To support sustainable rural livelihoods and to contribute to conservation of biodiversity in the country, nine nature-based products were launched in Thimphu yesterday.

The products include anti-wrinkle cream, balm, liniment oil, massage oil, perfume, soaps, and hand sanitiser developed from herbs such as Zingiber cassumunar, Phyllanthus emblica, Rhododendron anthopogon and Sapindus rarak among others.

The products were developed after the formalisation of the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) agreement between community members and stakeholders.

To develop nature-based products in line with the ABS framework, National Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Menjong Sorig Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited (MSBCL), and Bio Bhutan in collaboration with UNDP implemented the project in Loggchina gewog in Chhukha, Langthel in Trongsa and Lingshi and Dagala in Thimphu.

Project manager Chencho Dorji said, the project helped benefit four communities in the country. “Apart from the monetary benefit of getting the products at a premium price, the capacity of the communities was strengthened through trainings such as sustainable harvesting.”

He said that unlike regular trade where only raw materials are bought from the communities, the project looks into the additional benefits to the community.

The products are not yet in the market.

United Nations resident coordinator, Gerald Daly said, there is connection between the people and the biodiversity of the country. “However, in recent times, it is threatened by a number of factors. Over-harvesting species for food and medicine is a major driver in a biodiversity collapse and extinctions globally.”

He said the ABS framework and Biodiversity Act are important legislations that ensure sustainable utilisation of the country’s rich biological resources while also protecting the local and indigenous communities.

“To us, this means growth and development are inclusive and sustainable. It means incorporating productive capacities that create employment and livelihoods for the poor and excluded people of Bhutan,” he said.

It was learnt that the first component of the project is to facilitate an operational national regulatory and institutional framework.

The second focuses on strengthening the capacity of key institutions and procurement of research and development equipment to implement the ABS framework.

The third demonstrates best practice of the ABS framework through the development of nature-based products involving the local community directly.

Highlighting the importance of biodiversity, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said there is a need to ensure people don’t recklessly deplete resources and unknowingly destroy biological hotspots. “These are products that come from biodiversity hotspots as we have pristine environment.”

Agriculture secretary, Rinzin Dorji said, the launch was organised in line with the ministry’s efforts to strengthen the sustainable utilisation of resources and associated traditional knowledge.

“The key objective of the launch is to showcase the ASB framework for development of nature based product, which is based on the prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms, between provider and user of genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge.”

It was learnt that a portion of monetary benefit drawn from the products would go to ABS fund to support and sustain biodiversity conservation efforts in the country.

GEF-UNDP and the government funded the USD 1Million project, which started in October 2014. The project ends this September.

Rinchen Zangmo