A significant number of the world’s medicinal plant species are defined as globally endangered, and many more are threatened at a local level, as a result of factors such as over-harvesting and habitat destruction. The search for sustainable solutions is complicated by the fact that international agencies working on environmental issues often have little interaction with the organisations and individuals involved in traditional healthcare.
In May 2000, GIFTS of Health convened a parallel meeting to the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the topic of “Medicinal Plants, Traditional Medicine and Local Communities in Africa”. The aim of this conference was to bring together representatives of African NGOs, governmental and inter-governmental institutions from both healthcare and environment fields, with a view to disseminating best practices for the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants. It also addressed issues of intellectual property, access and benefit sharing as set out in Article 8(j) of the CBD.
One outcome was the ‘Nairobi Declaration’ on the need for official recognition of traditional medicine by African governments and for measures to conserve medicinal plants. The Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) officially adopted this declaration in July 2001, together with the recommendation that the decade 2001-2010 should be declared a ‘Decade of African Traditional Medicine’.
GIFTS Research Associate, Gemma Burford, also carried out a scoping project on medicinal plant biodiversity in two villages in Northern Tanzania in 2001, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program/Global Environment Facility/National Environmental Management Council (UNDP-GEF-NEMC) East African Cross-Borders Biodiversity Project. The findings highlighted indigenous conservation measures, such as taboos on unsustainable harvesting methods and the protection of small areas of forest for traditional medical treatment.
GIFTS Publications on Biodiversity/Biodiversity