Community Palli

Community Palli - Day 3

Business and Biodiversity – Realizing Benefits from Biodiversity Conservation

Wednesday October 10th, 2012
11:00 – 13:00












Many Equator Prize winners have been successful in establishing ecosystem-based enterprises that have brought win-win solutions for biodiversity and local communities. The value of these businesses is in demonstrating the benefits possible from sustainable use of natural resources; their strength and sustainability depend on how successfully they have managed to do this.

Various policy and market factors have often enabled this work, including the existence of certification schemes and a growing market demand for sustainably-sourced products. Nonetheless, local initiatives have to overcome significant obstacles to business development, typically associated with their community-based origins. These include barriers to market access, such as geographic distance and poor transport infrastructure, the lack of appropriate regulatory environments, insufficient processing infrastructure, and the challenges associated with guaranteeing the quality of produce in rural settings.

This session focused on those enabling and constraining factors, and on successful strategies for overcoming obstacles to establishing local ecosystem-based enterprises. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Utkarsh Ghate, Director of the Aharam Traditional Crops Producers’ Company, India, an Equator Prize 2006 winner. This initiative is part of an NGO network that promotes the organic certification of locally-sourced products, and has pioneered the processing of mangoes into pulp, with the benefit that this can be stored for longer periods of time. The products are being sold both domestically and internationally, and the initiative is being replicated in other sites within India, but faces challenges including poorly developed government policies, the timeframes for bulk payments, and equitably distributing dividends to communities.

The women producers of Association Songtaab-Yalgré, Burkina Faso, have similarly been able to process locally-available natural resources – in their case, shea nuts – into certified products that are sold domestically and internationally. Noelie Ouedraogo described the ways in which a large network of women across ten provinces in Bukina Faso sustainably harvest shea nuts, before washing, drying, grinding and toasting the nuts for processing into cream and oil. The final product is used in marmalade, ointments, massage wax and cosmetics products, selected based on market demand.

All of the products are quality certified, meaning that they are differentiated within the market and can command a higher price. The association also maintains a communication network for women, through which producers can share knowledge and improve their work. Another feature of producers’ sites is the establishment of kindergartens to care for small children.

A common challenge faced by many small-scale rural producers’ enterprises is access to markets and to market information. Josephat Igbokwe Ugochukwu of Smallholders Foundation described how their Farmers Rural Radio initiative has delivered up-to-date daily market information to 250,000 farming households in southern Nigeria since 2007, with support from UNESCO. The foundation also promotes sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity conservation.

Rural Radio has trained community members to use radio broadcasting equipment. Staffers travel to their home communities to collect content and then use feedback from listeners to adjust programming. Within their broader audience, the Smallholders Listeners Club has more than 3,000 members. Popular topics include information on how to achieve higher crop yields, as well as important community health information on issues such as safe sex. The aim is for the radio to become “the BBC of rural African radio stations.”

Guaranteeing the quality of local products is a critical task for community-based enterprises. Sambandh, an Indian NGO with seven years of experience, works with 1,120 member producers through its Healing Heritage Producers’ Company to conserve biodiversity, use resources sustainably, and equitably share monetary benefits. Bibhu Kalyan Mohanty described how its Participatory Guarantee System ensures that producers collectively guarantee the sustainability and quality of organic produce. Twenty-two herbal products are currently guaranteed by this system; members who practice sustainable harvesting and contribute to in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts receive a 5% bonus on prices for their produce. The group’s work has not been fully supported by the Indian policy environment, however: Mr. Mohanty called for improved programs for sustainability certification, tax relief for community-based, small-scale start-up enterprises, and legislation on cooperative enterprises.

James Ligare of the Muliru Farmers Conservation Group presented on his initiative’s work in and around Kakamega Forest in western Kenya. Among the activities that Muliru engages in is the sustainable commercial harvesting of Ocimum Kilimandscharicum (Africa blue basil), which is processed into an ointment used in treating aches and pains, among other uses. The products are registered as medical drugs in Kenya – the first traditional medicinal plant products to be registered in the country – and are sold in retail chains throughout Kenya. Sixty percent of profits are divided between the 360 households engaged in this activity, while twenty percent is used for further research, and twenty percent in community development projects. The initiative has also been successfully replicated in Tanzania.

After the presentations, the participants broke into three working groups to discuss issues relating to policies, business management, and the sustainable use of natural resources, before presenting back to the group in plenary.

Policy recommendations

The policy discussion working group was represented by Martha Wambugu of PROMETRA Kenya, who described the lack of government policies on traditional medicines in the group members’ respective countries as a common obstacle to their work. There are often no certification procedures for sustainable practices or traditional medicines, and no guidelines promoting price premiums for producers. Traditional healers also face the challenge of obtaining licenses, which has acted as a deterrent to younger generations to continuing this work. Some suggestions from the group included the development of certification schemes and guidelines; the use of wastelands for cultivation of traditional medicinal plants; the integration of traditional healers in community health centers; and the creation of directories of traditional healers.

Business management

Josephat Igbokwe presented on behalf of the business management working group, who identified access to funding as a major constraint, and made recommendations for community enterprises. Before community-based enterprise groups approach banks or other funding organizations for financing, they must be organized internally, with clear hierarchies and duties for staff members, and have networked and gained as many members as possible, to achieve economies of scale. Once groups begin to grow, they should use domestic marketing opportunities to their advantage and keep management structures well-defined: “community-based initiatives need to be business, not personal enterprises”.

Sustainable use of natural resources

Finally, Veena Hassan of Karnataka’s GREEN Foundation noted that commercialization and education activities have the potential to increase the value of traditional medicinal products, which in turn will increase the need for sustainable harvesting. Apiculture and seed banks can be used as mutually-beneficial practices for sustainability; the focus should always be on conservation of natural resources for community use.

In closing the session, Utkarsh reminded the audience that there are two streams to biodiversity conservation: what large-scale companies and organizations are doing, and what local communities are doing. Local initiatives require distinct legal and policy provisions, suited to the rural and community-based settings in which they work. The Community Palli has brought local communities together: their ideas must be heard, and must influence national and international policy dialogues.

Indigenous and Local Knowledge in Global Environmental Assessments
13:15 – 14:45


Global environmental assessments, whether for biodiversity or climate change, should be based on the best available knowledge. Today there is broad recognition that indigenous and local knowledge must be part of that core data set. This session provided an update on recent efforts to bring indigenous and local knowledge into scientific assessment processes (including the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, the newly-established Inter-governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and Future Earth), and consider case studies presented by indigenous peoples where community-based knowledge complements and advances current scientific understandings, while sustaining cultural integrity and fulfilling local needs. The discussion explored pathways to overcoming barriers and building synergies in this work.

Introduced by Pernilla Malmer of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the speakers presented recommendations for mainstreaming indigenous and local knowledge in global environment assessments. Dr. Prasert Trakansuphakon (Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples Foundation), a native Sgaw Karen speaker, described how rotational farming (“shifting cultivation”) systems practiced by the Hin Lad Nai Karen community of Thailand have delivered benefits for biodiversity, local people, and the climate. Seven-year fallow farming cycles allow for forest regeneration, maintain the abundance of wild forest plants, and underpin local nutritional needs by ensuring the availability of plants important to local diets. In addition, studies have shown that population growth has not necessarily led to increased land use: in fact, land use decreased over a ten-year period by 11% thanks to the Karen’s diverse systems of land use. Dr. Trakansuphakon recommended that national and international policies respect traditional knowledge, including systems such as rotational farming, which is often criminalized in Thailand.

This case study was supplemented by international perspectives, from Dr. Ram Boojh (UNESCO), who presented the findings of a recent publication, Weathering Uncertainty: Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change assessment and adaptation, and Pernilla Malmer, who described the outcomes of the Guna Yala Dialogue workshop, held in Panama (10–13 April 2012). This dialogue recommended ways in which indigenous and local knowledge could be integrated into IPBES, including the establishment of intersessional work and the creation of forums for evaluating local knowledge within the IPBES framework. Joji Carino (Tebtebba) gave an example of advocacy efforts through the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) Working Group on Indicators, which has had some success in mainstreaming evaluation of traditional knowledge within CBD processes: the CBD Strategic Plan for achieving the Aichi Targets now includes the diversity of local languages as an indicator of traditional knowledge.

Reflections, Reporting Back, and Next Steps

15:00 – 18:00



During the afternoon session on Wednesday 10 October, Community Palli participants shared their experiences of the CoP 11 to date, as well as of the Medicinal Plants workshop in Bangalore that preceded it.

  • Mercy Mbogho, of Kwetu Training Centre for Sustainable Development (Kenya), described her participation in a CBD Working Group on marine and coastal biodiversity, where she presented a final statement to the Chair; she also credited her participation in the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) orientation session with learning more about how to relate the work of Kwetu to the Aichi Targets.
  • Veena Hassan, from GREEN Foundation (India), attended an event on gender, sustainable growth and fisheries, where the role of women as agents of change was discussed. This echoed the work of GREEN Foundation in Karnataka State with women leaders in sustainable agriculture, preservation of genetic diversity, and resisting deforestation.
  • Gnanando Saidou (REDERC, Benin) said he was impressed by the colorful culture of knowledge he had seen in India, including his experience at the medicinal plants workshop. He believed that the Community Palli participants share the same values and views on the problems faced by local and indigenous communities around the world; he asked how best can we transfer knowledge on biodiversity conservation to children and youth, who are the future?
  • Jiawei Wu (Kangmei Institute, China) also participated in the medicinal plants workshop in Bangalore. He appreciated the opportunity to spend time in the field studying medicinal plants and observing local bird species, and exchanging knowledge with Indian participants about varieties in China.
  • Anand Kapoor, of Shashwat, India, expressed his enthusiasm to continue working for many more years with the local and indigenous communities recognized by the Equator Initiative.
  • Khalil Soliman (Medicinal Plants Association, Egypt) talked about his experience of the medicinal plants workshop, where he learned how to collect and preserve traditional knowledge while visiting a local Medicinal Plants Conservation Area. Khalil encouraged governments to organize workshops like this to transfer knowledge and build capacity on medicinal plants to local communities.
  • Punchihamy Chamara (Community Development Centre, Sri Lanka) shared how happy she was to be at the Community Palli, and hoped to share her knowledge on the sustainable use of rush and reed varieties. Damayanthi Godamulla, also from CDC, said that all three members of her organization at the Palli were farmers and teachers. Their work to date has focused on biodiversity conservation, poverty eradication, and improving food security, as well as improving adaptation to climate change through the use of drought-resistant root and tuber varieties. Beyond this, Ms. Godamulla wants to take the work of CDC to another level by promoting the greater participation of education institutions in sharing knowledge on strategies for climate change adaptation, by including local knowledge in school and college curricula.
  • Dominique Bikaba (Strong Roots, Democratic Republic of Congo) said that being part of the Equator Initiative network of winners was like being part of a family. He described how his former organization, Pole Pole Foundation, became well-known in his home country after winning the Equator Prize, and encouraged those at the Palli to make use of resources available at the conference to learn and grow: donors what to hear about these kinds of grassroots projects.

Next steps

The Community Palli participants divided into sub-groups to discuss how they would apply what they had learned during CoP once they returned home. Ideas included lobbying governments on the issues and themes discussed during the CoP which are relevant to their work, including improved access to information and knowledge-sharing; participants suggested finding “spokespeople” within government ministries who would support their causes. Communications strategies were highlighted as critical in helping to demonstrate the benefits of alternative livelihoods to rural communities; using slogans, jingles, publications, regular media and social media to educate young people is crucial. To share lessons learned during the Community Palli, the participants and their organizations have a responsibility to lead by example. Other reflections included the need for local policy-design to achieve the Aichi Targets; raising funds for participatory workshops; and the importance of developing mechanisms such as biocultural community protocols for documenting traditional knowledge.

Eileen de Ravin described how the Equator Initiative was working on adding to its growing case study database, as well as translating those already written into local languages, and launching this during CoP at a side-event and press conference. The initiative is also in the process of identifying workshops and trainings that can benefit its prize-winning organizations. She also mentioned that each participant would have the chance to discuss their specific needs and requests with Equator Initiative team members during the Community Palli.

UNESCO-SCBD Joint Programme of Work: Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity: Next steps forward

18:15 – 19:45




This event provided an update on initial progress and steps forward on the joint programme of work between UNESCO and the SCBD developed at the International Conference on Biological and Cultural Diversity for Development (June 2010, Montreal). Introduced by Dr. Ram Boojh of UNESCO, the session featured presentations on the linkages between cultural and biological diversity.

Pernilla Malmer of the Stockholm Resilience Centre presented on cultural and biological diversity in urban landscapes (“pockets of memory and space for environmental learning”). She cited the use of community gardens as a form of collective management: allotment gardens provide both pollination services and a repository of social-ecological memory. Sacred urban sites in many Indian cities, meanwhile, contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity. Ms. Malmer therefore recommended that urban planning processes seek to maintain and develop urban green commons.

Joji Carino (Tebtebba) described how the IIFB is advocating for the inclusion of biological and cultural diversity indicators in the development of IPBES. Dr. Pablo Eyzaguirre (Bioversity International) talked about the need to view landscapes in a holistic way, seeing both their biological and cultural values. Similarly, we need to view indigenous knowledge in its traditional context: concepts of the sacred are critical for maintaining and conserving landscapes.

UNESCO estimates that up to 90% of all languages will be lost by the end of the century – this is a key indicator of the loss of cultural diversity. Krystyna Swiderska (IIED) presented the findings of a study conducted with eleven different ethnic groups in countries including India, China, Peru, Kenya and Panama, that looked at traditional knowledge holistically. The study found that a key element that sustains traditional knowledge is the use of diverse biological resources, as well as the maintenance of sacred sites. This interconnectedness of conservation and linguistic diversity was further evidenced by the experiences of the GEF Small Grants Programme. Terence Hay-Edie described how funding proposals are accepted orally in many countries, often involving participatory video, in recognition of the value of local languages in preserving both cultural and biological diversity; TerraLingua’s VITEK tool is one means of measuring the vitality of traditional knowledge using language as an indicator.

The session was concluded with a short discussion, after Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) outlined the findings of a recent review of international law and jurisprudence that relates to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity within ICCAs. While many national laws still do not support these efforts, it was noted that some countries have taken the positive step of including indigenous and local representatives in delegations to international conferences. There is still a long way to go, however, to ensuring that, in the words of Dr. Eyzaguirre, we view traditional knowledge on biological diversity in a holistic sense – as part of the whole cake, rather than cherry-picking only the pieces we find most interesting.



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