Sustainable harvesting of tree bark
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CTA. 2007. Sustainable harvesting of tree bark. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57352
Forestry research is discovering and communicating better techniques for harvesting medicinal bark, to prevent trees dying.
Sustainable harvesting of tree bark Cue: Sometimes, there is a fine line between creating a business opportunity and endangering the environment. Some species of tree, for example, have bark which can be used to make effective and valuable medicines. But harvesting bark must be done carefully, or else the tree may die and be unable to provide bark for future generations. Many communities cut down trees which provide effective herbal remedies, or kill them by stripping their bark, when actually they could just use a small part of the tree, and preserve the rest. So how can sustainable harvesting of tree bark be done? It is not a simple question, because the method will vary according to the type of tree. It is this kind of information that the Forestry Research Institute of Malawi, or FRIM, is spreading among communities. The Institute is also advising communities on how they can grow more of their precious herbal trees. Patrick Mphaka spoke to Gerald Meke, a Senior Research Officer at FRIM, to find out exactly what they have been doing. IN: ?Normally what we have been doing ? OUT: ? there is a big market for these traditional medicines.? DUR?N: 6?12? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Gerald Meke of the Forestry Research Institute of Malawi. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Meke Normally what we have been doing; for example if we see people are using bark, then we would go and test trees to see how they respond to the removal of bark. If for example the tree dies because the bark has been removed, then we have to come up with alternatives like, one: we would encourage these people to establish an orchard or a plantation of those particular trees, so that when they reach a certain age, they can harvest the whole tree and remove all the bark. Because if they just remove a small portion, it will die. But for some trees, like for example Prunus africana, it heals when you remove a piece of bark. So you would encourage these people to harvest a small section of the bark from a particular side of the tree, and then leave that area to grow back maybe for two to three years. Then after that they can go and harvest on the other side of the tree, and they can continue in that type of circular harvesting pattern, and then the tree will not die. But as I said, the trees that will die if they harvest the bark, then there are options like, for example, establishing a plantation, as I said. Or the other option is to look at other aspects like leaves or fruits, which, when harvested, they can not affect the tree. But you have to make sure that you look at if the chemical that cures a particular disease is available also in the leaves, then you can advise them to go for the leaves. Or then you can provide alternative sources of parts of the plant that these people can harvest. Mphaka One of the stakeholders in that area of traditional medicines are the traditional doctors themselves, and it is a very secretive area. What kind of cooperation have you been having with them in order to know what type of plants they use and how much you can assist them? Meke That area is one of the serious challenges that most researchers meet. But with traditional healers, you find that if you can show to them that you can be trusted, these people are very easy to work with. Once you are clear of what you want the information for and what you are going to use it for, then they can easily cooperate with you. And whatever we do, we try as much as possible to run away from things like: to give us the name of the tree which they use for what particular type of disease; how they prepare the medicine, and all that. That type of information on how they prepare the medicine and all that, we have tried to avoid that because that is what they mostly they keep it as a secret. But just to indicate to us what trees they use, what plants they use, that is not very difficult. Because as foresters, our concern is that there is a lot of deforestation, over-harvesting and all that. So, if these people are to continue getting whatever medicinal plants, then it means they have to work with us to help them on how best they can propagate them, and also to come up with how best they can harvest. So, it is like to their advantage. So, after explaining these things properly to them, then they trust us and we develop a good working relationship and then they tell us the necessary information that we need as foresters to advise them. Mphaka One of the biggest challenges which researchers face is the fact that whatever they have found out to be solutions, things which work, the problem comes in when they have to disseminate that information to the targeted audience. How do you do that yourselves? Meke That one is a very serious challenge for us. But for example, with FRIM, we are working in the forest department and the forest department has got an extension unit. So normally what we do is, whatever technologies we develop, we pass them on to our colleagues in the extension area so that they develop messages which can be given out to people and people can easily take them up. The other way is we try as much as possible to use the mass media like the radio, also the newspapers and give out information. Mphaka This area of traditional healers and traditional medicines, and looking at the trees which Malawi can provide as a nation, is looked at as an area which is kind of worthless. For you to spend all that time and effort to look at the area, do you think it is an area that can provide wealth to anybody at all? Meke At first that is the impression that people get when they have not had a chance to look at that particular area. For example, with the issue of traditional medicine, almost every Malawian uses traditional medicine. Ten million people using traditional medicine. Look at the damage that would happen to forests if all those people are to get that traditional medicine. You will find that there is a lot that is being taken out. So, as foresters, our concern is, if all these people are using these plants, then very soon we will have nothing. For example, if you look at the issue of wealth creation, you find that one: the area of 10 million people wanting medicine; maybe people in the village they would not charge a lot of money to some one if they were to treat them, but there are, for example, people who can harvest and then sell across the border. For example we have people who harvest traditional medicine in Malawi and sell in South Africa. They make money. If they were not making money, they would not waste a lot of money to buy a ticket to go to South Africa. So there is money that is being made. You also find traditional medicine being sold in pharmacies. So, maybe for us in Malawi, it is just a matter of time when may be, some people will think of making cough mixtures, using traditional medicine. So very soon we will have these on the market; so there is a big market for these traditional medicines. End of track.