May 2010

New prescription needed for medicinal plants
IUCN press release, 18 May 2010

GLAND, SWITZERLAND: Medicinal plants are valuable species: they provide income and healthcare to thousands of people around the world. Greater numbers of people rely on traditional medicine, mostly based on herbs, for their primary healthcare than “conventional” or western medicine. But 15,000 species of medicinal plants are globally threatened from, amongst others, loss of habitat, overexploitation, invasive species and pollution. To conserve this valuable natural resource, IUCN, Plantlife International and TRAFFIC are calling for governments to endorse a revised and updated Global Strategy for Plant Conservation which aims to halt the continuing loss of the world’s plant diversity. Read the press release …

Business.2010 – A magazine on business & biodiversity. Special focus on biotrade
CBD Secretariat, May 2010

MONTREAL, CANADA: A joint collaborative effort between the CBD Secretariat, UNCTAD and the Union for Ethical Biotrade, the second issue of the fifth volume of the CBD Secretariat’s Business.2010 magazine focuses on biotrade. It includes several articles of relevance to TK, including on: the BioTrade Network; the biotrade principles and criteria; Sisacuma and the dry forest; the Kuski experience of making a sustainable biodiversity business; biodiversity and cosmetology as a development tool for Ecuador’s Amazon communities; biodiversity and access to affordable medicines; rural Swazi women building a global brand; African magic mixed with cutting edge green technology; use it or lose it – sustainable use of strophanthus kombe in Malawi; the African legend “Tree of Life” fruit; and community-based business enterprises for the preservation of world heritage. Download the issue [pdf] …

12th International Congress of Ethnobiology
9 May – 14 May 2010 (Tofino BC, Canada)

The Congress included plenary sessions of the General Assembly of the International Society of Ethnobiology, the indigenous forum, and break-out sessions on, among others: overarching themes in ethnobiology; protecting TK based on customary laws and biocultural systems; ethnobiology of beekeeping and honey; documenting northern landscapes and environmental knowledge; Uu-a-thluk -Ethnobiology in Nuu-chahnulth territory; linguistic diversity and language vitality; the forgotten dimension of climate change; peace, sustainability and respect for the sacred; participatory video and traditional resource rights; biocultural diversity; and traditional foods. The 2010 Tofino Indigenous Film Festival was held in parallel to the Congress from 10-14 May 2010, under the theme “Sacred spaces and their impact on conservation.” The festival featured films highlighting ethnobiology issues in indigenous communities around the world. Visit the Congress website … Download the Congress programme [pdf] … Visit the film festival website …

Use traditional methods to fight global warming: UN group
AFP, 12 May 2010

ROME, ITALY: Set up under the authority of UNESCO, the International Traditional Knowledge Institute will be based in Bagno a Ripoli, east of Florence, Italy. Its remit is “safeguarding and validating traditional knowledge” with the primary goal of combating global warming, but also encouraging the protection of cultural heritage. “Traditional knowledge and its innovative use is the basis for sustainable technology, and essential for the development of a new model of human progress,” said its founding president Pietro Laureano, highlighting centuries-old techniques to prevent desertification and energy wastage, and traditional water management methods. Read the article …

In Samoa, indigenous peoples use videos to show climate change damage
UNDP news release, 13 May 2010

NEW YORK, USA: Indigenous peoples in Samoa are producing their own videos to voice the impacts of climate change on their habitat.  After representatives of eight villages learned film-making techniques in a series of workshops sponsored by the UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiative, they interviewed fellow community members to show the world how the extreme weather and the encroaching sea, for example, have been forcing them to change their lifestyles.  The video also shows how these eight communities are using UNDP-GEF grants to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. In addition to showing the climate change damages, indigenous people in Samoa were also keen on capturing their traditional, oral culture in the participatory video, which overcomes language or literacy barriers. Read the news release …

The impact of climate change on pastoral societies of Somaliland
I. Hartmann, A. Sugulle et al, Candlelight for Health, Education and Environment, November 2009

This study documented the impact of climate change on pastoral livelihoods, including traditional weather forecasting, in the two districts of Salaxley and Balli-Gubadle in Somaliland. Given the importance of traditional weather knowledge and the role it plays in coping with the threats from climate change and variability, the study team organized a number of group discussion meetings with elders and traditional weather forecasters. The authors highlight that preservation of vivid TK is of paramount importance also for the restoration and conservation of a healthy environment. Traditional knowledge and information systems have a prominent role in rangeland and livestock management, and pastoralists would have been badly advised only to rely on modern systems. Nevertheless, TK has been developed under conditions where climate and calendar were in harmony. Another issue is that TK is speedily eroded especially by the fast progress of urbanization, which is also accelerated by climatic change and its pressure on income generating opportunities in rural areas. In this sense, TK is one of the greatest victims of climate change. The study’s recommendations include preserving TK by “translating” and mainstreaming it into education programmes. Download the study [pdf] …

Medicinal plant knowledge among lay people in five eastern Tibet villages
A. Byg, J. Salick and W. Law, Human Ecology vol.38 no. 2, April 2010, doi: 10.1007/s10745-009-9300-z

Tibetans in five villages in the Mount Khawa Karpo area of the Menri (Meili Xueshan in Chinese) range, Northwest Yunnan, People’s Republic of China, were interviewed about their knowledge of a number of medicinal plants and their uses. There was large variation in people’s knowledge with significant differences among the villages and between men and women. Most of the reported knowledge focused on a small number of commercial plants and their uses. In comparison with Tibetan doctors, villagers generally knew fewer applications and focused on general health remedies. Read the abstract …

The Biodiversity discourse: categorization of indigenous people in a Mexican bio-prospecting case
M. Bjørkan and Marte Qvenild, Human Ecology vol.38 no. 2, April 2010, doi: 10.1007/s10745-010-9305-7

For indigenous people, knowledge is not necessarily a static condition in a binary position to science or the “modern” world. Rather, it is a dynamic condition that draws from experience and adapts to a changing environment. The perspective advanced in this paper is that all forms of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge(s), are situated and hybrid. The authors’ argument draws from research carried out in Chiapas, Mexico, regarding the ICBG-Maya bio-prospecting project that was initiated in the 1990s and later terminated due to accusations of bio-piracy. Read the abstract …

Strategies for self-organization: learning from a village-level community-based conservation initiative in India
S. R. Shukla and A. J. Sinclair, Human Ecology vol.38 no. 2, April 2010, doi: 10.1007/s10745-010-9301-y

Self-organization is a key condition to the success of community-based conservation initiatives, including those recognized by the Equator Initiative of the UNDP. This paper examines self-organization strategies within a small-scale community-based conservation initiative in a cross-cultural setting to further understanding about how such initiatives originate, sustain and grow. This is achieved through a case study of the Baripada Forest Protection Initiative in India by utilizing in-depth interviews and focus groups. In addition to certain often-cited strategies for self-organization, the Baripada initiative included unique features of self-organization such as village community design, implementation and adaptation of rules for local natural resources use and conservation, little need for financial support, and significant mobilization of human resources. These strategies, along with emerging social learning opportunities (e.g., a community plant diversity register) inspired by the Baripada initiative, inform and enrich the criteria for designing and evaluating conservation and development initiatives, irrespective of their scale. Read the abstract …

A behavioral change perspective of Maroon soil fertility management in traditional shifting cultivation in Suriname
L. Fleskens and F. Jorritsma, Human Ecology vol.38 no. 2, April 2010, doi: 10.1007/s10745-010-9307-5

In Suriname, the Maroons have practiced shifting cultivation for generations, but now the increasing influence of modern society is causing a trend of decreasing fallow periods with potentially adverse effects for the vulnerable tropical soils. Combining methods from cultural ecology and environmental psychology, this study identifies two groups with divergent behavioral intentions. Semi-permanent cultivators intend to practice more permanent agriculture and experiment individually with plot-level soil fertility management. Shifting cultivators rely on traditional knowledge that is not adequate for their reduced fallow periods, but perceive constraints that prevent them practicing more permanent agriculture. Semi-permanent cultivators act as a strong reference group setting a subjective norm, yet feel no need to exchange knowledge with shifting cultivators who are in danger of feeling marginalized. Read the abstract … Download the full text (open access) [pdf] …

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