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Case Study: Using indigenous medicine demand to power reforestation efforts in Sichuan, China

I read about:
On the KIVU case study page (no direct link, you just have to scroll or search for it, unfortunately).

I also found more details on the case at http://www.unesco.org/most/bpik15.htm, including budget, and some brief analysis on things like planting techniques, economic effects, and stakeholders.

Several things were very interesting about this case. One is that they used the local people's knowledge and interest in growing plants used in traditional medicine --a significant source of income-- to gain local support (and, it looks like, funding) for reforestation efforts. To do this, they incorporated local farming techniques and land access strategies into the reforestation plan. Without doing so, they would have lost the support. Finding this natural synergy, and using it, was a major success. It's also great example for us Evokers to reference as we work on fixing the world's problems.

The Unesco page noted: "The integration of cash crops into a reforestation project is directly related to external markets. The fluctuation in market prices is severe and quite frequent, however, while information pertaining to the market is slow to reach the remote mountainous regions. This has a negative effect on farmers� incomes from cultivation."

This is a great point. When I was in business school, one of my classmates planned to start a business that would take some traditional Chinese medicines, research them, and introduce them to the mass market worldwide. He'd interned with a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and saw first-hand the efficacy of certain remedies, and was at the school learning entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, once he secured initial funding, the first round of testing of his selected (most promising) traditional remedies showed that they performed no better than placebos. This of course meant no further funding was available, and he had to abandon his plan.

His story, combined with the above thought from the Unesco page, makes me wonder. China is going through massive change right now, economically, ecologically, and socially, and even more change is on the horizon. Will attitudes about traditional remedies change? If so, how? What will that mean for this project, and other projects modeled on it, as well as the countless communities and ecosystems that are currently sustained by the demand for traditional medicine? Should projects like this one plan for that kind of shift? How can they mitigate the risk?

Views: 19

Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on April 23, 2010 at 6:14pm
Good points, JWR. I think, though, that whether or not the demand for traditional medicines holds up the demand for some kinds of niche and specialty plants is likely to be strong. Perhaps the process of supplying the current intense demand will teach them enough market sophistication that they can switch to other crops when and as it becomes necessary.


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