Health and Biodiversity


International Day for Biological Diversity 2016

Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods

“Biodiversity is the foundation for life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems. It therefore underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development in all areas of activity, including economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, among others. By halting biodiversity loss, we are investing in people, their lives and their well-being.” (more here).

Some of the Biodiversity and Community Health (BaCH) Initiative’s partners will be gathering in Nairobi to commemorate the International Day for Biodiversity 22 May 2016. Mr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity will be sharing highlights of the flagship publication ‘Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health, a State of Knowledge Review’. Another BaCH advocate Mr. Anthony Capon, Director of the United Nations University, International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) will highlight main findings of  the Report of the Rockefeller Foundation Lancet Commission on Planetary Health. Our colleague and another key advocate for BaCH Dr. Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana, Research Coordinator at UNU’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) will speak about ‘Strengthening and Aligning Linkages between Policy & Practice’.

Check out the agenda for the Event to commemorate the International Day for Biodiversity 22 May 2016 Health and Biodiversity

Community to Community Exchange and Capacity Development Workshop for Traditional Knowlegde Holders


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

28th September to 4th October 2015, Bengaluru, India


#9 workshop highlights

Download the detailed reports here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Final Report

Download a French summary here: atelier bangalore inde 2015

Read a brief reflection of the event by the Word Indigenous Network (WIN) here 

Highlight #1 Common sense on the potential of Access and Benefit Sharing as a tool for conservation of ecosystems, protection of traditional knowledge and creating sustainable livelihoods.

During the inaugural session representatives of the organizers and the 100 delegates from Africa, South East Asia and the Central Asia highlighted the importance of fostering the linkages between biodiversity and health and the relevance of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). The panelists further emphasised the need to tap into the potential of ABS as a tool for conservation of ecosystems, protection of traditional knowledge and creating sustainable livelihoods.

The panelists: Dr. Unnikrishnan P., United Nations University-Institute of Advanced Studies on Sustainability (UNU-IAS); Dr. Darshan Shankar, Vice Chancellor, Trans Disciplinary University (TDU); Dr. Andreas Drews, ABS Capacity Development Initiative, Mr. T. Rabikumar, Secretary, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA); Ms. Alejandra Pero, UNDP Equator Initiative and Ms. Latifa Douch (Morocco), representative of the delegates.

Highlight #2 International knowledge exchange and sharing ideas on how to tap into the potential of Access and Benefit Sharing. 


During the first day of the international workshop the delegates were invited to share their reflections of the pre-meeting field visits. To get a better understanding of the current ABS practices in India, the delegates visited ABS-related sites in three separate groups over a period of three days. Each group shared their impressions of the field sites in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

Group 1 – Karnataka: 

Sites: Karnataka Biodiversity Board, a Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) and three traditional communities.

Key messages of group 1: The group was impressed by India’s significant progress in the management of biodiversity through the People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). Group 1 highlighted the accurate documentation of traditional knowledge in biodiversity registers to ensure protection. The group further emphasised the decentralised decision-making, which ensured that interests of the traditional communities are protected.

Group 2 – Tamil Nadu: 

Sites: National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in Chennai, a Fishing community at Mahabilpuram and the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS).

Key messages of group 2: The group was impressed by the legislative framework and the three tier institutional setup for protection of biodiversity in India. This group too commended the advanced, well-structured and participatory system of ABS in India. The group however, suggested the need to have greater levels of collaboration between civil society organizations and the government to improve community rights and ensure sustainable livelihoods.

Group 3 – Kerala: 

Sites: Kerala State Biodiversity Board and the traditional Kani Community.

Group 3 too praised the decentralized structure of biodiversity conservation, which had been successfully functioning in the state. The group further stressed the remarkable levels of awareness regarding ABS among the local communities. The one area for improvement, which the group pointed at, was the need to bridge the disconnect between the various stakeholders to ensure coherence of the objectives. The group also suggested the integration of traditional governance of biodiversity with ABS.

workshop 1

Highlight #3 Innovative documentation and assessment approaches of traditional knowledge and practices.

During the session both facilitators (Dr. Unnikrishnan P., UNU-IAS and Mr. Hariramamurthy, TDU) emphasised that documentation of traditional knowledge was important primarily for two purposes. Firstly, to ensure primary health care and to protect the community from infectious and chronic diseases. Secondly, for passing on the knowledge to the younger generations of the community. As part of the session, participants work through the different steps of the documentation of knowledge  in small groups.

One of the key lessons: There was a common understanding amongst all delegates on the importance to develop new approaches to ensure inter-generational knowledge transfer. All delegates highlighted that a comprehensive documentation and protection of traditional knowledge requires an active cooperation between the traditional community, the local associations and the government. Here, a strong emphasis was placed on building trust amongst the stakeholder groups involved in the process.

Highlight #4 Innovative approaches to conserve biodiversity ex-situ and in-situ.

The interactive session included inputs from delegates from India, Tajikistan, Madagascar and Togo. The Indian panelist highlighted the need to step-up conservation efforts owing to 312 plant species in India being threatened of which 47 are medicinal plants. He recommended the use of in situ method for conservation as it was the most cost-effective method for long-term conservation. He also pointed towards the success of setting up Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas (MPCAs), which are treated as “hands-off” areas with minimal interference, that have succeeded in protecting biodiversity in these areas. Group discussions

The panelist from Tajikistan spoke about the Equator Initiative award-winning Zan va Zamin project in the country, that focused on conservation of different crops by roping in women living in protected areas, who have traditionally played a bigger role in earning livelihoods from agricultural activities. The organization, which works with different stakeholders right from the national body to the local communities, had planted about 10,000 varieties of local saplings and 20 species of local varieties of apple have been conserved by the group.

The panelist from Madagascar talked about a programme that focused on mapping community based resource management. Under the project, local communities had created a micro-zoning of forest area to understand different types of conservation requirements within a forest area. This led to the discovery of alternative conservation methods and other practices such as honey bee cultivation and snail cultivation. The project had helped up to a thousand individuals in the communities, of which 60 per cent were women.

Finally, the panelists from Savandurga in Karnataka, shared how the local community had implemented the ABS system since the early 1990s with considerable success. The representatives briefly summarised their efforts towards protecting wild medicinal plants. These plants were spread over 2000 hectares and are now protected based on the help of women Self Help Groups(SHGs). The community had successfully developed 33 medicines and marketed it across the state of Karnataka.

Highlight #5 Enterprise development based on sustainable resource management and protection of traditional knowledge. 

During the second day of the international workshop, participants were invited to share enabling and restricting factors for enterprise development. The session enabled all participants to share their challenges and lessons learned.  The common enabling factors that emerged from the brainstorming session included the presence of traditional knowledge, availability of genetic and financial resources, and institutional support. The common challenges identified by the groups included insufficiency of policies and their poor implementation. Also, the lack of interaction between stakeholders—government, industry and local communities— was identified as a major hurdle.

NJ_Alphonsa presentationHighlight #6 Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs) a useful tool to protect the customary values, rights and rules about biocultural heritage.

Alphonsa Jojan from Natural Justice highlighted the need for maintaining BCPs to ensure that the rights of communities are recognised, even if those rights are not enforced by law. She also pointed at the need for advocacy to make different countries promote BCP as has been recognized by the Nagoya Protocol.

Highlight #7 Sharing Access and Benefit Sharing experiences and Capacity Development approaches from African countries. 

Delegates from Benin, Namibia, Morocco and Cameroon, shared their challenges, ideas and experiences faced during the ABS implementation in their respective countries.

Lessons from Benin: The representative explained the importance of identifying the owners and defining what they own. This has helped them improve the ABS framework for consultation with all stakeholders in drafting the legislation.

Lessons from Namibia: The representative shared the success of the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) practice, wherein communities are incentivized to participate in the ABS framework.

Lessons from Morocco: The representative presented the unique experience of Morocco whereby the Nagoya Protocol was translated into an indigenous language Amazighe. This has improved capacity development for ABS in the country by enhancing awareness and participation of local communities.

Lessons from Cameroon: The representatives shared their success story of developing a model for sharing of benefits among all stakeholders accrued from the cultivation and sale of a local traditional spice.

Highlight #8 Implementation, implementation, implementation!

The delegates kicked of the third day of the workshop with a discussions on the use of pre-existing policy frameworks to protect local communities and traditional knowledge from exploitation. Many of the panelists believed that policies for the protection of tribal communities already exist but their implementation had been poor. They provided various reasons for this setback such as the lack of inclusion of communities in the formulation process, language barriers, the hierarchical execution of laws by the government, overwriting of laws for business purposes, the lack of incorporation of traditional knowledge in mainstream medicine and the heavy cost of the practice of the laws themselves. Most panelists and participants felt that the policy framework’s exclusion of stakeholder communities led to an impractical implementation procedure.

Examples from Kyrgyzstan showcased how traditional knowledge can be used to promote the value of the resources themselves through the use of legends and folklore. It was also noted that traditional knowledge and its protection must coincide with the international and national policies on aspects such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and only with the solidarity of both mainstream and traditional knowledge can all parties prosper.

Highlight #9 Looking beyond 2015 – building alliances to take further steps for South-South Cooperation. 

The participants were divided into smaller groups based on different themes and geographical regions. Each group was invited to collect suggestions on next steps could to fill the gaps, build awareness,develop capacities, build networks and jointly create an enabling environment as well as foster South-South Cooperation.

The important suggestions that emerged from the discussions covered creating cross-sector awareness that is culturally and linguistically relevant using dance, songs, etc, developing a decentralized network of region specific local communities, conducting peer-to-peer, cross-regional and cross continent exchange of knowledge and experience; engaging with policy making at different in order to include national and international platforms; and finally, developing an international forum for ABS that could facilitate exchanges between countries and ensure follow-up action in order to achieve the ABS objective.

The concluding session brought together representatives of various countries and organizations to share their experience regarding the overall workshop. Representatives agreed to take the lessons learnt from the community exchange program back home and implement them in their respective countries. Also, it was visualized that a non-institutional community-driven fourth tier of health care be created in order to achieve the two-fold objective of promoting traditional knowledge while also ensuring universal health care. In order to strengthen networks between different communities and regions, it was suggested that participants could use the online platform, WIN, hosted by Equator Initiative for documentation and build on community-community exchange. Finally, it was announced that the outcomes of the workshop would be presented as a report at different international platforms to take the ABS initiative forward.

Download the daily reports here: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Final Report

Download the french summary here: atelier bangalore inde 2015

Download the press clippings here: Community to Community Exchange workshop_press clippings_3rd_october

Take a look at more press coverage in This Week Bangalore and in Bangalore News Networks

Read a brief reflection of the event by the Word Indigenous Network (WIN) here

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.

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