February 2008


West Bengal’s snake charmers close to starvation
NewIndPress – 19 February 2008

KOLKATA, INDIA: Snake charmers in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal have said that they are on the verge of starvation following a government order to ban the keeping of snakes.”From the time of my father, grandfather, we have been in the snake charming profession. The law has banned this tradition but we continue with the trade to make a living,” claimed Lalu Sapuria, a snake charmer. The Government banned the keeping of snakes as pets under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Act also prohibits snake charmers from catching snakes or using them for entertainment. Voluntary groups, however, say snake charmers are a part of the country’s heritage and insist that their traditional knowledge should be preserved and developed as a modern science. Read the article…

Brazilian Government Published Bill on Bioprospecting/Biopiracy
Patent Baristas – 15 February 2008

OHIO, USA: The Brazilian Government has recently published a new proposed legislative bill to govern access to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as well as benefit sharing in Brazil. The new bill (open to public consultation until 28 February 2008) includes several TK provisions, such as new databases and recording processes, patent disclosures and penalties. Read the article… Read the proposed bill [Portugese]…

India and Pakistan link to protect Basmati
BBC News – 15 February 2008

AMRITSAR, INDIA: Basmati is the rice grown exclusively in the upper areas of the Gangetic Plains, on both sides of the border. Now, to protect the farmers of this region, India and Pakistan have decided to apply for a joint registration of the rice. If successful, the efforts to gain geographical indication, or GI, status for the rice will have a global impact. India is the largest producer of basmati in the world followed by Pakistan. “Our traditional knowledge of this soil, climate and crop has helped develop such superior strains of the rice,” says Lakvar Singh.
“It belongs to us. How can anyone else grow our rice?” Read the article…

Rediscovering the forgotten crops
BBC News – 15 February 2008

LONDON, UK: Over the last century about 75% of the world’s crop varieties have been lost, data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests. UN researchers say that we now rely on just three crops: wheat, rice and maize. The demand for relatively few crops has left experts worried that traditional knowledge of how to harvest millet will die out; something they have called “cultural erosion”. Read the article…

Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues
United Nations Development Group (UNDG) - February 2008

The United Nations Development Group (UNDG) has adopted guidelines to assist the UN system to mainstream and integrate indigenous peoples’ issues in processes for operational activities and programmes at the country level. These guidelines set out the broad normative, policy and operational framework for implementing a human rights based and culturally sensitive approach to development for and with indigenous peoples, providing lines of action for planning, implementation and evaluation of programmes involving indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the guidelines provide a framework for integrating the principles of cultural diversity into UN country programmes.

Traditional knowledge, intellectual property, intangible heritage and cultural expressions are highlighted as a key issue. The guiding principles provided include:

  • Indigenous peoples’ rights to control, own and manage their traditional knowledge and creativity are recognized, although in practice they remain difficult to implement.
  • Indigenous peoples have the right to use and preserve their languages and States should respect this right.
  • Specific legal regimes need to be established to ensure that indigenous peoples are able to benefit from their own knowledge, prevent its unlawful use by others and obtain the rightful recognition by the international community.
  • States are called upon to create an environment that encourages individuals and social groups, to create, produce, disseminate, distribute and have access to their own cultural expressions, paying due attention to the specific circumstances and needs of indigenous peoples.
  • They are furthermore called upon to ensure the widest possible participation of communities to maintain and transmit their intangible heritage, if so wished by the peoples involved, and involve them in a meaningful way in its management.

Download the Guidelines…

Biosphere reserves play major role in combating climate change – UNESCO
UN News Centre – 11 February 2008

PARIS, FRANCE: Biosphere reserves can spur efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as encourage increased use of renewable energy, according to a recent declaration adopted by a meeting backed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Following a week of deliberations, the more than 800 participants adopted the Madrid Declaration, which underscores the “potential for action” of reserves to tackle challenges such as the loss of traditional knowledge, cultural diversity and arable land, as well as global warming. Read the article…

Snow leopards earn their keep in tourist dollars
The New Nation [Bangladesh] – 11 February 2008

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Tsring Angmo, a student from Rumbak village in Ladakh, received training to track the endangered Snow Leopard using ‘cyber tracker’ devices and also to work as a nature guide in Ladakh, a cold, dry, high-altitude region of northern Jammu and Kashmir state. Cyber Tracker software, when fed into ordinary smart phones and hand-helds, transforms them into devices that enable local communities to get better involved in local biodiversity issues. The synergy between indigenous knowledge and modern information and communication (IC) technology has been found to vastly improve environmental monitoring. Read the article…

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