July 2007


Conservation: Mark of respect – Michael Hopkin
Nature 448, 402-403 (26 July 2007) | doi:10.1038/448402a

LONDON, UK: The Mbendjele pygmies, semi-nomadic people living in the rainforests of north-western Republic of Congo, are using technology to save important trees from commercial logging, reports Michael Hopkin in this Nature article.

In June in the rainforests of the northwest of the Republic of Congo, the trees rain caterpillars. For the Mbendjele pygmies who live there, it’s boom time. For a few weeks each year, children climb the 45-metre-tall sapelli trees and shake the branches, sending hundreds of newly hatched caterpillars down to the waiting women, who dry and cook the creatures to eat or sell. But someone else has their eye on the ‘caterpillar trees’ of the Congo. Their wood is one of the most valuable of the African mahoganies — a fact that has not escaped the attention of commercial loggers. One tree might yield five sacks of caterpillars per year, potentially fetching US$500 at the local market, but the timber from the same tree could bring in more than $1,500 of profit to a logging company. Now, though, the Mbendjele have a new way to help keep the trees standing. Scientists, conservationists and technicians have put together an innovative set of technologies to allow the forest people to mark trees that are important to them, saving them from the logger’s axe. More…

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Linking bioprospecting with sustainable development and conservation: the Panama case – Thomas Kursar et al
Biodiversity and Conservation 10 (2007) | doi: 10.1007/s10531-007-9214-2

UTAH, USA: The limited international resources for economic aid and conservation can only mitigate poverty and losses of biodiversity. Hence, developing nations must establish the capacity to resolve their problems. Additionally, policy-makers and donors need to obtain scientific input on issues such as global change and ecosystem services. The authors propose that for nations rich in biodiversity, ecosystem services derived from bioprospecting, or drug discovery, could contribute to economic development. In the case where unstudied samples are shipped abroad for research, the chances of obtaining royalties are infinitesimally small. Therefore developing nations will only realize benefits from bioprospecting through in-country research on their own biodiversity. Policy-makers and donors have failed to appreciate the value of this approach. In order to provide an example of the inherent links between conservation and sustainable economic development, we initiated a drug discovery effort in Panama that emphasizes local benefit. As much of the drug discovery process as possible is conducted in Panamanian laboratories, providing jobs dependent on intact biodiversity and enhancing local research and training. In short, research, plus the spin-offs from research, provide immediate and long-lasting benefits to Panama.

The connection between conservation and development has been highlighted in publicity about the project in Panama’s urban media. This provides a constructive alternative to the perception the among the urban populace that economic development inevitably competes with conservation. In summary, the author’s program uses biodiversity to promote human health as well as to support research capacity, economic development and conservation within Panama. The program provides an example of the widely recognized but little developed concept of bioprospecting research as an ecosystem service. More… [subscription required]

Ecosystem services and biodiversity in developing countries – Ole Mertz et al
Biodiversity and Conservation 10 (2007) | doi: 10.1007/s10531-007-9216-0

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: The concept of ecosystem services has become important for our understanding of the role of nature for maintaining human livelihoods. But is biodiversity essential to maintain ecosystem services? Many studies suggest that higher biodiversity allows a higher level of ecosystem services, but others argue that there is little hard evidence, especially from tropical environments, to document the necessity of high biodiversity for provision of most ecosystem services. Thus, effective valuation of biodiversity for ecosystem services and long-term studies and monitoring are needed to fully understand the complex biodiversity-ecosystem service interface. This introduction briefly reviews some of the main arguments in this debate and provides an overview of the other five special issue papers. Exploring biodiversity and ecosystem interactions in the context of the provision of ecosystem services, these papers address population and biodiversity coexistence, the importance of dung beetles in agricultural landscapes, the knowledge and use of palms by local communities, bioprospecting for drugs and how biodiversity conservation may have added benefits in terms of improved watershed functions and health. More… [subscription required]

Traditional knowledge on zootherapeutic uses by the Saharia tribe of Rajasthan, India – Mahawa and Jaroli
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2007, 3:25 | doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-25

This zootherapeutic study describes the traditional knowledge related to the use of different animals and animal-derived products as medicines by the Saharia tribe reside in the Shahabad and Kishanganj Panchayat Samiti’s of Baran district of Rajasthan, India. A field survey was conducted from April to June 2006 by performing interview through structured questionnaire with 21 selected respondents, who provided information regarding use of animals and their products in folk medicine. A total of 15 animal species were recorded and they are used for different ethnomedical purposes, including cough, asthma, tuberculosis, paralysis, earache, herpes, weakness, muscular pain etc. The zootherapeutic knowledge was mostly based on domestic animals, but some protected species like the peacock (Pavo cristatus), hard shelled turtle (Kachuga tentoria), sambhar (Cervus unicolor) were also mentioned as medicinal resources. The authors suggest that this kind of neglected traditional knowledge should be included into the strategies of conservation and management of faunistic resources. Further studies are required for experimental validation to confirm the presence of bioactive compounds in these traditional remedies and also to emphasize more sustainable use of these resources. More…

NHIOnDemand Launches Traditional Medicines Database with Malaysian Government
NHIOnDemand Press Release

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: NHIOnDemand has announced the launch of a five year collaborative project with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia. The new website, GlobInMed.com, was launched this week at the International Conference on Traditional/Complementary Medicine and Materia Medica in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The GlobInMed site is a prototype for an ongoing project by the Commonwealth Nations to document traditional medicines on a global basis and to make that information available to all nations involved in the process. The GlobInMed project has exceeded the prototype model in that it already provides information from global sources in such areas as sustainable agriculture, international trade, intellectual property and regulations governing use and manufacturing of botanical products. NHI’s new advanced health/medicinal knowledge management technologies enabled the teams to bring together diverse content into a structured, centralized environment. More…

Matters that matter: South Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival
The Hindu [India]

NEW DELHI, INDIA: As the Jeevika: South Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival came to a close, it brought to notice issues that the mainstream media continues to ignore or bury on the edit pages. Nidhi Chadha, Senior Coordinator-Programmes, Centre for Civil Society that organises the annual festival said, “We have been working towards sensitising the society about livelihood issues, creating awareness leading to policy change. One of their research projects showed that the coolie badges on the New Delhi station are being sold for two to five lakhs in the grey market. The badge has a social value as a father passes his licence to his son or son-in-law.” According to Nidhi, the society felt that such issues could be better highlighted through documentaries. Hence a festival on livelihood issues germinated in 2004. Out of the 128 entries this year, 26 films selected by the jury were on show. The first prize winner Ambiji’s Retirement reflected how to keep the traditional knowledge alive in the globalised world. Set in West Garo Hills, the films deals with how orchards are affecting the jhoom fields in the region. More…

Amerindians: Integral to Guyana’s national development
Caribbean Net News

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA: No longer a forgotten people, Amerindians in Guyana are now better off following numerous interventions made over the past decade or so and, as they adapt to the changes wrought by development, they have been preserving their culture, which forms a very important aspect of their lives. More…

Botswana: Indigenous Medicine – Potential And Pitfalls
Mmegi Online [Botswana]

The Fordoun Hotel and Spa offers an interesting amalgamation of modern health, beauty and therapy methods fused with what has come to be called indigenous methods. It has been very successful at that, visitors say. The Five-Star hotel, located in the rolling landscape of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s midlands, is said to be well known across the nine provinces of South Africa, and across the international tourism sector. The resident ngaka Dr Elliot Ndlovu is a Zulu traditional doctor with the benefits of a modern set-up. He has a consultation complex and a garden where all the plant species he uses for his sessions are grown. Ndlovu is also a director of Fordoun. There is a line of herbal medicines under his trade name, which are set to be sold in the region and internationally. More…

Ending Poverty, But Only on Paper
The American

WASHINGTON DC, USA: In this opinion article by Bunker Roy, the author argues that the Millennium Development Goals actually increase rural dependence on knowledge and skills from urban areas—at the expense of community empowerment. Rather than working within the existing indigenous institutions, using traditional knowledge and the practical wisdom of the elders, the MDG project has chosen to promote a colossally expensive, non-replicable idea of Millennium Villages, installations that are friendly to globe-trotting celebrities and have been imposed on the presumed-to-be-grateful poor. Rather than just facilitating and providing the mental and physical space for the poor to develop themselves, the drivers of this project make the poor puppets, not equal partners. More…

Mechanisms and Development of plant-based therapeutic products for the treatment of hyperlipidemia and diabetes based on traditional knowledge
Medicine Room

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Researchers at the University of Sydney report Type 2 Anti-diabetic activities of herbs from India and Asia Salacia oblonga and Punica granatum. Results are published in International journals British Journal of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Life Sciences. More…

The Lessons of Malawi
Journeyman Misfit

In this opinion piece by Alan Bush, he notes that as India prepares for a second green revolution, it would do well to learn from the failure of intensive agriculture in Malawi. Malawi, one of the world’s most welcoming cultures and poorest nations, struggles to provide for itself in the wake of the “green revolution.” The plight of Malawian farmers mirrors that of India’s rain-fed farmers. The human ecosystems in the rainfed areas of both India and Malawi face the same limited resource endowment and the same kinds of constraint on what agriculture which could be practiced successfully. Without over romanticizing the hardscrabble agrarian lifestyle of Malawians at the turn of the century, their traditional knowledge systems had, like in India, created a human ecosystem which lived more or less in balance with the constraints placed upon it by nature. More…

Traditional Knowledge Committee of the National Marine Educators Association
25 July 2007 (Portland ME, USA)
Excerpted from an article by Rick MacPherson

The Traditional Knowledge Committee of the National Marine Educators Association is a new initiative that held its first meeting during this year’s NMEA annual conference. The NMEA is a voluntary educational association of informal and formal educators and schools, agencies, and organizations that are involved in marine education. The new Traditional Knowledge Committee will be charged with ensuring that local traditions become included in the core ocean principles in locations such as Hawaii, Alaska, and wherever Native American coastal traditions are represented.

Read the full article…
Visit the NMEA site…

United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty Meeting
31 July – 2 August 2007 (Lummi Indian Reservation, USA)

The Lummi Indian Nation Governing Council is pleased to extend an invitation to US Indian Tribal Nations and First Nations of Canada to meet on July 31 – August 1, 2007, to consider the draft Treaty of Indigenous Nations. The National Congress of American Indians, Special Committee on Indigenous Nation Relationships — working with the Assembly of First Nations and the Ngati Awa Tribe of Aotearoa, New Zealand — collaborated on the development of this proposed treaty.

The Treaty is intended to lead to the establishment of a United League of Indigenous Nations as a political and cultural network to unite indigenous nations around issues of trade, climate change, cultural property rights, human rights and border crossing.

Read the invitation and agenda…

The TK Bulletin maintains a list of international meetings considering relevant issues. This page is updated every few months. Recent updates include a message from the Human Rights Council that there will be no further meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (any future mechanism to consider these issues will be addressed at the September meeting of the Council) and the first Meeting of the Carpathian Convention WG on Cultural Heritage & Traditional Knowledge (UNESCO-BRESCE).

Suggested additions to the list are warmly welcomed – please contact the editor.

Visit the meetings page…

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