PRESS RELEASE 7 May 2007
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: the way out of poverty?
Four-year, US$1.68M project in three countries of the greater Himalayan region will aim to realise this
About 20,000 tons of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) worth US$18-20 million are traded every year in Nepal alone, and about 90% are harvested in uncontrolled fashion, landless, resource-poor mountain farmers for whom the harvest and trade in medicinal plants constitutes their only form of cash income. The situation is similar in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and other countries of South Asia, and 90% of the plants from Nepal are exported to India in raw form.
The greater Himalayan region, in fact, holds the comparative advantage of being home to many medicinal and aromatic plants found only in the region. The region also has various well-developed practices in traditional medicines (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, among others) based on indigenous knowledge of these plants’ medicinal and healing properties. Considering the global trade in medicinal and aromatic plants – now a US$60 billion industry and still growing, especially with the increasing demand worldwide for herbal medicines – the potential of MAPs to provide relief from poverty in South Asia, where 40% of the world’s poor reside, is tremendous, if it can be tapped.
However, issues of sustainable harvesting – the need to balance the push-and-pull factors of commercial demand on the one hand and conservation of these valuable plants and their contribution to biodiversity on the other – the need for greater value addition at the community level and for stronger farmer-industry collaboration to realise this, the need for commercial cultivation of important species, as well as for more research about the plants and more information including market information and market strategies and a more supportive policy in the region need to be addressed.
Considering the increasing value of medicinal and aromatic plants, both in terms of primary health care and as a critical source of livelihoods and income for the rural poor in the region, ICIMOD with support from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), The Netherlands is implementing a four-year, US$1.68 million ‘Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Developing Sustainable Supply Chain and Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in the Eastern Himalayas’ Project in three countries, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, with India providing technical expertise. ICIMOD’s Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme in Asia (MAPPA) is the project’s implementing agency, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Intergovernmental Sub-Group on Tropical Fruits providing a supervisory role.
The project’s overall objective is to conserve natural resources, reduce poverty, and improve livelihoods for mountain communities of the Himalayan region through the sustainable development and utilisation of high-value, low-volume medicinal and aromatic plants. A recently concluded three-day inception workshop in April launched the project with implementing partners in the three countries. Participants included representatives from nodal agencies (focal point organisations for the project in each country), research and academic institutes, NGOs, and the private sector. The project will take consideration of each country’s priorities and special characteristics.
The inception workshop in April allowed each country to present its priorities and perspective, existing projects in the sector, and discussion about common and crosscutting issues. ICIMOD and experts from India shared latest trends and organic practices in MAPs cultivation and processing as well as emerging value supply chains practices here and in other countries. Through the workshop, each country’s nodes and partners sat down and consulted with MAP experts on their individual country plans. The country plans are now being refined after the consultations.
Institutional implementing mechanisms
Partners in each country, with a nodal agency in each, are implementing the Project. In Bangladesh the nodal agency is the Ministry of Commerce, with the Bangladesh Neem Foundation and the Development of Biotechnology and Environmental Conservation Centre as implementing partners. In Bhutan the project will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, while the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal, is the nodal agency in Nepal, with the Herbs and Non-Timber Forest Products Coordination Committee, Nepal working with partners to implement the project in Western Nepal.
For more information, please contact:
RBS Rawat, Regional Programme Coordinator
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme in Asia (MAPPA)
Notes to Editors
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
ICIMOD is an international independent Mountain Learning and Knowledge Centre serving eight regional countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas and the global mountain community. Founded in 1983, ICIMOD is based in Kathmandu, Nepal, and brings together a partnership of regional member countries, over 300 institutions within and outside the region, and donors with a commitment for development action to secure the future of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas.
ICIMOD builds institutional capacities and facilitates the development of mountain policy and regional cooperation through its four main functions as a multi-disciplinary documentation centre; focal point for problem solving by research; focal point for training; and consultative centre on sustainable mountain development.
The ICIMOD Overall Strategic Plan (2003-2007) has identified the following six integrated programmes - Natural Resource Management (NRM); Agriculture and Rural Income Diversification (ARID); Water, Hazards, and Environmental Management (WHEM); Culture, Equity, Gender and Governance (CEGG); Policy and Partnership (PP); and Information and Knowledge Management (IKM).
ICIMOD Member Countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.