Published 9 April 2012

TRAFFIC launches sustainable wild harvested medicinal plant project in Viet Nam

Ha Noi , Viet Nam, 9th April 2012—TRAFFIC in co-ordination with the Bac Kan Forest Protection Department (FPD), has launched its first project in Viet Nam to protect plants that rural communities rely upon for traditional medicine. The plants targeted by the project are threatened by unsustainable harvesting and habitat destruction.

TRAFFIC's Forest Trade Officer Nguyen Thi Mai addresses participants. @TRAFFIC

The project in the South Xuan Lac Species and Habitat Conservation Area in northern Viet Nam will implement the FairWild Standard, guidelines drawn up to ensure the sustainability of wild medical and aromatic plant harvesting. 

FairWild incorporates principles of ecological and social responsibility providing a worldwide framework for implementing a sustainable, fair and value-added management and trading system for wild-collected natural ingredients and products thereof. 

South Xuan Lac was chosen for its unique floral composition, local communities’ use of medicinal plants and evidence of uncontrolled harvesting.

The project will be implemented jointly with the Bac Kan FPD and the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) with support and funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). 

Working with local harvesters, traders and the government, TRAFFIC and PRCF will apply FairWild principles to conserve biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local community’s dependent upon the plant products. Ultimately, the project aims to develop a model that can be applied throughout Viet Nam.

TRAFFIC will help train local workers in wild plant resource management, harvest monitoring, sustainable collection and value addition processing techniques. 

“It is important to develop strategies that ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and to ensure the local collectors whose income depends upon wild harvested plants gain greater economic security and a fair and equitable return from the sale of their product,” said Naomi Doak, Programme Coordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme. 

Mr. Hoang Van Hai, Chairman of Bac Kan FPD emphasized that this project will help local villagers to manage their natural resources better and through benefit sharing mechanisms share the responsibility of forest resource management. It will also help to stabilise local household income and reduce pressure on natural resource harvesting. Additionally, according to Mr. Hoang Van Hai, staff from the Bac Kan FPD will benefit from the capacity building programmes conducted by TRAFFIC aimed at enhancing biodiversity conservation and livelihood development.

“A variety of medicinal and aromatic plant species are widely used and traded throughout northern Viet Nam. Unfortunately market pressures are driving harvesters to use ever increasingly unsustainable techniques that reduce both the volume and quality of these resources in the forest and hence places many of these species under threat” said Michael Dine, Chief Technical Officer of PRCF’s Viet Nam and China Programmes.

There are an estimated 50,000-70,000 plant species that are traded and used for the creation of medicinal products throughout the world, the majority of them obtained through wild collection. 

Wild plant species form the foundation of healthcare practices throughout much of Asia, particularly traditional medicinal practices. 

“Without greater attention given to wild collection practices, there will be significant declines in medicinal plant species,” Doak said “This will result in loss of biodiversity and will negatively affect rural population’s access to healthcare and income generation.” 

“As such, it is critically important to promote sustainable wild-harvest practices based on the FairWild Standard.” 

In Viet Nam growing demand and habitat destruction are putting wild plant populations at risk and negatively affecting the health and economic livelihood of rural communities that depend upon the sale and use of these plants. 

Additionally, increasing use of traditional medicines in China has seen vast quantities of plants sourced from Viet Nam transported to the Chinese market, putting further strain on wild plant populations. 

“Despite their importance to health and livelihoods, relatively little investment has been made in assessing the conservation status of most medicinal plant species or in developing more sustainable harvest and trade practices,” said Mr Dine.

“Viet Nam needs to change this, and make the protection of medicinal plants a priority that balances both the means to facilitate local level economic development and biodiversity conservation.” 

In 2008-2010, TRAFFIC successfully implemented a FairWild Standard medicinal plant project in Cambodia that established a model for sustainable resource use of two medicinal and aromatic plant species within a community protected area. Funding for the work came from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

The project helped to create market links between local communities and medical and aromatic plant traders that resulted in increased income for local harvesters and biodiversity protection.

At the launch today, TRAFFIC signed a five year Memorandum of Understanding with Bac Kan FPD to conserve biodiversity, strengthen capacity of managing natural resources and develop sustainable livelihoods in Bac Kan Province.


1)    The four plant species chosen for this project are: 
Amomum villosum Lour and Amomum xanthioides var. xanthioides, native to Indo-China and South China. Both are used in over 60 different traditional medicine products in Viet Nam as an antipyretic and diuretic. Alpinia malaccensis and Alpinia latilabris, native to Eastern India to South China. Both species are used to treat stomach problems throughout Viet Nam.  

2)    The FairWild Standard assesses the harvest and trade of wild plants against various ecological, social and economic requirements. Use of the FairWild Standard helps support efforts to ensure plants are managed, harvested and traded in a way that maintains populations in the wild and benefits rural producers. For more details, see

3)    Details of implementation of the FairWild Standard in Cambodia can be found in this publication Wild for a cure: ground-truthing a standard for sustainable management of wild plants 


TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organisation working to ensure that trade in wild species is legal and sustainable, for the benefit of the planet and people.

About FairWild

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.