The herbal and plant medicine is a billion-dollar industry and the world is gradually moving towards organic and herbal medicine, but to ensure the use of these products in a sustainable manner is a huge challenge.
General Inspector (Forest) and National Project Director (Mountain and Market) Syed Mahmood Nasir stated this in his address to a national seminar on ethnobotany.
The seminar was organised by IUCN and Pakistan Museum of Natural History on behalf of the GEF-UNDP funded project implemented by Climate Change Ministry in collaboration with the provincial environment and forest departments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, in Islamabad.
Representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change, UNDP, IUCN, as well as, experts from the forestry and herbal sectors, and academia, participated in the event.
Experts highlighted the importance of the rich flora found in Pakistan’s northern region and underscored the need for ensuring sustainable use of biodiversity products, including herbs and plants, used often for the benefit of humans.
Nasir said that all governments in the world preserve the indigenous herbs and plants, and these should be protected.
Referring to the Nagoya Protocol, he said that the herbal and plant medicine is a billion-dollar industry “and the world is now moving towards organic and herbal medicine – the industry is likely to grow as more and more people become aware.” “The challenge in this is to ensure that we use these products in a sustainable manner,” he added.
He said that one of the key components of the project was the formation of the Business and Biodiversity Roundtable (BBRT) which brought together collectors, buyers and companies working on herbal medicine and trained them in certifications.
He urged that herbal companies should refer to the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) list which mentions all import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention through a licensing system.
The chief representative from the Ministry of Climate Change was Federal Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif. He said, “Pakistan has a lot of botanical diversity and a potential for economic growth, especially among the rural people in the mountainous north.
Economic scope of botanical products is expanding day by day across the globe; therefore, there is a need to ensure a speedy and quality-focused value chain, while ensuring a sustainable use of such products.
Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, country representative IUCN Pakistan, said, “We have worked with communities to establish biodiversity conservation in northern Pakistan. Mountain and Markets have tried to add value to the complete value chain of the Non-Timber Forest Products so that the products become more marketable and the benefits accrue to the communities.
Under the Mountain and Markets Project, the IUCN will also develop community’s institutional capacity as Community Based Enterprises for a certified production of ‘biodiversity-friendly’ products and stimulate market demand, thereby, creating new economic incentives for conservation.”
Dr Muhammad Ashraf, chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation, explained that Pakistan lacks botanical gardens; hence it is planning to establish a botanical garden which will have all the types of biomes.