Country in need of sustainable harvesting of biodiversity products

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Experts highlighting the importance of the rich flora found in the country have sought sustainable harvesting and use of biodiversity products, including herbs and plants.

Addressing a national seminar on ethnobotany organised by IUCN – Pakistan, speakers also suggested adequate protection and preservation of indigenous herbs and plants, as these were a natural and national asset used for the benefit of humans.

Climate Change Ministry Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif reminded that Pakistan abounds in botanical diversity and holds tremendous potential for their economic growth.

Economic scope of botanical products is expanding day by day across the globe; therefore, there is an urgent need to ensure speedy and quality-focused value chain, he added.

“These efforts must be complemented with equal attention towards sustainable use of such products,” he said.

The IG Forests Syed Mahmood Nasir said countries across the globe preserve the indigenous herbs and plants, and these should be protected for the benefit of humans.

Referring to the Nagoya Protocol, he said that herbal and plant medicine was a billion-dollar industry and that the world is now moving towards organic and herbal medicine.

“The industry is likely to grow as more and more people are becoming aware of the asset,” he said reiterating that these products must be used in a sustainable manner.

He said one of the key components of the Mountain and Markets Project being executed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the Climate Change Ministry and UNDP in the northern areas of Pakistan, was the formation of the Business and Biodiversity Roundtable (BBRT).

This has brought together collectors, buyers and companies working on herbal medicine, and trained them in certifications, said the expert mentioning that the country had almost reached the stage where herbs from Pakistan could be certified for export.

Nasir said herbal companies using various plants and herbs in their medicines should refer to the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) list that encompasses details related to import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention through a licensing system.

IUCN Pakistan Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said his organisation under the project had worked with communities to establish biodiversity conservation in northern Pakistan.

Under the Mountain and Markets Project, IUCN will also develop community’s institutional capacity as community-based enterprises for certified production of ‘biodiversity-friendly’ products and stimulate market demand for biodiversity-friendly products, thereby creating new economic incentives for conservation, he said.

Pakistan Science Foundation Chairman Prof Dr Muhammad Ashraf said, “Ethnobotany is an amalgamation of culture, environment, plants and human beings.”

“It is an interaction seen and studied in a broad spectrum,” said the researcher mentioning that Pakistan does not have a proper botanical garden.

He appreciated that the project focused on developing community and institutional capacity for certified production of biodiversity-friendly Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) in northern parts of the country, and stimulates market demand for biodiversity-friendly NTFP, thereby creating new economic incentives for conservation.