June 2007

Basmati rice charts a new course for marketing traditional knowledge
Financial Express (India)

NEW DELHI, INDIA: The world may still be debating on how effectively to commercialise traditional knowledge for the benefit of all stakeholders, but Basmati rice in India has shown the way. Appropriate policy support and assured markets for a premium price have helped to preserve and conserve the traditional knowledge of basmati and commercialise it on a large-scale benefiting all stakeholders. Although the annual production of long-grain Basmati rice in India and Pakistan is around 2 million tonne, it commands a market size of over $1,167 million. More…

Bringing the TK of mountainous peoples together
FAO Newsroom

ROME, ITALY: Nearly one-third of the world’s food insecure live in mountain areas – over 245 million people, but development has barely touched many mountain communities. Increasingly, however, mountainous regions in Europe are providing resources and
expertise to highland communities in developing countries. Joint action between local groups in rich and poor countries through the sharing of skills and traditional practices, collectively known as decentralized cooperation, has benefits not only for the poor by providing access to resources as well as education, goods and services. It can also benefit wealthier partners by opening up new markets, through new product development such as speciality coffees, medicinal and aromatic plants, and as a means of protecting valuable natural repositories of freshwater and biodiversity. FAO is conducting a vigorous programme of Decentralized Cooperation with local administrations particularly in Italy where ten agreements have been signed at various levels, France (eight agreements) and Spain (two agreements) resulting in eighteen operational projects in the most needy areas of the world for a total budget value of US$13m. More…

Patented harpoon pins down whale age
Nature Magazine

LONDON, UK: A 100-year-old patented harpoon point, a dead bowhead whale and a unique collaboration between traditional hunters and scientists has helped to prove the theory that northern-latitude whales are among the world’s longest-lived mammals. The century-old harpoon fragment was found in May by an Eskimo whaling crew, which harvest the bowhead under a subsistence quota system monitored by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The Eskimo hunters have a 30-year history of scientific cooperation and sharing of traditional knowledge with researchers at North Slope Borough. More… [Subscription required]

Thai Government spends Bt2.5bn Promoting Traditional Medicines

BANGKOK, THAILAND: Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has initiated a five-year programme starting this year, to promote Thai traditional medicine and treatments for which it will spend nearly Bt2.5 billion. The programme will concentrate on providing better knowledge to practitioners during its first three years. The ministry is committed to raising the standards of Thai traditional medicines and treatments so that they will have standards equal to those of western-based medical practice by the end of the five-year program. Most importantly, the ministry will also raise manufacturing standards of Thai traditional and herbal medicines during the programme and aims at raising the consumption of traditional medicines to at least 25 per cent of total use, to reduce Thailand’s dependence on imported medications. More…

Namibia examines access and benefit sharing

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA: A meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, is bringing together private sector and government in an effort to develop legislation and practices governing biotrade and bioprospecting. Namibia is currently drafting a bill on Access to Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge. Jooste said biotrade and bioprospecting have the potential to generate significant economic benefits to Namibia, yet given the absence of appropriate and watertight legislation, the country would lose in potential revenue sources if exploited without proper benefit sharing agreements. More…

Canadian Committee on Species at Risk gets Aboriginal Perspective
CBC News

OTTAWA, CANADA: The scientific committee that advises Ottawa on species at risk says it will include more traditional aboriginal knowledge in its work, addressing concerns from aboriginal people that their voices aren’t heard by scientists. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) includes scientists from all levels of government as well as representatives from conservation organizations. It was created 30 years ago to recommend what species should be listed as endangered, threatened or “of special concern” under the Species at Risk Act. Committee chair Jeff Hutchings told CBC News that within the last month, Environment Minister John Baird appointed 12 members to an Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittee, which was created in 2000 but only met informally since that time. More…

Malaysia to hire traditional medicine practitioners from China
Earth Times

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysia will soon hire qualified traditional medicine practitioners from China who will be placed in the traditional section of government hospitals, a top health official said Thursday. Deputy Health Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad said the foreign doctors would have recognised degrees comprising a 30 to 40 per cent knowledge in modern medicine, aside from knowledge on traditional Chinese medicine. More…

Mapping With The Maasai
Innovations Report

LIECESTER, UK: Traditional Maasai songs, dance, sketch maps and mental maps are to be incorporated with digital video recordings, photography and satellite imagery in a pioneering new project at the University of Leicester. The aim is to develop a new cultural mapping to help the Maasai represent their deep understanding of their land through ‘virtual eyes’. The innovative research aims to draw on the environmental knowledge and pastoralist practices of the Maasai and combine it with the latest geographical information technology in order to inform community conservation and development initiatives and ecosystem management policies. More…

BIODIVERSITY & THE LAW: Intellectual Property, Biotechnology & Traditional Knowledge (2007)
Charles McManis (ed)
ISBN 1844073491 / 9781844073498

Earthscan has announced the release of a new book on promoting global economic development, while simultaneously preserving local biological and cultural diversity. This volume, written by leading legal experts and biological and social scientists from around the world, aims to address this question in all of its complexity. The first part of the book examines biodiversity and examines what are we losing, why and looks at what is to be done. The second part addresses biotechnology and looks at whether it is part of the solution or part of the problem, or perhaps both. The third section examines traditional knowledge, explains what it is and how, if at all, it should be protected. The fourth and final part looks at ethnobotany and bioprospecting and offers practical lessons from the vast and diverse experiences of the contributors.

Purchase this book from Earthscan…
Course leaders can request an examination copy of the book…

Fifth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-Sharing (WGABS-5)
8 October – 12 October 2007 (Montreal, Canada)
Fifth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (WG8J-5)
15 October – 19 October 2007

The Advisory Selection Committee has been selected for the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Voluntary Funding Mechanism to facilitate the participation of indigenous and local communities in the work of the Convention. Members include:

  • Mr Emmanuel Nengo (Burundi)
  • Ms Suraporn Suriyamonton (Thailand)
  • Mr Onel Masardule Arias (Panama)
  • Ms Gun-Britt Retter (Norway)
  • Ms Erjen Khamaganova (Russia)
  • Mr Merle C Alexander (Canada)
  • Ms Malia Nobrega (Hawaii)

Funding is still available for participation in the Fifth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-Sharing (WGABS-5) and the Fifth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (WG8J-5).

The deadline for applications is 15 July 2007.

Download a Fund Application Form…
Download WGABS-5 documents…
Download WG8J-5 documents…

Knowledge of medicines by indigenous communities receding
Down To Earth

It’s quite well-known that indigenous communities share an intricate relationship with their environments. Their understanding of plants, also called ethnobotanical knowledge, is crucial to the health of these communities. Researchers from four different universities—Northwestern University, Illinois, universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, University of Georgia, Athens, and Brandeis University, Massachusetts, studied the Tsimane tribe in Bolivia and found that there is a correlation between mothers’ knowledge about plants and the health of their children. However, with pharmaceutical industry regularly looking for leads to drugs from plants, it is possible that the Tsimane community could be in the early stages of market integration. And then, access to plants could get remote. “in areas where rice has been introduced through the public distribution system, the people are less healthy,” says Nirmalendu Jyotishi of the Regional Centre for Development and Cooperation, Bolangir, Orissa. Migration too affects a community’s ability to use the natural environment to their advantage. More…

Philippine Centre for Indigenous People’s Education to preserve indigenous cultures
Sun Star General Santos (Philippines)

KORONADAL CITY, PHILIPPINES: The Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) has opened a facility that will lead the promotion of culture-sensitive education for indigenous peoples in Koronadal City and the neighboring areas. DepEd Southwestern Mindanao Director Luz Almeda said the facility, dubbed Center for Indigenous People’s Education (Cipe), was established to facilitate the full implementation of the indigenous peoples program, which pushes for a more holistic and culture-sensitive approach in educating the indigenous people and to promote the preservation of various indigenous cultures in the region. More…

Mapuche: Hospital to Offer Indigenous Medicine
Latin America Press

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: A Buenos Aires provincial hospital is planning to become the country’s first health care center to offer traditional indigenous (Mapuche) medicine by the end of the year. The step taken by the health care institution is a major recognition of Argentina’s indigenous legacy. The idea was born in 2006 by the Mapuche group Epu Bafkeh, which means “Eyes of Water” in English. Health care officials in the Buenos Aires province accepted the proposal to use the native medicine techniques. Mapuche people currently use hospitals in cases of extreme emergency. Mapuche people believe that there is a unity between human beings, the community, supernatural forces and nature. Illness is considered a break with harmony, an imbalance, meaning it must be treated in a holistic manner. More…

Ecotourism: an innovative conservation and development strategy or a celebration of poverty?

KENT, UK: Many organisations support ecotourism as an effective way to integrate conservation and development. Non-governmental organisations with a conservation focus (such as WWF) and those with a rural development focus (such as SNV) have pioneered ecotourism to this end. In this opinion article, Jim Butcher questions the assumptions underlying ecotourism as a tool for sustainable development. On the issue of traditional knowledge of the environment, he notes it can be a starting point for ecotourism development, but it should not be the basis for development. To do so implies that cultures exist in a steady state with nature. More…

Provisional Committee on Proposals Related to a WIPO Development Agenda (PCDA/4)
11 June – 15 June 2007 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Excerpted from an article in Intellectual Property Watch

Members of a World Intellectual Property Organization committee addressing proposals for a WIPO Development Agenda last week potentially rewrote the UN body’s mandate, pending approval. Negotiators concluded a weeklong meeting with agreements on a wide range of proposals for new development-related activities – some hard to imagine for WIPO two years ago – and a recommendation to set up a new committee to implement the proposals.

Cluster B included issues on “Norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and public domain”. Agreed passages include a proposal to urge the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) to “accelerate the process” on the protection of these issues “without prejudice to any outcome, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments.” The original proposal was to negotiate such an instrument.

Read the 18 June IPW article…

Read the 14 June IPW article…
Read the WIPO Press Release…
Download the meeting documents…

Eleventh regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA-11)
9 June 2007, 11 – 15 June 2007 (Rome, Italy)

On Saturday, 9 June 2007, in the lead up to the eleventh regular session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA-11), a special event was held at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy. The event, entitled “Emerging Issues in the Management of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Towards a Multi-Year Programme of Work,” offered delegates and observers an opportunity to discuss with experts the Commission’s draft Multi-Year Programme of Work (MYPOW). Participants highlighted various issues during the discussions, including: the need to develop disease resistant breeds of livestock; documenting and archiving traditional knowledge; and threats to plant genetic resources emanating from genetically modified organisms and changes in dietary habits, with a resulting loss of local species in the Andean region. They also raised questions regarding: maximizing the value of in situ conservation through acknowledging the worth of traditional knowledge; developing legal frameworks to provide for the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources; and clarifying the role of the market in global diversity conservation.

Read the ENB coverage of CGRFA-11…
Download the CGRFA-11 documents…

Climate Change Threatening World’s Cultural Heritage, Including Sacred Sites
World Monuments Watch Press Release

NEW YORK, USA: Rising seas, melting ice and spreading deserts are threatening cultural landmarks across the globe. Every two years the World Monuments Fund lists endangered sites and the forces that threaten them. Now they have included global warming for the first time. Tara Hill in Ireland, considered a sacred landscape, is now threatened by the development of a highway meant to ease the commute from Dublin. Canada’s Herschel Island, situated on the edge of the Yukon and home to ancient Inuit sites, could be washed away in melting permafrost. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq has put that country’s entire cultural heritage at grave risk, the nonprofit group said. More…

Global Outlook for Snow and Ice – Threats to Traditional Ways of Life
UNEP Press Release

TROMSO, NORWAY: Ice, snow and climate change are closely linked. The Global Outlook for Ice and Snow investigates those linkages. It also presents information on the trends in ice and snow, the outlook for this century and beyond and the consequences to ecosystems and human well-being of these changes. Some communities are already adapting to climate change. Hunters in parts of Greenland are abandoning traditional dogsleds in favour of small open boats as a result of less predictable sea ice. However the report acknowledges that many indigenous peoples lack the financial resources and technology needed to adapt. More…

Australian Aborigines burn the way to climate control
BBC News

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA: A crackling fire snakes towards Dean Yibarbuk’s bare legs, as he and a group of fellow Aborigines walk through this isolated corner of the Australian Outback, pouring long trails of burning kerosene into the grass. It may seem strange, even dangerous behaviour, in a region where wildfires sweep through almost half the wilderness every year. But this work is part of a unique “carbon trading” deal which is harnessing ancient traditions of indigenous fire management in a very modern struggle against greenhouse gas pollution. “Our people have been doing this for thousands of years, to control the land,” says Dean. More…

Global Warming Threatens Traditions of Indigenous Peoples
UN Chronicle

NEW YORK, USA: Over 370 million indigenous peoples live in nearly 70 countries today. They see themselves as caregivers of the land and have maintained a close relationship with the earth. This traditional role was stressed during the sixth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, whose special theme was the indigenous peoples’ rights to Territories, Lands and Natural Resources, held at UN Headquarters in New York from 14 to 25 May 2007. Climate change was one of the priority issues discussed at various events during the two-week session. More…

Yoga Shlokas to be Translated for Patents Protection
Financial Express (India)

NEW DELHI, INDIA: The Indian government is embarking on an ambitious project to translate ancient Sanskrit scriptures in five foreign languages and send them to patent offices globally to prevent blatant commercial misuse of traditional Indian knowledge such as yoga in the US and other countries.
The department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) has engaged top institutes such as Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga and Kewal Dham of Pune to translate Sanskrit shlokas describing yogic asanas in English, French and German among other languages. More…

Traditional medicine to improve healthcare in Congo

BRAZZAVILLE, CONGO: The government of the Republic of Congo is implementing a public health strategy that includes traditional herbal cures to complement conventional medicine, in a bid to ensure wider availability of healthcare. “Congolese traditional medicine shall from now on be considered in order to make its use better organised and more effective,” said Célestine Tchissambou Bayonne, permanent secretary in the ministry of health, social affairs and family. More…

Ijaw Royal Fathers Task Govt on Harnessing Herbs in Niger-Delta

LAGOS, NIGERIA: Ijaw traditional rulers and members of the communities” development committees have called on the state and Federal Governments to exploit the abundant herbs and plants existing in the Niger Delta region as a way of empowering tradio-medical experts and youths to tackle killer diseases.
According to the traditional rulers and CDCs, the use of herbs at commercial quantity could create another means of livelihood that would help reduce the agitations of youths over the use of revenue accruable from oil and gas in the region. More…

Africa Insight – It’s Time the West Accepted Africa’s Traditional Healers
The Nation

NAIROBI, KENYA: Despite the increasing availability of Anti-retro viral drugs in sub Saharan Africa, the continent’s traditional healers and their plant medicines are playing an important role in the treatment of some of the most dreadful HIV and Aids-related opportunistic infections and other ailments. Given local considerations, it is not surprising that most people living with HIV and Aids are using traditional herbal treatments for HIV-related conditions, including opportunistic infections. And, according to most experts, traditional medicine is carrying the burden of clinical care for the HIV and Aids epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, a trend largely overlooked by health ministries, international agencies and donors. More…

Smithsonian scientists connect climate change, culture and agriculture in Mexico

A press release from the Smithsonian Institute draws attention to a study that links climate change, culture and agriculture. Mexico’s Central Balsas Valley is believed to be one of the sites where farmers domesticated maize and squashes. The new data suggest that the climate in the Balsas valley became cooler and drier at the end of the most recent ice age. Lakes in the valley formed at around that time and became magnets for human settlements, which contain evidence of maize and squash pollen. More…

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