Global: A fair deal for wild collected plants?


FairWild Foundation launched its revised Standard for the sustainable management and trade in wild-collected natural ingredients for food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals yesterday.

The trade in wild collected plant material is huge. Annually, more than 400,000 tonnes of medicinal and aromatic plants are traded, with the great majority of these species harvested from the wild. Of the 50 – 70,000 plant species used medicinally world-wide, around 15,000 are thought to be threatened by over-exploitation and habitat loss.

Hoodia plant growing in Namibia

The plight of Hoodia gordonii represents the perils of many endangered plants used in the pharmaceutical industry and is currently listed in Appendix II of CITES. This plant in Namibia was growing in an unusually wet season in 2009. © Ian Martin

The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and other related United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) frameworks, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) all aim to protect biodiversity, but the pragmatic approach of FairWild adds a breath of fresh air to the achievement of these objectives.

For example the FairWild standard has been useful in compiling country specific CITES information through the Non-Detriment Finding process, where members and partners of the FairWild Foundation ensured the relevant ecological criteria were considered at International CITES meetings.

“Application of the revised FairWild Standard will ensure that medicinal plants are sustainably managed and harvested, and that those involved in collecting and trading them receive a fair deal for their knowledge and efforts,” says Bert-Jan Ottens, Board member of the FairWild Foundation responsible for Communication and Marketing.

The latest Standard was drawn up following extensive consultations with plant experts and representatives from the global herbal products industry.

According to Heiko Schindler of the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), a certifying body for the FairWild Standard, the global herbal products industry has been more than enthusiastic in adopting the principles of the FairWild certification scheme. “This year, 23 wild plant collection companies in thirteen different countries are on track to becoming FairWild certified,” he said.

The FairWild Standard is useful not only for companies wishing to certify their products as sustainably traded. Earlier versions of the Standard are already being used by Government agencies in a number of countries as the basis of their natural resource management plans, thereby helping to fulfil their commitments to the (CBD).

Professor Beate Jessel, President of BfN (the German Government’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, who helped fund the development of the FairWild Standard), said: “In this International Year of Biodiversity, Governments, businesses, and consumers alike need to recognise that over-exploitation of wild plants can threaten people’s health, economies and biodiversity on a broad scale, and undermine the livelihoods of collectors who often belong to the poorest social groups in the countries of origin.”

The revised FairWild Standard combines all essential elements of the original FairWild Standard, focused on fair trade, and the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), which focused on ecological sustainability. Moreover, the revised version incorporates the lessons learned through practical application of the Standard in the field.   

The FairWild Standard provides guidance on best practice harvesting and trading of wild-harvested plant (and similar) resources in eleven key areas:

Download the FairWild Standard (pdf)

Related links:

Fairwild Foundation

TRAFFIC - the wildlife trade monitoring network


Convention on Biological Diversity

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