Local knowledge in community-based approaches to medicinal plant conservation: lessons from India.

Research paper by Shailesh S Shukla, James J Gardner

Indexed on: 11 Apr '06Published on: 11 Apr '06Published in: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine


Community-based approaches to conservation of natural resources, in particular medicinal plants, have attracted attention of governments, non governmental organizations and international funding agencies. This paper highlights the community-based approaches used by an Indian NGO, the Rural Communes Medicinal Plant Conservation Centre (RCMPCC). The RCMPCC recognized and legitimized the role of local medicinal knowledge along with other knowledge systems to a wider audience, i.e. higher levels of government.Besides a review of relevant literature, the research used a variety of qualitative techniques, such as semi-structured, in-depth interviews and participant observations in one of the project sites of RCMPCC.The review of local medicinal plant knowledge systems reveals that even though medicinal plants and associated knowledge systems (particularly local knowledge) are gaining wider recognition at the global level, the efforts to recognize and promote the un-codified folk systems of medicinal knowledge are still inadequate. In country like India, such neglect is evident through the lack of legal recognition and supporting policies. On the other hand, community-based approaches like local healers' workshops or village biologist programs implemented by RCMPCC are useful in combining both local (folk and codified) and formal systems of medicine.Despite the high reliance on the local medicinal knowledge systems for health needs in India, the formal policies and national support structures are inadequate for traditional systems of medicine and almost absent for folk medicine. On the other hand, NGOs like the RCMPCC have demonstrated that community-based and local approaches such as local healer's workshops and village biologist program can synergistically forge linkages between local knowledge with the formal sciences (in this case botany and ecology) and generate positive impacts at various levels.