: Paul Stamets, mycologist, in The Huffington Post, 5 June 2012

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are commonly called "turkey tail" because their various colours: brown, orange, maroon, blue and green — reminiscent of the plume of feathers in turkeys. In China, their common name is yun zhi. In Japan, this mushroom is known as kawaritake or "cloud mushrooms," invoking an image of swirling clouds overhead. In many Asian cultures, turkey tails' incurving cloud forms symbolize longevity and health, spiritual attunement and infinity.
A promising clinical study shows that the turkey tail mushroom improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The multiyear study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), tracked whether or not turkey tails could positively affect the immune system of patients rebound after they ended their radiation therapy.
Immunity — as measured by the number of lymphocyte cells and natural killer cell activity — usually declines dramatically after radiotherapy. Natural killer (NK) cells protect us from tumours and viruses. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Bastyr University Research Institute hypothesized that breast cancer patients' health can be improved after radiation treatment if NK cell counts increased quickly to attack remaining cancerous cells.
The study titled "Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer," recently published in the ISRN Oncology Journal, shows that turkey tail mushrooms can augment conventional therapies for treating breast cancer by increasing NK cell activity. This study suggests that turkey tail mushrooms are an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy. The authors concluded "research by our centre continues to indicate that Trametes versicolor represents a novel immune therapy with significant applications in cancer treatment."
Due to its long history of therapeutic use, however, turkey tail prepared and packaged as an immune therapy drug is unlikely to be patentable, deterring big pharmas from conducting costly clinical studies. Typically, the longer the historical use of natural medicines for treating an ailment, the less likely derivatized drugs from these natural products will be patentable. To fill this research gap, the NIH established The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (www.nccam.nih.gov ), which funded and oversaw this study. NIH's interest is not surprising — more than 70 percent of new drugs are estimated to originate from natural sources.
Turkey tail mushrooms have been used to treat various maladies for hundreds of years in Asia, Europe, and by indigenous peoples in North America. Records of turkey tail brewed as medicinal tea date from the early 15th century, during the Ming Dynasty in China. Our ancestors certainly encountered them and most likely explored their uses long before written history. Since the late 1960s, researchers in Japan have focused on how turkey tail benefits human health and how extracts of turkey tail can boost the immune system.
To see Paul Stamets' talk on the research on turkey tail and other medicinal mushrooms, please see: www.fungi.com/tedmed
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stamets/mushrooms-cancer_b_1560691.html

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  • Honey and ethical living

Source: The Observer (UK), 17 June 2012

For vegans, honey is officially out of bounds. The originator of the vegan movement, Donald Watson, singled it out as a no-go food stuff in the British Vegan Society manifesto of 1944.
Naturally he had the originators of honey in mind. Viewed through the vegan lens, honey was viewed as literal daylight robbery: the bees toil to manage nectar from surrounding flora, incidentally pollinating our plants. They regurgitate this substance and fan it with their wings to the right consistency, whereupon bee vomit becomes honey. Then they painstakingly store it for their sole use during the cold weather.
While they are out working, we rob the hive, stealing the core product and its associated royal jelly and beeswax. And to speed up the process we harvest earlier in autumn, leaving the bees without the nutrition they have stored for the cold weather and instead we feed them on sugar supplements.
Bees are being driven to the brink. Not only are they being attacked by a viral infection spread by mites, they appear to be at odds with industrialized agriculture and perilously vulnerable to pesticides — honey production is one of the few yields that has not significantly increased as a result of the "green revolution". While we plough on with agri-industrialization it is difficult to hold out much hope for bees at all.
Will your honey boycott help? Probably not. In fact natural apiculture should be one of the bedrocks of sustainable and resilient food production. Unlike commercial apiculture, it is not dependent on cheap fossil fuel and has a vested interest in protecting the ecosystem.
The question is how can we make this theft more ethical? Hives managed properly (such as those harvested during spring as advocated by the Natural Beekeeping Trust) and products from local hives (buy local, non-blended honeys) should help landscapes to flourish.
Honey is also the least gas-guzzling sweetener we have. Beets and corn (processed into fructose syrup) are spectacularly energy intensive in growth and production, and cause a plethora of ethical problems.
Conscientious consumers need to understand the amazing product that honey can be and say no to cheap, imported products. If ethical consumers all disappear up a moral cul-de-sac, the bees have a problem. And if the bees have a problem, we have a bigger one.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/17/ethical-living-eating-honey-lucy-siegle?newsfeed=true

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  • Mulberry: A race with squirrels for sweet fruit

Source: LA Times (USA), 12 June 2012

On the wall of Majid Jahanbin’s office at Paradise Nursery in Chatsworth, Los Angeles hang photos of long, fat mulberries lined up with tape measures to show their size — a gardener’s equivalent of big game trophies. The juicy berries from the Pakistani-Afghan mulberry tree, his biggest seller, can reach more than 3.5 inches.
Most mulberries ripen in spring, and by now most growers have either collected the short-lived fruit or seen it get eaten by squirrels. For Kris Topaz, it is the latter. Shortly after listing her 11-year old mulberry tree as ready for picking on the Altadena RIPE harvest-sharing website, she removed the offer. The squirrels had arrived first.
“This is the first year I had a problem,” she said. “New mulberries ripen every day, so for about six weeks I would have four cups of them a day if it is a good year. They are very sweet and do not have seeds, so they are heavenly. But now the squirrels come every day and have lunch on the new ones.”
            There are three varieties (and numerous hybrids) of mulberry: white, which is native to eastern China and famously used for silkworm fodder; black, which is native to western Asia and was a staple for the ancient Egyptians and Romans; and red, which is native to the eastern U.S. and eaten by American Indians. Leaves and berries are edible, the bark can be made into paper and the twigs are used in basketmaking.
Of the three, the white mulberry (Morus alba) gets the tallest, reaching up to 80 ft and like the others it grows quickly. It also has a reputation for being an invasive plant, destructive to footings, pipes and sidewalks. It is banned in some places. It is also considered a threat to the native red mulberry because of hybridization.
The white weeping mulberry is smaller. It is popular as a landscape plant. The name comes from the umbrella shape it gets as the branches sag. The fruit is not as tasty as the western Asia black varieties, however.
For full story, please see: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/home_blog/2012/06/mulberry-tree-fruit.html

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  • Wildlife: Combating illegal wildlife trade in South Asia

Source: TRAFFIC, 7 June 2012

Officials from the countries of South Asia met this week to devise operational plans to combat illegal trade affecting some of the region’s most threatened wildlife species.
The First Regional Meeting of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN), which took place in Sri Lanka from 3-6 June, also worked on an updated work programme and discussed issues such as intelligence gathering, information sharing, capacity building and law enforcement cooperation. Launched last year, SAWEN is comprised of member countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The meeting was attended by over 30 wildlife and law enforcement officials from all eight South Asian countries. Participants also included experts from INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization’s Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for the Asia-Pacific, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank, the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, the Global Tiger Forum, the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), WWF and TRAFFIC.
In an important effort to address source-to-market law enforcement cooperation, the CITES Management Authority of China also joined the meeting as an observer. China shares terrestrial borders with five South Asian countries, and is a major trade partner with the region.
Officially opening the meeting, Sri Lanka's Minister of Environment, the Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, expressed his countries keen interest and commitment in cooperating and networking with other regional partner organizations for combating illegal trade. "It is extremely necessary that all South Asian countries should get together and help each other prevent illegal trade of bio-resources across their respective country borders."
According to the SAWEN Chief Enforcement Coordinator, Mr Krishna P. Acharya, the meeting identified a number of illegal trade priorities for enhancing regional cooperation, focused on species such as Asian big cats, elephants, freshwater turtles, falcons, rhinos and marine turtles. "Wildlife trade routes and hubs for these species were carefully examined and mapped," he said.
"Operational plans were also discussed which would allow SAWEN countries to share information, identify capacity needs and plan and execute joint operations aimed at shutting down these trade routes and breaking up the organised criminal networks using them," Mr Acharya added.
James Compton, TRAFFIC Senior Programme Director for Asia, welcomed the progress being made by SAWEN: “The establishment of SAWEN last year was a very crucial, timely and much needed step forward to institutionalize the collaborative efforts of member countries in controlling wildlife crime in the region."It is gratifying to see that SAWEN countries are now well-placed to coordinate law enforcement operations that will stem illegal trade flows where it matters and produce tangible conservation victories on the ground," he said.
For full story, please see:
www.traffic.org/home/2012/6/7/sawen-officials-prioritize-efforts-to-combat-illegal-wildlif.html

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  • Wildlife: Central African countries agree plan to improve law enforcement and combat poaching

Source: TRAFFIC, 7 June 2012

Central African countries yesterday signed a groundbreaking regional plan to strengthen law enforcement and better combat poaching of elephants and other species at risk from illegal wildlife trade. The plan was adopted by the ten member states of Central African Forest Commission, known as COMIFAC, as escalating rates of wildlife crime plague the region.
Wildlife ministers from the COMIFAC countries pledged to undertake unprecedented levels of co-operation with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, Customs and the judiciary, to tackle the issue.
They also announced plans to hold a head of state conference next year to address wildlife loss and maintaining Africa’s biodiversity. The conference would bring together African leaders as well as government officials from key Asian trading partners and intergovernmental supporters such as the Africa Development Bank and the UN to explore opportunities for cooperation.
“Without strong and efficient collaboration among the COMIFAC range states, we will never succeed in combating this plague,” said Mahamat Bechir Okormi, the Chad Minister for Environment and Fishery, in his closing statement at the COMIFAC preparatory meeting held yesterday in Ndjamena, Chad.
The law enforcement action plan approved today includes provisions to increase anti-poaching efforts in each of the countries and to enable joint-country patrols in some transborder areas. “We are optimistic that the effective implementation of this plan will help to cut down on illegal ivory trade from Central African countries and enable better enforcement of CITES in the region.” Germain Ngandjui, Central Africa Senior Programme Officer for TRAFFIC
Ivory, often bound for Asia, is frequently smuggled across inland borders before reaching overseas exit points such as ports and airports. Under the plan, Customs controls are also set to be bolstered at international transit hubs.
Germain Ngandjui, Central Africa Senior Programme Officer for TRAFFIC said: “We are optimistic that the effective implementation of this plan will help to cut down on illegal ivory trade from Central African countries and enable better enforcement of CITES in the region.” CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
To ensure that criminals engaging in illegal wildlife trade are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, COMIFAC countries aim to ramp up investigations and conduct more thorough prosecutions. Cases will also be monitored for corruption and action taken against anyone attempting to impede justice.
“This regional action plan comes at the right time, as a co-ordinated response to the recent upsurge of large scale poaching witnessed in Central Africa,” said Marc Languy, Leader of WWF’s Green Heart of Africa initiative. “This is an important milestone and there is need now for COMIFAC countries to initiate the first steps to implement it. The plan will also need support from the international community.”
Finalization of the plan has come just after the president of the African Development Bank spoke strongly about the urgent need to tackle illegal wildlife trade. “We are taking our ecosystems for granted,” Africa Development Bank President Dr Donald Kaberuka told reporters last Friday. “The increase in large scale seizures is evidence of the involvement of well organized criminal networks in illegal wildlife trade, now the fifth largest illicit transnational activity, worth between US8-10 billion/year. It is something we must absolutely put to an end.”
Also at the N’Djamena event, Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon signed a tri-partite declaration to join forces and increase transboundary collaboration to fight poaching.
For full story, please see: www.traffic.org/home/2012/6/7/central-african-countries-agree-plan-to-improve-law-enforcem.html

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Wildlife: Rhino documentary premieres at Rio+20

Source: IISD Reporting Services, 18 June 2012

The UN TV and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) launched a documentary titled Rhino Under Threat at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).
The documentary seeks to describe the increase in the illegal trade of rhinoceros, following their fate from living icons of the parks of South Africa and Swaziland to their valued remains in the crowded streets of Hanoi in Vietnam. It investigates the drivers of the demand for rhino horn in Asia and provides an overview of the measures being taken by national authorities to address the issue. UNTV obtained exclusive access to the Environmental Crime Investigation and Air Services of South Africa and to black markets in Hanoi.
In 2007, poachers killed 13 rhino in South Africa. This number rose to 448 in 2011 — with poaching levels reaching 245 so far this year, with 161 arrests. The documentary also highlights the role of organized syndicates in wildlife crime, and the need for a tough coordinated enforcement response. John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, highlighted the importance of working together at national and international levels to stop the poaching, smuggling and consuming of rhino.
A Global Environment Facility-funded project was recently approved to strengthen law enforcement capacity in South Africa's protected area system through forensic-based technologies focused on the rhinoceros. The funding will be used by South Africa for a dedicated forensic laboratory facility to provide timely DNA analysis of forensic evidence for the prosecution of wildlife crimes.
For full story, please see: http://uncsd.iisd.org/news/rhino-documentary-premieres-at-rio20/

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COUNTRY INFORMATION

  • Brazil: Google launches cultural map of Brazil's Amazon tribe

Source: AFP in Space Daily, 16 June 2012

Google on Saturday unveiled a cultural map of Brazil' Surui indigenous people, a digital tool that will help the Amazonian tribe share their vast knowledge of the forest and fight illegal logging. The map, the result of a five-year partnership between Surui chief Almir and the US technology giant, was released online for the first time at a business forum held on the sidelines of the UN Rio+20 conference on sustainable development here.
The map, a collection of picture and videos mapping historical sites and offering 3-D visualization of Surui territory in the northwestern Brazilian state of Rondonia, is available on the site www.paiter.org as well as on Google Earth.
Chief Almir hailed the project that "shows the value of our culture to the world through Google." Almir, who proposed the idea of the map to Google during a visit to the US five years ago, told a press conference that he was particularly proud of the contribution Surui youths made to the project, including narration.
Rebecca Moore, Google Earth Outreach leader, described it as Google's first such project with an indigenous people.  "We really believe that this is ground-breaking, ground-breaking for Google," she added. "The Surui people and Google worked together to bring the story of the forest to the global community."
"When you fly over Surui territory, you can see it is a beautiful virgin forest, but it is surrounded by deforestation," Moore said.
Google also aired the world premiere of a new documentary titled "Trading Bows and Arrows with Laptops: Carbon and Culture, which chronicles its five-year partnership with the Surui people.
Almir said he chose to announce the project at the Rio+20 conference to raise awareness of the need for a sustainable use of the forests and to preserve the way of life of indigenous peoples. He said his 1 300-strong tribe plans to use the map as well as Android smartphones provided by Google to monitor and denounce illegal logging around its territory.
Deforestation is a key theme at the Rio gathering, which aims to steer the planet toward a greener economy that recognizes the need to protect and restore vital natural resources such as the Amazon rainforest.
Moore meanwhile said by developing the map, Google had perfected a methodology that can be used to help other indigenous peoples around the world. "It has taken us five years (to launch) the first cultural map with the Surui and now we feel we have the methodology that can work with other tribes," she added. "There is a project already planned for two tribes who are neighbours of the Surui and the Surui themselves would be trainers of this technology."
Moore said Google had been contacted by tribes all over the world, including aboriginal First Nations in Canada, Maoris in New Zealand and many others in the Amazon. "So we hope that the Surui cultural map will be the first of a number of maps that will be coming out over the coming years," she added.
For full story, please see: www.spacedaily.com/reports/Google_launches_cultural_map_of_Brazils_Amazon_tribe_999.html
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  • Egypt: Medicinal Plants Association among winners of the UN’s Equator Prize

Source: www.equatorprizeinitiative.org, 21 June 2012

The Medicinal Plants Association based in Egypt is among the winners of the UN’s Equator Prize, which recognizes outstanding local initiatives that are working to advance sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. The Association protects and cultivates endemic species of medicinal plants in the Saint Catherine Reserve in the Sinai and aims to create livelihood alternatives for the area's economically marginalized Bedouin population. The reserve contains several unique and endangered medicinal plant species which have been threatened by overharvesting, collection for use as fuel, and overgrazing.
The Association promotes home gardens, provides alternative energy solutions, gives hands-on training on sustainable harvesting techniques, and creates market supply chains for locally produced medicinal herbs, handicrafts and honey.
In addition to creating six medicinal plant restoration sites around the reserve, the Association has raised local awareness of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem health for local wellbeing. Alternative livelihood programs focus on Bedouin women. The Association has created farms for the cultivation of medicinal plants and supports female farmers through the process of planting through to the marketing of products. Revenues from Association activities have been invested in a rotating fund which allows the community to access small loans.
For more information, please see:
http://equatorinitiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=701&Itemid=683

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  • Ethiopia: Apiculture Centre of Excellence to be opened

Source: Bees for Development Press Release, June 2012

Trade Advance Ltd and Bees for Development are delighted to announce an innovative partnership to develop beekeeping livelihoods in one of the poorest parts of Ethiopia. The initial step will be to establish an Apiculture Centre of Excellence, the first of its kind, in the State of Amhara. The Centre will be an information and education hub, offering advice about beekeeping as a business.
Tilahun Gebey, who will direct The Centre, is a specialist in Ethiopian apiculture and long term associate of Bees for Development. “I will be proud to work on this initiative. Together we can make a change — helping farmers develop their beekeeping up to business level and reduce hardship in rural areas,” he said.
In Amhara State, beekeeping is a vital income source and way of life for many subsistence farmers. The aim of the partnership is to increase the income derived from beekeeping by enhancing skills and protecting the local environment that provides nectar for bees. Through Trade Advance Ltd, more lucrative markets will be opened up to Amhara beekeepers through linkages to national and regional buyers. Bees for Development Director, Dr Nicola Bradbear says, “We have long recognized the potential for beekeeping to lift people out of poverty in Ethiopia and we are delighted to have the support of Trade Advance. We anticipate that the Centre of Excellence will tackle some of the challenges faced by beekeepers, such as unwise use of pesticides.”
Bernie & Yemi Thomas, Founders & Directors of Trade Advance Ltd said, “When we set up Trade Advance Ltd in 2003 we always had a vision of using the business for more than just making a profit and more specifically to help address poverty in Ethiopia, Yemi’s country of origin. Our primary aim was to restore dignity back to as many of its people as possible by using ‘trade as aid’ — by equipping people with the tools to produce more and sell more of what they produced. The funding of the Apiculture Centre of Excellence will start this process by imparting the beekeeping and commercial knowledge needed by the farmers to produce better quality honey more efficiently and to access higher value markets more effectively. The ACE will also conduct research and cooperate closely with key stakeholders to sustainably grow both apicultural capacity and foreign exchange.”
For more information, please see: www.beesfordevelopment.org/uploads/Ethiopia_ACE_press_release_FINAL.pdf

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  • France to ban pesticide to protect bees

Source: Reuters, 1 June 2012

France said it plans to ban a pesticide made by Swiss agro-chemical group Syngenta that is widely used to treat rapeseed crops after scientists suggested it could pose danger to bees.
A sharp decline in bee populations across the world in recent years, partly due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, has prompted criticism of pesticide use, although research has yet to show clearly the causes of falling bee numbers.
France intends to withdraw the permit of the Cruiser OSR pesticide used for coating rape seeds, pending a two-week period during which Syngenta can submit its own evidence, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on Friday. The decision was based on a report from French health and safety agency ANSES, which went along with recent scientific findings suggesting that a sub-lethal dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die.
"To protect rapeseed plants there exist alternatives to coating seeds that are already widely used. If the withdrawal of the authorization (for Cruiser OSR) is confirmed, farmers will therefore have solutions to call on," Le Foll said in a statement.
Syngenta rejected the move as based on a single study and not backed up by field observations. "Currently in France you have 650 000 ha that are cultivated (with Cruiser-treated rapeseed), and there are no cases of bee mortality identified as being linked to Cruiser," Laurent Peron, head of corporate communication for Syngenta France, told Reuters. This crop area amounts to nearly half of about 1.5 million ha of rapeseed sown in France. In Europe, more than 3 million ha of rapeseed use Cruiser, including in Germany, Peron said.
France is the largest crop producer in the European Union and with Germany is the leading EU grower of rapeseed, used for making vegetable oil and biodiesel fuel. The French ban on the pesticide will take effect before the start of the next rapeseed sowing campaign in late summer, a farm ministry official said, stressing that it would not affect versions of Cruiser used for other crops such as maize (corn).
France also has asked the European Commission to reconsider its criteria for authorizing Cruiser for rapeseed ahead of the next sowing campaign, Le Foll said.
In its report, ANSES said while exposure of bees to thiamethoxam in actual field conditions was lower than in the recent study on bee navigation, a similar level could not be excluded in some circumstances.
More research is needed at European level on the impact on bees as well as a broader review of the neonicotinoid family of substances to which thiamethoxam belongs, it said.
In a separate opinion published on Friday, the European Food Safety Authority said doses of neonicotinoids tested in the bee research were above the highest residue levels actually recorded in plant nectar, adding that more studies were needed to evaluate exposure in different field situations.
Dave Goulson of Stirling University in Scotland, who led another recent study on risks to bees from neonicotinoids, said there was growing evidence that these chemicals may play a role. "It would be massively oversimplifying to say that these chemicals are the only cause of bee decline, although it is clear they are a part of the problem," he told Reuters.

For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/01/us-france-cruiser-idUSBRE8500LO20120601

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  • India: Indian Forest body to help market medicinal herbs for tribals

Source: Times of India, 3 June 2012

The Indian Council of Forest Research and Education (ICFRE) will help conduct research to develop the marketing potential of medicinal plants in Jharkhand. This will help tribals who use these plants to cure illness and also for income.
ICFRE Director V K Bahuguna said an autonomous body of the Union Forest and Environment Minister will conduct the research. More than five to ten species of medicinal plants will be studied under the programme. “It is a national research programme that will target several states,” Bahuguna said. "We aim to help tribals get more livelihood opportunities by supporting their endeavour with scientific research and promotion. The demand for medicinal plants is also growing," he added.
Bahuguna was in the city to lay the foundation stone of the Institute of Forest Productivity (IFP)'s training, education and extension building and interpretation centre.
ICFRE chief said, "Technology should be used to empower tribal farmers. If tribals are provided with superior planting technology, it can change their lives."
Tribals living in forests play a crucial role in its development. There is a need to properly study the dynamics of change and make plans accordingly, he said adding that forest development will also mitigate the impact of climate change.
For full story, please see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/Forest-body-to-help-market-medicinal-herbs-for-tribals/articleshow/13748945.cms

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  • India: Medicinal plant resources under stress in Kerala

Source: The Hindu, 5 June 2012

Heavily exploited to fuel the booming global market for herbal drugs, more than 100 medicinal plant species in Kerala have been pushed to the verge of extinction. Furthermore, unsustainable extraction from the wild and unscientific methods of cultivation are endangering more species. Scientists feel that the threat to medicinal plants will have an impact on the rich biodiversity of Kerala.
“India, having two out of the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world, is perhaps the largest producer of medicinal plants in the world. Of the 43 000 plant species recorded in India, 3 000 are known to possess medicinal properties”, says Dr. S. Rajasekharan, Head, Department of Ethnomedicine, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) at Palode near here.
The vast resource of medicinal plants has been widely used in various traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Amchi. There are more than 800 licensed units in kerala manufacturing traditional medicines. It is estimated that 85 to 90 percent of the medicinal plants used by these units are collected from the wild.
“In Kerala more than 900 medicinal plants are used in both classical and oral health traditions including tribal medicines. Out of these, 200 medicinal plants are largely extracted for the preparation of diverse medicinal and food products” observes Dr.Rajasekharan.
“Medicinal plants are renewable natural resources and therefore, their conservation and sustainable utilization must necessarily involve a long term, integrated, scientifically- oriented holistic action programme”, he added.
JNTBGRI has proposed up a pilot project for conservation and sustainable use of medicinal and aromatic plants. To be implemented in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts under the World Bank-aided Kerala Forestry Programme, it will seek to conserve 10 selected species of medicinal plants that are location specific, rare, endangered and possess high therapeutic values.
For full story, please see: www.thehindu.com/news/states/kerala/article3493374.ece

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  • Indonesia aims to lead in Sustainable Forestry

Source: www.mongabay.com in Environmental News Network, 18 June 2012

Indonesia "has reversed course" from a forest policy that drove deforestation in previous decades and is poised to become a leader in "sustainable forestry", asserted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a speech on Wednesday at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia.
"Our forestry policy [in the 1970s and 1980s] was to allow anyone to cut our forests so long as it gave benefits to development," he said. "It seemed the logical thing to do back then. We had lots of forests; we had to reduce poverty; we needed to grow our economy. As a result, there was a time when we experienced very serious deforestation."
"Today, such a policy is no longer tenable. Losing our tropical rain forests would constitute the ultimate national, global and planetary disaster. That is why Indonesia has reversed course by committing to sustainable forestry."
President Yudhoyono highlighted the signing of a two-year moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in some 14.5 million ha of primary forests and peatlands; a new law that "would permanently conserve 35 percent of our tropical rain forests", according to Yudhoyono; and the planting of some 3.2 billion trees under the “One Billion Indonesia Trees for the World program.” Yudhoyono also noted his 2009 pledge to reduce emissions 26 percent below a projected 2020 business-as-usual baseline, a commitment that could rise to 41 percent with international assistance like that being provided by Norway.
But to some, his speech fell short, failing to outline specific targets for the Rio+20 conference, glossing over some concerns, and including some dubious math.
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/top_stories/article/44547

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  • Iran: The first festival on medicinal herbs and traditional medicine

Source: www.presstv.com, 11 June 2012

Over 180 companies and 100 research centres are taking part in a four-day event in the country dedicated to medicinal plants and traditional medicine.
Boasting five major climates, Iran is among the most geographically diverse countries in the world. It is especially diverse when it comes to the natural herbal remedies it produces. This astounding diversity in Iran's geography allows the country to host more than 8 000 species of plants — around 2 100 of which are used in medicine. Many of Iran's most precious herbal treasures are plants found nowhere else in the world.
Medicinal plants have greatly attracted Iranians' attention from ancient times. Great Iranian physicians like Abu Ali Sina, known as Avicenna in the West, believed that there is no cure for any pain without any herbal therapy.
The volume of Iran’s export of medicinal herbs currently stands at around US$150 million. This is while the volume of global trade in this field, is between US$40 to US$60 billion/year.
The government of Iran requires all herbal drugs to be manufactured under the same quality standards as pharmaceutical drugs.
For full story and video, please see: www.presstv.com/detail/2012/06/11/245663/iran-herbal-medicine-festival/

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  • Kenya: The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust among the winners of the UN’s Equator Prize

Source: www.equatorinitiative.org, 21 June 2012

The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) based in Kenya is among the winners of the UN’s Equator Prize, which recognizes outstanding local initiatives that are working to advance sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. The MWCT preserves the wilderness, wildlife, and cultural heritage of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem — an important migration corridor between two national parks.
The organization of Maasai communities has mitigated unsustainable practices such as overgrazing and water-intensive farming and introduced alternative livelihood options, including ecotourism.
The community benefits from lease payments for conservancy zones, watershed protection, and the provision of ecotourism services. An innovative program called “Wildlife Pays” uses ecotourism surcharges to compensate Maasai herders on a quarterly basis for losses due to wildlife predation. The organization employs more than 100 community rangers and predator monitors, and maintains a formal partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service.           Ecotourism revenues fund community health and education programs, including secondary school scholarships, teacher salaries, and clean water access. An innovative partnership model has allowed for both local livelihood improvements and extensive wildlife monitoring to improve the protection of threatened species.
For more information, please see: http://equatorinitiative.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=698&Itemid=683 or www.maasai.com/the-trust/

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  • Kenya: Kenyan wins award for Amboseli Ecotourism Project

Source: www.allafrica.com, 13 June 2012

A Kenyan conservationist has been named among the six winners of the 2012 “Champions of the Earth” prize awarded by UNEP.
Samson Parashina, chairman of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT), has been honoured for spearheading his community's efforts to conserve Kenya's Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem as well as his commitment to developing a sustainable green economy models at the Kuku group ranch, owned by the Maasai community.
The conservation trust he leads was singled out for its grassroots approach to conservation in Kenya. Parashina, the son of a Maasai chief and who is also a tour guide, said the award "energized" him to push on with his work. "This award means great things to me. It enables me to pursue the ideals that we stand for. The Maasai have lived for centuries and have adapted to a changing climate. We plan to create green jobs and protect the flora and fauna to create a future for the generation to come," said Parashina.
Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said the achievement is also a great honour for Kenya as a leading tourist destination in Africa."This is a great honour not only for Parashina but also for our nation. We applaud his contribution to the survival of this crucial resource that has boosted our performance as a sector. The Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem is one of our key tourist attractions," Muriithi said.
A tireless conservationist, Parashina and his group have adopted a holistic approach to environmental conservation. Their approach seeks to create a Green Economy by protecting the environment and through sustainable development of natural resources to create jobs and wealth.
Launched in 1996, MWCT is the sole custodian of Campi ya Kanzi, regarded as one of the most unique and inspiring safari experiences in Africa. Situated at the foot of the legendary Chyulu Hills, Campi ya Kanzi is a luxury camp combining the luxury of a five-star hotel luxury, first class wilderness adventure, and authentic immersion into Maasai culture. The camp was named by CNN as one of top ten luxury eco-lodges around the world.
MWCT also won the UNDP’s "Equator Prize" this year, making it the world first conservation body to bag the two awards in the same year.
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/201206130023.html

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  • Madagascar: Community sets example of saving environment

Source: AFP, 11 June 2012

With his hat pulled down low over his face, Mamy braved the autumnal winds and rain of the southern hemisphere to proudly point to a range of grey granite mountains in Madagascar.
"This is a special place," he says, acting as a guide to the natural park. "We are going to see lemurs, caves, ancestral tombs, chameleons, birds, butterflies and also medicinal plants."
He belongs to Madagascar's Anja community which has been working to save local forests and wildlife and setting an environmental example that has earned Anja a UN-backed prize.
Up in the mountains, a labyrinth of corridors wind through the rock. Mamy points out zebu horns which mark the entrance to a tomb. A little farther on, he looks up and notes the black and white lemurs leaping from tree to tree."These are Maki-Katta lemurs. 'Katta' comes from the English 'cat' because they look like cats." Today, 300 lemurs live in the park. Twenty years ago, they were nearly all gone. At the beginning of the 1990s, half of the 13 ha of the forest of Anja was illegally chopped down. The consequences were dramatic, including a fall in water supplies, the drying out of rice paddies and the drifting of sand on to fields. The lemurs fled and the few that remained were sometimes eaten by villagers close to starvation.
To cope with the disaster, local people in 2001 set up an association named Anja Miray (the community of Anja), which involved six villages in reforestation and the development of ecotourism. The project received a United Nations donation of about €30 000, a substantial payout in a country where three-quarters of the population live on less than US$1/day. The goal was to make local people aware of the economic interest in protecting their environment.
Eleven years later, the UN has awarded Anja Miray the biennial Equator Prize, which recognizes 25 communities from all over the world for their work in safeguarding biodiversity and promoting ecotourism.
In a village another Anja native and local guide, Bruno, leads the way down a dirt track to a brick house where children are playing outside. Balconies, a typical regional feature, are a sign of a certain social standing. "Now almost everybody has one," Bruno remarks.
Ecotourism brings about €30 000/year into this community of 2 500 people. With the help of this money, Anja Miray pays for patrols to watch over the park, take a census of the species living there and provide a welfare system to benefit the handicapped and the elderly. The community is also now self-sufficient in food.
Later this month representatives from Anja will go to Rio de Janeiro to accept their prize at the UN environment summit there.
For full story, please see:
www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hwUKFF8FRd5oB_ziqt5iXIYKgNOw?docId=CNG.c2be4f22fb920c37be910bc2c57b2630.521

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  • United Arab Emirates: Making a beeline for liquid gold

Source: www.thenational.ae, 18 June 2012  

High in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah a woman is on the trail of the elusive, irritable and increasingly rare Emirati honey bee. Its numbers and its sweet product are both in sharp decline because of reduced rainfall and the destruction of its habitat.
Wild honey, along with the bees that produce it, is vanishing. A decline in rainfall, the death of trees and wild flowers, and the destruction of habitats by construction and quarrying, have all taken a toll over the past decade. The last time wild honey was found in abundance was in 2005.
"The Emirati bees like to build their homes in difficult places, because they are difficult bees," says Sheikha Ali Said Al Qayedi, a cousin of Al Khaimah, after a sighting. "They get irritated fast and like their privacy."
"It is getting harder and harder to find wild Emirati honey," she explained. "So when there is a sighting, we go to it fast, before something happens to it or someone else gets to it. But usually, I get there first."
On her daily hunts, Mrs Al Qayedi will set out at 5am on trips that can last several hours. This is the last month that the Al Qayedi family can hunt for honey, with the higher summer temperatures combined with the month of Ramadan putting a temporary halt to collecting.
"Whatever we have stocked up will be used in Ramadan when we break our fast on bread and honey," she said. "It is one of the best things to eat on an empty stomach."
Often the hives are built high off the ground and in the hot months are designed to avoid the full blast of the sun's rays. In the cooler winter months, though, nests are built to take full advantage of the sun. "Bees are amazing engineers and we have a lot to learn from them," Mrs Al Qayedi says.
Depending on the source of the nectar, the flavour and the colour of the honey will change. In the mountains, the honey is made from rare desert flowers and trees such as the ghaf (Prosopis cineraria), sdir (Ziziphus spina-christi) and samar (Acacia).
Not as sweet as honey from the mountains of Europe, Emirati honey has a strong taste when fresh, and grows sweeter and darker with time.
Mrs Al Qayedi is hesitant at first to share the clues she uses to find honey, but eventually explains how she looks around for markings left behind by the bees."We call it tabawul, where the bee pees," she reveals. Almost impossible to find, unless you know what to look for, are tiny dots on the rocks. A single circular dot of yellow green colour is called Al Neqt, and usually indicates that the honey nearby is small in amount. When the mark left behind is like a line, called Al Riza, it indicates there is an abundance of honey.
"The bee is very smart, it will leave marks leading back to its home, but never too close, for it doesn't want someone or something else to find its home," she says.
Mrs Al Qayedi has seen "non-Emirati" bees buzzing around, imported by those farming honey in controlled environments, but she says they don't last long in the harsh weather and terrain. "The local bee is small but tough, it is made to withstand high temperatures," she says.
Much smaller than foreign bees, the Emirati species is a paler yellow and grey striped cousin to the typical yellow striped honey bee.
For full story, please see:
www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/making-a-beeline-for-liquid-gold-in-the-emirates#full

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  • USA: Wild Blueberry Association of North America launches leading online database

Source: www.timesunion.com (USA), 21 June 2012

The Wild Blueberry Association of North America has developed one of the world's most comprehensive blueberry research resources for scientists, researchers and other professionals.
The Wild Blueberry Research Library (www.wildblueberries.com/researchdatabase) is an easy-to-use, searchable online database of blueberry health research, a subject that has grown rapidly as scientists learn more about the potential health benefits of this fruit. In the past 15 years, the number of studies published annually has grown from a handful to over 100.
“Wild Blueberries are one of the world's most researched fruits, because the more researchers learn about Wild Blueberries and their potential health benefits, the more they want to know,” said Susan Davis, MS, RD, nutrition advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.
Research has established that Wild Blueberries deliver many potential benefits because of their uniquely broad mixture of phytonutrient compounds. In addition, they are an antioxidant leader, have a low glycemic index, are rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and are gluten free.
Studies in the Wild Blueberry Research Library are grouped into searchable research categories. Major categories include clinical trials, aging, antioxidants, brain health/cognition, cardiovascular/hypertension/stroke and phytochemical composition.
For full story, please see: www.timesunion.com/business/press-releases/article/Wild-Blueberry-Association-of-North-America-3653185.php#ixzz1yWCG1XLk

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NEWS

  • Better than sugar? The truth about alternative natural sweeteners

Source: Alert Net, 6 June 2012

It has been a wild week in the sugar wars. Disney just announced that it will ban ads for candy, sweet cereals and other sugary foods on all child-focused broadcasting. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks. On the heels of a brand-new University of California (USA) study linking high-fructose corn-syrup consumption with memory loss, the USDA rejected a petition last Thursday from the Corn Refiners Association to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to "corn sugar."
The global market for non-sugar sweeteners, now topping US$9 billion, is expected to reach nearly US$10 billion by 2016. We are spending big money on stevia and agave, and just starting to discover dark horses such as erythritol and monk fruit.
What is in this stuff, and is it worth the switch? Here are some to consider.
1. Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana):Stevia gets most of the buzz and leads the industry, with stevia-sweetened products expected to comprise a US$1 billion sector all its own by 2014. Up to 300 times as sweet as table sugar, powdered stevia extract is derived from the leaves of subtropical shrubs that have been consumed by indigenous South Americans for centuries. Yet it has virtually no calories and does not raise blood-sugar levels or promote tooth decay. What could possibly go wrong? Well — a bitter aftertaste. But two weeks ago, German researchers announced their discovery of two taste receptors on the human tongue that specifically detect stevia's aftertaste. This new data could revolutionize the way stevia is cultivated and refined.
2. Agave Nectar (Agave sp.): Made from the sap of succulents native to Mexico, agave nectar is about 150 percent as sweet as sugar but lower on the glycemic index. But agave is highly processed and about 90 percent fructose, "so it dumps right into your liver," warns wellness expert Maria Emmerich, author of The Art of Eating Healthy: Sweets. "Things that are lower on the glycemic index are not necessarily better for your health.”
3. Erythritol: Far less familiar is erythritol, a non-glycemic, virtually non-caloric, aftertaste-free polyol or "sugar alcohol" that occurs naturally in fruits such as melons, pears and grapes. About 70 percent as sweet as table sugar, whose taste it resembles, erythritol comes in white crystalline powder form and is a common ingredient in foods — especially baked goods —labelled as "light" and "low-calorie." Studies show that up to 90 percent of erythritol is excreted unchanged in human urine within 24 hours of consumption — thus it is not absorbed into the body — and that, like stevia, it does not harm teeth.
4. Monk Fruit or “Lohan Guo”(Momordica grosvenorii): Industry insiders predict that monk fruit, also known as “lohan guo”, is on the verge of becoming stevia's fiercest new rival. Calorie-free, aftertaste-free and non-glycemic but about 300 times sweeter than sugar, liquid and powdered lohan guo concentrate is derived from the antioxidant-rich, lemon-sized fruits of trees that thrive in the hot, misty mountains of southern China and northern Thailand and were allegedly first cultivated by Buddhist monks 800 years ago.
For full story, please see: www.alternet.org/health/155768/better_than_sugar_the_truth_about_6_alternative_natural_sweeteners?page=entire

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  • Consumption threat to vulnerable species: study

Source: AFP, 6 June 2012

The developed world's insatiable appetite for products like coffee and timber is threatening the survival of one in three vulnerable animal species in poor countries, according to an Australian study.
Academics at the University of Sydney spent five years tracking the world economy, evaluating over five billion supply chains connecting consumers to over 15 000 commodities produced in 187 countries. They focused on the global trade of goods implicated in biodiversity loss such as coffee, cocoa, and lumber, with the data cross-referenced with a global register of 25 000 vulnerable species.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature, concluded that international trade chains can accelerate degradation in locations far removed from where the product is bought.
"Until now these relationships have only been poorly understood," said lead author Manfred Lenzen, from the university's Integrated Sustainability Analysis group. "Our extraordinary number crunching, which took years of data collection and thousands of hours on a supercomputer to process, lets us see these global supply chains in amazing detail for the first time."
The study showed that in countries like Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Honduras, 50 to 60 percent of biodiversity loss was linked to exports, mostly to meet demand from richer countries. It cited the example of spider monkeys threatened by habitat loss because of strong demand for coffee and an increase in cocoa plantations in Mexico and Central America.
In Papua New Guinea, it said 171 species, including the black-spotted cuscus and eastern long-beaked echidna, were threatened by export industries including mining and timber to a few large trading partners, including Australia. Sixty of these species alone in PNG were under threat from logging to satisfy Japanese residential construction, the authors said, adding that agricultural exports from Indonesia affected 294 species, including tigers.
"There is increasing awareness that developed countries' consumption of imported products can cause a biodiversity footprint that is larger abroad than at home," the study said. "The study shows how this is the case for many countries, including the US, Japan, and numerous European states."
Co-author Barney Foran said he hoped the findings would help make labelling of products on supermarket shelves with sustainability ratings the norm, rather than the exception.
For full story, please see: www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gd6cV4aAI0Myf3EHfdhCQLakM1xQ?docId=CNG.b2b6d9f7ce6adf5bed58011e6ead2cda.291

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  • Healthy forests key for green growth, says FAO report

Source: BBC, 19 June 2012

More than a billion of the world's poorest people are dependent upon trees for their livelihoods The world's forests, if managed properly, can help deliver a strong and durable global green economy, a FAO report has concluded. But the report's authors said that nations needed to do more to ensure the right policies are in place if forests are to meet their maximum potential.
In another initiative, an international collaboration has pledged to restore 18 million ha of wooded landscapes. The findings were launched at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil.
"Forests and trees on farms are a direct source of food, energy and income for more than a billion of the world's poorest people," said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assisant Director-General for Forestry at FAO. "At the same time, forests trap carbon and mitigate climate change, maintain water and soil health, and prevent desertification," he added. "The sustainable management of forests offer multiple benefits - with the right programmes and policies, the sector can lead the way towards more sustainable, greener economies."
The report, The State of the World's Forests 2012, the 10th in the SOFO series, highlighted some of the main avenues in which money could figuratively grow on trees, including:

  • Critical life support systems — can perform a range of "essential ecosystem functions", such as regulating water supplies and buffering floods and droughts.
  • "Engine of economic development" — SOFO highlights strong link between reforestation and growth, and deforestation and economic decline, hence the anti-poverty role of forests.
  • "Key component of greening other sectors" — wood is still the primary energy source for one-third of the world's population, therefore , with the right policies, it can be expanded to provide a global greener, cleaner energy source.

            The report, launched at the Rio+20 summit in Rio De Janeiro, concluded that forests and forest products "will not solve the challenges of moving towards greener economies, but they will provide excellent examples and a source of hope".
Also being announced at the summit was a joint pledge between a number of nations and NGOs to restore more than 18 million ha of forest landscape. The governments of the US and Rwanda teamed up with the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Forest Restoration Pact (made up from government agencies, NGOs, private sector bodies and indigenous groups).
"The largest restoration initiative the world has ever seen is now underway," said Julia Marton-Lefcvre, Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "[It] will provide huge global benefits in the form of income, food security and addressing climate change," she added.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18491741 or www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/149592/icode/

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  • Forests in the Arctic

Source: Time Magazine, 4 June 2012

If there is a single lesson for early 21st century life on the planet Earth, it is this: everything connects. That is true whether we are looking at the global economic system, where sickness is now spreading from the Euro zone to China to a wobbly U.S., or the global environment, as we can see in a new study showing the Arctic rapidly responding to climate change by sprouting sudden trees in the tundra.
Researchers in Britain and Finland studied an area of 100 000 km² in what is known as the northwestern Eurasian tundra, which stretches from western Siberia to Finland. Surveys of vegetation in the region using both satellite data and local observations from reindeer herders showed that in 8 to 15 percent of the territory willow and alder shrubs had grown into trees over 2 m tall over the past 30 to 40 years. That is a period of time when temperatures in the Arctic have increased significantly, even faster than other parts of the planet.
As Andrew Revkin of Dot Earths puts it, warming has led to “pop-up forests” in regions of the planet that usually see little more than summer shrubs. That is a sign of just how the fast the Arctic in particular can respond to global environmental change. And as the Arctic greens, it could speed warming even more as the darker foliage absorbs sunlight that would have been reflected back into space by the white tundra. While short shrubs can be covered completely in snowfall — thus reflecting back sunlight — tall trees are usually above the white.
The advance of forest into the Arctic could increase Arctic warming by as much as 1 to 2 C by the end of the 21st century. In a statement Dr. Marc Macias-Fauria at Oxford University — and the lead author on the paper — noted how unusual the advance of Arctic forest was: “It is a big surprise that these plants are reacting in this way. Previously people had thought that the tundra might be colonized by trees from the boreal forest to the south as the Arctic climate warms, a process that would take centuries. But what we have found is that the shrubs that are already there are transforming intro trees in just a few decades.”
The planet is changing and the Arctic is a bellwether of that change. And what happens there will affect us.
For full story, please see: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2012/06/04/how-climate-change-is-growing-forests-in-the-arctic/

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  • Rio+20: Rio's reprise must set hard deadlines for development

Source: The Guardian (UK), 19 June 2012

Twenty years ago the world's leaders did something tremendous. Meeting at the historic Earth summit in Rio, governments agreed that we must start living within our means. They saw that hoovering up or wrecking precious natural resources to get rich quick today would only leave us poorer tomorrow. Development would have to become more sustainable. Everybody would have to play their part.
This week's meeting will probably not be as show-stopping as that in 1992, but it matters just as much. The legacy of the original Earth summit is under serious threat. There has been important progress, but actions have not met ambitions. Too many people still lack food: tonight, one billion will go hungry. There is not enough clean energy: right now women in some of the poorest communities are fuelling their homes with tyres and plastics. Despite the noxious fumes produced, they rely on anything that will burn. Dirty water and poor sanitation kill one child every 30 seconds.
These are not someone else's problems. We have a moral duty to help prevent this suffering, and we all share responsibility for the planet we leave behind. And in a global economy, resource scarcity affects everyone: food costs more; heating bills rise; far-flung conflicts drive extremism on our streets. In just 40 years the earth's population could increase by a staggering two billion.
So if 1992 was a breakthrough, 2012 must be about follow-through. Despite our continuing difficulties, developed economies must not sacrifice long-term sustainability in the name of short-term growth. It is a false choice: we need to strive for both. And the opportunities in the green economy are enormous. Last year the UK's low carbon sector grew by almost 5 percent.
In Rio we need a show of solidarity to drive three big shifts. First, we want more national governments to broaden their understanding of wealth. Gross domestic product is vital in measuring economic performance, but it does not capture the full picture. It says nothing about natural capital — the forests, farmland, rivers, and coastline on which future prosperity depends. The UK is working on a kind of "GDP+" so that, by 2020, its national accounts reflect these assets. Botswana has pioneered this kind of thinking since the 1980s. The government calculates the cost to the environment from mining and then invests in other parts of the economy, like education, to offset the damage.
Second, Rio must set out a plan for the future. The best way to drive progress is through clear ambitions with hard deadlines. The millennium development goals (MDGs) were designed to alleviate poverty throughout the world, and have galvanized dozens of states and international organizations around that task. The UN's High Level Panel — co-chaired by the prime minister and the presidents of Liberia and Indonesia — will lead an inclusive, transparent process to help shape a new generation of development goals when the millennium development goals expire in 2015. Rio will be a critical step along the way.
A package of sustainable development goals is being proposed to rally the international community around ensuring that all people, everywhere, have access to food, clean water and green energy. Agreeing these will be a huge undertaking — but this week we need to get them off the ground.
And finally, we need to bring business in. Using resources responsibly is in business's own interests too. On each of these fronts, ambition will be key. We must revive the spirit of our predecessors to get the world on to a more sustainable path. Twenty years on from the Earth summit, we need to get back on track.
For full story, please see:www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/19/rio-earth-summit-development-deadlines?newsfeed=true

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  • Rio+2-: Cowards at Rio? Organizations decry “pathetic” agreement

Source: www.mongabay.com, 20 June 20 2012

As world leaders head to Rio de Janeiro for the UN Summit on Sustainable Development, environmental and poverty groups are denouncing the last-minute text agreed on by dignitaries as "pathetic," (Greenpeace), a "damp squib" (Friends of the Earth), "a dead end" (Oxfam), and, if nothing changes, "a colossal waste of time" (WWF).
"We were promised the 'future we want' but are now being presented with a 'common vision' of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests,“ the head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, said. "This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it is the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model."
Going into the UN's largest summit ever, few had expected a world-rattling or even an ambitious agreement. In fact, expectations had been low for months. But changes to the text during the last week weakened everything from combating poverty to valuing biodiversity, causing universal condemnation from NGOS. Strong words not only came from Greenpeace, which is known for them, but also the more diplomatic World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Oxfam.
"The revised text is a colossal failure of leadership and vision from diplomats. They should be embarrassed at their inability to find common ground on such a crucial issue," Jim Leape, the head of WWF said.
It was not just green groups, however, that were condemning the agreement's text but some officials as well. "The EU would have liked to see a much more concrete and ambitious outcome, so in that respect I am not happy with it," Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken told BBC News. Although she added that "we managed to get the green economy on the agenda, and so I think we have a strong foundation for this vision that can drive civil society and the private sector to work in the same direction."
The document does set up a plan for creating sustainable development goals (SDGs), but gives no sense of what these goals will be or a timeline for defining them. Other issues largely fell flat.
Despite a massive twitter campaign this week to end fossil fuel subsidies, big oil nations like Canada and Venezuela managed to weaken any increased effort to end the subsidies, which experts say are worsening climate change and wasting tax dollars. The current text merely reiterates a call to phase out "harmful and inefficient" fossil fuels subsidies without a set date. The language in the documents simply repeats a similar agreement made in 2009, although in the past three years such subsidies have actually increased.
While climate change is dubbed "one of the greatest challenges of our time" in the Rio document, the issue gets just three paragraphs (out of 283), making up one percent of the agreement. Forests receive four paragraphs and includes little more than reiteration of past agreements.
Not everyone sees the agreement as much ado about nothing, however. "This agreement means we have made progress towards achieving what the Rio Earth Summit set out to do — to get the world on the right path to achieve cleaner and greener growth that ends the damage we have done to the environment and helps end poverty," Caroline Spelman, the Environmental Secretary with the UK, said.
But Craig Bennett with Friend of the Earth says that industrialized nations are living in a dream. "Developed countries have repeatedly failed to live safely within our planet's limits. Now they must wake up to the fact that until we fix our broken economic system we are just papering over the ever-widening cracks."
Overall critics contend that while the agreement acknowledges that the world is facing a global environmental and humanitarian crisis due to climate change, resource scarcity, ecosystem degradation, entrenched poverty, and biodiversity loss, it outlines no actions to deal with it. The agreement is full of "we recognize" but very little "we must."
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0620-hance-rio20-groups-react.html#ixzz1yVWlNQaC
http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0620-hance-rio20-groups-react.html

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  • Sustainable NTFPs failing to meet conservation promise

Source: www.mongabay.com, 20 June 2012

The harvesting of NTFPs is failing to meet lofty goals for combining conservation and poverty alleviation, said a forestry expert speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Bonito, Brazil.
Long hailed as a “silver bullet” for sustainable development schemes and conservation initiatives, a long-running study led by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that linkages between sustainable harvesting and conservation are "tenuous", according to Terry Sunderland, a senior scientist with CIFOR's Forests and Livelihoods Program.
The problems are myriad. NTFPs are generally found in low densities in natural forests and are often part of an informal market — a “hidden harvest” — making it difficult to value them. Once they find a significant market, the pressure to overharvest can be intense, leading to unsustainable use, conversion of natural forests into "domestic" agroforests, or even monocultures, in the case of some of the most successful NTFPs like rubber and oil palm.
"Thus NTFP extractive systems are not reliant on biodiversity per se," said Sunderland.
Lack of land tenure can further exacerbate unsustainable practices. For example, loss of forest access due to commercial forestry concessions or the establishment of strict protection areas (parks where no sustainable use is allowed) can deprive local users of collection zones, increasing the intensity of harvesting in other forest areas.
Attempts to integrate NTFPs with conservation efforts have been let down by unrealistic expectations triggered by academic papers published in the late 1980s and early 1990s that "greatly over-exaggerated" the value of products like nuts, fruit, latex, resins, fibres like rattan, and medicinal herbs, according to Sunderland.
In the end, "agriculture and off-farm income are more attractive than forest product harvesting alone, thus further disassociating integrated conservation and livelihood functions," he said.
But NTFPs are nonetheless important to some rural populations. A recent CIFOR study estimated that forest products generate up to 20 percent of rural income and often provides the only means to access the cash economy. NTFPs can also be an important source of food and nutritional security.
Accordingly, NTFPs can have a role in rural livelihoods, especially as part of multiple-use sustainable forestry projects. But these require "long-term investments and complex co-management approaches", said Sunderland, who added that more long-term research is needed to fully understand the impacts of NTFP harvesting and use.
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0620-atbc-ntfps.html#ixzz1yQe0VA8i

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EVENTS

The future potential of European Mountain Forests: Final Conference of the MANFRED project
28 June 2012
Rome, Italy

What will mountain forests look like in ten years or more? A changing climate is modifying their appearance and functions, especially in the alpine region owing to land use changes, increase of pest infestations and extreme events. Which strategies can help sustainably and successfully adapt to those changes, taking note of the social and economic functions performed by mountain forests, in terms of eco-engineering and other interventions?
These and other issues will be discussed during the Final Conference of the European Project “Management Strategies to adapt Alpine Space Forests to Climate Change Risks” (MANFRED). Organized by the MANFRED project partners in cooperation with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, the conference will take place on 28 June 2012 on the premises of the FAO in Rome. The event aims to explore future scenarios for European mountain forests as linked to the challenges posed by climate change and the opportunities presented by a green economy.
Launched in the framework of the European Territorial Cooperation Programme “Alpine Space 2007-2013” to implement the Alpine Convention Protocol on “Mountain Forests”, MANFRED aims to define adaptation strategies for the alpine forests, in light of the potential impacts and hazard factors connected to climate change.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Paolo Angelini
Italian Ministry for the Environment Land and Sea
Via Cristoforo Colombo, n. 44
00147 – Rome, Italy
Tel: +39 0657221
E-mail: angelini.paolo@minambiente.it
www.manfredproject.eu/

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LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEB SITES

  • Non-Wood News: Latest issue goes to press

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

FAO's NWFP programme has just published the latest issue of Non-Wood News (no. 24), our biannual bulletin covering all aspects of NWFP. The Special Feature in this issue focuses on NTFP research funded by the Kleinhans Fellowship Program of the Rainforest Alliance and includes nine original essays from past and present fellows. There is also extensive coverage of Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life, a collaboration between FAO, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and People and Plants International, which has been published in FAO’s NWFP Series (No.20). The publication was launched at the closing event of the International Year of Forests in December 2011.
Copies of Non-Wood News are being sent to everybody on our mailing list. If you are not on our list and would like to receive a hard copy, please send an Email to: non-wood-news@fao.org. This issue will also shortly be available from our NWFP home page: www.fao.org/forestry/nwfp/23947/en/

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  • Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life now available in Spanish

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life, a recent study by FAO, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and People and Plants International released in December 2011, has just been published in Spanish.
The publication, which shows how plants and fruits from Amazonian forests can be used to improve people's diets and livelihoods, is written in easy-to-grasp, accessible language and seeks to take science out of the ivory tower and put it to work on the ground, in the hands of people.
The publication will be available shortly from FAO’s NWFP web site: www.fao.org/forestry/nwfp/en/

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  • Voices from the Forest — Celebrating Nature and Culture in Xhosaland

From: Tony Dold, Rhodes University Botany Department (South Africa)

This book highlights the links between nature and cultural practices of the Xhosa people in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. These links are often facilitated by trade from rural communities to urban communities who otherwise would not have access to NWFPs. The book reveals how plants, animals and landscapes are profoundly reflected in Xhosa language, stories, poetry, religious rituals, healing practices and everyday customs that define Xhosa culture. Over the years cultural and spiritual meaning of nature in South Africa has been poorly recorded and often misunderstood.
The current trade of medicinal plants is often destructive and unsustainable with an estimated 27 million South Africans making use of indigenous medicines. This is a serious detriment as natural resources have been a reliant for underprivileged people who gain food, fuel, medicines, and building materials from wild plants. Therefore the addition of information on edible and medicinal plants is of extreme importance.
For more information, please see: www.jacana.co.za/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=858&category_id=24&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=198

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40.       Other publications of Interest
From: NWFP Programme

Johnson, R., Foster, S., Dog, T.L., Kiefer, D. 2012. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants. USA:National Geographic Books, 383 pp

Kabir, M. A. Nath, T. K. Kim Wook. 2012. Crops in human life: comparative medicinal use of plants by Rakhain tribes living in forested and non-forested regions in Bangladesh. Research on Crops. 13: 1, 364-377. 21 ref.

Kanayama, Y. Kato, K. Stobdan, T. Galitsyn, G. G. Kochetov, A. V. Kanahama, K. 2012. Research progress on the medicinal and nutritional properties of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) – a review. Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology. 87: 3, 203-210.

Newton, P. Peres, C. A. Desmouliere, S. J. M. Watkinson, A. R. 2012. Cross-scale variation in the density and spatial distribution of an Amazonian non-timber forest resource. Forest Ecology and Management.276: 41-51.

Shinwari, Z.K.; Qaiser, M. 2011. Efforts on conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants of Pakistan. Pakistan J. Bot. 43:5-10. www.pakbs.org/pjbot/PDFs/43(SI)/02.pdf

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  • WEB SITES and E-ZINES

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

The Famine Foods Database
Famine foods are plants that are not normally considered as crops are consumed in times of famine. This botanical-humanistic subject has had little academic exposure, and provides insight to potential new food sources that ordinarily would not be considered.
www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/faminefoods/ff_home.html

Moringa oleifera: In pictures, Niger’s hunger-fighting trees
Something new is taking root in a small and dusty corner of Western Niger. The unremarkable looking Moringa Tree has become a frontline weapon to fight the recurring droughts that have hit the West African nation.
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18412127

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MISCELLANEOUS

  • Bonobos join chimps as closest human relatives

Source: Environmental News Network, 19 June 2012

Chimpanzees now have to share the distinction of being our closest living relative in the animal kingdom. An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the bonobo for the first time, confirming that it shares the same percentage of its DNA with us as chimps do. The team also found some small but tantalizing differences in the genomes of the three species — differences that may explain how bonobos and chimpanzees do not look or act like us even though we share about 99 percent of our DNA.
http://www.enn.com/openx/www/delivery/lg.php?bannerid=366&campaignid=166&zoneid=8&loc=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.enn.com%2Ftop_stories%2Farticle%2F44554%2Fprint&cb=45a2ec2fa9            "We are so closely related genetically, yet our behaviour is so different," says team member and computational biologist Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. "This will allow us to look for the genetic basis of what makes modern humans different from both bonobos and chimpanzees."
Ever since researchers sequenced the chimp genome in 2005, they have known that humans share about 99 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees, making them our closest living relatives. But there are actually two species of apes that are this closely related to humans: bonobos (Pan paniscus) and the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). This has prompted researchers to speculate whether the ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos looked and acted more like a bonobo, a chimpanzee, or something else — and how all three species have evolved differently since the ancestor of humans split with the common ancestor of bonobos and chimps between 4 million and 7 million years ago in Africa.
Today, bonobos are found in only the Democratic Republic of Congo and there is no evidence that they have interbred with chimpanzees in equatorial Africa since they diverged, perhaps because the Congo River acted as a barrier to prevent the groups from mixing. The researchers also found that bonobos share about 98.7 percent of their DNA with humans —about the same amount that chimps share with us.
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/top_stories/article/44554
 
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QUICK TIPS AND INFORMATION FOR NWFP-DIGEST-L

This list is for information related to any aspect of non-wood forest products.

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last updated:  Tuesday, July 10, 2012