No. 6/11

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2011 International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. or











  • Bamboo: How bamboo is helping to rebuild Sichuan, China

Source: INBAR, 15 May 2011

Almost three years to the day since China’s Sichuan Province was hit by one of history’s most devastating earthquakes, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, has experienced first-hand the important and innovative role that bamboo is playing in helping to rebuild shattered communities.
On Sunday, 15 May, President Van Rompuy visited a bamboo production forest in Hongguang Village, Dujiangyan, and a bamboo training and demonstration centre at the Dujiangyan Campus of Sichuan Agricultural University. Dujiangyan is one of eight sites for the project, “Eco-Friendly, Pro-Poor Bamboo Production”, which is strengthening the local bamboo industry in order to build socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth in the region. The project aims, moreover, to revive local livelihoods in post-disaster Sichuan, through the promotion of economic, sustainable and eco-friendly consumer goods and construction materials.
Due to bamboo’s exceptional strength and its shock resistant characteristic, the project aims to promote the use of bamboo instead of timber and other non-renewable building materials in the reconstruction of Sichuan. “Bamboo is locally available, easy to process and highly versatile, so it can provide affected communities in Sichuan with many long-term livelihood opportunities,” said Dr Lou Yiping, Programme Director for the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), who is leading the project.
“It is hugely encouraging for us that President Van Rompuy has seen our work first-hand, as it is just this kind of investment in local action and innovation that can help communities all over the world to prepare for, and recover from, natural disasters,” he added.
On 12 May 2008, the massive earthquake hit Sichuan, leaving 80 000 people dead, 5.5 million homeless and 1.15 million deprived of a means of agricultural production. Since then, INBAR has been working with partners, including the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department (SFD), the Benelux Chamber of Commerce (BenCham) and the EU Project Incubation Centre (EUPIC), to harness the social, environmental and economic benefits of bamboo.
“Sichuan has around 17 percent of China’s bamboo resources, but a much lower share of China’s bamboo market. So bamboo has great potential for driving green growth in the region,” said Guo Hengxiao, Deputy Director General of SFD. “After the earthquake, Sichuan has worked hard to strengthen the local bamboo industry, by improving bamboo harvesting, processing and marketing, building pro-poor supply chains, attracting investment and promoting improved policies. This project helps shattered communities build a new way of life for the future. We will continue to utilize Sichuan's abundance of bamboo resources, and to make the industry a pillar of sustainable growth and recovery in the region.”
The project is part of the European Union’s SWITCH-Asia programme, which aims to promote sustainable consumption and production among small and medium sized enterprises in Asia.
“The project in Sichuan is an excellent example of realizing sustainable production and consumption in communities that can directly benefit from it,” said Johan Cauwenbergh, Minister Counsellor and Head of Operations at the EU Delegation in China. “Not only is bamboo a more renewable and sustainable resource than timber or concrete, it has the added benefit that, due to the speed with which it grows, it can provide a steady source of income for local farmers, factory workers, artisans, builders and entrepreneurs. In their post-disaster recovery this counts double.”
For more information, please contact:
Lise van den Bos, Switch-Asia Project Assistant
Switch-Asia Office, Beijing
Rm. 1601 Zhongyu Plaza, A6 Gongtibei Road | Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027
Tel: +86 (0)10 85236101/ 85236105
Mob: +86 13621398910
Fax: +86 (0)10 85236305
Email: [email protected]



  • Bamboo: New initiative in Latin America will use bamboo to tackle poverty and climate change

Source: INBAR, 28 April 2011

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), together with its funding partners, the European Union (EU), World Bank (WB), and the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), today launched a major initiative aimed at strengthening the use of bamboo in Latin America to enhance economic growth while simultaneously adapting to the adverse effects of climate change that trouble the region. The initiative combines a range of tools and incentives to take advantage of the social, environmental and economic benefits that bamboo can offer.  
“With this initiative, we are working with local communities to build technical capacity in cultivating, harvesting, processing and marketing of bamboo resources,” said Alvaro Cabrera, INBAR’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are working with communities, NGOs, and government organizations at a national and regional level to develop codes, standards and policies that prioritize bamboo as a major building block for green growth strategies.”
Rosa Edith Rada, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Design of the Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil (UCSG), in Ecuador, said bamboo is readily and locally available in many countries across Latin America. “Affordable, fast growing and immensely strong, bamboo can generate income for the rural poor with little capital investment. It can provide a more eco-friendly alternative to production and construction using timber, concrete and steel.”
INBAR’s Regional Initiative for Economic Development and Adaptation to Climate Change will focus initially on coastal regions of Ecuador and Peru. These regions are some of the poorest and most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in Latin America and suffer from recurrent floods, landslides and other natural disasters. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of these events.
One major aspect of INBAR’s new initiative is to help those communities vulnerable to climate change build elevated bamboo houses that can withstand floods, storms, landslides and earthquakes.
“Poor communities are the most vulnerable to natural disasters, due in part to the fact that they are forced to build their homes on mountain sides, deltas and other volatile areas,” said Gabriela Arcos, Environmental Specialist at the World Bank. “Poverty means they are also less equipped to prepare for, or to recover from natural disasters, be they climate-related or not.”
But while the challenges of poverty and vulnerability are immense and complex, the solutions do not always have to be. “Simple things like elevated bamboo houses can make a real difference,” said Tatiana Garcia Alfaro, Project Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to Peru. “Ecuador and Peru’s long tradition of building with bamboo provide a strong foundation for local action, which is highly relevant for the initiative’s design and implementation. This initiative is an excellent example of how to make local bamboo houses safer, stronger and more affordable.”
This initiative will allow us to strengthen bamboo value chains so that in turn bamboo can generate an additional and reliable source of income for local producers, artisans, construction workers and entrepreneurs, “said Leonor Rocha, Project Manager at the Centre for Research, Training, Evaluation and Advocacy (CICAP).
“Strengthening value chains is fundamental for ensuring that local producers and smallholders have equitable access to economic benefits, move up the value chain and ultimately out of poverty,” said Nianjun Shen, Project Manager at the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). “With this aim, the initiative will use bamboo to promote innovations along existing commodity value chains, such as cacao, banana and coffee. By forging inter-linkages between bamboo and these sectors, the initiative will take advantages of reciprocal influences arising from shared infrastructure, logistics and market corridors across Ecuadorian and Peruvian borders.”
The initiative will also support mechanisms to promote technology transfer between the two countries.
For more information, please see:



  • Bushmeat in Vietnam: Half of city residents have eaten bushmeat

Source:, 24 May 2011

More than half of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) residents said they have eaten bushmeat, of which 48 percent have consumed more than three times/year, according to the latest findings by Wildlife At Risk (WAR).
The Ho Chi Minh City-based NGO carried out the survey about the consumption of wild animal products in HCMC on 4 000 city dwellers and 3 600 secondary school students between August 2010 and April 2011.
The survey released Monday reveals men consume more wild animal products than women, and restaurants in HCMC are the most common place for people to eat the meat.
The majority of polled people say they eat bushmeat because others invite them, or they want to try new experiences or they feel the meat is more delicious. 
According to the survey, middle-aged people (36-45 years old), state workers and people with high education levels have a tendency to consume wild animal products more than other groups.
As for secondary school students (aged between 11 and 14), 28.2 percent of them say they have eaten bushmeat, and their acts are influenced by their parents and other adults in the family. Unlike adults, these teenagers usually eat the meat during trips in other provinces or in family events like birthday parties.
The survey reveals most polled people think that hunting and trading of wild animal products is the biggest threat to wild species. In fact, consumption of wildlife products is the biggest threat because it pushes illegal hunting and trading, putting wild animals at risk of extinction.  The majority of polled residents and students do not know and do not remember the correct telephone number to report wildlife hunting and trading crimes.
The survey says students have a good attitude towards wild animal protection and are more willing to take part in wild animal protection than adults.
According to WAR, communication and education programs need to be designed for residents and students in order to prevent endangered wildlife consumption. It says animal products from legal farming should be introduced as a substitute.
For full story, please see:



  • Ecotourism in Laos: Doors open to “eco-tourists”

Source: AFP, 24 May 2011

In a hill tribe settlement in the forest of northern Laos, an old man sits on the ground weaving a basket while another villager hangs out her washing to dry. It is a scene of everyday life for the Akha communities living in the Nam Ha Protected Area, where elephants, gibbons and leopards roam among giant bamboo near villages perched on the banks of a tributary of the Mekong River.
The 220 000 ha national park is at the forefront of efforts by the landlocked, impoverished nation to become a leading ecotourism destination — an effort that appears to be paying off.
Lured by the wild beauty and cultural riches of the numerous ethnic minorities, almost 250 000 tourists visited northwest Luang Namtha province in 2010, up from 20 000 in 1999, according to the Laos tourism administration.
"Compared to Thailand it is definitely a lot more authentic, better run and the fact that we were just a small group, just four people, makes it a much more genuine experience," said 28-year-old British tourist Joe Park. "We perhaps leave less of a footprint and not too much of our own culture in the area, so I think it was fantastic," he said during a trek inside the park.
While some ethnic villagers, such as the Lanten, still wear their indigo traditional clothes, they make no particular effort to dress up for tourists and go about their normal lives as much as possible when they come.
It is the fruit of years of planning by the nation to attract more foreign visitors while preserving its cultural heritage. After opening up to foreign visitors in the 1990s, Laos "quickly saw that being a country in the middle of the Mekong region, with many visitors going to the surrounding countries, that it would be a good opportunity to develop the economy and create local jobs," said Steven Schipani, who was involved in the Nam Ha ecotourism project as a UN advisor.
"But they were also aware that tourism, if not properly managed, can cause a lot of negative impacts," added the American, who is now in charge of the Asian Development Bank's Southeast Asia tourism programme.
The Laotian authorities, who have created 20 national parks covering 14 percent of the country, attempted to manage the explosion in tourism so as to avoid queues of coaches or rows of concrete hotels.
"Laos will become a world renowned destination specializing in forms of sustainable tourism that, through partnership and cooperation, benefits natural and cultural heritage conservation and local socio-economic development, and spreads knowledge of Laos' unique cultural heritage around the world," proclaims the state run website .
The Nam Ha national park, thanks to a partnership with UNESCO dating back to 1999, has served as a model of development for ecotourism aimed at benefitting local communities.
"Before, only backpackers, who often only rent a motorbike and drive around, not stopping in the villages, came to Namtha," said Adrian Schuhbeck, a development expert with a German-backed agency in Luang Namtha province. "But this is changing. People with more money come, which is good for the communities — they get more return."
Thanks to the Nam Ha project, several dozen villages have signed agreements with local trekking agencies to supply guides, maintain the paths, share their traditional cuisine and offer a roof for the night, no more than twice a week.
For welcoming eight tourists — the maximum allowed in a single group — on a two-day trek, a village receives about US$135, or more than a third of the ticket price, said Chittaphong Chanthakhoune, a local tour agent.
Hundreds of similar projects are being set up elsewhere in the sparsely populated country, one of the poorest in the world.
While it is not the answer to all the villages' problems, Laos has at least avoided the pitfalls seen by its neighbours, where tour operators bring hordes of tourists to villages without consulting the locals.
While it lures avid adventurers to its steep-sided valleys and villages lost in the middle of the forest, Laos has also equipped its capital Vientiane and the ancient city of Luang Prabang with a solid tourism infrastructure, capable of accommodating a rising number of visitors. Tourist arrivals in the nation have risen from scarcely 5 000 in 1991 to more than two million in 2009, according to official figures.
But the eco-tourism boom "will only be sustainable if both sides understand what is important for each other," said Schuhbeck.
For full story, please see:



  • Ecotourism in India: Bengal tiger-spotting

Source: Reuters, 23 May 2011

More than 100 years ago, author Rudyard Kipling discovered inspiration for The Jungle Book in the heart of India, in this region now partly designated as Kanha National Park — vast, teeming with tigers, leopards, cheetahs, sloth bears, gaur (Indian bison) and countless species of other fauna and flora.
That was before a century of poachers, big-game hunters and ill-conceived policies preyed on many species to the brink of extinction. Today, however, the mighty jungle and its surviving wildlife are experiencing a renaissance, thanks in large part to international efforts to save tigers.
Visitor counts in this remote outpost of India have swelled into many thousands annually, from about 1 000 in 1989. In the face of such demand, a nascent ecotourism industry has emerged that attempts to match the public’s growing enthusiasm with a broader environmental consciousness.
Taj Safaris stands out as an early leader, blending an unparalleled luxury experience with deep commitment to building the new wave of India’s conservation movement. It is a joint venture between Africa’s “&Beyond” (one of Africa’s leading safari operators and a pioneer in ecotourism) and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces (India’s premier luxury hospitality group and participant in the internationally recognized Green Globe benchmarking and certification system). Taj Safaris has recently opened four camps in adjoining national parks in central India, including the very high-end, but low-profile eco-resort called Banjaar Tola, in 2009.
Located on the Banjar River, and nestled along the border of Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Banjaar Tola’s setting amid a dense forest of pipal (ficus) and sal trees — harbouring woodpeckers, pheasants and kingfishers — could not be more enchanting.
The highlights of the daily schedule are the sunrise and late afternoon “game drives”. The spotting is made incrementally easier by the uncanny skill of native guides, and therein lies a lesson. When the park was created in the 1950s, it was not without detractors, including thousands of local villagers forcibly relocated outside the newly delineated park boundaries. As journalist Mark Dowie examines in his 2009 book, Conservation Refugees, efforts to protect wild areas often conflict with the rights of the indigenous people living there. The indigenous peoples’ movement and conservation organizations have a vital common goal — to protect biological diversity — and could work effectively and powerfully together to protect the planet and preserve species and ecosystem diversity. Yet for more than a hundred years, these two forces have been at odds. The result: thousands of unmanageable protected areas and native peoples reduced to poaching and trespassing on their ancestral lands or “assimilated” but permanently indentured on the lowest rungs of the economy.
In Kanha this unsustainable pattern has partially been broken. Those who oversee this priceless Indian treasure recognize that native knowledge is unparalleled, and so at least some former villagers still spend their days here, as park guides. They are known for their especially keen eyesight and ability to interpret the sounds of the wild.
For full story, please see:



  • Edible insects: UN food advisor on insects

Source: The Telegraph, 1 May 2011

Serge Verniau, FAO Representative in Laos, wants the world to ditch steaks and burgers —and eat insects instead. "Most of the world's population will live in urban areas. Trying to feed the whole planet enough protein from cows will not work," Mr Verniau said last week.
Insects are eaten from the wild in Laos, but are not farmed on a large scale. He wants to increase research into the field and host a conference on edible insects in 2012.
Insect farming is also more environmentally sound — with a recent study by suggesting that swapping pork and beef for crickets and locusts could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent.
The livestock farming contribution of emissions to global warming is huge, with 35-40 percent of the Earth's methane, 65 percent of the Earth's nitrous oxide and 9 percent of the Earth's carbon dioxide being attributed to the industry.
As well as emitting fewer gases insects also have twice the protein of meat and fish, whilst being rich in unsaturated fat.
For full story, please see:



  • Edible insects: Eating insects is the way of the future

Source: New York University News, 28 April 2011

David Gracer, owner of Small Stock Foods (Rhode Island, USA), specializes in entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects. His favourites include waxworms (a caterpillar that feeds on beeswax and pollen), stink bugs (which can take on a range of flavours, from very spicy to smoky to herb-like) and palm weevil grubs, which are a delicacy worldwide.
Small Stock Foods was created as the focus of Gracer's endeavours to create a steady supply of food that comes from farmed insects. It offers edible insect tastings, lectures and even catering.
"When a college friend gave me mealworm snacks [Larvets] as a present I tried them immediately, and though they tasted pretty awful, I was curious about the subject and simply started learning more," he said. "My favourite parts are the overarching sense of logic and the opportunity to surprise people and make them think."
Gracer explained that unsustainable population growth would increase the likelihood of having to find new food sources. Some of the options, such as artificial meat and algae, may have large costs and technological challenges.
"Insect production features none of these snags and is therefore very likely to become important in our future, simply because insects will be a more reasonable investment of fresh water and other resources that will become increasingly precious," he said. "If we can begin to embrace the concept now, during a time of relative plenty, we could have a smoother transition to the indefinite crises that critical mass of experts is anticipating."
Gracer spoke at the New York University Green House Thursday night to increase knowledge of entomophagy and hopefully alleviate fears associated with the consumption of insects. He also brought along a few dishes for attendees to taste.
"We can have culinary adventures and transform how we see ourselves and the world around us at the same time," Gracer said. "I hope that people begin to understand that the reasoning and logic that underpins my work is indeed accurate, and that we all have to take steps to change our behaviours and create a somewhat more sustainable future."
For full story, please see:



  • Edible insects: The hunt for gourmet ants in Colombia

Source:, 11 May 2011

Emerging from the soil this time of year is something Colombian farmers covet more than anything they can grow: “big-butt” ants. Known in Spanish as "hormigas culonas," the brown, cockroach-size insects are roasted, salted and eaten like peanuts. Considered a delicacy, they can fetch more than ten times the price/lb of Colombia’s world-famous coffee.
In the northern Santander department, about the only place in Colombia where they flourish, the ants are sometimes used as pizza topping. One enthusiastic chef serves beef tenderloin and pork cutlets drizzled in ant sauce.
“The more you eat, the more you want to eat,” said farmer Miguel Angel Paez, 25, who has been gathering ants since he was a boy.
Colombians are not the only bug eaters. In several Latin American and Asian nations, people toss back crickets, grasshoppers and palm weevils which are rich in protein and vitamins. In fact, the UN plans to hold a conference next year to promote the gathering and harvesting of edible insects as a more environmentally sound alternative to raising livestock. 
Colombia’s ants are a species of winged leaf-cutter ants and are divided into castes. In March, April and May, when seasonal rains soften up the ground, the princes and princesses in the colony crawl out of the ground and fly toward the sun to mate.
Indigenous groups in and around Santander have been eating ants for centuries. They passed on the tradition to Spanish conquistadors and the habit stuck.
“A lot of people think it is repulsive but in Santander eating ants is something you learn as a child,” said Jorge Diaz, who owns a restaurant in the town of Barichara that specializes in ant-based dishes. “It is our version of caviar.”
Strange as it sounds, caviar is an apt comparison. That is because the princess ants are bloated with eggs and are the ones people try to snatch, roast and eat. It is not easy. Wearing ankle-high rubber boots for protection, people must work fast since smaller soldier ants, tasked to protect the princesses, can inflict painful bites that draw blood.
“You can earn a day’s wage by selling a few pounds of ants,” said Edgar Vargas, 27, as he and his friends worked their way through a case of beer purchased with the proceeds from ants they had gathered that morning near the town of Oiba.
The ants must be either frozen or kept alive until the moment they are roasted; otherwise they can taste bitter. In the off-season when there are shortages, aficionados like Diaz, the restaurant owner and chef, will pay up to US$40 for one pound of the insects.
Though Diaz has never cooked with any other bugs besides ants, he finds the notion intriguing. “Once you start eating insects,” he said, “it is a whole new world to explore.”
For full story, please see:



  • Imbe: The varied uses of Garcinia livingstonei

Source: Worldwatch Institute, 9 May 2011

With sap that makes arrow poison, leaves that contain antibacterial compounds, and fruit as tasty as its cousin mangosteen, the uses of imbe (Garcinia livingstonei) are as varied as the places visited by its namesake David Livingstone. One of about 400 varieties of Garcinia, imbe is the best known relative of the mangosteen in Africa.
The fruit is eaten raw, cooked with porridge, seeded and dried, or crushed like grapes to create a drink. The fruit can also be fermented to make a purplish wine or soaked in alcohol and mixed with syrup to make liqueur.
Although the fruit is tasty, the plant is more often used as an ornamental in landscaping than a source of food. The tree decorates Mozambique’s capital and can be seen near Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Hardy, somewhat salt-tolerant, and drought-resistant, the tree occurs naturally in landscapes as varied as the sand dunes of Tana Delta in Kenya, open woodland of South Africa, the Okavango Delta of Botswana, and termite mounds in Zambia. The tree provides forage for wildlife like elephants and canoe-building material, although the latex produced by the tree can make the wood difficult to carve.
In one of few studies regarding imbe, an antibacterial compound was isolated from the leaves. The bark and root of imbe is currently used in Namibia to treat various ailments from Cryptococcal meningitis to tuberculosis, and the fruit contains compounds with potential anti-cancer effects.
The tree is also potentially a good candidate for intercropping with other species, and its drought-tolerance and attractiveness to insects and birds may make it useful in ecological restoration of degraded landscapes. Despite its potential and current uses, the tree has yet to be domesticated. Little documentation of production under cultivated conditions exists, and virtually no studies have been done to try to improve plant characteristics through genetic selection.
For full story, please see:



  • Medicinal plants: Malaria-fighting plants may soon go extinct

Source:, 25 April 2011

A number of East African plant species identified as being effective in the prevention of malaria symptoms are at risk of extinction, say scientists. Researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) conducted a detailed assessment of 22 of the region’s malaria-fighting flora, focusing on those species identified by both traditional medicinal practitioners and scientists as promising candidates for future study. The team’s findings have been published in a book, Common Antimalarial Trees and Shrubs of East Africa.
According to researchers, many species of trees in East Africa are at high risk of extinction due to deforestation and over-exploitation for medicinal uses. Scientists in the field have been able to identify at-risk tree species, including those that have anti-malarial qualities, by monitoring deforestation in the region and by talking to herbalists and local communities.
In an effort to preserve trees and shrubs with anti-malarial qualities, ICRAF is storing samples of at risk species in its gene bank while also growing them in plant nurseries at its headquarters in Nairobi. The ICRAF gene bank contains close to 200 species, of which at least 30 are known to have anti-malarial properties.
The field data were gathered by ICRAF scientists in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, where they met with approximately 180 herbalists and 100 malaria patients in 30 communities. KEMRI supported the process by supplying the information about each plant’s chemical compound make-up — research that is the result of a sophisticated laboratory process developed by KEMRI for testing natural products.
“We have only scratched the surface on the potential value of these plants,” says Dr. Geoffrey Rukunga, Director of KEMRI’s Centre for Traditional Medicine and Drug Research and one of the book’s co-authors. “Although widely used by farmers and people in rural communities, most of this information has never been collected in a comprehensive way by researchers. Going forward, I would like to see more investment and more research on the power of these plants to fight the scourge of malaria and other diseases.”
Quinine, historically one of the most widely used anti-malarials, was derived from the bark of the Cinchona tree in South America. And today’s most-effective frontline therapy for malaria also comes from a plant, the Artemisia annua shrub. Yet access to malaria therapies based on artemisinin compounds remains low — around 15 percent in most parts of Africa and well below the World Health Organizations’ 80 percent target.
Malaria still kills some 800 000/year, the majority of whom are children under five years of age in sub-Saharan Africa. A lack of access to doctors and drugs leaves many communities in Africa with few alternatives other than looking for natural remedies to address symptoms, including high fever, severe headaches, bone aches, nausea and vomiting.
“We are not saying that using these medicinal plants is a replacement for common preventive treatments like bed nets or effective medicines like ACT,” says Dr Najma Dharani, an ICRAF consultant research scientist, who led the field research portion of the study. “But we believe that it is worth learning from communities that have been treating malaria symptoms with plants for hundreds of years. We need to do more research because one of these plants could prove to be the next Artemisia, and we need to do our best to preserve the plants that are going extinct.”
Indeed, due to a lack of data and proper guidance for their sustainable use, plants like the critically-endangered Zanthoxylum chalybeum, commonly known as “Knobwood,” and the African wild olive, Olea europaea Africana, both of which have been associated with significant levels of anti-malarial activity among other health benefits, are being over-exploited.
“Throughout my eight years of research in Africa, I have seen that we have an entire pharmacy in our farms and in our forests,” says Dharani. “We have plants that should be used by scientific companies to develop more options for malaria drugs. And we cannot become complacent and rely on one herb, because we have learned that developing resistance is likely.”
In addition to the chemical compound itself, a range of other factors may be associated with a malaria patient’s recovery. Yet to date, scientists have struggled to track or replicate indigenous treatment processes — how a healer administers plants and whether he or she does so in combination with other plants.
“While we have made scientific progress identifying these compounds over the last few years, the fact is that we may lose these important trees before we have had a chance to understand their ability to defend us against malaria,” says Dr. Rukunga. “We need to approach this as an opportunity on multiple fronts: to preserve the biodiversity that may hold the next cure, to strengthen the research done on the ground in communities, and to continue our diligent work testing our natural resources in the lab.”
For full story, please see:



  • Medicinal plants: US-Namibia research partnership against Malaria

Source: New Era (Namibia), 24 May 2011

The University of Namibia (Unam) has received a donation worth N$700 000 for its malaria research project from Rutgers University in the United States. Included in the donation are pharmacological kits.
Rutgers University donated 24 Artemisia annua plants with eight different varieties that contain compounds used to treat malaria. These plants do not exist in Namibia and Unam would plant them in its greenhouse for research purposes. Unam can now do its own research as far as malaria is concerned.
Schulz said the agreement would also allow Unam researchers to work as part of the N$1.6 million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)-Namibia research project as partners with Rutgers University and the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) whose researchers are also part of the training workshop.
“This research opportunity will be crucial in building capacity at Unam to conduct research into indigenous products with potential for commercial goods as well as social benefits for Namibian people through the health, veterinary and food sectors,” Schulz explained.
Plants with medicinal or food applications such as antibacterials, antivirals, anti-malarials and anti-fungals can be screened for use, while foods can be evaluated for nutriceutical (medical) and nutritional properties.
Meanwhile, Dr James Simon, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology at Rutgers University who is heading the visiting delegation, said they will develop kits to screen plants and see if they have activities to treat a range of diseases.
“This year we expect to screen 100 Namibian indigenous plants within 10 different screens. We hope the kits will provide valuable information that can be used to protect and preserve plants while Namibians seek to generate income and improve health as well as nutrition at local level,” said Simon.
For full story, please see:



  • Mulberry: The new anti-ageing “super-food”

Source: Times of India, 21 May 2011

Experts have indicated that mulberry, the latest fruit to be hailed a “super-food” after blueberries, blackberries and cranberries, is packed with anti-ageing properties that could give skin back its youthful bloom and even reduce the onset of wrinkles and grey hair.
Researchers at Brunswick Laboratories in the US found mulberry juice contains more than twice as many antioxidants as orange and cranberry juice, or a handful of blueberries.
"Mulberries have been used since ancient times to protect people from colds and other ailments, so I am not surprised the fruit is a rich source of antioxidants," spokesman of The Progressive Food Company, which commissioned the research, Paul Green said.
"Antioxidants are known for aiding the immune system which protects the body against germs and viruses. But they are also a viable alternative to botox and other medical procedures thanks to their anti-ageing properties. Resveratrol is believed to help but not everyone wants to drink wine all the time to benefit from it, so mulberry juice is a refreshing, non-alcoholic alternative," added Green.
For full story, please see: or



  • Wildlife: Elephants, the gardeners of Asia's and Africa's forests

Source: Hance, J. in, 25 April 2011

It seems difficult to imagine elephants delicately tending a garden, but these pachyderms may well be the world's weightiest horticulturalist. Elephants both in Asia and Africa eat abundant amounts of fruit when available. Seeds pass through their guts, and after expelled — sometimes tens of miles down the trail — sprouts a new plant if conditions are right. This process is known by ecologists as “seed dispersal”, and scientists have long studied the “gardening” capacities of monkeys, birds, bats, and rodents. Recently, however, researchers have begun to document the seed dispersal capacity of the world's largest land animal, the elephant, proving that this species may be among the world's most important tropical gardeners.
"In our paper we show that African forest elephants are the ultimate seed dispersers — they disperse vast numbers of seeds of a high diversity of plants in a very effective way […] Asian and African savannah elephants also disperse many seeds […] but seem to be less frugivorous [i.e. fruit-eating]," Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, co-author of a recent paper on African and Asian elephant seed dispersal in Acta Oecologica, told in an interview.
Stephen Blake, the study's other co-author, says that the behaviour of different elephant species, in this context, has more to do with habitat than species' preference. "African savannah elephants do not disperse many seeds usually, but stick them in the Kibale forest in Uganda where fruit is accessible, and they become formidable seed dispersers," Blake explains, "no large-bodied generalist feeding mammal is going to refuse a good fruit feed if it is available."
Blake and Campos-Arceiz highlight in their study that some plant species likely depend entirely on elephants for their dispersal, much as some orchids depend wholly on a single insect pollinator for propagation.  "The best documented case is the relationship of Balanites wilsoniana and savannah elephants in Uganda. Several studies have found that elephants consume and disperse lots of Balanites seeds, that no other animal disperses these seeds," explains Campos-Arceiz.
However, Blake adds that the "cumulative impact of elephant dispersal" is more important than their connection to one species: "a few trees declining because an elephant disappears is of course detrimental, but Balanites going extinct will be unlikely to have massive impact on the forest ecosystem. However, elephants going extinct means that the competitive balance of many species, arguably over 100 in central Africa will be tipped in favour of species poor abiotically [i.e. wind-dispersed species]. That is the key point from an ecological perspective."
One of the reasons elephants are so important to a forest ecosystem is, unlike many other species, elephants are capable of spreading seeds far from the parent tree. According to the researchers, Asian elephants spread seeds from 1-6 km, while in the Congo, forest elephants are capable of spreading seeds as far as 57 km.
"These are truly unprecedented dispersal distances for large forest seeds — most animal dispersers in tropical forests will drop seeds just a few tens or hundreds of meters from the source," explains Campos-Arceiz.
Despite their ecological important elephants in Asia and Africa are threatened. While some populations of savannah elephants in Africa are stable, Blake says Africa's forest elephants — the world's biggest frugivores — are in "steep decline due to poaching ".
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  • Wildlife: How lies and organized crime are pushing rhinos to extinction

Source:, 12 May 2011

Few animals face as violent, as well organized, and as determined an enemy as the world's rhinos. Across the globe rhinos are being slaughtered in record numbers; on average more than one rhino is killed by poachers every day. After being shot or drugged, criminals take what they came for: they saw off the animal's horn. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which claims that it has curative properties, rhino horn is worth more than gold and cocaine on the black market. However, science proves all this cash and death is based on unfounded claims.
"There is no medicinal benefit to consuming rhino horn. It has been extensively analyzed in separate studies, by different institutions, and rhino horn was found to contain no medical properties whatsoever," says Rhishja Larson, creator and head of the organization Saving Rhinos and author of the blog, Rhino Horn is NOT Medicine.
With a business and marketing background, Larson has taken a unique approach to advocating for the world's rhinos. She believes that raising awareness may be key to winning the war against poaching."Until we acknowledge the root of the problem, we cannot take real steps to solve it. There is still a large segment of the public — including the media — that does not realize we are looking at an organized crime issue. [...] Here is an illegal market laundering an obscene amount of money — and it is all based on a myth, a superstition about an animal part," Larson explains, adding that, "I believe if the public knew the whole story, there would be a greater effort to disrupt — and ultimately close down — the rhino horn trade."
According to Larson, rhino poaching, and the illegal wildlife trade in general, is not taken seriously enough.
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  • Wildlife: A life dedicated to conservation

Source: Gulf News, 20 May 2011

Dame Daphne Sheldrick is an author, conservationist and expert in animal husbandry, but what truly sets Daphne apart is her love for large mammals such as elephants, rhinos and hippos. So committed is she to save and protect elephants, she has made it her life's mission to raise and reintegrate orphaned elephants into the wild.
For more than 25 years, she worked alongside her late husband, David Sheldrick (founder warden of Kenya's Tsavo National Park). Together they raised and rehabilitated many a species including elephants, black rhinos, buffaloes, zebra, impala, warthogs and smaller animals such as civets, mongooses and birds.
She continues to live and work within Nairobi National Park. She spearheaded a movement where she successfully hand-reared more than 70 newborn elephant orphans, some just a few hours old. It was a pioneering venture in the field of wild animal rehabilitation.
Daphne says that David was her biggest influence and guiding force. Together they took up causes like rearing wild orphaned animals, fighting for more compassionate handling of both domestic and wild animals, (particularly of elephants in zoos and circuses) and they battled against the abuse of animals, both domestic and wild. After David's death his widow established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to perpetuate their combined passion.
"David turned a barren semi-desert scrubland known as the Taru Desert into what is today the highest revenue earning park in Kenya," says Dame Daphne. "It is home to the largest single population of wild elephants."
The Trust successfully hand-reared more than 130 orphaned infant elephants, something that had hitherto not been done. It was also the first time that elephants hand-reared from early infancy had been successfully returned to the wild. All the orphans reared by the Trust end up as wild elephants. Their distinctive skill is they will always remember and recognize the individuals who were their surrogate human family after they lost their natural one."It is something that has been scientifically proven," she says.
Since its inception, the Trust has played a significant role in Kenya's conservation efforts. As David was a strong protagonist against extravagance, there is great emphasis on minimal expenditure and all donations are dispensed in a practical and positive manner.
The Trust has an orphan's project where you can adopt a baby elephant or rhino until it can be rehabilitated into the wild.
It also has a mobile veterinary unit that covers Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Park and the nearby ranches and dispersal areas. With the cooperation of the Kenyan Wildlife Authority, the Trust has employed many successful de-snaring teams who continually work in the Tsavo National Park with the aim of preventing illegal bushmeat activities.
Extending its range of consideration to humans, the initiative's Community Outreach Programme has a project whereby donors can support educational initiatives in Kenya, which extends to adopting a whole school.
Daphne is recognized internationally as an authority on both the African elephant and the black rhinoceros.
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  • Brazil: Under pressure from rising deforestation, “Zero Deforestation Policy” established

Source: in Amazon News, 20 May 2011

IBAMA, Brazil’s equivalent of the US’s Environmental Protection Agency, is suspending 1 300 planned operations for 2011 in order to concentrate on curbing a spike in regional deforestation through a two-pronged strategy of greater institutional presence and reciprocal agreements with local municipal governments.  Following a series of meetings in the Amazonian states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Amazonas between IBAMA and political leaders, landowners, ranchers, and environmentalists, IBAMA announced a “Zero Deforestation Pact” last Wednesday in cooperation with the Federal Public Ministry (Ministério Público Federal).
The increased emphasis on Amazonian forest protection follows the release of an IBAMA document obtained by Folha revealing a jump in Amazonian deforestation that the government believes is related to proposed changes to relax the Forest Code, a debate which has given confidence to those deforesting.
IBAMA is deploying agents en masse to the Amazon region.  Folha reports that 520 officers are in the region now, and another sixty will arrive this week.  This increase in institutional presence, however, should be placed in the context of the scope of IBAMA’s jurisdiction: according to Lesley McAllister, a policy expert at the University of San Diego's School of Law (USA), in 2008 there was only one IBAMA employee per 800 000 ha in the Amazonian states of Pará and Tocantins.  Likely due to IBAMA’s limited capacity, the agency has announced that it will focus its “Zero Deforestation” campaign in eleven priority regions, most in the state of Pará and areas that have been the target of prior campaigns to combat deforestation.  Novo Progresso, Redenção, and São Félix do Xingu are priority zones in Pará, along with Sinop in Mato Grosso and Lábrea in Amazonas.  If there is not an overall decrease in deforestation, other predetermined areas in these states will be added to IBAMA’s priority list.
To put the “Zero Deforestation” policy into effect, IBAMA will rely on increased cooperation with local municipalities and cattle ranchers.  In exchange for municipalities ensuring no new deforestation, IBAMA will suspend seizures of cattle in environmentally fragile areas, a move it says allows property owners time to adjust to environmental legislation.
The General Coordinator for Environmental Inspection, Bruno Barbosa, said that seizures of cattle and equipment are merely instruments to reach the agency’s central objective of decreasing deforestation.  Barbosa added that continued leniency regarding cattle seizures was dependent on the prioritized areas’ ability to uphold their end of the deal by preventing new outbreaks of deforestation.  This sentiment was echoed by IBAMA’s president, Curt Trennepohl, who stated that it did not make sense to continue programs to combat illegal animal trafficking when the animals’ rainforest habitat was so threatened.  Accordingly, Trennepohl said, resources would be moved to the primary challenge of slowing deforestation.
With news of rising rates of Amazonian deforestation, IBAMA will be under further pressure to halt deforestation.  The agency’s limited capability is reflected in its abandonment of lesser objectives to focus all its energy on halting deforestation.  IBAMA’s new “Zero Deforestation” policy, with its concessions to local agents of deforestation, is an attempt to increase compliance with environmental law given IBAMA’s current ineffective measures.
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  • Cameroon via Chelsea

Source:  Nnah Ndobe, S., Mougou, J. and Owen, J. in The Financial Times, 20 May 2011

The journey south from Cameroon’s Douala International Airport to Marguerite Akom’s home in one of Africa’s largest rainforests takes around seven hours in a 4x4. It was a journey that Akom made this time last year when she came to London to help create a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and to raise awareness about the threats faced by indigenous people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Akom, 46, who is a pygmy from the Baka community, lives in a “poto poto,” or mud home, in the village of Cyrie. It is very different from the mongulu, or leaf house, in which she grew up. Back then her family lived deep in the forest as hunter-gatherers, until local officials persuaded them to swap their traditional life for a permanent community built along a track.
“It is the work of women to make mongulus from small lianas and marantaceae leaves,” says Akom. “It takes a few hours. We had everything we needed on site. The poto poto home can take several months. To be done fast, the owner may have to prepare food for those working and provide the locally brewed alcohol, called odontol.”
Akom lives there with her six children — and her late husband’s cousin, plus various visitors who stay with her because her husband was a community leader. “Our staple meal is based on bushmeat and forest spices, tubers and vegetables. Now it is difficult to have bushmeat as there are so many poachers coming from the cities and taking advantage of the logging tracks for easy access to game. Once in a while we eat porcupine, deer, hare, duikers [antelopes], grasscutters, rats, pigs, antelope. It is more and more difficult to have elephant meat, which used to be a ceremonial meat,” says Akom.
Baka tend to hunt old, usually male, animals in order to preserve their food source, unlike poachers, who hunt indiscriminately.
“Life in the forest was very good,” says Akom. “When the hunting expedition was very successful we have enough food for a couple of days and sing and dance all night, chanting praises to Enjenqui, the god of the forest.
“Honey remains very precious to us. We have different types of honey collected from the forest. NGOs are now teaching us how to produce honey from our backyard. I still doubt the honey from hives will taste like the forest honey. Honey is very important as it is part of the wedding dowry.”
“Our problems are many,” says Akom. “We were the first inhabitants of the forest but do not have any rights there. Where we used to live in the forest has now been sold for logging and made into national parks and we are not allowed to go back and live there. This makes me sad.”
Mongulu-building is one of the traditional skills that keeps Akom and other women in touch with the forest and, more bizarrely, with the Chelsea Flower Show. Last year, she and two other pygmy women from Cameroon built a mongulu at the Green & Black’s rainforest garden to highlight the fact that hunter gatherers can be excellent guardians against activities such as illegal logging, if they are allowed to continue their traditional way of life.
The garden won a gold medal and a visit from the Queen who spent some time talking, through a translator, to Akom.
The meeting with the Queen and Akom’s presence at Chelsea have given her clout in Cameroon. She says: “This visit has empowered me and enabled me to position myself as a community resource person. Chelsea has helped organizations working with us to push forward our efforts to have our land rights recognized.”
“Since being at Chelsea we have seen small changes. The council has started extending forest fees and royalties to the Baka. What we want is our informed consent on all initiatives that affect us.”
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  • Canada: Ensuring the presence of NTFPs on the landscape

Source: 5th edition of NTFP Newsletter, Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology, Royal Roads University (Canada), April 2011

NTFPs have had an important role in the livelihoods of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples for as long as they have been present on the land. What is new, however, is the rapidity with which this sector is changing, including the volumes of species commercially traded, growth of interest in areas such as functional food markets and food security issues, and increasing attention to the sector’s role in cultural maintenance and importance to wildlife. Human population and development trends are also increasingly impacting on the non-timber sector, further reinforcing the need to include these species within forest management planning.
One of the main difficulties in incorporating NTFP species into management is the extensive gaps in our knowledge about the species. There is a dearth of knowledge of basic autecology (i.e. species ecology) for many NTFPs, including response to harvest and silvicultural practices, as well as knowledge on key aspects of their use (e.g. quality, volume). However, there is an increasing body of knowledge which can provide some tools and methods to facilitate the inclusion of NTFPs into forest management.
Although new research within this sector is required, it is also important to recognize the expertise which already exists. Often, it is not a case of lack of knowledge, but rather that knowledge is held by different groups or within different disciplines. Combining conventional science with local and traditional knowledge greatly increases the applicability of both the research and the management of these resources. Harvesters, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have a large body of long term observational knowledge which can help both answer and shape research questions.
Basic inventory is, of course, required to incorporate NTFPs into forest management. Conventional inventory can indicate the habitat potential for the species; however quantity (i.e. cover and abundance) often does not equal quality (usability of the plant). For example, while huckleberry will grow under a wide range of site and stand conditions, it has specific requirements for light and moisture for adequate berry production. The spatial representation on a map of predicted berry production areas would thus be much smaller, and much more accurate, than the spatial representation of predicted plant presence. This specificity is required to accurately identify predicted harvestable areas over the landscape, to adapt silvicultural practices to maintain or enhance the habitat (e.g. spacing or thinning prime areas), and even, to potentially zone areas to decrease competition between resource users (e.g. within a Community Forest Tenure).
We can incorporate local and traditional knowledge to define what quality means for the user, how to assess this quality, and how to assess the overall site for accessibility. This has been initiated with a number of species in north central British Columbia. Quality ratings, along with criteria to standardize the ratings, have been developed and are available on the web. The incorporation of standardized quality ratings within on-going conventional inventories conducted by forest companies, government, or other land managers will allow for this additional information to be collected efficiently, and vastly increase our under-standing of the site and stand characteristics required for high quality NTFP cover and abundance.
The next step for long term, landscape level compatible management of timber and non-timber resources is the incorporation of these species into growth and yield models. To do so, we require targeted autecological research on specific species as well as on the effects of annual weather variations on quality.
Effective management that involves multiple users and/or multiple uses will require novel institutional arrangements. The majority of NTFPs remain unregulated throughout much of Canada, however some community forests, woodlots, and private lands are exploring their options for management. Meaningful communication and inclusion of those who rely on these resources from the beginning of the planning process will help ensure efficient and effective solutions.
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  • China: Price surge poses challenge for traditional medicine

Source: Xinhua News (China), 22 May 2011

Not long ago, Wang Qing could spend a few dozen Yuan on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to chase his cold away. But now the price has soared into the hundreds. "I cannot afford TCM anymore," Wang lamented.
Recently, the price of "LifeiPian," a TCM medicine to eliminate phlegm, has doubled in price to 50.9 Yuan (about US$7.5).
The cost of other TCM medicines, including ginseng tablets and remedies for treating children's lung diseases, has surged. TCM's increasing cost has many concerned.            Experts say there are many reasons for TCM's rising prices. Yang Shengchao, an associate professor at Yunnan Agricultural University, said excessive excavation was to blame.
A study by researchers at Chengdu University of TCM in south-western Sichuan Province shows that "Rhizoma Paridis," (dried rhizome of the Paris polyphylla Smith var. yunnanensis) a raw material for a type of TCM that treats poisonous snake bites, is now hard to find in Kunming, where it originates from. "It takes about ten years for “Rhizoma Paridis” to grow to fist-size, but now they are usually dug up long before they mature," Yang said. He said fist-sized "Rhizoma Paridis" is hardly seen now, and the price has soared to more than 200 Yuan per kilogram from only several Yuan in the late 1990s.
It might be assumed that farmers are benefiting from the price surge, however, they have gained little or nothing, according to Chen Wenguang, Director of the Agricultural Bureau of Santai County in Sichuan's Mianyang, a major TCM production base.
Chen said TCM raw materials go through lengthy processing before getting to pharmaceutical companies. "Farmers generally do not have storehouses, so they have to sell the entire amount of raw materials they have grown. Prices are decided by dealers," he said.
Prof. Zhou Fengqin of the Shandong University of TCM said the hoarding of medicinal ingredients by some farmers and dealers has caused the price increases.
Other factors include changes in the herbs' growing environment, rising production costs and a labour shortage, which makes the output of TCM raw materials unstable, Zhou said. She said production of medicinal materials is easily affected by the environment and climate change.
In addition, Zhou said TCM is now pursued by a greater number of industries, and this had led to higher demand and subsequently, higher prices.
Xian Sheng of the China Association of TCM said that compared with other medicines, more money is needed for TCM's storage and processing, as its guaranteed-quality period is very short.
"Most TCM enterprises gather raw material from distributors, instead of storing it for themselves, so the prices fluctuate with supply and demand," he said. However, large companies such as Beijing TRT have their own production bases, which ensure an abundant supply of its products.
The Government stepped in on 5 May, as the Ministry of Commerce issued the first guidelines for the development of the TCM, emphasizing that the Government would regulate the herb market over the next five years, focusing on tests of harmful material residue and quality inspections, as well as establishing a raw material storage system.
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  • Costa Rica: Trees of Hope Mission

Source: Eco-Index Monthly Update, April 2011

The Trees of Paradise and the Trees of the Heart Missions have identified, located, and produced information about trees that have cultural, historical, and ecological significance. These trees are disappearing from farms and gardens even though they are known to be beneficial., which is managing the two projects, has also produced regular electronic bulletins with information on the two missions. Information on tree species has generated great interest and support from thousands people around the world. The positive response and sponsorships from these two missions have led to the development of the third phase called “Trees of Hope Mission” that focused on the reproduction of endangered or culturally-displaced tree species.
The Trees of Hope Mission worked to continue research on asexual reproduction of many tree species; develop the technology to reproduce, establish, and manage certain tree species, including improved techniques for the selection, collection, storage, and transportation of seeds; establish a replicable model that can be used by individuals or organized groups; reduce pollution and cut operating expenses by using waste material (plastic bags, plastic bottles, aluminium tins and plastic boxes, etc.) as resources.
This Mission was a concrete response to the need to recover many tree species that face extinction because of their complex reproductive process, a reason these species are not used in reforestation projects or for goods and services. Although these species are easy to reproduce and have many valuable benefits, they have not been used. The results of The Trees of Hope Mission helped to promote socio-economic benefits for individuals in rural or suburban areas through the generation of goods and services, employment, and income.
Moreover, upon request from teachers, project managers gave lectures at the Colegio Los Ángeles in Sabana Norte, San José to provide information on the project, its accomplishments and to help science teachers on the theme of trees and natural resources. This motivated and raised awareness among students on the importance of natural resource protection, especially of trees and water.
The Mission also successfully reproduced a large number of trees sexually or asexually, including bushes and plants, that are ecologically or culturally endangered and studied and recovered precious tree species for their ecological role in the protection of wildlife, rivers, soils, and watersheds, as well as the production of wood, leaves, fruit, and edible and ornamental seeds.
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  • Indonesia: The finitude of forests

Source: The Economist, 14 April 2011

In Borneo, in the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan, orangutans can relax in a camp devoted to their welfare on the edge of the Tanjung Puting National Park. But the park — 415 000 ha of protected tropical heath forest and peat forest — is surrounded by oil-palm plantations. These orangutans are refugees from forests cleared to make way for the plantations. Much as people like the creatures, and devotedly as conservationists work, the park is not enough to stem their remorseless decline. There is too much money in palm oil, as well as timber, coal, gold, zircon and the forest’s other vegetable and mineral riches.
Yet prospects for the orangutans have recently looked up. Climate-change fears have drawn attention to the work forests do to sustain not just wildlife but the planet itself. The outlines of a scheme under which developing countries would be paid not to cut down trees has been agreed. Indonesia, for example, chafes at its reputation as the world’s third-biggest emitter of carbon (a ranking it disputes). It has promised to cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2020 or, if promised foreign cash actually materializes, by 41 percent. It will achieve this in large measure by reducing deforestation.
However, turning the scheme — known as REDD — into actual conservation is not proving easy, either in Indonesia as a whole or in Tanjung Puting in particular. Next to the park is a stretch of peat-swamp forest, mostly degraded but rich in carbon. A Hong Kong firm called infiniteEARTH has earmarked this for a REDD project called Rimba Raya (“infinite forest”). Biruté Galdikas, a renowned primatologist who has been studying orangutans in Tanjung Puting since 1971, is “thrilled” by the idea. Rescued orangutans, of whom more than 300 are in her care centre in the park, could be freed without danger to the wild population.
Rimba Raya seems to offer many other benefits. Trees would be replanted or conserved (Borneo’s forest has more tree species/ha than anywhere else); the forest would regenerate; some 10 000 people would benefit from “community development” projects such as one to increase fishing yields. And the earth would be spared a huge amount of emitted carbon: by one calculation, as much as 75m tonnes over the next 30 years. The project’s investors, including Gazprom, a Russian energy giant that has paid in advance for some carbon credits, think it will be lucrative. And it has passed most of a tough certification process.
Yet Ms Galdikas is worried that the project may never happen. Three years on, the final land-use decree has yet to appear. The problem is one that will dog REDD. To win certification, Rimba Raya has to show that the forest is under genuine threat: no point in giving carbon credits for conserving trees and peatland that were not in danger anyway. In Rimba Raya’s case, the threat is real enough. The area is subject to various overlapping concessions, including preliminary licences for conversion to palm-oil plantations. The holders of those licences, who have already invested in the concessions, are naturally reluctant to give them up.
According to those following the project, this is a political battle in which the forces on the other side have considerable muscle. It also reflects a broader struggle over REDD in Indonesia being fought at the national level. Last May Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, announced a two-year moratorium on commercial deforestation starting on 1 January this year. In return, Norway committed US$1 billion for REDD payments.
By coincidence, Central Kalimantan has been picked as the pilot province for the national REDD scheme — against fierce competition from other places scenting the cash on offer. Norway has already disbursed US$30m.
Both the Norwegians and Mr. Kunturo, head of Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s “delivery unit”, in charge of implementing REDD, play down the importance of the delay in issuing the decree, and indeed of the moratorium itself. They argue that it matters most as a means to an end: a radical overhaul of Indonesia’s land-use and forest-management systems. These have long been riddled with corruption.
Much hope is invested in Mr Kuntoro himself, perhaps Indonesia’s most respected civil servant. But success will depend on the political will of the president. Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister in Charge of the Environment and Development, points to the encouraging example of Brazil, which has cut deforestation rates by 70 percent in five years. Indonesia, he concedes, “is harder”. Ms Galdikas knows what he means. “They all talk a wonderful talk,” she says, “but the forest keeps getting destroyed.”
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  • Italy: Unusual and local beers

Source: Wall Street Journal, 21 May 2011

The latest Italian craft beers are inspired by local ingredients and demand the same attention generally reserved for quality wine.
            In Italy, grapevines cast long shadows. But brewers embrace them, infusing their beer with the complex flavours of local bounty like chestnuts, thyme as well as grapes, of course.
Plus, while a ginseng ale would never fly in, say, Germany, Italian breweries can play freely. "We do not have a heavy beer culture on our shoulders, so we are free to experiment," says Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo, one of only about 280 breweries in the country. New-wave Italian restaurants love the beer because it is typically lighter and less sweet than many high-end American brews.
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  • Liberia: By barcoding trees, country looks to save its rainforests

Source: Yale Environment News 360, 23 May 2011

Nearly two-thirds of West Africa’s remaining rainforests are in the small but troubled nation of Liberia. That is a small miracle. A decade ago, Liberia’s forests were being stripped bare by warlords to fund a vicious 14-year civil war that left 150 000 dead. In 2003, the UN belatedly imposed an embargo on Liberian “logs of war.” Revenues crashed and, coincidentally or not, the war swiftly came to an end.
Now the elected government of Harvard-trained President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed a deal with the EU to place timber sales on a permanently legal footing. The deal, agreed to this month, makes use of a unique national timber-tracking system that requires every legally harvestable tree and every cut log to carry a barcode that will enable it to be tracked from its origin to its final destination.
But will it tame illegal loggers? Can Liberia, a poverty-stricken country that relies heavily on the sale of its natural resources, police even such a seemingly foolproof system? If so, could Liberia, as environment groups such as Conservation International suggest, be on the verge of creating a green economic model for the rest of the continent? Or will putting the country’s natural resources back on sale plunge Liberia back into conflict?
The EU is Liberia’s largest market for timber. Starting in early 2013, the EU will require all companies importing timber to demonstrate that it has been legally harvested. The deal with Liberia will allow the new timber concession holders put in place by Sirleaf to comply with these new regulations. This is critical for a country desperate to boost timber exports. But it is also a potential threat to Liberia’s forests, which cover more than four million ha, 45 percent of the country. They are home to the world’s only known viable population of pygmy hippos, as well as such indigenous wildlife as the Liberian mongoose, the Diana monkey, and the small antelope known as Jentink’s duiker, which is the rarest duiker in the world.
Can something as simple as barcoding enable Liberia to resume its timber trade while still protecting its forests? The system’s inventors at the British company Helveta call it “the world’s most advanced nationwide verification system for wood products.” Initially funded by USAID, the scheme has covered all the country’s commercial logged forests for the past two years.
Every tree in a forest with a logging concession must be tagged with a unique barcode. When that tree is cut, the action is recorded and new tags are attached to each log. Every log that turns up at a port has to be traceable back to a stump in a forest. It is as simple and as foolproof as checking out at the supermarket, says Ivan Muir, the local boss of SGS, the Swiss specialists in forest certification systems who are in charge of making it happen. Muir also issues export permits for the timber — which mostly gets turned into furniture and panelling — and monitors royalty payments to the government.
The two main problems with the system, he says, are foresters misreading the barcodes, causing confusion on the database, and ignorance about how fast the trees grow. “We do not know what the true sustainable harvesting rates are and how much logging we should allow,” he admits. And it remains to be seen whether the system will prove robust enough to defeat would-be forest plunderers in a country which recently discovered that a third of U.S. food aid disappeared after being routinely allocated to towns that did not exist.
But perhaps traceability is not the real issue. Maybe it is politics — the politics of who owns the country’s natural resources. Many in Liberia say that such technocratic initiatives are bound to fail because the country is suffering from an extreme form of the phenomenon known as the “resource curse,” where natural riches bring strife and poverty rather than wealth and stability.
In any case, after 14 years of chaos and civil war, Liberia is open for business again. International investors are returning, in pursuit of the resources that are the nation’s only real source of wealth. It may look like a renewed haemorrhaging of the country’s resources, but some environmentalists believe the rebirth of Liberia gives them a chance. With its pioneering timber barcodes at the fore, they say, Liberia could become the poster child for a new green economy in Africa. Most optimistic is Conservation International (CI). “Liberia has an opportunity to show the world how it is done,” says Frank Hawkins, who heads CI’s African operation. “They start from a fresh place.”
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  • Myanmar: Sneezing in the rain

Source: IUCN, 11 April 2011

It may be more common these days to hear doom and gloom stories of biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, but exciting discoveries of new species do happen and give heart to conservationists the world over.
While discoveries of new invertebrate or fish species may be relatively frequent, it is not often that a new species of primate is discovered. Ngwe Lwin, a vigilant young Burmese conservationist, was lucky enough to come across a new species of snub-nosed monkey in the Himalayan Mountains of Myanmar whilst taking part in primate surveys in early 2010. Hunters reported seeing a monkey that had prominent lips and wide, upturned nostrils — features unlike those of any snub-nosed species previously described. Because of its upturned nose, this new Mae Hka snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), has the endearing trait of sneezing when it rains!
Interviewing hunters, Ngwe believes that the species is limited to forests of the Maw River area, approximately 270 km², with an estimated population of 260-330 individuals, low enough to be classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.
The surveys were being carried out by local NGO the Myanmar Biodiversity and Conservation Association (BANCA), the in-country partner of IUCN Member Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and an international team of primatologists from FFI and the People, Resources and Conservation Foundation.
Sadly, this latest addition to the snub-nosed monkey family is already threatened. Logging roads built by Chinese companies intersect the area and a timber company is building two logging roads close to the species’ habitat.
The Mae Hka watershed is also subject to one of Asia’s largest hydropower development schemes implemented by the China Power Investment Corporation (CPI). While the snub-nosed monkey range is not directly affected by flooding, the construction of roads will allow all-year access to the mountains.
Early this year, Ngwe documented increased hunting because of the influx of Chinese construction workers and demand for wildlife products. He is now approaching the authorities in Myanmar and China to improve the enforcement of national wildlife protection laws and CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Nevertheless, there is a potential win-win solution for conservation. Sedimentation caused by logging would reduce the lifespan of the dams and reduce economic revenues from hydroelectric power generation. According to Ngwe, the challenge is to convince the Chinese government to phase out logging, and collaborate with CPI to protect the watershed and create a new protected area through trans-boundary collaboration between China and Myanmar.
Ngwe has reported the first success in establishing voluntary hunting restrictions. “After intensive conservation awareness work and meetings, hunters in eight villages agreed to stop shooting the snub-nosed monkey. Myanmar’s people need to increase their knowledge of the environment and participate in conservation activities,” he says.
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  • Namibia: Pioneering conservancies

Source: The Ecologist, 12 May 2011

From the endless red dunes of the south to the teeming game reserves of Damaraland, Namibia is home to some of the world’s most important eco-systems.
Yet poaching in the 1980s saw Namibia’s elephant and black rhino populations hunted almost to extinction, saved only by the likes of the WWF along with far-sighted politicians and local people. A solution was duly found. That solution is the conservancy.
Currently unique to Namibia (although the system is being trialled in Zambia), the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), or conservancy programme, adopted by the Namibian government with the help of local safari companies, has seen startling results. Since 1990, the black rhino population has tripled in size, making it the largest in the world according the IRDNC, the Namibian government’s main conservation body. Taken together, conservancy areas and government reserves now make up a whopping 36 percent of Namibian territory including 100 percent of the coastline, the entirety of the Namib Desert and a big chunk of the Kalahari.
And it does not end there. According to the Predator Conservation Trust, an NGO dedicated to the preservation of the world's big cats, the lion population of the Namib witnessed an annual increase of 30 percent during the first half of the last decade. The springbok population too has seen astonishing growth with the IRDNC figures pointing to well over 70 000 today, up from a paltry 2000 in the early 80s. So what is the driving force behind these incredible results? The answer is people power.
Making use of the classic poacher-turned-gamekeeper concept, safari companies and local people have clubbed together to give Namibians a financial incentive to preserve their unique eco-systems. The conservancy system means taking locally owned land such as Damaraland’s Torra Conservancy and turning it into an ecotourism venture, run by safari operators but controlled by local people who own both lodges and land.
“Communities are afforded the dignity of rising out of ultra-poverty upon their ancestral land,” says Wilderness Safaris’ Rob Moffatt. “Governments revel in unexpected returns from protected areas, helping to justify their commitments to biodiversity conservation and Wilderness Safaris alone creates thousands of jobs and livelihoods. Lives are changed and everybody benefits. The reason that the Namibian model [of conservation] has been so successful is because of community buy-in,” says Drew McVey, African Species Officer at WWF UK. “Communities see rhinos and other game as imperative for the success of tourism which provides jobs. One of the best things about it is that the wildlife itself, and the benefits it brings, belong directly to the people.” And what wildlife it is.
Damaraland, home of the Torra Conservancy and the Damaraland Camp, supports animals like the black rhino, desert-adapted elephants, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and a plethora of antelope species including gemsbok, springbok, kudu and oryx. Some are unique to the area, many are endangered and most are rare.
People from the nearby village, the owners of the camp, are also involved in green projects such as an Environment Club to teach children about the importance of conserving their panoramic surroundings, and Wilderness-led projects such as Children in the Wilderness; an initiative that brings disadvantaged Namibian children to the camps to learn about their natural heritage.
Further south, the story is repeated at Wilderness’ Sossuvlei camps, Little Kulala and Kulala Wilderness Camp. Although situated in a government reserve rather than a conservancy, once again, the input of locals is what’s making the difference; in this case for the breathtaking ruby dunes of the Namib desert. “[Projects like these] can help place a value on conservation,” says Justin Francis, co-founder of award-winning eco-travel website, “This has a knock on effect within the local community too. When done well, such projects working alongside local people provide an opportunity for locals to earn an income and help facilitate a respect for the land and the wildlife connected with that land.”
Namibia’s conservancy scheme is supported by WWF-UK, which is currently working on programmes to reintroduce the black rhino to areas that saw populations wiped out by poaching in the 1980s. Safari operators, including Wilderness, are working with the WWF and local conservancies to help facilitate reintroduction and educate communities.
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  • UK: Foraging for ingredients

Source: The Telegraph (UK), 29 April 2011

Daniel Clifford might be a star chef, but he is the first to admit that he is no forage expert. Surveying the lush grass expanse of Midsummer Common in Cambridge (England, UK) he sighs: “There are probably thousands of things we could gather out here.”
Without an expert to hold your hand, a hedgerow or a bank is a bewildering mass of unfamiliar leaves and herbs. Fraught with risk, too. That could be cow parsley, the stems of which can be steamed and served with butter — or it could be poisonous hemlock.
Clifford’s approach is “pick what you know”.
Clifford gets busy in a frothy patch of chickweed, whose delicate fronds and minute white flowers will decorate a smoked-eel salad in his restaurant. “It has got a grassy flavour which freshens anything up,” he explains. “Mind you, just the top couple of inches is all we need,” he adds ruefully, surveying the bowlfuls of straggling stalks.
Cooking with wild leaves and berries, or to put it another way, eating weeds, has never been cooler. Restaurant menus are littered with fairy-tale names like “melilot”, a sweet hay and vanilla flavoured herb, and “seabuckthorn”, a sharp yellow berry.
There is an irony that what was once subsistence food has become the last word in chic, with prices to match. It is good eating, too, though. The pungent flavours of uncultivated plants add real punch to dishes, although they need to be used sparingly, and tempered with milder ingredients. And having evolved to withstand the vagaries of the British climate, rather than being cosseted in polytunnels and greenhouse, the larger leaves of wild plants tend to coarseness. Stick to the tender tops and young shoots instead.
Clifford heads off to a bed of dead nettles, no, not deceased stingers but a close relative of mint, and snips off the flowering heads. They can be used in a salad, unlike stinging nettles, which need to be picked before they flower and then cooked to kill their stings.
Heading towards the river, Clifford pounces on some three-cornered leeks, with their distinctive triangular stem and narrow, daffodil-like leaves. He uses these interchangeably with the more common wild garlic, or ransoms, which has broad, dark leaves similar to lily-of-the-valley and white star-shaped flowers, which look enchanting when added to salads. He stops to pick the tender central leaves of dandelion plants to add to the almost-full bowls. “Bitter, like chicory,” Clifford explains, “so just use a few in a salad.”
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  • UK: Support for “Size of Wales” rainforest campaign

Source: BBC Wales, 22 May 2011

The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) has added its support to a project to sustain an area of African tropical forest the size of Wales. The "Size of Wales" scheme encourages people to do conservation work and make donations towards their running.
The announcement comes as the UN celebrates its International Day of Biodiversity.
The CCW said the campaign reflected its own commitment to tackling climate change. The Welsh scheme is being funded by The Waterloo Foundation, an independent foundation based in Cardiff, the capital. It donates grants to organizations in the UK and worldwide, and runs a forests programme targeted at avoiding deforestation in tropical areas in some of the world's poorest countries.
Roger Thomas, CCW Chief Executive said: "Whilst CCW's day to day focus is on conserving and enhancing the quality of Wales' natural environment, supporting the Size of Wales campaign reflects our commitment to taking our global responsibility seriously.
"In the face of climate change, it is more important than ever that we share expertise, knowledge and experience with other conservation projects around the world — offering a more joined-up approach for a truly sustainable future."
CCW is offering its own expertise to assess the community based projects and has pledged to promote those projects to potential funders.
Staff at the Welsh Government sponsored body will be encouraged to adopt a Size of Wales project and muster funds for it via fundraising.
Hannah Scrase, project manager of Size of Wales, said: "We are delighted to have CCW on board. "Many of our forest projects are located in internationally renowned biodiversity hotspots within Africa. We look forward to supporting the staff at CCW raise funds for a forest project of their choice, and hope both will develop a long lasting relationship."
Size of Wales projects are already being delivered by established UK charities. In most cases, they work in partnership with African non-profit organizations, providing technical support, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Three community organizations — in Pontypridd, Lampeter in Ceredigion, and Llandrindod Wells in Powys — are examples of groups working in Kenya and Uganda to help combat climate change.
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  • USA: American chestnut's revival is taking root in mid-east

Source: (USA), 23 May 2011

This time of year a century ago, Kentucky ridges would have looked almost snowy with blooms from the American chestnut tree. It is a sight local volunteers want future generations to see again.
American chestnuts — massive hardwoods highly prized for their timber, tannin and nuts — were all but lost a half-century ago to an Asian blight that killed four billion of them, decimating 25 percent of the Eastern U.S. tree canopy.
But years of efforts to restore the American chestnut are finally taking root across the country — and in the Louisville area (Kentucky, mid-east United States). Nuts from a major research farm in Virginia that were bred over 28 years to be blight resistant were planted at public and private sites in the Louisville area this year.
Also, members of the Kentucky chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation are breeding offspring of the state's 20 surviving trees for blight resistance and research. An orchard in Oldham County is expected to bear nuts this fall for the first time.
The ultimate goal is to restore the American chestnut to the Eastern forest, where it was once the dominant hardwood, so it can again provide an abundance of high-quality food for wildlife and strong, rot-resistant timber for building needs, said Bryan Burhans, President and CEO of the American Chestnut Foundation.
“We want to bring back an iconic tree species that was so much a part of history, culture and heritage,” he said. “There was no other tree that could replace the niche that it occupied.”
Louisville-area volunteers who are planting and growing American chestnuts say their work will help the public learn about the tree.
“I am anxious to see them restored to the 16298045033570646277537countryside,” said George Gibbs, a retired forester who contributed US$250 000 to Louisville's 21st Century Parks for a chestnut restoration program. “I may not live that long, but I would like to see it started.”
Once called the “redwood of the east,” American chestnuts grew over 200 million acres, from Maine to Mississippi, most prolifically in the Appalachian Mountains.
They averaged five ft in diameter, towered more than 100 ft tall and could live up to 400 years. Foresters called the American chestnut a “cradle to grave” species, because its strong, light wood was used for everything from cribs to caskets.
Each tree produced bushels of small, nutritious nuts that fed wildlife and livestock. Rural people harvested the nuts in the fall and sold them to urban markets for cooking and roasting.
“The chestnut was a huge part of the ecosystem,” said Michael Gaige, natural areas manager for 21st Century Parks.
The blight that killed them — a fungus dispersed via spores in the air, rain or animals — was imported on Asian chestnut trees and discovered in New York in 1904. It travelled about 50 miles a year and arrived in Kentucky by 1930, said Dr. Anne Myers Bobigian of Louisville, a retired physician and treasurer of the American Chestnut Foundation's Kentucky chapter.
“Shortly thereafter everything was dead,” she said.
Since 1983, the American Chestnut Foundation, which has a 150-acre research farm in Meadowview, Virginia, has been selectively breeding trees that have the Asian chestnuts' blight resistance, but retain the American chestnuts' desirable characteristics, like its timber and nuts.
It has taken six generations of intercrosses and backcrosses to create a tree that is potentially 94 percent American and blight resistant.
Since 2001, volunteers have planted 10 breeding orchards across the state from the progeny of Kentucky's 20 surviving pure American chestnut trees and the blight-resistant variety from the Virginia research farm. These orchards are meant to perpetuate the state's genetic stock and provide valuable research information.
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  • Asia’s real contribution to the global health of forests

Source: RECOFTC, 10 May 2011

A new report highlights forest planting in Asia, but there is a more important movement growing in the region. As the United Nations’ International Year of Forests kicked off this spring, there was good news from Asia. New planting in China, India, Vietnam and other countries in the region is helping to slow down the rate of forest loss worldwide, according to the 2011 State of the World’s Forests report from FAO.
Many environmental lobby groups are unhappy that the FAO report includes plantations at all, considering them undeserving of the title “forests” because of their limited social and environmental value when compared to the natural kind. Recognizing these concerns, FAO’s Eduardo Rojas-Briales noted at the report’s launch that the tree-planting spree in Asia over the last decade did not happen at the expense of natural forest.
However, while it may be true that plantations have not, in most cases, physically replaced older, natural trees, the emphasis on their expanding coverage still masks the fact that in Asia, as elsewhere, natural forest area continues to shrink.
Natural forests are complex, dynamic systems that bear little relation to the vast monocultures of planted trees that drape the hills of Central Vietnam and Inner Mongolia. They deliver quite different benefits. In terms of climate regulation, plantations act as “carbon sinks,” absorbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Mature natural forests, on the other hand, serve as “carbon reservoirs” — maintaining them prevents the release of the carbon that they have accumulated over the centuries.
Plantations can improve local air quality and soften the impact of extreme weather. Natural forests perform these environmental services as well, but they also hold a vast store of biological and ecosystem diversity. Plantations are easier to design and manage for regular income, which may directly accrue to local people only if their title to land (and the trees on it) is secure. Natural forests, however, bring a wealth of services essential to the livelihoods of 450 million indigenous and forest-dependent people in the Asia-Pacific region alone.
So, while rolling out plantation forests is all very well, we cannot claim to respond to the call of the Year of Forests unless we focus on what is left of our natural heritage. There is a growing consensus that to do so, we need to open much of the forest up, rather than fence it off, so that it can be managed and valued for the services it provides. This means giving the people who depend on forests for their everyday needs a greater say in their management.
A recent report by Rights and Resources Initiative shows that forest dwellers and local people have consistently done a better job of managing and protecting forests than the centralized management structures that most governments favour. As Rights and Resources’ Andy White points out, this is not a sudden revelation. Many countries signed global commitments to devolve more control of forests to local people more than 30 years ago but have woefully failed to deliver on their promises. There are many good examples from Latin America that show how successful forest management can be achieved with local communities in the lead. But in the past two decades, many countries in Asia have been particularly innovative in this area.
Nepal’s community forestry program, in which self-identified groups of local forest dwellers assume full management responsibility over the forests that they have traditionally used, is a fine example to other countries in the region and beyond. The system is underpinned by a simply-crafted law based on security of rights to use the forest rather than land tenure. In less than 20 years, about one-third of all forest land has come under local control in small, easily-managed units, and the Department of Forests has changed from security force (keeping local people out of the forest) to a service provider (supporting local forest managers with advice and training). In areas right across the country, degradation of natural forest has not only stopped, but has been reversed.
Cambodia’s experience is another promising example. In essence, successful examples of people-centred forest management tend to entail a wholesale paradigm shift in a government’s approach to forest policy. This does not often happen spontaneously.
Asia also holds cautionary tales. The Philippines was one of the first countries in the region to enact legislation giving local communities and indigenous peoples the rights to own and manage forest areas, but these rights became hostage to the whims of subsequent governments. This left local people without confidence in the value of the legislation or the ability to turn the rights into tangible benefits.
Across the region, there is a precarious balance between the incentives to hand resources back to the people, and the instincts of governments to centralize and regulate forest use and management. As the Philippines demonstrates, progress is reversible. Even in Nepal, there is pressure to move away from community management and demarcate new protected areas as a simpler route to protection, removing at a stroke the value of these forests as sources of local livelihoods.
The UN has declared that 2011 is the year for “Celebrating Forests for People.” To translate this celebration into action, we can still look to Asia for lessons.
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  • Forests and food security: What we know and need to know

Source: Frances Seymour, CIFOR Director General, 20 April 2011

The importance of forest-based emissions as a driver of climate change is one of the most indirect and hard-to-prove causal pathways linking forests and food security; most linkages between forests and food security are more direct and more easily grounded in empirical research.
We know, for example, that forests and trees make significant direct contributions to the nutrition of poor households. A 2008 review of the literature on bushmeat — conducted by CIFOR and the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat — affirmed that rural communities in Central Africa obtained a critical portion of protein and fat in their diets through hunting wildlife from in and around forests. The five to six million tonnes of bushmeat eaten yearly in the Congo Basin is roughly equal to the total amount of beef produced annually in Brazil — without the accompanying need to clear huge swathes of forest for cattle. Globally, forested watersheds, wetlands and mangrove ecosystems support the freshwater and coastal fisheries on which many communities depend. And that is in addition to the many fruits, nuts, grubs, mushrooms, honey and other edibles produced by forests and trees.
Equally important, forests provide an essential source of cash income to purchase food, especially during poor harvests. Results from CIFOR’s Poverty and Environment Network project — which has recently published a database of income survey results from some 6000 households — confirms that families living in and around forests derive on average between one-fifth and one-fourth of their income from forest-based sources.
But my sense is that the most under-appreciated — and perhaps most under-researched — linkages between forests and food security are the roles that forest-based ecosystem services play in underpinning sustainable agricultural production. Forests regulate hydrological services including the quantity, quality, and timing of water available for irrigation. Forest-based bats and bees pollinate crops. Forests mitigate impacts of climate change and extreme weather events at the landscape scale.
The nature and significance of many of these linkages remain contested; one of the most controversial studies ever published by CIFOR was the 2005 report in collaboration with FAO that questioned the linkage between forest cover and major floods. Tantalizing findings on the impact of native pollination services on the size, quality and/or stability of harvests for 70 percent of global crops suggest the potential significance of forests on agriculture at the farm level. Projections of the potentially devastating consequences of reduced rainfall on Brazil’s booming agricultural sector due to deforestation in the Amazon are sufficient to focus the attention of national policy makers with or without REDD+ revenues.
Reports produced by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative (TEEB) are only the most recent in a series of attempts to assign price tags to ecosystem services, including those provided by forests.
Reasonable people can disagree over the relative priority of further empirical valuation studies versus research on shaping institutions to govern payments for such services and allowing markets to determine prices.  And the potential of REDD+ payments to improve climate security, the focus of much current forestry research attention, is certainly relevant to this challenge. Faced with rising food prices, political instability and the impending need to feed an estimated 3 billion more people by 2050, we also urgently need to accelerate the complementary research agenda on the relationship between forests and food security.
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  • Forests crucial in developing green economy: UNEP

Source: Xinhua (China), 22 May 2011

The livelihoods of over 1.6 billion people and millions of animals depend on forests, but sadly they are not given the necessary care, said Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). "From whatever angle you look at it, forests are central towards achieving a low carbon, resource efficient green economy in the 21st century," Nuttall told Xinhua ahead of the World Biodiversity Day on 22 May.
He added that the UN has designated 2011 as International Year of Forests to create awareness and help protect forests. Nuttall said biodiversity is the building blocks of ecosystems, from forests to coral reefs.
The recent work of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) estimates that as much as $US4.5 trillion are lost annually because of degradation and damage of natural assets, a great deal of which is linked with forests.
"This kind of assessment is meant to focus minds of governments globally to counter the 13 million ha of forests being lost annually world-wide," he said. Nuttall added that far from being a luxury, nature and its biodiversity is the wealth of poor nations. In some developing countries, it accounts for between 80 and 90 percent of GDP. "The work of TEEB is emphasizing how nature, biodiversity and forests are also central to many important economic sectors in Africa including tourism, which relies in many ways on healthy and abundant populations of wildlife and agriculture."
These are natural assets which, because of over-exploitation in many developed economies are in short supply," he said. Investing and re-investing in forest assets and sustainably managing them is one of the best investments developing countries can make, argued Nuttall.
More importantly, for developing countries and for developed ones, Nuttall said it is becoming clearer that advancing REDD under the UN Climate Convention is in the interests of both developed and developing world. "One path developed countries should take to reduce industrial emissions is by paying developing countries for the carbon storage services their forests are providing," he said.
The spokesperson stressed that the past century was about industrial revolution, the 21st century is a biological era.
One thing that shows this, he said, is that the genetics of many species hold clues to new kinds of medicines and new kinds of products which include biologically-based computers. The new products, he added, have solved for instance, energy challenges facing humanity. "Just look at how termite mounds act to air condition the nest or polar bears survive hibernation without kidney failure or how the Namib beetle survives in the desert by capturing droplets of water from fogs using specially-coated wings," he said.
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  • Green economy needs respect for Indigenous Rights

Source: IPS, 21 May 2011

Nations must pay more than lip service to the idea of indigenous rights if they hope to seriously address problems like species loss and climate change, say delegates at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a UN body created to safeguard the rights of the world's 370 million indigenous people.
"They present very good studies and information, but not for us," said Marcos Terena, a prominent leader of the Brazil's indigenous people, about the officials running U.N. projects on environment and development across the world.
"They talk to Sao Paulo, New York, and the World Bank, not us," he told IPS at the 10th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.
Reflecting upon how the UN and its member states are tackling indigenous issues, he added: "Their ideas are all about how much they want from the rivers and how much they want from the air. For us," said Terena, "that has no monetary value. All the people must have the right to water and the air."
In his view, the transition to a so-called "green economy" will not work as long as humanity does not respect the rights of Mother Earth. "The meanings of green economy are different to us than that which comes from the white man," he said.
Several other delegates to the forum, which concludes 27 May, expressed similar views.
Amongst them, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who led the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues for five years, noted that most governments still lacked the political will to enforce indigenous people's rights. "They are still resisting the indigenous movements," she told IPS. "But they should understand it is in their own self-interest to support native peoples' rights." In her opinion, "it is time for the former colonial powers to learn from the indigenous people because they live in closeness with nature and abide by the laws of nature."
Indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge has been widely acknowledged as vital to conservation and efforts to fight climate change. "Nature conservation is at the heart of the cultures and values of traditional societies," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognises the significance of traditional knowledge and calls for actions to promote it.
But are the states that have signed on to the treaties on climate change and biodiversity taking measures to promote indigenous knowledge? The answer from artists, healers, and musicians from different parts of the world who participated in the Forum is a resounding, 'No.'
UN researchers note that one-third of the world's 370 million indigenous people are condemned to live in poverty in as many as 70 countries around the world. World Bank estimates put their share of global poverty at 60 percent.  
In reflecting upon the UN efforts to enhance the understanding between indigenous communities and the outside world to fight climate change and reverse the loss of biological diversity, Terena said his people did not think it was working in a meaningful way.
"I hope the UN will understand and listen to the indigenous people, and not only produce papers," he said about the UNEP-led session at the forum meeting. "The paper is no good. It is bureaucracy. It is no good for the indigenous men, women and children. I hope the UN in the future would understand the voice of Mother Earth."
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  • Indexing for Life: The “i4Life” project

Source: IUCN Species E-Bulletin, April 2011

Indexing for Life (i4Life) is a European e-Infrastructure project, co-funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The project was launched at the University of Reading (UK) on 1 November 2010. The i4Life is a continuation and expansion of currently existing 4D4Life project.
The i4Life project will establish a virtual research community to enable the global communities to engage in a common programme enumerating the extent of life on earth. This will include both scientific and conceptual contributions. It builds on the common need of each organization to access a list of the entire set of organisms on Earth
Coordinated by the University of Reading, the i4Life project has one principal goal — to provide tools for the comparison and harmonization of the various species catalogues used by six global biodiversity programmes. The Catalogue of Life will act as a yardstick by establishing a virtual research community that will interlink and harmonize the taxonomic catalogues presently used by each of the global partners.
Partners to this project are the six major global programmes exploring the full extent of life on earth and include the IUCN Red List along with GBIF for distribution modelling, the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) project and the Barcode of Life Initiatives (CBOL and ECBOL) for molecular diversity, the Encyclopaedia of Life with its life desks and the Species 2000 Catalogue of Life taxonomic framework.
This project sits centrally in several areas: societal concerns for global biodiversity and the functionality of portals showing species diversity, and the provision of an electronic catalogue of organisms suitable for use in biodiversity informatics and the virtual laboratory for modelling that global biodiversity. The project addresses directly the ability of scientists to comprehend the scale of species diversity and to enumerate its components.
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  • New map lets you see forest for the trees

Source:, 24 April 2011

Having trouble seeing the forest for the trees? A newly released United States map might be able to help. The map, created by Woods Hole Research Centre (WHRC) scientists, is the most precise representation yet of the height and coverage of U.S. forests and woodlands. The data will provide a baseline for understanding both forest resources and carbon flux, study leader Josef Kellndorfer of WHRC said in a statement.
"This dataset will be useful to foresters, wildlife ecologists, resource managers and scientists alike," Kellndorfer said.
Forests store carbon in living vegetation, dead wood and leaf litter. Understanding this carbon storage is important for understanding how carbon cycles in and out of the atmosphere, and thus refining predictions about climate change. Understanding forest cover can also help researchers conserve species, understand wildfire risk and manage timber production, said WHRC study researcher Wayne Walker.
"Maps of key forest attributes like canopy height and carbon stock have not existed for the U.S. at this level of spatial detail," Walker said in a statement.
The high-resolution map was pieced together using 2000-2001 data from NASA satellites and ground-based forest surveys. The full dataset, available at, contains information on the height of forests, the amount of vegetation above ground and the amount of carbon stored in that biomass. The 2000 baseline should help researchers monitor.
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  • Non-Wood News No. 22

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

FAO's NWFP programme has just published the latest issue of Non-Wood News (no. 22), our biannual bulletin covering all aspects of NWFP. Special Features in this issue cover “NWFPs in Asia” and “Cork”. 
Copies 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: [email protected]. This issue will also shortly be available from our NWFP home page:




  • Ruralia Visiting Scholars Programme, Finland

From: Anne Matilainen, University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute

The Ruralia Institute Visiting Scholars Programme is a new opportunity for experienced scholars in the field of multidisciplinary rural research to visit the Ruralia Institute for a period of one to three months, with the support of a monthly grant of €2300 during the academic year 2011-2012.
Ruralia Institute has two units; one is located in Seinäjoki, Western Finland, and the other in Mikkeli, Eastern Finland. The applicant of the Scholarship is free to choose either the Seinäjoki or Mikkeli unit as her host according to her research interests. The research stay can also be divided between the units.
Ruralia Visiting Scholars can conduct research and interact with the researchers of Ruralia Institute and the academic community of University of Helsinki.
During the academic year 2011-2012, Ruralia Institute will host 4-5 Visiting Scholars working on e.g. rural development and governance, sustainable food chains and rural entrepreneurship including co-operative entrepreneurship and rural innovation systems.
The call for Ruralia Visiting Scholars Programme will be open from 2 May until 8 June 2011. The selection of Visiting Scholars will conclude by 30 June 2011. The names of the Ruralia Visiting Scholars will be published on the website of the institute by 4 July 2011.
The Scholarship: (1) Is applicable to scholars holding a PhD degree in a field relevant to the research profile of Ruralia Institute residing outside of Finland. (2)The research stay has to be made between September 2011 and June 2012. (3) During the research stay, Visiting Scholars take part in the activities of the research community of the Ruralia Institute. (4) Visiting Scholars are expected to give a presentation about their research in the Ruralia Institute and if possible to participate in the publishing activities and seminars of the Ruralia Institute
Applications are to be sent electronically via email by 8 June 2011 for the period of September 2011– June 2012 The application must be written in English.
For more information, please contact:
Aapo Jumppanen or Anne Matilainen:
Helsingin yliopisto
Ruralia Instituutti
Seinäjoen yksikkö
University of Helsinki,
Ruralia Institute, Seinäjoki unit
Tel. +358 50 415 1152
Fax. +358 (0)6 421 3301
E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]




Emerging Issues in Uncertainty and Ethical Consumption Research
Glasgow, Scotland
13 June 2011
A workshop is being held at the University of Glasgow, with the support by the British Academy, as a forum for leading academics to examine the latest research in the area of ethical consumption.  Research on consumers’ perceptions of wild products, based on data gathered at the Shop the Wild Markets and Festivals held at Royal Roads University in 2008 and 2009, will be presented.
For more information about the conference, please contact:
The Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology
Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Rd. Victoria, V9B 5Y2
British Columbia, Canada
E-mail: [email protected]
University of Glasgow website



17th Organic World Congress: Workshop on Organic Agriculture (OA) for Development
South Korea
28 September 2011
At the upcoming 17th Organic World Congress, there will be a workshop on "OA for Development: What Works". The workshop will focus on some specific aspects of OA in development projects and initiatives and will provide a space for exchanging experiences and ideas among the project “owners”. The goal is to establish common ground and to start drafting guidelines for future initiatives focused on organic agriculture.
During the workshop an international working group/network for the promotion and development of international cooperation projects based on OA will be launched.
The selection process of the initiatives will try to identify examples of best practices that could provide inputs and ideas for future development. The selected initiatives will be presented at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) World Congress during the workshop and in a dedicated poster exhibition. The selected initiatives will also be included in a database that will be available at
The initiatives should cover one or more of the following topics: (1) Organic and Fair Trade Certification; (2) Access to Markets and Food Security; (3) Biodiversity and Climate Change; (4) Income generation and diversification; (5) Knowledge sharing, awareness and cooperation; (6) Policy.
The call for participation in the workshop with a project presentation is open to the organic movement and to all other stakeholders engaged in international cooperation projects and initiatives: governmental institutions (national and regional government agencies, etc.), NGOs, international/intergovernmental agencies, local stakeholders’ organizations (e.g. producers associations; consumers associations; etc.).
For more information, please contact:
Anna Wissmann
Capacity Building Coordinator
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
Charles-de-Gaulle Strasse 5
53113 Bonn Germany
Tel +49 228 92650 10
Fax +49 228 92650 99
Email: [email protected]



REMINDER: International Conference on the Art and Joy of Wood
Bangalore, India
19-22 October 2011
In collaboration with the Government of India, FAO will be holding an international conference about wood products and sustainable development. The overall aim of the conference will be to examine how the production and use of wood products can contribute to sustainable development and how greater demands for sustainability might present new opportunities for development of the wood products sector.
Within this general direction, three themes for the conference are proposed: (1) emerging trends in economies and lifestyles: what are the main trends affecting wood use and how can these be utilised to strengthen the forest products sector?; (2) stories portraying the winds of change: case studies showing how some wood producers and users have already developed strategies or innovated to build successful enterprises based on changing consumer demands and needs; (3) wooden paths to a sustainable future: how can the linkages between wood use and sustainable development be strengthened and used to promote more and higher-value wood use?
This conference will focus in particular on the social, aesthetic, cultural and traditional aspects of wood use and how the strong linkages between wood and society might be used to support the future development of the sector as a whole.
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Whiteman, Senior Forestry Officer & Illias Animon, Forestry Officer
Forest Products and Industries Division, Forestry Department
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153, Rome, Italy
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] or




40. Request for Information for Publication on Hunger and Environment
From: Gyde Lund, [email protected], 15 May 2011

I am looking for material for a possible publication on Hunger and the Environment. I am especially interested in any papers that involve the use of remote sensing showing the relation between the two. Please contact: [email protected]. Thank you in advance for your kind assistance




41. Community Based Forest Management: The Extent and Potential Scope of Community and Smallholder Forest Management and Enterprises
From: Rights and Resources Initiative, April 2011

Community Based Forest Enterprises (CBFEs) are truly local institutions; this is one of the reasons for the diversity of models on which they are based. It is also a reason why, as a development strategy, they bypass many of the costs and hurdles other development initiatives face in implementation. Created on the ground by local actors, they are well adapted to local social, cultural, and economic conditions and landscapes. Unlike large export- and commodity-driven business models, CBFEs are intrinsically tied to the communities in which they operate. They therefore provide local communities with many vital opportunities: local employment and revenue, sustainable production and trade of required goods and services, and wealth that stays within the community. To maximize the potential of community-based forest management and CBFEs, concerted action is needed on the part of governments to create a level playing field for communities and smallholders in fiscal policy and regulations, access to technical and financial services, and the marketplace. In many developing countries, CBFEs and other SMFEs are often relegated by statutory law and regulation to an informal economy and a “shadow” marketplace in which they are unable to realize their natural competitiveness.
For more information, please see:



42. National NTFP Network Releases 5th Edition of NTFP Newsletter
From: Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology, Royal Roads University, BC, Canada

This bilingual publication profiles news, events, research activities and other NTFP related initiatives taking place across Canada.  The newsletter is produced as a joint effort between the Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology and Natural Resources Canada.
For the latest newsletter as well as past publications, please visit:



43. Other publications of interest
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Awe, F. Osadebe, C. O. Imoagene, E. Fashina, A. Y. Eniola, T. S. Adeleke, E. O. 2011. Assessment of rural households' objectives for gathering non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in Kogi State, Nigeria. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. 5: 2, 143-148. 18 ref.

Baksha, M. W. 2010. Giant honeybee (Apis dorsata), its foraging plants and honey hunting in the Sundarban of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Journal of Forest Science.31: 1/2, 32-42. 29 ref.

Baia Junior, P. C. Guimaraes, D. A. Pendu, Y. Le. 2010. Non-legalized commerce in game meat in the Brazilian Amazon: a case study. Revista de Biologia Tropical. 58: 3, 1079-1088. 24 ref.

Baliga, M. S. Dsouza, J. J. 2011. Amla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn), a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 20: 3, 225-239.

CIFOR. 2011. Focus on forests: Time to act: Annual report 2010. Indonesia: Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Gunjan Guha Rajkumar Venkatadri Lazar Mathew Rangasamy, A. K. 2011. The antioxidant and DNA protection potential of Indian tribal medicinal plants. Turkish Journal of Biology. 35: 2, 233-242. 34 ref.

Hamilton, E., Cocksedge, W. And Davis, E.J. 2011. “Opportunities for NTFP in woodlots.” Non-timber Forest Product Development in British Colombia’s Community Forests and Small Woodlands: Constraints and Potential Solutions. Canada: Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology, Royal Roads University, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations & Federation of BC Woodlot Associations.

Kumar, L. B. B. Patil, B. L. Basavaraja, H. Mundinamani, S. M. Mahajanashetty, S. B.
Megeri, S. N. 2011. Participation behaviour of indigenous people in non-timber forest products extraction in western ghats forests. Karnataka Journal of Agricultural Sciences. 24: 2, 170-172. 16 ref.

Laurance, W.F., Camargo, J.L.C., Luizão, R.C.C., Laurance, S.G., Pimm, S.L., Bruna, E.M., Stouffer, P.C., Williamson, G.B., Benítez-Malvido, J., Vasconcelos, H.L., Van Houtan, K.S., Zartman, C.E., Boyle, S.A., Didham, R.K., Andrade, A., and Lovejoy, T.E. 2011. The fate of Amazonian forest fragments: a 32-year investigation. Biol. Conserv. 144(1):56-67.

Liu, F., McShea, W.J., Garshelis, D.L., Zhu, X.J., Wang, D.J., and Shao, L.K. 2011. Human-wildlife conflicts influence attitudes but not necessarily behaviours: factors driving the poaching of bears in China. Biol. Conserv. 144(1):538-547.

Lin YuJen. 2011. Review, current status, and prospects of the bamboo industry in Taiwan.
Taiwan Journal of Forest Science. 26: 1, 99-111. 13 ref.

McDonald, R.I., and Boucher, T.M. 2011. Global development and the future of the protected area strategy. Biol. Conserv. 144(1):383-392.

Pei-Shan, L. & Chang-Yi Chang. 2011. Towards sustainable community-based natural resource management in the indigenous Meqmegi community in Taiwan: Rethinking impacts of local participation. Natural Resources Forum: A UN Sustainable Development Journal. (pg. 134–144).

Pfab, M., Victor, J.E. and Armstrong, A.J. 2011. Application of the IUCN Red Listing system to setting species targets for conservation planning purposes. Biodiversity and Conservation. Vol 20.

Shukri Mohamed Awang Noor, A. G. Mohd Hakimi, M. H. 2010. Estimating the economic value of natural bamboo stands: a case study in Pahang, Malaysia. Malaysian Forester. 73: 1, 53-61. 18 ref.

Turner, J. A. Bhubaneswor Dhakal Yao, R. Barnard, T. Maunder, C. 2011. Non-timber values from planted forests: recreation in Whakarewarewa forest. New Zealand Journal of Forestry. 2011. 55: 4, 24-31. 19 ref.

Ubom, R. M. 2010. Ethnobotany and biodiversity conservation in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. International Journal of Botany. 6: 3, 310-322. 27 ref.




From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Cork: Videos available online

The Jane Goodall Archive
Duke University announced the establishment of the Jane Goodall Institute Research Centre, which will house Goodall’s archives and digitized data from 50 years of uninterrupted study of chimpanzees. The collection receives new data with each day's observations. Its scientific value grows as scientists convert the data into digital formats

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is pleased to announce the launch of LARC-L, is a free community announcement list for policy makers and practitioners involved in sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) moderated by IISD.
The announcement list covers policy and practice regarding green economy, air quality, biodiversity, climate change, forestry, water policy, sanitation, chemicals management, waste management, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable agriculture, energy, transport and human settlements— in the context of the LAC region.
To subscribe to LARC-L, please click:,+29+April+2011+-+Announcements+-+Latin+America+%26+Caribbean+Regional+Coverage.




  • Chilean senate approves plant variety protection convention amidst controversy

Source:, 18 May 2011

Chile’s Senate approval for the UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) 1991 Convention has sparked controversy in the South American country, but advocates say it will not affect local producers.
Chile’s 13 senators who voted in favour of the UPOV 91 convention say it’s the way forward to protect copyright, but critics say the move will prevent local farmers from saving their seeds. With six abstentions and five votes against, the act still needs to be ratified by President Sebastian Piñera before it will come into effect.
UPOV’s aim is to promote an effective system of plant variety protection, to encourage the development of new plants for the benefit of society, with three amendments taking place in 1972, 1978 and 1991. According to the Chilean Senate’s website, the project was approved by the Committees of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.
During heated discussions before votes were cast, Agriculture Committee chairman José García Ruminot said UPOV was “only one of a series of international instruments aimed at protecting copyright and would not affect domestic producers”. Ruminot added if Chile did not sign the convention it could be sanctioned by international bodies, while free trade agreements (FTAs) could also come under scrutiny.
Senator Carlos Larrain agreed the move would not affect local producers, emphasizing that “native species will not disappear”, while Carlos Krusche said UPOV 91 would help Chilean laboratories gain accreditation. “In addition, our agriculture requires the latest seeds (for Chile) to be an agricultural power in the world,” Krusche said.
While the majority of senators were in favour of UPOV 91, senators Alejandro Navarro and Ximena Rincón were staunch critics. Rincón said there was fear the costs implied by the convention could affect local industry, while Navarro criticized the country’s FTAs with the United States, the European Union and Japan that obliged the convention to be ratified.
He added that other South American countries like Brazil and Argentina had only adhered to the UPOV 1978 Convention.
The two senators, along with Jaime Quintana, said they would study a petition before the Constitutional Court to prevent the law’s enactment.
Navarro said the agreement would ‘prevent farmers from retaining seeds’, while Quintana added it would allow the sale of hybrid and transgenic seeds through large multinationals.
For full story, please see: or




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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012