HCM CITY — The nation's first project to protect plants that rural communities rely upon for traditional medicine is being implemented in the northern province of Bac Kan.
The project is carried out by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, which is a joint effort of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The project has been implemented jointly by the Bac Kan Forest Protection Department (FPD) and the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) with support and funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
The plants targeted by the project were threatened by unsustainable harvesting and habitat destruction, according to TRAFFIC.
Located in the South Xuan Lac Species and Habitat Conservation Area, the project will abide by the FairWild standard, which assesses the harvest and trade of wild plants against various ecological, social and economic requirements.
The standard's guidelines have been drawn up to ensure the sustainability of wild medical and aromatic plant harvesting.
South Xuan Lac was chosen for its unique floral composition, local communities' use of medicinal plants and evidence of uncontrolled harvesting.
TRAFFIC will help train local workers in wild plant resource management, harvest monitoring, sustainable collection and value addition processing techniques.
"It is important to develop strategies that ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and to ensure the local collectors whose income depends upon wild harvested plants gain greater economic security and a fair and equitable return from the sale of their product," said Naomi Doak, Programme Coordinator of TRAFFIC's Greater Mekong Programme.
Hoang Van Hai, chairman of Bac Kan FPD, said the project would help local villagers manage their natural resources.
"It will also help to stabilise local household income and reduce pressure on natural resource harvesting," he said.
According to TRAFFIC, there are an estimated 50,000-70,000 plant species that are traded and used for the creation of medicinal products throughout the world, the majority of them obtained through wild collection.
It said wild plant species formed the foundation of healthcare practices throughout much of Asia, particularly traditional medicinal practices.
In Viet Nam, growing demand and habitat destruction are putting wild plant populations at risk and negatively affecting the health and economic livelihood of rural communities that depend upon the sale and use of these plants.
Additionally, increasing use of traditional medicines in China had seen vast quantities of plants sourced from Viet Nam transported to the Chinese market, putting further strain on wild plant populations, the release said.
In 2008-10, TRAFFIC successfully implemented a FairWild Standard medicinal plant project in Cambodia that established a model for sustainable resource use of two medicinal and aromatic plant species within a community protected area. — VNS