Celebrating the contribution of sustainable trade in wild forest resources to economies, health and conservation
Wildlife trade is an issue at the heart of tensions between biodiversity conservation and human development. Whether for medicine, construction, food or culture, a huge proportion of our trade, economy and way of life is reliant on wildlife products, including those harvested from forests.
The legal trade in wildlife products involves thousands of fauna and flora species, providing livelihoods for millions of producers, raw materials for businesses and local collectors, and a staggering array of goods for hundreds of millions of consumers. It plays a fundamental role in economies, particularly in the developing world. The benefits of legal, responsible, and sustainable wildlife trade are, however, largely going unrecognised. As a result, there has been relatively little attention or investment to ensure that wildlife trade is managed in ways that maintain healthy ecosystems and species populations, while providing benefits to humans.
This World Wildlife Day, under the theme of "Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet", TRAFFIC is joining the celebrations by drawing attention to the importance of wild plant resources to lives, livelihoods and conservation.
If managed well, sustainable wild-harvesting and trade in plant ingredients can provide multiple benefits to wild-harvesters and supply chains, resulting in holistic management for other species and ecosystems, and contributing to biodiversity conservation goals, such as those discussed in the preparation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework."
Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Co-ordinator – Sustainable Trade
Relatively few people appreciate that many commonconsumer products—ranging from herbal remedies, food, and drink, to cosmetics, health supplements, and even furniture—come from wild harvested plants. Examples include wild liquorice root in herbal teas, Brazil nuts, Shea butter in chocolates, Argan and frankincense oil in cosmetic products, Juniper berries in gin, and many more.
An estimated 60–90% of plant species in trade are thought to be wild-collected. However, according to the IUCN Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, ~11% of medicinal and aromatic plants are threatened with extinction in the wild, with biological resource use, land use change, habitat degradation, and climate change all acting as key threats. The increase of trade in plant resources is another important factor to consider: the value of global trade in medicinal and aromatic plant species has almost tripled in recent years, and further growth is anticipated including in plant ingredients used in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the strong linkages between biodiversity health and human health. COVID-19 is not just an immediate human health crisis; it also poses a long-term socio-economic crisis for many local communities, threatening their healthcare, food supply, livelihoods and well-being. Additionally, wild plant species used in herbal treatments of COVID-19 are set to come under heightened harvesting pressure, both as a result of increased demand and because of more people turning to wild harvesting as an alternative source of income during times of high unemployment and economic crisis.
People engaged in the wild-harvesting of plant resources are generally rural and marginalised— often children or elderly, and mostly women, typically having few other opportunities to earn an income. In many cases, they come from ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples and local community groups, and the art of the wild harvest is linked to traditional knowledge passed through generations. In some places, the income this activity generates is of considerable importance to livelihoods, such as in the case of high-altitude, CITES Appendix II listed Himalayan Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), which benefits an estimated 15,000 people in Nepal with 25% of their annual income.
CITES has recognised the important role forests play in sustaining rural livelihoods, calling on Parties to conduct case studies that demonstrate how sustainable use of CITES-listed species contributes to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities and encouraging governments to engage these peoples in related decision-making.
A combination of full traceability, compliance with existing regulations (for example for species listed in the CITES appendices), increasing the value to producers, and credible certification schemes are important elements of creating conditions for an all-encompassing “win-win” situation. To this end, since 2008, TRAFFIC has partnered with the FairWild Foundation, to promote the sustainable use of wild ingredients by applying the FairWild Standard throughout the herbal products supply chain. FairWild certification is a guarantee of sustainable wild harvesting, as well as fair and equitable share of resources.
The future availability of plant ingredients to support human health – through medicines, food and well-being products – is dependent on prioritising the conservation and sustainable use of their source species in the long-term. Greater action is required on the part of the private sector, governments and consumers to address the visibility and long-term availability of these species. The Wild at Home project, funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation and in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aims to catalyse market transformation at both consumer and business levels for these often-forgotten yet critical wild plant ingredients.
TRAFFIC’s work around highlighting the harvest, trade and use of the wild plant “hidden” ingredients and expanding markets and pathways for sustainable trade that benefits wild species and harvesters is implemented through the collaboration with the FairWild Foundation, the project “Wild at Home — Using Markets for Wild Ingredients to Support Conservation and Rural Livelihoods”, generously funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation, as well as the collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization. “Succeeding with CITES: Sustainable and equitable Jatamansi trade from Nepal” project is funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.
The increasing demand for wild plants—as ingredients for food, cosmetics, well-being and medicinal products—poses major ecological and social challenges. The pressure on potentially vulnerable plant species can endanger local ecosystems and the livelihoods of collectors, who often belong to the poorest social groups in the countries of origin.
As a response to these concerns, the FairWild Foundation is working with partners worldwide to improve the conservation, management and sustainable use of wild plants in trade, as well as the livelihoods of rural harvesters involved in wild collection. TRAFFIC has supported the development of the FairWild Standard, and now hosts the organization’s Secretariat under a partnership agreement.
About Swedish Postcode Foundation
The Swedish Postcode Lottery believes that a strong civil society is essential for creating a better world. The Postcode Foundation’s goal is to carry out that mission through projects that challenge, inspire and promote change.