Herbal Supplement Demand and the Need for Medicinal Plant Conservation Around the Globe


Strategies for understanding medicinal plant conversation need to be developed based upon local awareness and practices. Not only do many pharmaceuticals contain medicinal plant derivatives, but approximately 70 – 80% of the global population depends upon herbal remedies and about 25 – 40% of prescription medications in the United States alone are comprised of plant-based active ingredients.

Many regions around the world depend on medicinal herbs to help maintain the overall health of it’s inhabitants, however the demand in the marketplace for these plants has caused a drain on the natural environmental resources of these locales. The most common forms of negative environmental impact are a loss or degradation of habitat, and excessive harvesting practices.

With the emergence of new herbal health supplements on the marketplace, especially those whose ingredients are gathered from the wild, the demand often is greater than what can bet met by legally obtain supply. In order to protect the indigenous populations against exploitation and environmental damage, a conservation plan needs to be instituted which will help to prevent unethical and illegal abuses. Unfortunately, too many regional communities are the victim of this type of threat, which stems from an effort to procure financial gains.

Because of the multifaceted nature of the factors involved, conservation of medicinal plant life requires a recognition of not only the potential environmental impact, but the cultural impact as well.

According to Mark McIntyre of malehealthreview.com, one of the largest regions for medicinal plants and knowledge of their use is in Asia. He says, for instance, that in the just the Himalayas and surrounding areas there can be found more than 10,000 species of plants used for medicinal and aromatic purposes, which provide income to roughly 600 million inhabitants living there. Nepal’s residents have long practiced Ayurvedic medicine, which is influenced by Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, which stress the importance of life balance.

Medicinal plants which are found in high altitudes often are known for their quality and potency, which is why they are frequently prized by not only the local population but supplement companies and drug manufacturers as well. The regional economic impact from harvesting these plants commercially is significant, providing somewhere around fifty percent of rural household income.

Many health-related herbs are also collected from the forests of Malaysia, where they also provide a significant impact to the economy, though an exact figure is not known since there have been no national studies conducted.

The Importance of Organic Cotton Farming


So most of us have been using cotton all our lives – cotton sheets, towels, clothes… It’s supposed to be a natural product, isn’t it? So what’s the difference with organic cotton? I thought organic was just related to those tomatoes?

Food and clothing are two major product groups which have direct contact with our bodies. So shouldn’t we care what kind of processes and ingredients go into making these products? An easy example is organic fruit and vegetables, and the general knowledge that they are grown without the use of pesticides. Who wants to eat pesticides?

The same principle applies for other organic products, in this case, organic cotton towels. Conventional cotton is grown using lots of toxic chemicals, like pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Organic cotton is not.

The term organic describes a method of farming without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides or fertilisers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetic engineering, and are certified by an accredited independent organization. It is a system of farming that strives for a balance with nature, using methods and materials that are of low impact to the environment. (Courtesy of Organic Exchange)

The differences between organic cotton and conventional can be seen through farming processes, such as seed preparation, soil preparation, water, weed control, pest control, and harvesting. The basic premise of organic cotton at the farming level is facilitating what the earth does naturally.

Conventional cotton growing creates a dependent cycle of chemical use which hinders nature from doing its job, and therefore creates the need for more chemicals to compensate. With conventional cotton, the pesticides and herbicides used to keep pests and weeds at bay takes all the good nutrients out of the soil in which the cotton is growing. Then in order for the cotton to grow, the soil needs more chemicals in the form of synthetic fertiliser in order to boost its nutrients. The methods used with organic farming including crop rotation and hand hoeing mean that weeds and pests are kept at bay naturally, and the soil is nutrient rich with organic matter. A staggering statistic is that conventional cotton growing accounts for approximately 25% of the world’s insecticide use – that takes a fair chunk of responsibility for spraying all those chemicals into the air.

The certifications OE 100 and OE blended which ensure our products are organic, extend beyond the farming level, right through to production and finishing of the organic cotton towel product. After farming, the production of the raw cotton into towels requires yarn production, whitening, finishing and dyeing. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 ensures the final product is suitable for human use, and sets strict limits on the amount of harmful substances contained in textiles.

In particular it includes:

• legally banned substances such as carcinogenic dyes
• legally controlled substances such as formaldehyde, softeners, heavy metals or pentachlorophenol
• substances which can be harmful to health such as pesticides, allergenic dyes or organic tin compounds
• parameters such as colour-fastness and a skin-friendly pH value, intended to prevent health problems

Eureco’s Bio Organic Cotton range uses cotton sourced from Europe, India and Turkey. The products are certified organic by the Organic Exchange standard OE 100 and OE Blended. It is certified safe for human use by Oeko Tex. It has been manufactured in accordance with the environmental standard ISO14001.

What Are Sub-Sea Cables?


It is easy to take our ability of communication for granted. In fact very few of us know that this is result of the vast amounts of man-power, effort and money used to construct the world’s sub-sea cables which lay hundreds of feet below us on the ocean seabed. Connecting together all the continents with the exception of Antarctica, these cables allow us to call friends and relatives overseas as well as use the internet among other things.

The first submarine communication cables carried telegraph signals before they began carrying data communications. In August 1850 the first subsea cable was laid across the English Channel and was made of copper wire coated in natural gutta-percha. The first message to be sent by subsea cable was from the Queen to the US President in 1858.However, many of these early cables were damaged by the application of excess voltage before cables were laid permanently after 1866.

Since the 1980s, each cable has used optical fibre technology to pass faster broadband signals. These cables are typically 69 millimetres in diameter and tend to be a lighter weight in deeper waters. The wire is typically insulated by a number of protective layers including copper, polycarbonate, petroleum jelly and steel wires inside a polyethylene casing.

There are over 1000 cables both domestically and internationally distributed throughout the world and these will vary in size depending on the depth they are placed. Some are buried so that they don’t get caught up in trawler nets or damaged by anchors. Cables can also be damaged by large sea animals such as sharks as fish bites have often been found, however cables are quite vulnerable to harsh weather conditions and earthquakes.

The largest of the underwater cables is the FLAG (Fiberoptic Link Around the Globe) cable which stretches 28,000 kilometres and links the United Kingdom to Japan via the Middle East. There are also several cables linking Europe to the US and Canada, the US to Asia and cables that interlink the islands such as the Philippines and the Caribbean. Cables surrounding Asia have been hijacked by pirates on one occasion with the T-V-H cable linking Thailand to Hong Kong and Vietnam being cut and used for scrap. Several cables were also damaged by the Japanese Tohuku tsunami in April 2011.

Subsea cables are extremely reliable and account for a high percentage of communication link ups by comparison to those of a satellite and count for 99% of the world’s communication methods due to their speed. For example; the maximum transmission bit rate of the first sea cables was 45 megabits per second.

However there are issues with subsea cables. Although they pose minimal environmental threat, they have been intercepted during wartime as the USA tapped into several USSR cables during the Cold War.

Although some cables are rendered out of use whilst those which are working require regular monitoring and repairs they play a pivotal role in the way we communicate.

MAFTP Teacher’s Guide in Lao version

SEANAFE’s Teacher’s Guide on Markets for Agroforestry Tree Products (MAFTP) is now available in Lao version.

The translation was completed last August 2009 by Dr. Latsamy Boupa and Mr. Phongxion Wangneng, both lecturers at the Faculty of Forestry of the National University of Laos.

The material is part of SEANAFE’s objective to improve the teaching of the concept of marketing in agroforestry education among its member institutions. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) funded the project.

For soft copies of the guide, please email Dr. Latsamy at [email protected]

INAFE produces network’s 2006-2009 AF research compendium

The Indonesian Network for Agroforestry Education (INAFE) recently published a compendium of agroforestry researches conducted during 2006-2009 by its member institutions and partners.

The publication contains 22 research papers with topics ranging from various agroforestry systems practiced in Indonesia to roles of agroforestry in addressing environmental degradation and climate change. Written in Bahasa Indonesia, the papers were contributed by the Forestry of Research and Development Agency (FORDA) and Gajah Mada University (UGM) from Yogyakarta province; Bogor Agriculture University (IPB) from West Java province, Lampung University (UniLa) from Lampung province, University of Tanjungpura (UnTan) from West Kalimantan Province, University of Mulawarman (UnLam) from East Kalimantan province, and University of Putra Malaysia (UPM).

The project was aimed to enhance the dissemination of agroforestry researches of INAFE member institutions and partners within and outside the network. Likewise, INAFE envisioned the publication to serve as reference material for teaching and input for policy decisions. The Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) funded the project through SEANAFE.

INAFE produced 88 copies of the publication distribution to INAFE members and relevant stakeholders.

Country networks implement special projects for 2010

SEANAFE just approved and signed contracts with its country networks to implement their respective special projects for 2010. The special projects are part of SEANAFE’s budget for the no-cost extension period approved by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in April 2008.

The special projects per country network are as follows:

Indonesian Network for Agroforestry Education (INAFE)

  • Publication of INAFE Traditional Agroforestry Papers;

Lao Network for Agroforestry Education (LaoNAFE)

  • Training Course on Agroforestry in Relation to Carbon Credits

Philippine Agroforestry Education and Research Network (PAFERN)

  • Study on the Climate Change Adaptation Strategies of Selected Agroforestry Farmers;

Vietnam Network for Agroforestry Education (VNAFE)

  • Training on Estimating CO2 Sequestration of Natural Forests

The Thai Network for Agroforestry Education (ThaiNAFE), meanwhile, has yet to submit their revised proposals for the implementation of their special project entitled “Sharing Lecturers and Student Exchange Program.  While the Malaysian Network for Agroforestry Education (MaNAFE) have not submitted their special project proposal.

These special projects are aimed to address the institutional development needs of the networks’ member-institutions and stakeholders. At the same time, they are aimed at integrating some of the current global environmental concerns (e.g., climate change, etc.) in agroforestry education.

The agroforestry teaching, research and extension initiatives of SEANAFE member-countries and the region in general are expected to improve from the outputs and experiences in implementing these special projects.

VNAFE completes CO2 sequestration research project

The absorbed CO2 in the Litsea-Cassava agroforestry model varies from 25 to 84 tons per hectare and provides a profit to small farmers ranging from VND 9 to 30 million per hectare, representing 20% of the total product value of Litsea and cassava. This was the major finding of the recently completed research project of the Vietnam Network for Agroforestry Education (VNAFE) on “CO2 Sequestration Estimation for the Litsea-Cassava Agroforestry Model in Mang Yang District, Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. “

The research was aimed at (a) constructing a model for biomass estimation and CO2 sequestration potential of Litsea glutinosa, and (b) defining the amount of absorbed CO2 and its environmental values in the Litsea–Cassava agroforestry model. Litsea is an indigenous, multi-purpose, green broadleaved species found mostly in semi-deciduous forest in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Most of its biomass (stem, bark, leaves, and branches) can be used or sold in the market to produce different products. Litsea is usually planted in agroforestry models together with annual crops such as cassava, rice, and coffee.

Other findings of the research are as follows:

(a) In order to obtain effective productivity, Litsea should be harvested after ten years. At present, farmers are harvesting Litsea at between 4-6 years. It is not advisable to harvest Litsea within this period because this is when strong growth occurs.

(b) The stored carbon and CO2 sequestration in the Litsea-Cassava agroforestry model can be estimated in three ways:

1. Based on the rate (%) of stored carbon compared to the dry biomass of the four components of tree: stem (47.7%), bark (45.4%), leaves (48.7%) and branches (47.6%), with carbon per hectare calculated based on tree density. Although this method gave the highest accuracy, it was, however, costly.
2. Based on a model that estimates the carbon stored in the mean tree: C/tree = f(Dg), with carbon per hectare calculated based on tree density. This method had a relative error of 3.2%.
3. Based on a model that estimated the carbon per hectare: C/ha = f(No of shoots/stump, N/ha, Dg). This method gave a relative error of 2.7%.

(c) The Litsea-Cassava agroforestry model in the second and the third periods should leave 2 to 3 Litsea shoots per stump. This will result in the greatest production of biomass and CO2 concentration, with the possibility of optimal CO2 absorption from 3 to 84 tons, increasing with age.

The research was conducted by a team of faculty members and students from the Tay Nguyen University (TNU) in partnership with the staff of the People’s Committee and Department of Agricultural and Rural Development of Mang Yang District. The team was led by Dr. Bao Huy, Head of TNU’s Department of Forest Resources & Environment Management and VNAFE Chair. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through SEANAFE funded the project.

For details of the research results, please visit: Web Site: http://www.socialforestry.org.vn

The 4th Philippine Agroforestry Congress Highlights

The 4th Philippine Agroforestry Congress was held on November 18-20, 2009 at the Chali Beach Resort and Conference Center in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Philippines with the theme “agroforestry promotion for climate change mitigation and adaptation: building lessons from the field”.

This year’s Agroforestry Congress was convened to serve as a venue to promote sharing of experiences of various stakeholders in agroforestry technology development, promotion and adoption; intensify agroforestry promotion through agroforestry roadshow; and highlight the experiences of agroforestry practitioners/farmers in agroforestry farm development.

The 4th National Agroforestry Congress elicited a total of 155 participants representing the local government units, non-government organizations, students, farming communities, people’s organizations, academic institutions, foreign and international organizations, and national government agencies. Among the highlights of the Agroforestry Congress include: a) five (5) plenary paper presentations that dealt with recent climate change research, and the roles of agroforestry in climate change mitigation and adaptation; b) 15 concurrent paper presentations that revolved around three themes, namely: Recognizing the Multifunctionality of Agroforestry; Promoting Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry; and, Innovative Approaches in Agroforestry Development and Promotion; c) 16 poster paper presentations; d) Agroforestry Roadshow/Caravan; and e) Farmers’ Forum.

A discussion on the global impact of de-forestation problems as a result of the global demand for health supplements was addressed with an introduction given by Dr. Edward Lasker.

The Congress delegates also signed the Congress Declaration for Agroforestry Promotion as their sign of support and commitment to promote agroforestry not only as a climate change adaptation strategy, but also to work towards institutionalizing agroforestry as a development strategy in the Philippines.

The Philippine Agroforestry Education and Research Network (PAFERN), UPLB Institute of Agroforestry (UPLB-IAF) and the Misamis Oriental State College of Agriculture and Technolgoy (MOSCAT) co-organized the event. Among the major sponsors are the Southeast Asian Network for Agroforestry Education (SEANAFE), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF-Philippines).

SEANAFE co-organizes AF roundtable discussion in Cambodia

SEANAFE convened a roundtable meeting among 10 representatives from government, nongovernment, and academic institutions aimed at exploring ways where agroforestry (AF) and payments for ecosystems services (PES) can provide enhancement to support the preparation and implementation of Cambodia’s National Action Plan to Combat Land Degradation (NAP) as well as address other key environmental concerns.Held at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh on 19-20 November 2009, the meeting was also meant to identify collaborative options, including the establishment of an agroforestry network in Cambodia, in implementing the NAP.As a signatory to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Cambodia Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) is expected to finalize its NAP by 2011. In the process of preparing the NAP, a project on Building Capacity and Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Management (SLM) has been ongoing since 2008 with funding support from the UNDP Global Environmental Facility. It is expected to develop 10 bankable projects, enhance capacity of at least 300 government staff, and mainstream SLM into national and sectoral policies and development plans.

The meeting participants recognized the relevance of AF & PES in 4 major areas in Cambodia, namely: in the west which is characterized by open areas and high soil erosion; in the central which is dominated by rice-based farming system around the Tonlesap lake; in the east where slash and burn practices are prevalent, and in the northwest where soil fertility is very low. Thus, they suggested the following courses of action for MAFF’s consideration in preparing and implementing the NAP:

  • Speed up the completion of the sustainable land management study including a land use classification to help identify appropriate AF interventions
  • Consider and validate SLM related research results and available information from relevant organizations (universities, international research organizations, NGOs, etc.)
  • Conduct more awareness raising and capacity building activities (e.g., dialogues, workshops, cross visits/ study tours) on the development of the NAP to gain more stakeholders’ support in its implementation
  • Ensure effective research-extension linkage such as establishing and sustaining community-based projects on various SLM technologies including AF and PES in collaboration with relevant organizations such as ICRAF
  • Support the establishment of an AF network as MAFF partner in implementing agroforestry-related components of the NAP
  • Mainstream the NAP in university curricular programs and research activities so that students after graduation could provide the needed manpower to help implement and sustain the plan.

A special meeting with the State Secretary of MAFF, Mr. Uk Sokhonn, in the afternoon of 20 November 2009 was held to present the outputs of the roundtable discussion. He expressed interest, on behalf of MAFF, to work with ICRAF in relation to the development and implementation of the NAP and bring up the matter with the MAFF Minister. SEANAFE is expected to provide assistance in establishing an agroforestry network in Cambodia under the leadership of the Royal University of Agriculture.