Reflection of the Community-to-Community Exchange in India


Shared by the World Indigenous Network (WIN) 

Upon return to Bangalore, the three groups reconvened and welcomed new participants from across India, including traditional healers, researchers, Ayurvedic doctors, and policymakers. After reporting on field trip visit learnings, participants participated in a variety of lectures and panel discussions around ABS and traditional knowledge over the course of the next three days.

Day 5
Field Trip Experience Sharing
Documentation and Assessment of Traditional Knowledge
In situ and ex situ conservation

Day 6
Intercultural Methods in Research and Innovation
Enterprise Development
Tangible and Intangible Property Rights
ABS Experience in African countries

Day 7
Policy and Practice
Way Forward

For detailed summaries of these three days see here. 


There is a need to understand differences between Access and Benefits Sharing and a more general valuation of community empowerment/equitable distribution of profits across supply chains. Both of these are important and should be developed in complementary manners.

It is important to note that many of the organizations that workshop participants visited on field do not engage in Access and Benefit Sharing in the strict sense. Many of the initiatives support biodiversity conservation and community empowerment through mechanisms such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), facilitating better supply chain access through farmer companies, or equitable pay for farmers tasked with cultivating medicinal plants for major Indian botanical companies. These are all important dimensions of the broader focus of the CBD on biodiversity conservation and community empowerment, however, they are not examples of Access and Benefit Sharing sensu strictu. Examples of this would be, most stereotypically, an agreement between pharmaceutical company and a community that designates a share of profits be returned to the community for the development of a drug based on traditional medicinal formulations. In this case, the company would share the benefits it reaps from access to traditional knowledge and local biological diversity – such as in the case of the Kani. Another example could be the development of a perfume from a plant endemic to an indigenous territory – such as had occurred in the community of one of the Cameroonian representatives.

Both Access and Benefit Sharing in the strict sense, and a broader approach to biodiversity conservation and equitable sourcing, will be important as communities, governments, and international bodies work to reduce poverty and conserve biodiversity. Furthermore, lessons can be taken from innovative examples of CSR or livelihood enrichment through equitable sourcing as to how ABS benefits can be designed to best serve communities. However, it is important to distinguish between the two to have a clear understanding of ABS and the purpose national ABS policies should serve.

Passion and confidence in the work and the ABS process make a huge difference.

The organizations participants visited all shared a passion for creating innovative approaches to conserve biodiversity and improve community well-being. Their excitement for finding the best way to develop Access and Benefit Sharing in their communities – and around the world – provides a huge contrast to what is often a dry discussion of the problems and issues of current ABS implementation. It is this spirit we need to channel to develop truly effective ABS policies and practices around the world.

The core intention driving ABS is good living.

At its heart, Access and Benefit Sharing is about supporting communities to live well. Behind ABS lies a desire for an integrated approach that insures that local resources are sustainably managed and that communities are able to meet and exceed their basic needs. Oftentimes this is not about monetary benefits. This can be accomplished by providing key elements of technology that enhance community skills and income, by empowering communities to become food secure, or by ensuring that communities have communal funds or other safety nets to fall back on in hard years. It is easy assume that monetary benefits sharing will solve problems, but this may not always be the most effective way to conserve biodiversity or raise communities out of poverty. To truly promote good living, Access and Benefit Sharing policies will also have to encourage both monetary and non-monetary benefits sharing that is creatively designed to empower communities and support them to live well.

ABS policy is not stand-alone.

To be successful in a given country, ABS policy must be tied to other relevant policies, such as traditional knowledge policies, entrepreneurial policies, climate change policies, and biodiversity and conservation policies, among others. ABS is inherently interdisciplinary, so any policy must be designed to function together with pre-existing policies in relevant areas. Without this synchronization, ABS policies will be unwieldy and difficult to operate with in practice. This is a particularly important point because dysfunctional ABS policies can harm the very communities they intend to benefit by making it too difficult for researchers, companies, and NGOs to obtain the necessary permits and clearance work with local communities.

Enhance decentralized cooperation.

Many countries, such as Cameroon, have small-scale examples of successful ABS projects and governments that support the creation of national ABS policies. However, they lack the knowledge of how to scale up their programs and push to new legislative levels to develop a comprehensive national policy. To successfully push through an NGO policy, countries such as these need concrete exchanges at the community, corporate, and government levels from those who have already developed ABS models. What is needed here is not a theoretical discussion of ABS, but very practical details about the process of developing a national policy that involves stakeholders across multiple sectors.

No outsiders should build the solution for communities.

Communities need to organize themselves locally instead of waiting for someone to come from outside. Although learning exchanges can provide valuable tools to assist countries to develop their own ABS policies, this must be complementary to action taking place at the local level. Work needs to be conducted at the local, regional, and national level of each country to define what approaches will work best for each country, to implement local models of ABS that can be used as models for policy development, and to identify the needs and areas for further improvement.

The strategy to tackle problems are different from one country to another, but we share the same problems.

The priorities defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol – conservation of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biological resources – set broad goals at the global level. At heart, they attempt to address the same underlying issues of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and poverty that are common to many countries around the world. But how do countries actually design a comprehensive legal framework to put make ABS a reality? Accomplishing this with multiple stakeholders – communities, corporations, NGOs, research institutes, and government – and working from the local to national scales is a formidable task.

This issue of designing a comprehensive ABS legal framework that can support biodiversity conservation and community empowerment is a challenge all countries face. As the Chennai group’s time at the National Biodiversity Authority revealed, despite India’s extensive experience with the legalization and implementation of the National Biodiversity Act, Indian policymakers still believe that they have more to learn to ensure that ABS policies are effective as they can be. Representatives from Cameroon commented on their struggle to scale successful ABS initiatives beyond the local level, and the fact that they could greatly learn from India’s experience.

In light of this common challenge to construct national policies and ensure that they work in practice, the exchange of knowledge and learnings across borders provides a key mechanism to ensure that ABS policy is as effective as it can possibly be in countries around the world. The learnings gained from this sort of exchange will be highly valuable to provide examples of best practice strategies that have been employed to address these common problems. It is important to remember, however, that there is no silver bullet – successful strategies will have to be adapted in order to form a national ABS strategy that best reflects the political, social, cultural, and ecological realities of each country. As Dr. Rana of the National Biodiversity Authority commented, “we cannot give you answers. The answers will be yours. We can tell you our experience, but the answers will be yours.”

For the original post at the homepage of the World Indigenous Network’s, see here. 

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 9 August


“On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on the international community to ensure that they are not left behind. To create a better, more equitable future, let us commit to do more to improve the health and well-being of indigenous peoples. ”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“Every year, 9 August is commemorated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day is celebrated with special events around the world, including at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

This year’s theme puts a spotlight on the issue of indigenous peoples’ access to health care services, as improving indigenous peoples’ health remains a critical challenge for indigenous peoples, Member States and the United Nations. The “State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Volume II”, which will be launched at the UN Headquarters event in observance of the International Day, provides important background information on the topic.

The observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples at UN Headquarters will take place on Monday, 10 August 2015, in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The event will be webcast live on Read the Press Release.” (c)



Community-to-Community Exchange and Capacity Development Workshop for Traditional Knowledge Holders on ABS

Muliru Farmers Group – Kenya 1(c) Muliru Farmers Conservation Group, Equator Prize Winner 2010, Kenya

From 28 September to 4 October 2015, the Biodiversity and Community Health (BaCH) Initiative (coordinated by UNU-IAS) jointly with the multi-donor funded ABS Capacity Development Initiative, the Transdisciplinary University (TDU) of the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition (FRLHT), the UNDP Equator Initiative, the National Biodiversity Authority of India and partners, will conduct the Community-to-Community Exchange and Capacity Development Workshop for Traditional Knowledge Holders on ABS.

The event will take place in Bangalore, India and includes field visits within three South Indian states (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala), and a workshop, whose design involves interactive, participatory sessions amidst community members and other stakeholder expert representatives.

The Nagoya Protocol (NP) on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) emphasizes the need to take into consideration community protocols on access, utilization and benefit sharing with regard to traditional knowledge (TK) associated with genetic resources (GR). Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have high levels of knowledge related to identification of those GR that are utilized in the community for different purposes, especially medicine, food and nutrition, as well as other wellbeing related purposes. This provides a good starting point to raise awareness on sustainable utilization patterns and the potential benefits of establishing value chains with external actors. In particular, it offers an opportunity to explore the development of small and medium scale enterprises that can be developed at the community level through appropriate R&D.

Being one of the pioneering countries in ABS, many examples have been created in India on how IPLCs can participate in ABS and the conservation, protection and valorisation of biodiversity and TK. In Africa too, more and more communities are actively engaging in the protection, conservation and valorisation of their TK and the associated genetic resources, e.g. by elaborating biocultural community protocols (BCPs) or by setting up value chains with external actors on the basis of the ABS principles. IPLCs are also increasingly engaging in national processes of ABS strategy development and the elaboration of the related regulatory frameworks and administrative systems.

The upcoming meeting will bring together about 70 stewards of biodiversity and associated knowledge, especially related to health and wellbeing to discuss the diversity of local innovations in the field of ABS and the conservation, protection and valorisation of biodiversity and TK in India, African countries and Central Asia. The event will offer a unique platform to increase the understanding of the relevance of the CBD principles on ABS and the implementation of the NP at the local level and provide an opportunity for developing partnerships among different stakeholders globally.

Please note that this event will be on invitation only, but we will be sharing all updates here!

Read more about the interconnection between human health and biodiversity conservation in the flagship publication under the CBD joint work programme on biodiversity and health co-led with the World Health Organization here.

Shaping international policy towards biodiversity conservation and human health


The Biodiversity and Community Health (BaCH) Initiative’s partners are synergising efforts towards linking biodiversity and human healthThe Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly with other key partners and experts drafted the State of Knowledge Review on the Interlinkages between Biodiversity and Human Health. This flagship publication covers all relevant issues at the biodiversity and health nexus such as agricultural biodiversity and food security, water and air quality, nutrition and health, traditional medicine and biodiversity, and health care and pharmaceuticals.

Find out more about our partner’s involvement here. Read the draft chapters AND/or provide your comments here.

CBD Logowho logo


The essential role of biodiversity and ecosystem services for a sustainable future


Based on its partners support the Biodiversity and Community Health (BaCH) Initiative advocates for linking both biodiversity and health as key development priorities as well as relevant issues such as revitalising traditional health practices and and local food traditions. Throughout its work the Initiative highlights the substantial role of biodiversity and ecosystems for a sustainable development at large. The international community is increasingly acknowledging the essential role of biodiversity and ecosystem services to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ultimately eradicate poverty. Learn more about the linkages and how the discussions evolved in the article here