Nine nature-based products launched  to support sustainable rural livelihoods

Nine nature-based products developed in line with Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework were launched in the capital Wednesday.

It’s also the first of its kind project where the government, private sector and local communities have come together to develop nature based products through the sustainable use of the country’s rich biological resources to support sustainable rural livelihoods.

The nature-based products comprise an anti-wrinkle cream, balm, liniment, massage oil, perfume, soaps, and hand sanitizer that were launched by the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, MenjongSorig Pharmaceuticals Corporation Limited and Bio Bhutan in collaboration with the UNDP.

According to UN Resident Representative, Gerald Daly, the launch of these products is an important addition to the Brand Bhutan initiative and most importantly it sets the carbon neutral development objective very much into motion.

He added that projects like these enable people to empower themselves with innovative ideas for income generation opportunities through sustainable harvesting, domestication and commercialization of wild plants and biological resources. The project has also renewed the appreciation of people to the natural environment, reinforcing the benefit of biodiversity conservation.

The project’s goal, based on Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and benefit Sharing in Bhutan, is to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of globally significant biodiversity in Bhutan. The project objectives are to develop and implement a national ABS framework, build national capacities and facilitate the discovery of nature-based products.

The total resource for the project is USD 4mn; however, only USD 1mn of the grant budget was allocated towards the pilot project.Under this project, three pilots ABS agreements are being implemented involving different community groups.

“The ABS project is supporting collaborations among the government agencies and a private entity by engaging the local communities to support their livelihoods and promote conservation of biological diversity,” said the Head of Bioprospecting Unit of NBC, ChenchoDorji.

Working with the Dzeodokha community in Loggchina gewog, Chhukha, the project is helping with the cultivation of mountain ginger (Zingibercassumunar), which grows well on its relatively fertile soil conditions and low altitude. Since Zingiber was not cultivated, their kitchen gardens were used as trial plots.

With the formalization of an ABS agreement between the NBC and the community members, followed by training on proper methods of care and cultivation of Zingiber, the project has developed natural products- balm and liniment. Within the span of four years, the team managed to increase the cultivation to 6,000kg of Zingiber from initial seed of 15kg.

In the second pilot project, led by MenjongSorig Pharmaceuticals Corporation Limited (MSPCL) along with Namther and Lingshi communities in central and northern Bhutan, it aimed to further strengthen the long-standing tradition of harvesting low and high altitude medicinal plants and develop natural products that can be commercialized in domestic and international markets. The MSPCL has also developed other products such as soaps, hand sanitizer and anti-wrinkle cream using soap nut fruit, rhododendron and Himalayan gooseberry.

The third pilot project, led by Bio Bhutan, is working with the Dagala community to develop soap, massage oil and perfume in collaboration with Primavera, a European Company. With the launch of these natural products, Bio Bhutan’s partnership, it is envisioned, will greatly enhance the income generating opportunities of the semi-nomadic community of yak herders who – aside from their yaks – have limited income generating opportunities.

“For UNDP, this means growth and development are inclusive and sustainable. It also means incorporating productive capacities that create employment and livelihoods for the poor and vulnerable people of Bhutan,” UN Resident Representative said.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu