‘Giant Panda Friendly’ Medicinal Plant Harvesting Project Wins Equator Prize
May 17, 2012
A project to promote sustainable harvesting of wild medicinal plants in the mountains of China’s Upper Yangtze ecoregion has won the prestigious Equator Prize 2012.
AsianScientist (May 17, 2012) – A project to promote sustainable harvesting of wild medicinal plants in the mountains of China’s Upper Yangtze ecoregion has won the prestigious Equator Prize 2012.
The Equator Prize recognizes outstanding local initiatives working to advance sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities in countries receiving support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Over-harvesting of wild medicinal plant species is a serious conservation concern – aside from problems caused by the harvesting itself, the collectors can also have serious secondary impacts through camping within reserves, hunting, and gathering fuel-wood to dry commercial quantities of medicinal plants.
Such habitat destruction and disturbance also threatens endangered wildlife, including the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and the Takin (Budorcas taxicolor).
Due to a 1998 logging ban and a 2000 “Grain for Green” program which discourages farming on steep slopes, households compensated for a loss of income through the collection of medicinal plants in the Upper Yangtze.
To help alleviate the environmental damage, an initiative was developed through a comprehensive collaboration between WWF, IUCN, and TRAFFIC as part of the EU-China Biodiversity Program (ECBP), which led to local producer association members, harvesters, and governmental officials receiving training in the implementation of organic wild crop harvesting practices and certification procedures, as well as application of the FairWild Standard principles.
A survey of project sites in March 2011 found incomes from medicinal plant collection had risen, thanks to the certification schemes; in one village by almost 18 percent over 2007 levels.
In the case of Schisandra berries (Schisandra sphenanthera), international and local buyers paid at least 30 percent above normal market prices for certified produce.
In 2010, more than five tons (dry weight) of Schisandra fruits were sustainably harvested of which more than three tons were sold to Draco Natural Products (DNP Shanghai) for production of a concentrated dry extract specified by U.S.-based Traditional Medicinals Inc (TMI).
The project has also scaled up from one village in the 2008 and 2009 harvests up to 22 villages in the 2011 harvest.
“This project is proving that local harvesters from villages surrounding the Giant Panda conservation area can successfully implement meaningful sustainability standards,” said Josef Brinckmann, VP of Sustainability for TMI.
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