No. 7/11

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

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A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.
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












  • Bushmeat: Taking action to stop the illegal bushmeat trade

Source: The Ecologist, 1 June 2011

Dr Jane Goodall recently returned to her home town of Bournemouth (Dorset, England) to celebrate 50 years of groundbreaking primatology research which began in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. The renowned conservationist also took the opportunity to launch a new campaign, Count Me in for Conservation, to fund projects and raise awareness about the scourge of the bushmeat trade which is emptying forests of endangered species, especially chimpanzees.
The multi-million dollar trade in bushmeat is one of the greatest threats to tropical wildlife. Chimpanzees are on the front line of this devastating trade with less than 300 000 in the wild.
Through the Jane Goodall Institute, chimpanzee orphans whose parents have been killed for food will be rescued and rehabilitated. The orphans will be used to educate people about chimpanzees. Dr. Goodall said that most locals never eat a monkey again once they see chimps embracing, holding hands and kissing.
To support the campaign to stop the illegal commercial bushmeat trade and help educate a new generation that can better look after the planet, please visit: .
For full story, please see:



  • Bushmeat: French customs agents seize bushmeat

Source:, 27 May 2011

During an operation from 17 May to 26 May 2011, customs officials at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport seized some 460 kg of meat, 260 kg of which came from protected species, according to a government statement. Several types of bushmeat were discovered, including antelope, snake, crocodile and pangolin, a rare, scaly anteater. The French office responsible for monitoring environmental and public health threats (OCLAESP) said flesh from primates, elephants and desert rats was also seized.
Trafficking in exotic meat can spread serious illnesses, including Ebola, avian flu and foot and mouth disease as well as insects carrying vector-borne diseases, the official statement said.
On 20 May, a man was sentenced by a Paris court to eight months in prison and hit with a €20 000 fine for bringing bushmeat into France. The man was arrested at Charles de Gaulle while carrying 21 kg of porcupine and 15 kg of pangolin, whose meat is highly coveted, especially in some Asian communities.
For full story, please see:



  • Cork: Pop those corks

Source: “Our Planet Weekly,” E-Magazine, 3 June 2011

Drinking wine can have an environmental benefit — if you save the cork. Through the ReCork program, sponsored by Amorim of Portugal (a wine cork maker), almost 15 million corks have been collected for recycling into flooring tiles, building insulation and automotive gaskets. Right now, ReCork is partnering with footwear manufacturer Sole to produce sandals made from wine corks.
Cork oak trees (Quercus suber) — which grow primarily in Europe and North Africa — are stripped, not chopped. Once a tree reaches about 25 years old, harvesters remove half of the thick bark by hand, and repeat the process every nine years without harming the trees. Cork oaks can live to be 250 years old.
But not all wine corks are created equal. Some corks contain metal or plastic and cannot be recycled. According to a detailed report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, wines with aluminium screw-cap closures require 24 times more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to make than wines with corks, and wines with petroleum-based plastic closures require 10 times more CO2 emissions. Because cork oaks act as important “carbon sinks,” meaning they transform atmospheric CO2 into oxygen, and since 50 percent of a wine cork is carbon, each wine cork can actually be said to offset carbon emissions — collecting 9 g of CO2 in its lifetime.
Once you start saving your wine corks, ReCork asks that, for environmental purposes, you only ship boxes with 15 pounds worth of corks in them to keep the resulting carbon emissions low. They even pay for shipping. Depending on your wine consumption, you may need to enlist cork donations from friends and neighbours to reach the requisite weight — or check on ReCork’s website ( ) for a nearby collection location.
For full story, please see:



  • Edible Insects: FAO celebrates first cricket harvest in Laos

Source: Bernama (Malaysian National News Agency), 30 May 2011

Within the framework of the project “Sustainable Insect farming and harvesting for better nutrition, improved food security, and household income generation,” which kicked off in January 2011, FAO began introducing small scale cricket farming at the School for Gifted and Ethnic Students, National University of Laos (NUoL).
Under the pilot project, "Saep E Li — the Celebration of the first cricket harvesting" was held last Saturday, which gathered between 300 and 400 students from different schools at the School for Gifted and Ethnic Students, Lao news agency reported. This event provided an opportunity for the students involved in the pilot activity to share and exchange their experiences on cricket farming.             The event involved insect cooking demonstrations, tasting sessions of free edible insects and lessons on insect breeding and the nutritional benefits of insects.
FAO, together with Faculty of Agriculture, NUoL, have thus far worked with four different species of insects: the house cricket, the mealworm, the palm weevil are bred and the weaver ant is semi-bred in trees.
For the project, students aged 16 to 18 years were taught techniques of cricket breeding in their School. Students were also taught about the nutritional benefits of insects, especially as complementary food in the Lao diet.
For full story, please see:



  • Frankincense: An age-old cure

Source:, 1 June 2011

Scientists from the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University (Wales) have been examining the potential benefits of frankincense to help relieve and alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis.
"The search for new ways of relieving the symptoms of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a long and difficult one," according to Dr Emma Blain, who leads the research with her co-investigators Professor Vic Duance from the School of Biosciences and Dr Ahmed Ali of the Compton Group.
"The South West of England and Wales has a long standing connection with the Somali community who have used extracts of frankincense as a traditional herbal remedy for arthritic conditions. What our research has focused on is whether and how these extracts can help relieve the inflammation that causes the pain," she added.
The Cardiff scientists believe they have been able to demonstrate that treatment with an extract of Boswellia frereana — a rare frankincense species — inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules which helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes the condition.
Dr Ali adds: "The search for new drugs to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for scientists. What our research has managed to achieve is to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense.
The research comes as a result of a seedcorn project, funded by the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE). SARTRE is a joint project between Cardiff University and the University of Bristol to combine and accelerate translational research.
For full story, please see:



  • Fungi: Mushrooms could save the world

Source: Times Colonist, Canada, 3 June 2011

Mushrooms could save the world. It is a bold statement, but one that award-winning mycologist Paul Stamets stands firmly behind. While mushrooms are best known for their delicious and sometimes hallucinogenic properties, there is much more to the capped forest-growers than meets the mouth.
Stamets, who has studied fungi for more than 30 years, says mushrooms can clean up toxic waste and oil spills, provide antidotes to human diseases, initiate rapid habitat restoration and more.
He sees human and environmental health as intimately linked. "Habitats and humans share immune systems," says Stamets," and mycelium are the cellular bridges between the two."
This week he is hunting the Gulf Islands (between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada) for an endangered mushroom that could be used as a powerful defence tool against international pandemics. Agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis) is the oldest mushroom in the world and it is native to old-growth forests. Swelling out of conifers, hidden on uninhabited islands, the beehive-shaped fungus was known in ancient Greece as the "elixir of long life." Today it shows strong anti-E.coli properties.
"We share in common some of the same pathogens that affect mushrooms," says Stamets. "Mushrooms have evolved to prevent many parasites from killing them."
As a trailblazer in his field, Stamets holds more than a dozen patents on mushroom-related technologies. One such patent, by far his most revolutionary, he says, is based upon a mushroom that could replace chemical insecticides. "It could revolutionize the way we deal with insects in terms of controlling their migrations, stopping them from eating buildings and preventing mosquitoes from carrying malaria and other diseases," he says.
But the environmental entrepreneur has faced some barriers to advancing his technologies. "The U.S. patent office is very reluctant to give these patents because they are paradigm-shifting," he says.
"I feel like we are piercing the envelope and bringing fungi, mushrooms and mycelium to the forefront of human consciousness," he says. "These organisms can repair a lot of the damage we have inflicted on nature."
For full story, please see:



  • Fungi: Mushroom holds cancer promise

Source:, 30 May 2011

Move over shiitake, it is time for the “turkey tail” mushroom (Trametes versicolor) to shine. A researcher from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia, has pinpointed a compound in the fungi that is capable of completely suppressing prostate tumour development in mice.
This finding, if it can be extrapolated to humans, could prove to be life-saving news for the 35 000 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK each year.
Dr Patrick Ling of the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre in Queensland and his team extracted a compound called polysaccharopeptide (PSP) from the mushrooms and gave it to laboratory mice over a period of 20 weeks. Dr Ling and his team found that the mice fed with PSP did not develop prostate tumours at all; while the other mice did. Although there are other substances that have been shown to inhibit prostate tumours, none have proven as effective as this.
The turkey tail mushroom, known as Yun-zhi, has been used for centuries throughout Asia for its medicinal properties. In Japan it is used as a cancer treatment along with chemotherapy or surgery. Turkey tail mushroom extract is available in supplement form, although Dr Ling is quick to point out that it would be impossible for a human to eat the same amount of mushroom in order to see the benefits seen in the mice.
For full story, please see:



  • Fungi in Australia: Natural wonder at risk?

Source: (Australia), 31 May 2011

The word fungi may conjure thoughts of tasty recipes or nasty skin infections but for a group of enthusiasts it is a natural wonder. From glow-in-the-dark species to toxic but beautiful specimens, Tasmania has the most diverse array of fungi in Australia.
Globally, there are 1.5 million species of fungi but only 10 percent of them have been described by mycologists. "This lack of knowledge means we could be losing fungi species without knowing it," said fungi enthusiast Magali Wright, Natural Resource Management South's biodiversity coordinator, during a fungal foray at Fern Tree (South-East Tasmania).
Dr Wright said Tasmania's large tracts of moist forest fed the state's rich collection of fungi and new species were discovered each year. She said it was important the state boosted its local knowledge. "Fungi have shaped our environment, playing a major role in the colonization of land by plants, and now support the growth of our forests, grasslands, crops and pastures," she said.
Rather than a question of what fungi can do it is what they cannot do. Fungi can recycle dead material into nutrients, build soils, support plant growth, protect plants from diseases and stress and provide food for animals. Fungi also clean polluted water and soil, restore degraded landscapes, treat human diseases and provide pest control. Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants and live above and below ground and in the oceans.
For more information on fungi in Australia, please see:
For full story, please see:



  • Honey: Consider honey

Source: The Guardian, 31 May 2011

Honey is the most vital and nourishing of all gathered foods, ready-made and un-improvable from the hive. Mixed with water and left for a couple of days, the solution begins to ferment, and soon enough you get mead.
As a natural product, honey retains the qualities of its parent, the nectar of flowers. When a bee delves into a flower, the plant dusts the bee's knees with pollen, which the insect carries to further flowers, fertilizing them. It is a remarkable and beautiful symbiosis. Most commercial honey is made from clover flowers and their cousins in the bean family. Expensive honey will trumpet its "monofloral" status — that is, it is made mainly from the flowers of a single species.
Bees appeared in Asia after the end of the dinosaurs, and they seem to have developed their complicated social structures around 25 million years ago. The earliest representation of honey-collecting dates to around 13 000BC (in a cave painting from Valencia).
Honey is fantastically labour-intensive: a single worker bee can carry just 0.06 g of nectar — which is nonetheless about half of her body weight — and will make around 20 trips in one day to flowers a mile or so's radius from the hive.
Nectar is 75 percent water and honey just 17 percent: back at the hive, "house" bees remove some of that moisture by a complex procedure of repeated regurgitation and evaporation. Then they squeeze it into the familiar hexagonal wax combs. Over about three weeks, as the air in the hive circulates from the beating of the bees' wings, the nectar dries further until is sufficiently concentrated to resist bacteria and mould. For every eight pounds of honey the hive produces to feed its members and larvae, just one single pound will be available for harvesting. A bee would need to travel a distance equivalent to three times the circumference of the earth to produce an ordinary jar of honey.
For full story, please see:



  • Honey in Bangladesh: The terrain in the Sundarbans forests is one of the most treacherous in the region

Source: BBC News, 20 May 2011

For generations poor fishermen and villagers around Bangladesh's Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forests in the world, have been collecting wild honey from April to June every year.
The annual honey gathering season brings lots of expectations in the south-west of the country, as it provides people with much needed extra income.
On average, the fishermen earn around US$70-$80 each during the season. They use the extra money to repay their debts or to repair their boats.
Honey gathering may sound like a normal rural occupation but here it is perhaps the most dangerous job in the world. As the fishermen move about in search of beehives in the wild, they run the risk of meeting a deadly foe — the Royal Bengal tiger.
"During this period the biggest danger comes from the tigers. They are always on the prowl and they can kill us instantly," says Abdus Salam, an experienced honey gatherer from Burigoalini village, in the district of Satkhira in western Sundarbans. "Then there are venomous snakes inside the forests. In these muddy waters, crocodiles lie in waiting," he adds.
Tiger attacks happen throughout the year but the number of incidents goes up during the honey gathering season. At least 80 people are killed by the tigers every year in the Sundarbans.
The fishermen normally go from island to island for about three weeks in their creaky boats collecting honey, made by some of the largest and most aggressive bees in the world.
The honey gatherers travel through muddy saltwater rivers, creeks and narrow channels that criss-cross the Sundarbans forests.
With no other jobs on offer, it seems these fishermen from the Sundarbans have little option than to carry on with one of the most dangerous professions in the world.
For full story, please see:



  • Honey in Australia: Promoting medicinal honey

Source: (Australia), 6 June 2011

A consortium of commercial beekeepers has been formed to promote medically active honeys and hive products from Tasmania.
The association, called the Tasmanian Active Honey Group, focuses on honeys with medicinal properties such as those with anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity.
Julian Wolfhagen, from the Tasmanian Honey Company, one of the six businesses involved, says he wants to build consumer confidence in Tasmanian active hive products.
"Particularly in this case, where New Zealand has established itself clearly as the market leader, we need to get some group energy and pooling finances to launch the existence of a Tasmanian manuka."
For full story, please see:



  • Saffron: Switzerland’s sweet saffron

Source: The Washington Post, 3 June 2011

It takes 390 stigmas, gathered by hand from 130 Crocus sativus flowers, to produce 1 g of saffron. This, however, is not Iran or Spain, countries known for their bountiful saffron fields. This is tiny Mund, Switzerland, a town tucked between Geneva and Zermatt in the Aletsch Glacier range, the birthplace of the Rhone River and the unlikely home of these precious purple flowers.
The region was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 for its stunning Alpine beauty. Saffron was harvested in the Mund area as long ago as the 14th century. Then, in the 1950s, as industrialization spread throughout Switzerland, farmers gradually abandoned the practice. But when state authorities decided in 1979 to build a road through what remained of the saffron fields, hundreds of villagers rebelled. Led by the village priest, Erwin Jossen, they rose up to protect the crucial four acres historically under cultivation. More importantly, their fervour reignited the tradition of saffron cultivation in the area.
So how did the precious threads get from Asia to Switzerland? Its origins probably lie in ancient Greece or Anatolia, where it was first cultivated 3 000 years ago. During the Middle Ages, Arabian botanists and cooks brought saffron, already common in Middle Eastern cuisine, to Spain.
“We read in a medieval treatise that mercenaries on their way back to Switzerland brought saffron from Italy through the Simplon Pass, braving the strict customs laws of the times. They hid crocus bulbs in their long hair, risking death if discovered,” says former Mund mayor Leo Albert.
Mund has 529 residents today, and 60 of them own a piece of the saffron fields in parcels ranging from 376 to 2 368 ft². “We formed an old-fashioned guild in 1979,” Year after year, the amount of cultivated land grew, and more inhabitants got involved.” By 2004, the guild had obtained an AOC, or Appellation d’Origine Controlee, the stamp of approval from the Swiss government, and the official Mund saffron was born.
Last year’s harvest yielded a grand total of about nine pounds — a small amount, perhaps, but enough to reenergize a village and put it on the international foodie map.
Today, experts consider Mund saffron superior to any in the world. Neither Spain nor Iran, with their massive outputs can compete with Mund saffron for flavour.
For full story, please see:



  • Spices: the true cost of a kitchen staple

Source: The Ecologist, 24 May 2011

Tumeric, saffron, nutmeg and ginger are common spices that many of us use on a daily basis. The health benefits — from easing heartburn to soothing an upset stomach — are widely known but the spices available in supermarkets are not always produced in an ethical or environmentally friendly way. Although organic versions are becoming increasingly available, lots are grown in monocultures while many more come from dubious sources. Take saffron for example.
Axel Steenberg, a Fairtrade spice merchant based in the UK, says that the main issues facing the spice industry relate to the welfare of the spice processors. He goes on to describe the ways in which African women are exploited while producing our chillies, how child labour is employed during the vanilla harvest in Madagascar and the toll that market fluctuations have taken on the finances of Indian vanilla farmers. The common denominator in all these examples is poverty and lack of a voice with which to strike back. It is for this reason that Fairtrade and organic choices are so important when it comes to purchasing spices.
Responsible spice companies such as the Netherlands-based, Verstegen, work closely with organizations like the Fairtrade Foundation as part of their efforts to boost corporate social responsibility [CSR] into their business model. But it is not just CSR that counts; paying fair prices to suppliers also creates a fairer business model, as David Baily, sales manager at organic spice importer, Wayfairer, points out. “Growers who are generally the most exploited part of the supply chain can find a route to market while receiving a fair farm gate price for their produce,” he says. Baily also says that it is worth looking for the FLO-CERT stamp when buying spices. FLO-CERT is a third party company that inspects every stage of a product supply chain, from the producer to the store shelf, ensuring that a product certified Fairtrade, really is.
According to Steenberg, this type of business model is good for everyone — from CEO to grower and consumer.
A report on the benefits of investing sustainable spices entitled Could You Pass Me the Sustainable Pepper, Please was published last year by the Dutch Federation for Spice Trading [NVS] and their NGO partners. The report confirmed that favourable trading conditions for spice farmers had the potential to result in a number of different benefits, including “economic, social, and environmental sustainability.”
This positive reinforcement is also a boon for the planet. The Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative lists loss of biodiversity as a key issue associated with spice production.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Up a gum tree: Are koalas “slipping to extinction”?

Source: The Independent, 25 May 2011

Every gum tree contains a koala, or so most Australians assume. But complacency could be killing off the emblematic native animal, according to scientists, who want it listed as an endangered species.
Already under pressure from habitat loss and disease, koalas now face a new threat: climate change. They cope poorly with the droughts and heat waves that are expected to become more common in southern Australia in years to come. To make matters worse, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reducing the nutrient content of eucalyptus leaves, their sole food source.
Scientists say koala numbers have already declined sharply in some areas, and they warn that unless more energetic conservation measures are taken, the mammal's viability could be in doubt. "This species is supposed to be common, yet it is slipping to extinction under our noses," Christine Hosking, a nature conservationist at the University of Queensland, said yesterday.
Ms Hosking, who is researching a PhD on the impact of climate change on the koala, was one of several experts who recently gave evidence to a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the animal's health and status. She said that listing it as endangered would be a first step towards developing a national action plan to safeguard its future.
While koalas have always been thought to be numerous in Australia, it may not still be the case. Population estimates are difficult to come by, because the animals are hard to count, but Clive McAlpine, a landscape ecologist at the University of Queensland, believes that there are no more than 50 000 to 100 000 left in the wild. In some areas, such as Queensland's Gold Coast, he says, populations have decreased by as much as 80 percent over the last 10 to 15 years. Another koala expert, Bill Ellis, says that in places where researchers used to find 30 to 50 koalas in one day, only three or four are now being sighted.
Large-scale land clearing, for urban development, industry and agriculture, has progressively deprived the koala of much of its traditional habitat.
For full story, please see:




  • Australia: Digging deep for bumper crop of truffles

Source: The West Australian, 1 June 2011

The dogs at the Wine and Truffle Company's 13 000-tree truffle farm near Manjimup are forecast to sniff out a record 2 500 kg of the AUD$3000/kg delicacy, the biggest truffle harvest in the company's 13-year history and something of a challenge for the business.
"It will be a bumper year, there is no doubt about that," chief executive Sake Van Weeghel said. "This means we have to find international markets for the 2.2 tonnes we have left after satisfying Australian domestic sales of about 300 kg.
"We knew in November that this year's harvest would be very focused on international sales. 500 kg will go to the US, 700 kg to Europe and most of the rest will go to emerging markets in Asia," Mr Van Weeghel said.
This year's crop will cement Manjimup's place as the major truffle growing region in Australia with nearly half the national 10-tonne crop produced there.
"France's entire output last year was 14 tonnes," Mr Van Weeghel said. "Manjimup is in a very good position to be the other big supplier."
For full story, please see:



  • Brazil: Amazon dams mean progress for some, lost livelihoods for others

Source: Tierramamerica in IPS (Inter Press Service International Association), 27 May 2011

The Amazonian town of Mutum-Paraná, in the northern Brazilian state of Rondônia, is disappearing.  Its last remaining buildings must be dismantled before it is flooded by the construction of the Jirau hydroelectric dam on the Madeira River.
Francislei Araujo da Silva, a part-time resident of Mutum-Paraná, symbolizes a local way of life that will also disappear due to the radical and abrupt changes brought by the construction of two hydroelectric dams on the same river just 120 km apart — the Jirau and Santo Antônio dams — in northwestern Brazil.
"I have lived in this area since 1989," da Silva told Tierramérica. He earns a living from mining, fishing and gathering Amazonian fruit, such as açaí and cashews, when he is not providing taxi service between cities and towns in western Rondônia.
Mutum-Paraná was founded a century ago during the Amazon rubber boom.  Over the last three decades, it has grown alongside the development in the area of "garimpo", the informal mining of gold and cassiterite, used to make tin.  This activity supplied a steady flow of passengers for da Silva’s taxi service.
Once the dam is built and the area is flooded as part of its reservoir, "garimpo" activity will only be possible through the use of new technologies and larger dredges, said Luiz Medeiros da Silva, the Energia Sustentável do Brasil (ESBR) socio-economic director, who is coordinating programmes to compensate the displaced population and miners, promote environmental education, and implement projects that will be left behind as a legacy for the future. ESBR is the consortium specifically created to build and operate the Jirau hydroelectric plant.
The Jirau and Santo Antônio dams represent technological innovations in Brazil. Some 258 km² will be flooded for the Jirau dam, a small area compared to similar dams, since it will have a power generation capacity of 3 300 to 3 750 megawatts.
In Luiz da Silva’s view, those who have been assisted by the company could be considered privileged.  In addition to a house in Nova Mutum, each family group has been provided with a 15 ha plot where they can grow crops and a 60 ha forest reserve where they can gather fruit, in compliance with a legal requirement.
This and other initiatives are meant to leave behind an economic legacy after the hydroelectric plant is completed and the thousands of jobs in the construction and assembly of the plant have disappeared.
Despite these efforts, however, there is no way of fully mitigating the overwhelming impacts of a megaproject like Jirau in such a vulnerable setting.  The simultaneous construction of two hydroelectric plants in such close proximity to one another only serves to aggravate the consequences.
There are "serious indications" that indigenous communities will end up isolated in the area of influence of the dams, a fact that highlighted the need for studies to be conducted prior to execution of the projects, stressed Israel do Vale, general coordinator of the Kanindé Ethno-Environmental Defense Association, based in Porto Velho.
The state of Rondônia is home to 52 indigenous ethnic groups who speak 30 different languages, and are already suffering the impacts of the rapid occupation of their territory by agroindustrial operations, which began in the 1970s.  The Jirau dam will specifically impinge on the territories of two ethnic groups, the Karitiana and Karipuna, he said.
For full story, please see:



  • Brazil grants building permit for Belo Monte Amazon dam

Source: BBC, 1 June 2011

Brazil's environment agency has backed the construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Amazon, opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists. The agency, Ibama, said the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River had been subjected to "robust analysis" of its impact on the environment.
The government says the dam is key to meeting Brazil's growing energy needs. But opponents argue it will harm the world's largest tropical rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people.
In January, Ibama gave the go-ahead for initial work to begin on the site on the Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon River. Now, Ibama has issued the penultimate licence that the Norte Energia consortium building the dam needs. This means, in theory at least, that building work on the dam can begin.
But the federal prosecutor's office in the state of Para, where the dam is located, has already lodged a legal challenge to the project.
Friction with local indigenous communities is also likely to intensify now Ibama has granted the building licence, correspondents say. The 11 000-megawatt dam would be the third biggest in the world — after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.
Campaigners say the 6km dam will threaten the survival of a number of indigenous groups and could make some 50 000 people homeless, as 500 km² of land would be flooded.
For full story, please see:



  • Canada: West Coast gardening takes lessons from the past

Source:, 2 June 2011

A pocket of knowledge on West Coast food cultivation can be found in past practices.
"There is a lot of human evidence you can find throughout the landscape," said Gisele Martin, a Tla-o-qui-aht guide with Tla-ook Cultural Adventures.  The family-owned company guides people on educational tours on the ocean and through the rainforest to share history on the traditional Nuu-chah-nulth way of life. They live on ten reserves along the Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Martin says there is a misconception that the eating habits of First Nations were governed by the nomadic lifestyles of the game they hunted.  While the Nuu-chah-nulth hunted, fished and foraged for mushrooms, berries and medicinal plants in the forests they called home, the tribes of the Pacific Northwest skilfully manipulated the landscape to cultivate food.
"Our whole landscape here is really a cultural landscape where we considered our forest our gardens in a lot of ways," said Martin.
She explained that within each tribe there are several hereditary chiefs. Each hereditary chief has a ha-hoolthee, which encompasses a traditional area within a tribe's territory. Each tribe had designated harvesting areas, from berry patches to seal hunting. Among these were root gardens, which Martin says can be found along the inlets and mudflats of Vancouver Island, including Meares Island.
The nutrients of the sea benefited the gardens on land. Martin said people would bury starfish beneath the roots of berry bushes; leaves and branches of salmonberries, salal, red huckleberry, thimbleberries and trailing blackberries were pruned to channel more fruit-producing energy to the plant.
But after contact with European settlers, many non-native plants were introduced to communities along the Pacific Northwest and grown in sunny microclimates. "There was a transition after introducing European plants to the area," said Pukonen. "A lot of people of Ahousaht recall fruit trees, cranberry patches."
For full story, please see:



  • Congo Basin: Can’t see the wood for the trees? Look again

Source: CIFOR, 10 May 2011

Export products such as timber dominate any superficial glance at the forests of the Congo Basin. Recent studies however argue that there is more to the forest — in this case of the 2nd largest tropical forest in the world — than just its trees as export products.
A spate of recent publications highlight that there are massive hidden economies, mainly for domestic and regional consumption — that are largely hidden or ignored. The latest State of the Forest Congo Basin 2010 ( an exhaustive biannual appraisal of the state of the region’s forests, ecosystems, biodiversity, population and socio-economic situation, devotes a whole section to looking deeper into the forest and uncovering the large scale of commerce in four hidden products: fuelwood, bushmeat, NTFP and domestic timber.
The State of the Forest Chapter on NTFPs indicate that the vast majority of NTFPs used across the basin provide important contributions to household food and medical needs, as well a cultural use and as multiple tools. The sector is also a major employer, for example, in Cameroon, where more people work in the trade of a handful of the major products than in the industrial timber sector.
Bushmeat is another lucrative trade. Whilst exports to a hungry diaspora in Europe may previously have been underestimated, the domestic market in the Basin appears much larger and remains largely un-quantified. Much of the popular species of bushmeat traded are neither captured either in national statistics, nor are captured by international trade conventions such as CITES.
Like other hidden forest products, bushmeat provides a vital source of nutrition, as well as providing significant employment and revenue for those involved in the trade. These conflicting aspects however have formed a contradictory crisis for conservation and development circles.
For full story, please see:’t-see-the-wood-for-the-trees-look-again-at-the-congo-basin/



  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Poor need incentives to save giant forest

Source: Reuters, 31 May 2011

Simon Kasagana knows his meagre livelihood depends on the forest, but like many others eking out a living in the vast Congo basin, he has little choice but to destroy it. He used to be a nursing assistant, but the pay was too low to live off, so he began cutting trees for a local businessman, who pays him in planks. He sells them, making around US$13/week.
But as the forest slowly disappears under pressure from logging, charcoal burning and encroachment by subsistence farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's remote Equateur province, Kasagana is having to travel increasingly far from villages along dirt roads to find wood.
Environmental experts from 35 countries were meeting in the Congo Republic, DRC's smaller neighbour, on Tuesday for a week-long summit seeking ways to protect the world's three largest rainforests — the Amazon in South America, the Congo in Central Africa and the Borneo-Mekong in Indonesia. But any such effort will have to offer poor residents of forest areas like Kasagana a reason to stop felling trees.
Surveying an area that was once covered in virgin rainforest, Felicien Topwa from the Congolese conservation charity Natural Resources Network said farming and logging for local construction have taken a toll. Topwa said there were plans for reforestation and talks with logging companies and the government about how they can help local communities, but no action had yet been taken.
Rich countries have pledged billions of dollars under REDD, which effectively pays developing countries not to cut their forests down. The REDD scheme may not work if the cash is not invested wisely in projects that give communities an incentive to save forests.
In a report on Sunday, U.S. scientists said efficient cookstoves and better crop seeds could curb the practice of clearing trees for charcoal burning and farming.
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  • India: Ecotourism guidelines empower local communities

Source:, 4 June 2011

All tourist facilities within 5 km of any protected area will be monitored by local communities to guard its environment and wildlife.
According to the ecotourism guidelines proposed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the local communities will monitor the activities of tour operators to ensure that they do not cause disturbance to animals while taking visitors to the protected area.
Furthermore, the State governments will levy a “local conservation cess (tax)” on all privately run tourist facilities. The rate of tax, a percentage of turnover, will be determined by the States; and the money thus collected will fund protected area management, conservation and local livelihood development.
The Tiger Task Force Report recommended in 2005 that hotels in a 5 km radius of the boundary of a reserve must contribute 30 percent of their turnover to the reserve, and they could be allowed to claim 100 percent income tax benefit for the contribution.
Any core area of a tiger reserve from where relocation has been carried out will not be used for tourism activities, the guidelines say. Relocated forest dwellers will be given priority in livelihood generation activities through ecotourism in the protected area from where they have been displaced. Protected area management will make special efforts towards this end.
Each protected area will have to develop its own ecotourism plan as part of its tiger conservation plan, management plan, or annual plan of operation, duly approved by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (wherever relevant). For full story, please see:



  • India: An ecotourism paradise unexplored

Source: Morung Express, 1 June 2011

In the extreme corner of India lies a land of eight sister states inhabited by Mongolian peoples. The region linked to the mainland by a narrow strip of land is bounded by five countries in the east. It is popularly referred to as the “paradise unexplored” because of its pristine beauty, remoteness and inaccessibility.
The experience of eating traditional meals in the homes of local residents is culturally enriching. The variety of quality fruits and vegetables (including forest products) has found outlets in the tourism market. The community based village tourism and community guesthouses are of indigenous design and built with local materials. There is a vision plan for ecosites in the Hills, Waterfalls, Caves, Hot springs and Biosphere Reserves. The distinct culture, abundant medicinal herbs and plants, the topography and village life are suitable for niche tourism and soft adventure sports like river rafting, gliding, trekking and golfing. Tree top houses in peaceful surroundings to watch rare species of birds and animals are special attractions for nature lovers.
The untouched hills of North-east region boast numerous tourist trails with guided walks through wildlife, caves and waterfalls. The North-east is also a land of culture, rituals and dancing; traditional lifestyles are unique and tribal workmanship in carpentry and cane- bamboo works are noteworthy.
For ecotourism to work in the region, villagers pool materials to construct guest houses made of mud walls, thatched roofs, locally made cane and bamboo furniture, local wooden and earthen potteries, kerosene lamps (in places where electricity is not available) and clean water supply and sanitation.
Ecotourism’s appeal as a conservation and development tool rests in its potential to provide local economic benefits while also maintaining ecological resource integrity through low impact, non-consumptive use of local resources. Ecotourism may not be the panacea but given the landlocked and isolated conditions of the North-east region, what better sustainable alternative is available than ecotourism?
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  • India: Medicinal plants to get “good quality” tag

Source: Times of India, 6 June 2011

India's wonder plants with medicinal properties will now come with a special "good quality tag" with the Government putting in place a voluntary certification scheme for medicinal plant produce based on good agricultural practices and good field collection practices.
This, the Government said, will enhance confidence in the quality of India's medicinal plant produce and make good quality raw material available to the ayurvedic and herbal drugs industry.
Under the scheme, launched jointly by the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) and the Quality Council of India (QCI), any producer/collector or group of producers/collectors can obtain certification from a designated certification body (CB) and will be under regular surveillance of the certification body.
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  • Madagascar: New species discovered weekly, many already endangered

Source:, 6 June 2011

Scientists in Madagascar have discovered more than 615 species, including 41 mammals between 1999 and 2010 but many of the exciting and colourful creatures are already endangered. New finds since 1999 include 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals.
Madagascar's unique habitats are facing numerous threats, but deforestation is among the most serious, with experts saying that the island has already lost 90 percent of its original forest cover.
Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar, a WWF report compiling discoveries made in one decade shows the immense diversity of the natural wealth on the world's fourth largest island, but offers one more dramatic reminder of the increasing threats to this fragile environment.
WWF Madagascar's Conservation Director Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana said "This report shows once again how unique and irreplaceable the different ecosystems in Madagascar hosting all these different species are. WWF works every day to establish a representative protected area network and to promote sustainable livelihood alternatives to allow people in Madagascar to live in harmony with the natural world surrounding them".
Although just found, many of the species are already endangered due to rapidly progressing environmental degradation, driven mainly by deforestation. The Tahina Palm (Tahina spectabilis), a massive fan palm which flowers only once in a lifetime with a spectacular, giant inflorescence that forms from the centre of the crown, is undoubtedly among the most exciting scientific discoveries.
One of the greatest tropical wildernesses left on Earth and home to some of the most spectacular wildlife, the island is home to 5 percent of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 70 percent are found nowhere else on earth.
Logging activities, which are amongst the biggest threat to this biodiversity, have also resulted in the rise of commercial bushmeat trade. Specialized restaurants in Madagascar's north sold lemur meat for as little as €3/plate. Political instability and increased crime rates have resulted in increased poverty, which has damaged the once flourishing tourism industry, one of very few livelihood options for people around national parks.
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  • Tanzania: Treading lightly in the Simanjiro Plains

Source: New York Times, 20 May 2011

The Simanjiro Plains in Tanzania, 80 miles southwest of Mount Kilimanjaro, is a wide-open stretch of grasslands spanning roughly 100 000 acres. Animals do not encounter many travellers here. The plains lie outside the country’s protected parks and game reserves and is governed by local villages. This area has no safari lodges, no souvenir shops selling postcards or pith helmets, no tourist infrastructure of any kind. The raw thrill of discovery has not been tempered with, and there is no rush to consume nature as if in a zoo.
The Simanjiro Plains offer a fascinating example of coexistence between humans and wildlife. The area is home to several villages of Masaai tribesmen, who have been grazing their cattle on these lush grasses for centuries.
For conservationists, the annual migration of migratory zebra and wildebeest in the region creates a challenge. For the wildlife, the plains are essential, but they are not protected like the national parks, which are off-limits to human settlement. The Masaai need a place to live, too, and the plains are home to several villages. But the limited protections here also mean the Simanjiro are under constant threat from big-city trespassers, who set up unregulated farms on the grasslands, clogging migration routes and choking off Masaai pastures. Meanwhile, poachers prowl the plains for bushmeat, skins and horns.
Since 2004, Mark Thornton, a New York native that has been guiding tours in the country for over a decade, and nine other safari outfitters have worked with Masaai villages to formalize their boundaries and enact bylaws forbidding abuse of the land by outsiders. The result is the Simanjiro Conservation Easement, a 58 000-acre tract of grasslands set aside by local village councils, for grazing cattle and migrating wildlife. Together, the tour operators make an annual payment of five million Tanzanian shillings — the equivalent of about US$3 378 — to each of two Masaai villages, Terrat and Sukuro, used to enforce village boundaries. In recent years, the Masaai were able to use that money to sue farmers who had usurped part of their lands. The Masaai won. Mr. Thornton does additional fund-raising for the easement on his own, and recently raised more than US$5 000 — “a little stimulus package,” he called it — from his clients.
The non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society also works with this coalition of tour operators and villages, spending roughly US$26 500 annually to finance grassroots initiatives around the easement including Masaai anti-poaching scouts. It is not uncommon now to see them patrolling the plains, riding bicycles in their long checkered robes, toting high-powered binoculars and cell phones. Protecting the plains, however, remains a struggle.
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  • Thailand: Potential for country to lead in green tourism

Source: The Bangkok Post, 6 June 2011

Thailand could be a leading green tourism destination in the Asia-Pacific region if all tourism-related parties seriously promote the country's potential and address the global warming problem, says the Thailand Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (TEATA).
Global warming affects tourism, yet tourism partly causes the problem as well. Consequently, tourists have become more responsible in their care of the environment, especially those from Europe, America, and Japan, who are a premium market.
This has resulted in the trend toward environmentally friendly tourism in many countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. However, their green tourism sites remain substandard because of the time it takes to develop green tourism routes and products, says TEATA. It also takes time to train communities; green hotels and restaurants must also be certified by international organizations.
TEATA has been promoting green tourism for 12 years but international green tourists accounted for fewer than 5 percent of the total tourist arrivals to Thailand in 2010.
Many tourism operators want to go green but it is not easy to craft environmentally friendly tourism products. The government and the private sector must tailor marketing campaigns and promote them seriously. The association will promote green tourism routes in Thailand with Tourism Authority of Thailand offices in the United States. In Asia, Japan is its focus.
TEATA already launched the green routes, which are operated by specialists with eco-tour guides. The programmes offer guests unique opportunities to stay in green hotels, enjoy ecotourism activities, and experience life, culture and nature with local communities.
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  • USA: As bee colonies die, beekeepers face challenge finding replacements

Source: The Washington Post, 1 June 2011

With the rise of parasitic mites and viruses, wild honeybees have died off, and domesticated ones seemed to need ever increasing help to make it. This was before the arrival of the enigmatic colony collapse disorder that has wiped out so many more. High winter losses, moreover, once rare, are now the norm.
Demand for bee packages(containing as many as 10 000 worker bees) to restock hives has been outstripping supply for years, but this year it is as bad as anyone can remember. In the apiaries in Georgia, for example, a cold, wet January and February delayed and curtailed bee propagation at a time when bee societies everywhere are seeing a resurgent interest in beekeeping. Old-time beekeepers got out of the hobby when the losses mounted and the burdens of care grew. The renaissance of the past three years has coincided with increasing media coverage of colony collapse disorder, which is most pronounced among commercial beekeepers whose hives are rented to pollinate apples, peaches, almonds and other crops. The plight of the bee has entered the popular psyche, and many of the new beekeepers are young and female, itself a shift in the hobby.
“I think this is the largest demand I have seen to date,” said Tim Arheit, whose inventory of bees has been sold out for weeks at his Honey Run Apiaries in Delphos, Ohio. On one level, he is encouraged by the ranks of new beekeepers. After beekeeping became more difficult 20 years ago, with the arrival of parasitic mites, the number of beekeepers in Ohio dropped from 10 000 to 3 000, he said. “It is encouraging to see young beekeepers start. On the other hand, to see orders from existing beekeepers with high losses is a little discouraging.”
Many bee societies are looking to move away from relying on shipped packages as a way of stocking hives, deciding instead to replenish them locally with nucleus hives, or nucs. Typically, four double-sided frames are lifted from a healthy hive — they contain honeycomb and, mostly, baby bees in various stages of development. A young, healthy queen is added to the fresh hive. This is done later in the season than with packages, and though you may forgo a first-year honey harvest, vigorous nucs can expand beautifully the following spring.
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  • Conservation Ethnobotany in the North Atlantic

Source: Cory Whitney, Korean Organizing Committee for the 17th IFOAM OWC

A survey was conducted across the Faroe Islands and Iceland with wild collectors, gardeners, farmers and chefs, with the support of the Partridge Foundation's Trans Atlantic Partnership between the College of the Atlantic in the United States, the University of Kassel in Germany and The Organic Research Center in the United Kingdom. The aim was to determine the extent, composition and function of uses of native species of terrestrial plants, algae and fungi in the region through the use of quantitative ethnobotanical methodology. By identifying culturally significant native species of terrestrial plants, algae and fungi, researchers in the study hope to show that the potential for conservation also increases.
The survey identified a total of 130 native species with cultural significance from 88 genera, including 99 native species of terrestrial plants (65 species of annual, eight species of perennial herbs, 15 species of perennial shrubs and 11 species of perennial trees), 20 native species of algae, 10 native species of fungi, and one native species of lichen. In Iceland 109 native species were cited as culturally significant (CI (index)), whereas 57 were identified in the Faroe Islands. All respondents collected some wild species and 50 percent grew some native species in home gardens or commercially.
The proportion of all potentially usable native species with CI in the Faroe Islands and Iceland however could be much greater. Nevertheless, some native species of plants are known ubiquitously. The most commonly used are the Angelica spp. and Betula spp., traditionally used for food and medicine and still used today for these purposes. A strong possibility for sustainable management of wild collection of these native species exists through expansion of organic certification.
The identification of cultural keystone species is hence paramount in their conservation. Looking at ways to increase the cultural importance and the number and types of uses by people living in an area will increase the likelihood that the natural areas where these species exist will be preserved. Culture and knowledge are dynamic, and this survey attempts to look at cultural uses of native plants while being mindful of the dynamism of cultural knowledge and the changes that are taking place to both ecology and culture.
Through the interviews and sample collections, it became apparent that there exists a conservation mentality in the culture of native plant collection and usage in the Faroe Islands and Iceland. People who tend to use native biodiversity also tend to have an appreciation and a conservation attitude toward that biodiversity. Many of the wild collectors are also activists and politically active change agents in the Icelandic and Faroese politics related to natural resources management.
A chef in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands said that wild collection by his kitchen staff and others around Scandinavia is leading to a new paradigm of food in the North Atlantic. The movement is called the Nordic Kitchen and is leading to conservation efforts by chefs and food enthusiasts around the region to learn, preserve, and utilize native species for traditional and innovative local meals.
For more information please contact:
Cory Whitney MSc.
International Relations Consultant
Korean Organizing Committee for the 17th IFOAM OWC
202 Misung Plaza
685-1 Guan-dong,
Namyangju City, 472-060
Gyeonggi Province, Korea
E-mail: [email protected]


  • Destruction of world's biggest rainforests down 25 percent, says FAO report

Source: Reuters in Amazon News, 2 June 2011

The rate of destruction of the world's three largest forests fell 25 percent this decade compared with the previous one, but remains alarmingly high in some countries, FAO said.
A report entitled The State of the Forests in the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin and South East Asia ( was released to coincide with a summit in the Congo Republic bringing together delegates from 35 countries occupying those forests, with a view to reaching a global deal on management and conservation.
The Amazon and the Congo are the world's first and second biggest forests, respectively, and the third biggest — the Borneo Mekong — is in Indonesia. They sink billions of tonnes of carbon and house two thirds of the world's remaining land species between them.
The study found that annual rate of deforestation across the three regions, which account for more than 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, was 5.4 million ha between 2000 and 2010, down a quarter from 7.1 million ha in the previous decade.
Statistics showed that forest destruction in the Congo basin had remained stable but low over the last 20 years, whilst in South East Asia the rate of deforestation more than halved. Countries which had previously had high levels of forest loss, such as Brazil and Indonesia, have had some success tackling the problem through better conservation awareness and government policy said the report's author, Mette Wilkie.
But she suggested this was no cause for complacency, especially of the threat from farming."Deforestation is higher than it ought to be," Wilkie told Reuters. Indonesia's forests in particular have been ravaged by clearing for palm oil crops in the past, although the government last month signed a 2-year moratorium on forest clearing, part of a carbon offset deal with Norway worth US$1 billion. Ecuador, Burundi and Cambodia had the highest rates of forest loss whilst Rwanda, Vietnam and the Philippines were amongst countries which had seen their forests grow in recent years, according to the study.
Wilkie said growing global demand for food, expected to rise by 70 percent by 2050, would put more pressure on these ecosystems.
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  • Forest summit promises closer ties for poor nations

Source: Reuters, 4 June 2011

Leaders from the world's three largest forest basins said they would work together to tackle deforestation, on the final day of a weeklong conference, in Brazzaville. Heads of state and ministers from countries in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo-Mekong basins signed a declaration recognizing the need to protect their forests in the fight against climate change, but stopped short of agreeing on a formal structure for cooperation.
"(The governments) agree to adopt concrete steps to promote dialogue among their countries. They mandate their relevant ministers to meet and prepare an action plan on cooperation on sustainable management of forests," the joint declaration said.
Before the announcement, Brazilian minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira told Reuters the summit was a chance for very different countries with similar forestry concerns to talk. "It is very important that we see the different cultural aspects but I really believe we can work together," she said.
The declaration saw Guyana's president Bharrat Jagdeo appointed roving ambassador representing the interest of the three forest basins. Earlier in the day he had delivered a speech warning developed countries that poorer nations could abandon attempts to conserve their natural resources if funding issues were not resolved.
The declaration also called for the international community to support efforts to avoid deforestation. The summit focused on how countries could access an estimated US$4 billion pledged by richer countries to help tackle climate change through the United Nations REDD+ scheme, which aims to create financial value for carbon stored in forests.
The Congo, Amazon and Borneo-Mekong basins make up 80 percent of the world's equatorial forests, and are home to two thirds of the world's land-based biodiversity and 300 million people, many of whom rely on the forests to survive.
Halting deforestation in the three regions, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's forest held carbon, is seen as crucial to the fight against climate change.
The forests are under threat, losing 5.4 million ha/year, mainly to agriculture, a UN report said.
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  • Congo meeting fails to make forest commitment

Source:, 6 June 2011

Delegates from tropical forest countries meeting in Republic of Congo failed to come up with a formal commitment to protect rainforests, reports Nature News.
The Brazzaville meeting instead produced a general statement on the importance of forests which supporters said would help advance discussions at future climate negotiations, including climate talks in December in Durban and next year's Rio+20 conference on sustainable development.
Environmental groups hoped the meeting would produce a formal pact on forest protection targets. WWF has called for zero net deforestation by 2020.
Participants polled by Nature News said lack of organization undermined the effort to produce a formal agreement. Only a few countries sent high-level representatives.
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  • Food demand eating into tropical forests — report

Source: Reuters, 7 June 2011

Slowing deforestation and greater awareness of the value of standing trees may come too late to save the world's biggest rainforests, according to a global assessment of tropical forests published Tuesday.
The report, entitled Status of tropical forest management 2011, said that tropical forests are threatened by pressures to clear land to produce food and biofuels and to plant fast-growing trees for timber, wood fuel and paper.
Awareness of consumer demands was growing in tropical countries, especially in western countries, for wood harvested sustainably, but perhaps not fast enough to counter growing world demand for food, said Duncan Poore, co-author of the report and former head of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
"The fundamental point is that conserving forests is not as lucrative as converting to other uses. When you consider the increase in consumption in China and India it is a very alarming prospect," he said, referring to demand to convert forests to farms for food and biofuels.
The global area of permanent, natural tropical forests, either protected or harvested for indigenous tree species, was likely to continue to fall in the medium term, said the report.



  • Possible cause of dwindling bee population? Cell phones

Source: Environmental News Network, 31 May 2011

We all know that our reliance on technology significantly affects the natural environment, yet to what degree?
Scientists in a recent study, led by Dr. Daniel Favre, found cell phones may be a cause behind dwindling bee populations. The scientists positioned a cell phone directly beneath a bee hive and kept track of how the bees responded to cell phone activity, such as the receiving of calls. The researchers found that the bees did react to the cell phone, and with distress. They could tell when the phone was receiving a call and would buzz in a way that is associated with swarming. Although the bees never swarmed, Dr. Favre believes that the “onset of unexpected swarming triggered by mobile phone signals could have ‘dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses.’”
The bee population has been in tremendous decline over the past several decades, so while cell phones may not be the cause or even the only factor, they certainly are not helping.
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  • The value of forests

Source: The Jamaica Observer, 25 May 2011

There should be no underestimating the value of forests. Forests are home to 80 percent of terrestrial biodiversity. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat, "Forests offer much more than just timber. Along with food and other natural products, they provide the plants that are the basis of many traditional medicines and Western pharmaceuticals".
"They help to limit climate change by preventing vast amounts of carbon from reaching the atmosphere. Forests also regulate local temperatures, protect drinking water supplies and alleviate land degradation and desertification."
Forests are also important habitats for several species, plants and animals alike, which help make up earth's biological diversity."Over two-thirds of all known terrestrial (land-based) species live in forests. This great diversity of trees, plants animals, fungi and microorganisms, and the complex interactions among them, are what makes forests so valuable to humanity," writes the CBD.
Still, forests are undervalued and as such come under threat. Some 13 million ha of forest are converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year. Among the human activities that put them at risk are: the conversion of forests to agricultural land; overgrazing; unsustainable management; the introduction of invasive alien species; infrastructure development; as well as mining and oil exploration. Man-made fires, pollution and climate change also present threats.
It is little wonder then that 2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests by the UN General Assembly. Under the theme “Forests for people”, the initiative will aim to "raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests."
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  • Trees and landscape restoration can help deliver “triple win” 

Source:, 23 May 2011

Against a backdrop of volatile food prices and increasing climate variability, more and more people are paying attention to the relationship between a healthy environment and resilient farmland. From policy makers to private investors, from researchers to smallholder farmers, many are looking for better ways to increase food security in a changing climate. Organizers of a three-day Investment Forum in Nairobi on 25-27 May hoped these groups would focus their eyes on trees — trees in productive landscapes that can help achieve the “triple win” of increased productivity, climate resilience and carbon capture, in ways that benefit smallholder farmers.
“Feeding the planet in the next 20 years is not simply a quantitative challenge,” said Inger Andersen, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank, ahead of the Forum. “Unsustainable practices that degrade soil fertility will depress yields and keep pushing people further into remaining natural forests. We want to encourage agricultural practices that are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.” Agricultural expansion is the main driver of deforestation in many parts of the world, directly challenging conservation efforts.
The gathering represents an attempt to identify — and lift — some of the financial, institutional and policy barriers that so far have held back investment in sustainable tree-based practices.
African entrepreneurs, farmers, civil society and governments have understood the benefits of landscape investments in many cases, leading for example to impressive results in “re-greening” parklands in Niger in the past two decades, restoring watersheds in Rwanda, and wide-scale adoption of conservation agriculture in Zambia. Trees have been an integral part of this re-greening — either in fields, on farm boundaries, or within larger sustainably managed forests and plantations.
The practice of incorporating trees into the agricultural landscape is becoming increasingly important throughout the world. FAO data confirm that while the global forest area is still declining every year, the number of trees on farms is dramatically increasing. Currently, 46 percent of all agricultural land globally, or more than 1 billion ha, has at least 10 percent tree cover.
“Combining trees and agriculture is nothing less than the radical, but entirely practical, pathway to a reinvention of agriculture,” said Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre. “It is a vision of a future in which much of our food crops will be grown under a full canopy of trees.”
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  • UN Secretary-General urges youth empowerment for sustainable development

Source: IISD News, 25 May 2011

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at Africa Day 2011 in Ethiopia, where he said young people are “one of Africa’s greatest untapped resources” for promoting sustainable development.
This year’s Africa Day was held under the theme, “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.” The annual event commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union, in 1963.
Secretary-General Ban noted that Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30. He said many of its young people face difficulties in finding decent jobs and participating in decision-making, despite advances in education and economic growth, and he urged African countries to empower youth as an essential step toward “sustainable economic growth and sustainable management of the earth’s ecosystems and resources.”
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  • Walking the talk towards south-south cooperation

Source:, 6 June 2011

South-South cooperation is not only a "promising approach" to development cooperation, but can also lead to "inclusive ownership" and help strengthen cooperation with non-state actors in developing lands, according to a high-level conference in the European Parliament.
The conference in Brussels on 31 May brought together Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro, Jamaican Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry Marlene Malahoo Forte, members of the European Parliament and senior representatives from the European Commission, NGOs and national ministries.
Under the title “Organizing Inclusive Ownership — The EU's Structured Dialogue to strengthen cooperation with Non State Actors in the South”, a number of programmes supported by The Netherlands were presented, including Social Watch, based in Montevideo, “Communities of Change”, supported by Cordaid, a Dutch development organization, and “Partners in South-South Cooperation” based in Costa Rica.
"South-South cooperation is a visionary idea that is starting to pay off today. Due to their first-hand familiarity with the problems on the ground, actors in South-South cooperation can be more efficient and effective in identifying and implementing solutions," said Castro. "South-South cooperation increases the cost effectiveness, promotes the transfer of appropriate technologies and ensures local ownership, leadership and capacity building," he added.
All speakers warned against the EU trying to reinvent the wheel, and urged it to rely on experiences that have been tested and found successful. "Countries like The Netherlands, who have supported new approaches such as South-South cooperation early on, can have a leading role in this drive towards a more promising future of development cooperation," said René Grotenhuis, Cordaid director.
“Partners in South-South Cooperation”, formerly “Programme for South-South Cooperation”, a sustainable development partnership founded in 2006 between Benin, Bhutan and Costa Rica presented at the conference their success formula. "By working closely together we are able to tap into the diverse knowledge of each partner. We taught Costa Ricans the value of edible insects for fodder, while Costa Ricans helped us to introduce organic pineapple farming, which opened up new export markets for our small-scale farmers and generated much needed additional income,” said Mathias K. Pofagi, Director of Partners' Benin chapter.
"Partners' success formula was independence from donors, emphasis on genuine reciprocity and equality between members and the participation not only of governments but also businesses and civil society, indigenous people, women, farmers and universities," said Marianella Feoli, from the Partners' Secretariat. "We have proven that South-South cooperation can make the difference, if one not just ‘talks the talk’ but also 'walks the talk'."
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  • World Environment Day celebrations focus on forests

Source: IISD News, 5 June 2011

Millions of people celebrated World Environment Day (WED) around the theme, "Forests: Nature at Your Service," which highlights the ecosystem services provided by the world’s forests. People across the world took part in WED activities, from litter clean-ups around Mount Everest to mini-marathons in India, the host country for 2011. 
Commemorated on 5 June since 1972, WED is one of the main tools through which the UN stimulates awareness of the environment and promotes political attention and action. In Congo-Brazzaville, an international summit on tropical forest basins was held, with a focus on the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong Borneo basins. Costa Rica hosted participants from 15 neighbouring countries for a training course on sustainable forest management. In Canada, environmental workshops for students, a high-level consultation on the Green Economy with 40 environmental leaders and a series of book readings for children were held. In Bahrain, the regional office for West Asia of UNEP helped coordinate a beach-cleaning and tree-planting campaign.
In a message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that "no single day can transform development onto a sustainable path." However, looking towards the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), he underlined that this year's edition of WED can communicate to those with influence in government and the private sector that it is time to fulfil the promises of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
Also to celebrate the Day, UNEP released a report titled "Forests in a Green Economy," which highlights how increased public and private investment in forest management and forest resources can promote employment, reduce deforestation and address climate change.
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  • CI and CBD Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Conservation Fellowship

From: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, 27 May 2011

Now in its second year, the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Conservation Fellowship, sponsored by Conservation International and the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity is open for a new round of applications. This fellowship was established to create opportunities for leaders and scholars from indigenous and traditional peoples’ communities and organizations to explore solutions to the impacts of climate change and the threats to ecosystems and biodiversity that are affecting their lands, communities and livelihoods.
The program will focus on two very important areas: (1) a professional development component for the selected candidate, including trainings, classes, and attendance at national and international meetings; and (2) support for a research project into the contribution of traditional knowledge in adapting to climate change and/or maintaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, and the linkages between traditional knowledge and science and new technologies in order to inform policy and action on the ground.
The information and application materials can be downloaded from the CI website, and are available in 4 languages: English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Please submit all application materials to: [email protected] by 30 June 2011 to be considered for this fellowship.
For more information, please see:




Community Forestry: Key to Solving Current and Emerging Challenges
Bangkok, Thailand
8-9 August 2011
Many Asia-Pacific countries have made considerable strides in giving local people a greater stake in managing their forests resources. However, pressure on forests is high, and decision makers often must revalue forest land as a result of changing environmental, economic, and social drivers. The time is right for taking stock of where community forestry stands today and for committing to efficient and practical solutions that work for both people and forests.
In collaboration with Thailand's Royal Forest Department, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests, the ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN), FAO, and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are organizing the Second Regional Forum for People and Forests.
The International Year of Forests calls for a people-centred approach to sustainable forest management. This forum intends to promote community forestry as a vital tool for solving current and emerging challenges in Asia and the Pacific.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Somying Soontornwong
RECOFTC Headquarters, Thailand
P.O. Box 1111, Kasetsart Post Office
Pahonyonthin Rd.
Bangkok 10903, Thailand
Tel: 66-2-940-5700
Fax: 66-2-561-4880 or 66-2-562-0960
Email: [email protected]



14th Symposium of the Natural Product Research Network for Eastern and Central Africa (NAPRECA)
Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya
8-12 August 2011
NAPRECA has the mandate to mobilize scientists in the relevant fields in the East and Central African sub-region to contribute effectively to the development of the science of Natural Products. The necessity of NAPRECA was borne from the realization that Africa was rich in biodiversity but poor in research and development in Natural Products.
This event aims to further explore natural products on the continent, under the theme: Natural products from African Biodiversity.
For more information, please contact:
Prof. O.J. Midiwo
Department of Chemistry
University of Nairobi
PO Box 30197
00100 GPO
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-20-4451559
E-mail: [email protected]



Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Conference 2020
Bangkok, Thailand
15-16 November 2011
The GMS countries, through the GMS Working Group on Environment (WGE) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are organizing a Conference to benchmark economic developments of the decade spanning 2001-2010. The Conference will look at the decade’s impact on growth, the wider distribution of economic benefits to the poor in the Sub-region, and its overall effect on the environment in order to take a hard look at the next ten years 2011-2020 on emerging challenges of climate change and the need for appropriate responses.
The discussion groups will focus on the Food-Water-Energy nexus. The Conference organizers are inviting papers on the following themes relating to countries of the GMS:

  • Dynamics of economic growth in the GMS — a retrospective view 2001-2010
  • Social development: poverty and gender
  • The regional integration model of the GMS
  • The tradeoffs between economic prosperity and social and environmental concerns
  • Impact of dynamic Growth on natural resources and environment
  • Emerging environmental themes: present and future challenges
  • Growth and food security
  • Land and water and climate change
  • The public-private-partnership role in development and environment
  • GMS Economic Outlook – 2020
  • Developmental outlook of the next decade: human resources and gender; social (human) development challenges
  • Climate change challenges
  • Environmental challenges
  • The emerging role of the private sector in mitigation and adaptation

            Papers may be submitted for presentation in the conference and will be considered by the Conference Papers Review Committee (CPRC). Submission of abstracts in electronic copy (in WORD or PDF format) should be sent to Dr. Hasan Moinuddin ([email protected]) and Ms. Sarah Katz ([email protected]) no later than 30 June 2011.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Hasan Moinuddin, Conference Lead Facilitator
Ms. Sarah Katz, Conference Coordinator
Sarah Katz, Outreach Specialist
Greater Mekong Sub-region
Environment Operations Center
Asian Development Bank
Offices at Centralworld
999/9 Rama 1 Road
Patumwan, 10330 Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2207 4430
Fax: +66 2207 4400
Email: [email protected]




43.       Request for contributions for The Natural Resources Forum on Rio+20
From: Marian Aggrey (Natural Resources Forum) in Sustainable Development Announcement List, 25 May 2011

“What do you think should be the two or three highest priority political outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in June 2012?”
The Natural Resources Forum, a quarterly journal issued by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and published by Wiley-Blackwell, is inviting your views on the above question for the Viewpoints section of the November 2011 issue.
The section offers a platform for academics, practitioners and experts to share their perspectives and to feature these perspectives alongside other responses in the journal. Each entry should be 250 words or less addressing the question.
The Editorial Team will select contributions that address an important dimension of the debate.
The deadline for submission to the Viewpoints issue is: 15 July 2011. Contributions should be sent to:[email protected].




44.       Mushrooms, from dazzling to deadly
From: New York Times, 17 May 2011

How dazzling is the world of mushrooms? The fan-shaped cinnabar oysterling looks like something you would find undersea. The violet webcap is vibrant. These are among the more than 600 fungi described and illustrated in the scholarly book: The Book of Fungi, by Peter Roberts and Shelley Evans. It gives examples of cultivated mushrooms like shiitake, explains why porcini cannot be cultivated (no spores), has an interesting section on truffles and describes dozens of edible wild mushrooms. It also covers hundreds of mushrooms that are inedible or deadly poisonous.
For more information, please see:



45.       Trees are the Answer
From: Think to Sustain, June Newsletter, 7 June 2011

The new, revised 10th anniversary edition of Trees are the Answer delivers an even more powerful message than before about the value of forests, a message that runs counter to much of the environmental movement’s current thinking.
With straight-forward logic based on facts and science, Dr. Patrick Moore gives new eyes with which to see the land, exploring the beauty, biodiversity and spirit of forests growing back after logging. This renowned environmental visionary poses many critical questions in this edition, including: how we tackle the following important social and environmental problems of the 21st century, carbon capture and storage, green building, wildlife habitat, renewable biofuel energy, clean air and water, printing, packaging and sanitation, and fertile soils, among others.
For more information, please see:



46.       Katoomba Issue Brief: Payments for Ecosystem Services in Vietnam's Mangrove Forests
From:, 28 May 2011

Vietnam’s mangrove ecosystems are tremendously valuable, providing ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, protection from storms, floods, and erosion, provision of timber and NTFPs, processing of waste and nutrient pollution, aquaculture and agriculture support, and habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. Yet, as in many other parts of the world, short-term development needs are undermining long-term mangrove health and survival. Fortunately, economic mechanisms have the potential to tip the balance toward restoration, maintenance, and protection of mangrove forests.
This issue brief summarizes research by the Katoomba Group’s Legal Initiative into key barriers to and opportunities for payments for ecosystem services in Vietnam’s mangrove forests, drawing from the December 2010 report Roots in the Water: Legal Frameworks for Mangrove PES in Vietnam.
The issue brief can be downloaded at:



47.       Other publications of Interest
From: NWFP Programme

Ariza Cortes, W. Huertas Garcia, C. Hernandez Ortiz, A. Gelvez Bernal, J. Gonzalez Rodriguez, J. Lopez Gutierrez, L. 2011. Characterization and traditional use of NTFPs in the Guantiva, La Rusia, Iguaque Conservation Corridor. Revista Colombia Forestal. 13: 1, 117-140.

Desbiez, A.L.J., Keuroghlian, A., Piovezan, U., and Bodmer, R.E. 2011. Invasive species and bushmeat hunting contributing to wildlife conservation: the case of feral pigs in a Neotropical wetland. Oryx 45(1):78-83.

Duchelle, A. E. Cronkleton, P. Kainer, K. A. Guanacoma, G. Gezan, S. 2011. Resource theft in tropical forest communities: implications for non-timber management, livelihoods, and conservation. Ecology and Society. 16: 1.
Goulson, D., Rayner, P., Dawson, B., and Darvill, B. 2011. Translating research into action; bumblebee conservation as a case study. J. Appl. Ecol. 48(1):3-8.
Gurney, K.M., Schaberg, P.G., Hawley, G.J., and Shane, J.B. 2011. Inadequate cold tolerance as a possible limitation to American chestnut restoration in the northeastern United States. Restor. Ecol. 19(1):55-63.
Lemonick, M. 2011. The Great Tree Survey. National Geographic. 219(5): 30, 31, 33.

Lindsey, P.A., Romañach, S.S., Tambling, C.J., Chartier, K., and Groom, R. 2011. Ecological and financial impacts of illegal bushmeat trade in Zimbabwe. Oryx 45(1):96-111.

Katila, P. et al. 2010. Policy brief. Making forests work for people and nature — Responding to global drivers of change. IUFRO WFSE. 33 p.

Kumar, P. S. Debasis Mishra Goutam Ghosh Panda, C. S. 2010. Medicinal uses and pharmacological properties of Moringa oleifera. International Journal of Phytomedicine. 2: 3, 210-216. 56 ref.

Manhita, A. Ferreira, T. Candeias, A. Dias, C. B. 2011. Extracting natural dyes from wool — an evaluation of extraction methods. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 400: 5, 1501-1514. 52 ref.

Mery, G., et al. J. 2010. Forests and Society — Responding to Global Drivers of Change. IUFRO World Series Volume 25. 509 p
This book, published by The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) under its special project World Forests, Society and Environment (WFSE), focuses on the main global drivers of change affecting world’s forests and forest dependent people and the challenges and opportunities they create. It also proposes ways to reduce the adverse effects of these drivers and to take advantage of the new opportunities they may bring. This book is a result of a collaborative writing process of over 160 authors from all over the world.

Shackleton, S., Shackleton, C., Shanley, P.(Eds.). 2011. Tropical Forestry Series: Non-Timber Forest Products in the Global Context. Vol. 7, 1st Edition. Germany: Springer.
Abstract: This book provides a comprehensive, global synthesis of current knowledge on the potential and challenges associated with the multiple roles, use, management and marketing of NTFPs. There has been considerable research and policy effort surrounding NTFPs over the last two and half decades. The book explores the evolution of sentiments regarding the potential of NTFPs in promoting options for sustainable multi-purpose forest management, income generation and poverty alleviation. Based on a critical analysis of the debates and discourses it employs a systematic approach to present a balanced and realistic perspective on the benefits and challenges associated with NTFP use and management within local livelihoods and landscapes, supported with case examples from both the southern and northern hemispheres. This book covers the social, economic and ecological dimensions of NTFPs and closes with an examination of future prospects and research directions.

Spivak, M., Mader, E., Vaughan, M., and Euliss, N.H. 2011. The plight of the bees. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45(1):34-38.

Waheed, S. A. & Khan, M. A. 2011. Indigenous knowledge and folk use of medicinal plants by the tribal communities of Hazar Nao forest, Malakand District, North Pakistan. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. 5: 7, 1072-1086.



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

Bio-cultural Heritage
In the face of food insecurity and climate change, local people’s understandings of and relationships with natural resources are a vital tool for global well-being. However, in modern legal systems, it is easy for policies and laws on traditional knowledge and access to traditional resources to protect only intellectual property, whereas for many indigenous peoples, their knowledge is intrinsically connected to their biological resources, landscapes, cultural values, and customary laws.
To promote understanding of traditional bio-cultural knowledge as a whole, IIED launched a new web site, containing toolkits, resources, policy information, and case studies that keep traditional knowledge in context.




49.       Climate change to deal blow to fruits, nuts: Study
Source: The Times of India, 29 May 2011

Climate change is expected to alter the global industry in fruits and nuts dramatically as tree crops such as pistachios and cherries struggle in the rising temperatures, researchers said.
A study said that even if polluters took greater action to cut carbon emissions, the impact of climate change will likely be severe enough that the nearly US$100 billion-a-year fruit and nut industry needs to reassess planning.
Trees in temperate regions evolved to need a chilly period so they can grow in the spring. Rising temperatures pose a special problem for temperate but comparatively warm areas where the winter chill is already in short supply.
For full story, please see:



  • India: Kids turn farmers

Source: Hindustan Times (India), 29 May 2011

Urban Leaves, a non-profit organization promoting urban gardening, is now giving children an opportunity to learn to grow vegetables, make compost, and create self-watering cans, control mosquitoes without chemicals and a lot more. “This camp is essentially for kids. Through lively demonstrations we want children to understand why it is important to grow your own veggies and learn about urban farming,” says Preeti Patil, who works at the Bombay Port Trust and initiated Urban Leaves. She adds that the other objective of the camp is to ensure that the kids understand that everything in nature has balance until humans interfere.
At the camp, kids will also participate in nature trails, identify different plants and trees, compost kitchen waste, learn about medicinal plants/home remedies, know about seeds and masala ingredients and make self-watering cans from recycled plastic bottles. You can also learn to grow herbs like garlic and tulsi. There will also be a session on recycling kitchen water for older kids. You can also learn to make nutrient-rich soil called Amrut Mitti from natural resources found in your surroundings. “We will give out booklets so the kids can refer to the methods used at a later date,” says Patil.
City mom Sharadha Karnik feels such a camp is a necessity in a polluted city like Mumbai. “The more organic we go, the better it will be for our kids. And with rising prices, this could make home budgets economical in the future.” Her 12-year-old son joins in: “It would be cool to grow tomatoes at home and learn about medicinal herbs.”
And you if do not want to go to camp, Patil says volunteers from Urban Leaves come to housing societies to teach kids all the tricks.
For full story, please see:



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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012