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© Kat Morgenstern
July 2006
Vol.IV Issue:3

This Issue:

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What you can do:

  • Take quick showers instead of baths
  • Don't keep the water running while brushing your teeth
  • Do the dishes in a bowl rather than under running water
  • Only run dishwashers or washing machines with full loads
  • Check your tabs for leaks
  • Install water conservation system for your toilet
  • Wash your car with a bucket rather than a hose pipe
  • Collect rain water from the gutters
  • grow drought resistant plants
  • use liberal amounts of mulching
  • Only water after dusk

sunflowers (21K)Summer is well and truly here - and I hope you are all making the most of it, out there, enjoying it in the woods and meadows instead of sitting at the computer and reading this. It has been hard work putting this issue together. In the sweltering heat my attention span seems to wither and wilt at about the same rate as the plants in the garden. This year has broken all records in terms of 'hottest days' and 'lack of rain', yet there are still some who are in denial about global warming. 'It's hot? Well, why not crank up the air-conditioning or take a refreshing ride in the SUV?' 'Lack of water? Why not just drift some ice floats down from the arctic?' Such measures might give immediate respite, but they are short term and short sighted solutions. Instead, we need to seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop sustainable technologies quickly - and make them affordable for all.

Last summer we have witnessed the devasting effects of several extreme hurricanes hitting the southern regions of the US Atlantic and Central Gulf Coast. What measures have been taken since, not just to protect residence in 'at risk' areas from further onslaught, but to address the underlying issue of global warming? How sharp will our learning curve have to be in order to cope with the immanent changes? For many of us it might be time to take some notice of drought resistant plants for the garden and to explore ways to conserve water. Ancient landscapes still bear the remains of elaborate irrigation systems that made the most of every drop - we wastes it by the millions of gallons, even still. Water is a truly precious resource, yet we only tend to appreciate it now that it is becoming scarce. The writing is already on the wall: water wars, as millions are going to try and escape death by drought...the next big issue, no longer far fetched fiction. But instead of fighting over this precious resource, which we must share with all life on earth, each and every one of us should look at ways to reduce one's water consumption and personal impact on global warming. Water is essential to all life, without it nothing can be sustained.
So in this spirit, stay cool...

Kat Morgenstern, July 2006

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blueberries (9K)At last summer has arrived, and with it, the wonderful time of berry gathering. To my tastebuds there is nothing more delicious than a bowl of freshly collected wild strawberries and wild blueberries served with only with fresh milk and sugar - it instantly triggers bliss for me and brings back happy childhood memories of carefree sunny days spent grazing my way through the woods. My mouth, shirts and hands were stained a deep purplish red for weeks on end. I did not care. I was happy as a bear, gorging myself on this infinite supply of berries. That is how I came to be a forager at the age of five, a passion that has stayed with me all my life.

redblue (13K)Blueberries are particularly prolific in northern pine forests, clinging to hillsides or hiding among heather. They prefer acid soils and in southern England they are most likely to be found around the moors. But they are more prolific Scotland and Wales. In the US they are mostly found wild in the Rockies and other mountainous regions of the western States. Commercial blueberries are widely cultivated in the Northeast.

Blueberries belong to the heather family. The tough, low growing plants can absolutely carpet a forest floor - providing a veritable a forager's paradise. The leaves are small, elliptical with finely serrated margins. The red flowers are typical heather type fairy bells, which dangle singly from the bush. They turn into deep bluish black berries by the end of July/beginning of August, depending on local conditions. To be sure, picking each soft little berry requires a certain degree of delicacy and many will squish their sweet juice all over your hands and clothes. Make sure you are dressed for the occasion, as you will never completely get them out again.

Some find cleaning the berries a chore as the little stalks can be somewhat tenacious, and tedious to pick off, but the effort is well worth it. Nothing quite compares with blueberry bliss - in fact my taste buds are performing a little dance of ecstasy at the mere thought of harvesting season drawing nigh. If you are lucky enough to find loads, perhaps along with some other berries, such as wild strawberries, raspberries or blackberries as well, you can make a cold berry soup - a favourite summer dish in Scandinavian countries, fruits of the forest ice cream, sorbet or yoghurt cream, which, when stabilized with vegetarian gelatine, makes an excellent cake filling. Blueberry milk shakes are equally delicious. Not to mention jams and syrups for later use. In short, there is no limit to blueberry delights.

Medicinal uses:

Both berries and leaves are used medicinally. Blueberry leaves can be brewed as tea, which is said to lower blood sugar levels. However, recent animal research suggests that long term use administered in large doses can have adverse effects and it seems best not to use them regularly or excessively. Berries are known to enhance the peripheral blood circulation, which improves, among other things, the eye sight. This is particularly beneficial for diabetics and for people who find it hard to adjust to badly lit conditions. They are also hailed to improve blood supply to the brain and thus an excellent brain food. These findings suggest that Blueberries would recommend themselves as an ideal snack fruit for the elderly. They have also been found to reduce cholesterol and to catch free radicals. In fact, according to a study by Tuffts University, which examined 60 different fruit and vegetables, blueberries demonstrated the highest levels of antioxidant activity. Blueberries also act on the connective tissue, making it stronger and more stable. They have also been recommended for people who suffer from varicose veins. Furthermore, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant compound found in wine which is known to protect the heart. However, wine made from blueberries has been shown to contain 38% more of this compound than red wine. They also contain another type of antioxidant compound that protects against colon cancer. Thus, blueberries are easily not just one of the most delicious fruits, but also one of the healthiest. Scoff as many as you can while the season is on!


Blueberry leaves contain oxalates, which, when concentrated in the blood can form crystals that can damage the kidneys. People with urinary problems or kidney disease should avoid oxalate containing foods.

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Blueberry juice:

Mash about 1 cup of blueberries. Add 1 cup of water (or more if you like it thinner). Simmer briefly, add sugar or honey to taste, strain through cheese cloth and cool.

Blueberry smoothy:

Add one cup of blueberries to 1cup of milk and ½ cup of yoghurt. Whizz in a blender. Add sugar and/or lemon juice to taste.

Blueberry Muffins


  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup butter


  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups.
  • Tumble blueberries with a little bit of the flour, enough to coat them. Combine the remaining dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Cream the butter with the eggs and buttermilk; stir into flour mixture until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Stir in blueberries until evenly distributed. Fill muffin cups ⅔ full with batter. Bake about 20 minutes until golden

Blueberry Pie

There are gazillion delicious recipes for blueberry pies and cheesecakes. To maximize the healthful properties of this delicious treat forget the cheesecake and just fill a pie crust with a slightly cooked blueberry mixture.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.


  • 1½ cup graham cracker crumbs (or digestive biscuits)
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ⅛ cup water

Crumble the Graham crackers and mix with melted butter. Add just enough water to create a dough that sticks together. Press into a deep 9" pie tin.

  • 8 cups of blueberries
  • 7 Tbs corn flour or tapioca
  • 3 Tablespoons water (or grape juice)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • ¾ cup of sugar

Wash the berries. Combine corn starch, sugar and optional spices in a mixing bowl. Add lemon juice and water and blend well. Gently combine blueberries with the cornstarch mixture and fill into pie crust. They may overfill the tin, but the volume is reducded during baking.

If you like, add a crumb topping:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter, flaked

Rub together until it becomes a crumbly mixture and spread all over the pie. Cook for about one hour at 375°F or 190°C.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Blueberry cream

  • 2 cups of blueberry
  • 2 cups of quark (smooth cottage cheese or fromage frais)
  • ½cup whipped cream
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Cassis

Clean and slightly bruise the blueberries, pour a little cassis over them and some sugar. Allow to marinate for a few hours until the sugar is dissolved and the blueberries have turned a little mushy.

In another bowl blend the fromage frais with the lemon juice and some sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream and stir in the blue berries. If you add a little gelatine to the quark (follow instructions on the package) you can also use this cream as a filling for a pie crust.

Cold Blueberry soup:

Wonderful dessert/dish for a summer's day.

Take a quart of blueberries, bruise or mash. Add the same amount of water and a little lemon juice. Simmer, add sugar to taste. If you don't like the seeds and skins, you can strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Dissolve a little cornstarch and add to thicken, but take care not to use too much. Simmer a little while longer, then allow to cool and put in the fridge. Whip some cream. When the blueberry soup is cold enough, serve with dabs of fresh whipped cream. Some people like to refine this recipe by adding a little cassis to the soup.

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That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.

Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:

Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.

It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertantly end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.

Don't be greedy!

Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.

Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscienscious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.

However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!

Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.

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In Association with
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PE02264_ (13K)It seems amazing that something so basic and essential as the quality of food is used as the throwball in a political power game driven by the vested interests of the chemical industry and the food industry. As much as I am delighted to find more and more organic foods on the shelves of local and not so local supermarkets - which must be a sign that consumer consciousness is finally demanding these choices to be made available - it still dismays me to think that it has taken some 65 years to get thus far.

Yes, that's right, 65 years! The early beginnings of what we now call 'the organic movement' lie back as far as the 1940s. In fact, almost as far back as the very beginnings of the agrochemical industry and the dawn of large scale industrial farming itself. One would think that back then it must have seemed like an odd idea to put all sorts of chemicals onto the earth and into our foods, and thus into our bodies - but no. The Zeitgeist of that time blew from an entirely different direction. It was the dawn of the age of industrialization, which preached the gospel of convenience, making our daily chores easier thanks to scientific progress.

Toiling the land to eke out a living seemed a meagre reward compared to the lifestyle that could be afforded by selling one's time to a factory, escape the farming slavery and live in the city, the promised land of economic opportunity. But this meant the scales were tipped quite dangerously as not enough people remained on the farms to work the land and it became increasingly difficult to produced enough food for all those people who had fled to the cities. Farmers needed compensation and some kind of incentive to keep doing their work. Science came up with the answer: industrial farming methods which included the liberal use of fertilizers that promised to increase the yield without increasing the work.

It was an age in which new discoveries were made at an astonishing rate, and science was no longer practiced as an abstract pursuit of the elite, but with practical application in mind. And for a while it seemed to be delivering the goods. Chemical industry came up with standardized new drugs in convenient pill shape, no mess, no hassle; foods appeared as 'instant formulas' and tv dinners, which saved house wives hours of time and bother. Scientists seemed like demi-gods who constantly delivered something newer, bigger or faster. It was an age of vision - the horizons aglow with the promise of unlimited possibilities for a bright, clean, convenient future ahead - it was the birth of the American Dream.

In the context of such a forward looking (albeit short-sighted) Zeitgeist people such as Rudolph Steiner, Lady Eve Balfour and Jerome Rodale must have seemed like Luddites, waving their fingers at the evils of the modern world, clinging on to the traditions and the old ways. Half a century later we are finally beginning to come around to their way of thinking and recognize them as the true visionaries they were.

Sadly, by now much of the land is contaminated and impoverished from decades of industrial farming methods, even before they are born children are exposed to a blend of toxic chemicals flowing in their veins, mother's milk is said to be dangerous due to absorption of environmental chemicals; allergies, chemical sensitivities and cancers are constantly rising - and still there are people who just don't seem to see the connections. Instead, they keep looking at science as the holy saviour that can save them once again from the very demons it created in the past. In this day and age the promise of our future health and well-being is to be found in GM crops, which claim to make crops resistant to all sorts of bugs and environmental stress conditions, thus reducing the need for toxic sprays.

But that is only half the story. And like those early visionary 'luddites' that promoted organic farming methods back in the 40s, there are voices now that warn against the dangers of this latest supposed piece of technological advancement. The answer they have is still the same - do what is natural - go back to common sense: organic food production. This will not only benefit our health, but also the health of the planet itself. We may, if we are very lucky, witness the return of some of those species that have been all but wiped out by the chemical war on the environment.

There are those that argue the true benefits of GM crops and industrial farming methods lie in the fact that we will be able to feed millions of starving people in impoversihed countries around the world. Wouldn't that be nice! Unfortunately it is unlikely that we would, even if we could. Otherwise, why don't we do it now? Why do we instead burn mountains of food and destroy the surplus of production? Why? To keep prices stable of course.

There is enough food, and more could be produced if instead of cutting down the rainforest to plant soy beans to feed cattle, we instead produced food for people. But hey, that would be to step on the toes of at least 3 major industries.

organic_produce (24K)The truth is that as long as there are big bucks involved mere political good will, or even less likely, good common sense, don't stand a chance in hell to change a thing in this world. That is why consumer action is so important. It is only when we take the action of voting with out dollars, pounds or yen to support one way of thinking over another, that we can expect results to creep in. At first we have to content with the attempt of suppression - like in the case of alternative medicines, then we'll have to face the slander of subversive propaganda machines operated by the industrial giants, but finally, if we persist, they will give in - simply because they don't want to lose out on the money that is to be made in this 'new' section of the market.

That seems to be the stage we are in now. The demand for organic foods is rising. When will we care about organic clothes? Industrial cotton is absolutely dowsed in chemicals by the time it is spun into yarn and made into clothes. Do these chemicals harm us? Well, they may or may not, depending on how sensitive you are. However, there is no question as to the harm they cause to the earth and the wildlife that tries to exist in the vicinity of such plantations, not to mention their effect on the farm workers.

Organic or non organic is not just a personal choice for our own well-being, it is a question of the quality of life we wish to enjoy and preserve for our future generations. It is, therefore not really much of a choice at all. Rather, it is a challenge we - humanity - face: to find sustainable, non-toxic solutions to the day to day business of living on this planet that is our only home.


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Organic Feasting

August 2006:

August 26: Second Annual Organic Planet Festival "Celebrating a Natural and Non-Toxic World" held at the Halvorsen Park in Eureka, CA. Check out the attempt to create the world's largest organic salad (bring your own bowl), peruse the wares of natural and organic retailers, learn how to shop for organic goods on a budget and how to avoid pesticides in your garden, feast upon great organic food and beverages, and kick back and groove to the fantastic musical talent. For more information call 707-445-5100 or e-mail Or go to the website at

September 2006:

September 9: Organicfest 2006 in downtown Asheville, NC from 10 am-6 pm. A celebration of everything organic from food to clothing to flowers. There will be live music and educational workshops presented by the Organic Growers School.

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How Green Can Travel Really Be?

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With all the talk about climate change and the very real need to conserve fuel, some people feel that ecotravel to far off lands can't be truly green. The impact caused by airtravel can't be denied. Long distance travel always consumes resources. The question is, would you consume more, less or equal amounts of fuel if you stayed at home?

Lone commuters vaporize countless gallons of fuel while they sit in traffic jams. If you live out of town, every trip to the store is a journey by car. Not to mention the taxi service here there and everywhere that parents provide for their kids.

If you feel guilty about the fuel consumption of your ecotrip, you can compensate in several ways. Some companies calculate the ecological impact of your airtravel and divide the money value of that impact between themselves and you. In other words, they will charge you a little extra and match that amount to give as a donation to a charity.

To my mind, this is a nice thought, but really, it is simply a way to buy off your bad conscience. If you feel guilty and think money will let you off the hook, why not just make a donation to a charity of your choice - one you deem worthwhile in their effort to help the planet. But don't kid yourself - in real terms your 'impact' is still the same.

The only really clean alternatives are to choose a low or no impact mode of travel, either right out of your door, or at least once you get to your destination, however near or far it may be. Hiking, canoeing, sailing or cycling are about as 'green' as green can be - providing you take care of your waste disposal and tread sensitively on the earth. That said, even hiking can have a negative impact if everybody hikes in the same place - we have seen such negative impact on the Inka Trail, where thousands of visitors over the years have caused serious erosion problems. Just in the nick of time the Peruvian government has acted and now implements strict restrictions on visitor numbers in an attempt to curb the problem.

No doubt the Inka Trail is one of the most magical hikes in the world, but there are many other fantastic hiking destinations. The Andes are simply incredible and there are uncountable options for unforgettable hikes in every Andean country.

hiking5 (9K)Just about every country has a system of hiking trails, the difference being that some are better maintained than others. Total wilderness hiking requires some very specialist skills which become essential to survival: very good map and compass reading skills and good knowledge of outdoor survival techniques - which, appeals to some, but are not everybody's idea of a fun vacation. In other parts of the world hiking is a long established tradition and trails are well sign posted, decent maps are available and huts or hostels are conveniently distributed along the way to offer refreshment and repose to the weary walker. For the hard core wilderness enthusiast this is probably far too tame a variant of walking, but it is ideal for those who enjoy a decent meal and a comfortable night's sleep, yet still want to enjoy fantastic scenery and the great feeling of simply getting from one place to another by the power of their feet. Some solitary souls may enjoy the peace and quiet of being alone with nature, others want to share their enjoyments with like minded people. If you don't fancy walking by yourself or carrying all your gear, you can join a group. Again, depending on your interest, there are dozens of variations. Some are camping trips supported by horses or llamas that help carry the gear, while others have a specific theme such as archaeology, wildlife observation focussing on botanical discoveries or birds, wellness (hikes based out of exquisite spa facilities in gorgeous mountain terrain). Some even combine hiking with cultural history, gourmet food and wine tasting. In the south of France there is even an underwater trail through one of the only maritime reserves in the mediterranean sea.

Every country has its own charms, places of interest, cultural and natural history and incredible scenery. There are many, many options available and it is impossible to say which one is the best, or even better than another, since each has its own special charms and appeals to different needs and expectations. The question is simply, which one suits you best?

Sacred Earth offers a variety of hiking vacations in the Andes (Ecuador and Peru), in Central America (Costa Rica) and now also in Chile (please inquire). Find out more by following the links below:

Ecuador Hikes - Highlands and Volcanoes

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Peru Hikes - in the footsteps of the Inka

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We don't currently offer hiking tours to Europe or within the United States and Canada, but here are some great resources:

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North American Hiking Resources
European hiking resources:
Europe country index:
Germany: (in german)

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New Initiative Will Conserve Sacred Sites Rich in Biodiversity

Reprinted with kind permission from ENS newsletter 20 March 2006-06-24

CURITIBA, Brazil, March 19, 2006 (ENS) -
The realization that conservation of indigenous sacred places also conserves Earth's embattled biological diversity is the inspiration for a new international initiative to safeguard ancient sacred natural sites.

The new project, backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and indigenous peoples' groups such as the Foundation created by Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu, has secured preliminary funding from a multi-billion dollar development fund, the Global Environment Facility. Menchu said, "It may seem accidental, but is not accidental, that where indigenous peoples live is where the greatest biological diversity, the diversity of nature, exists too. The values on which indigenous peoples have built our complex systems are founded in the ethical, spiritual and sacred nature that links our peoples with the whole work of creation." "This is why we demand the formal recognition of our conservation efforts, of our protected territories, of our sacred places, of the ethical values that support our lifestyles," she said.

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1992 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala (Photo courtesy Fundacion Rigoberta Menchu Tum)

The project, Conservation of Biodiversity Rich Sacred Natural Sites, will be publicly unveiled at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) taking place in Curitiba, Brazil, between March 20 and 31. Many of the mountains, forests and islands, desert oases, lakes, rivers and groves recognized by indigenous peoples as having cultural and spiritual significance also shelter endangered and threatened species. Experts have selected several such sites as pilot ecosystems of global importance. Included in the list of pilot projects is a site in Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert where it is said the sun was born, and a network of skull caves in the Kakamega forests in Kenya, revered by Taita and Luhya people. Other pilot sites are Mount Ausangate in the Peru's Vilcanota mountain range, a group of islands in Guinea Bissau whose beaches and mangroves are used exclusively for rituals, and sacred forest groves in the India's Kodagu District.

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Mount Ausangate stands 6,380 meters (20,905 feet) in the Peruvian Andes, towering over hot springs and glacier-fed multicolored lakes. (Photo by Norman Benton courtesy Still Pictures/UNEP)

"There is clear and growing evidence of a link between cultural diversity and biodiversity, between reverence for the land and a location and a breadth of often unique and special plants and animals," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "Sadly sacred sites are also under threat and there is an urgent need to help local, indigenous and traditional peoples safeguard their heritage which in turn can do much to conserve the biological and genetic diversity upon which we all depend," he said. In 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, governments committed themselves to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.

"Conserving sacred sites and their biological richness can play a major role in achieving the 2010 target and perhaps act as beacons from where good and sustainable management practices can be exported to nearby areas and beyond," said Toepfer. Supporters, which include a wide range of conservation organizations, other United Nations bodies and governments, are now raising the over $1.7 million needed to start action on the ground. Gonzalo Oviedo of IUCN-the World Conservation Union, one of the organizations involved, said, "Communities managing such sites have made many efforts locally to try and boost the prospects for such sites, but to date global action has been far from the level needed to ensure a global shift in their fortunes. This project aims to cement a wide alliance and mobilize the international attention so urgently needed in this neglected field."

A series of side events on biodiversity and indigenous peoples is being held at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, opening Monday in Curitiba. Visit:

Sacred Sites - the Pilot Network



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A Bijagos man at a festival in the Baloma-Bijagos archipelago (Photo courtesy

The Boloma-Bijagos
This archipelago of 88 islands in Guinea-Bissau encompasses diverse ecosystems - mangroves with intertidal zones, palm forests, dry and semi-dry forests, secondary and degraded forests, coastal savanna, sand banks and aquatic zones. Over the 100,000 hectare, many rivers discharge nutrient rich freshwater into the sea which supports Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus and an abundance of crustaceans, molluscs and fish. To the Bijagos community, certain areas are off limits or access is confined to those who have completed their ceremonial duties. In many of the sites certain activities are banned such as sexual relations, burials, the shedding of blood, and construction of permanent settlements. "These traditional practices of the Bijagos that limit periodically the free access to certain areas and their natural resources effectively assists in the preservation of the sites for flora and fauna," said Oviedo. "An interesting overlapping is that the most valued sites for biodiversity also happen to be the most sacred ones."


Two sites have been earmarked in Kenya: The Tiriki ceremonial sites in the west and the Taita skull caves in the coastal province.

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The Kakamega indigenous forest in Kenya (Photo by Charlotte Thege courtesy Still Pictures/UNEP)

The Tiriki site
This site is of great interest to scientists as they represent the remains of a rainforest of which much has been lost. The Tiriki community holds circumcision ceremonies in the forest. The initiates are bathed in a stream that runs through the woods and then secluded in the forest until they are healed. Experts believe that the ceremonial sites harbor unique plant and animal species which have benefited from the protection afforded by clan elders and traditional customs and beliefs. But part of the forest has been seized by loggers who fell the indigenous trees without permits. As part of the pilot project, scientists plan to fully document the plants, birds and reptiles present in the Tiriki forest, as well as undertaking socio-cultural surveys among local communities. In collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya, it is planned to list key sites and assess the potential for ecotourism.

The skull caves of the Taita
These are located in the Eastern Arc, one of the world's biodiversity hot spots and home to unique and rare species, including coffee. Skulls of male members of the tribe and important people are placed in the caves, known locally as Pango. The enormous number of rituals and taboos surrounding the caves has allowed small but important segments of the indigenous forest to survive on hilltops such as Mbololo and Chawia.



The Kodagu District
Located in the Western Ghats of Karnataka State, India, is something like the sacred grove capital of the world. The groves also harbor the richest biodiversity of the area. The district consists of deep forests associated with flower gardens on mountain slopes and paddy cultivation in the valleys. Sacred groves and sacred water bodies form the center of local peoples' livelihoods and rituals associated with farming. The land tenure system for the groves is unique and while ownership is within the State Forest Department, recent government initiatives have specifically recognized the role of local people in management of the sacred grove.

Latin America


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An old bridge in the Wirikuta region, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. (Photo courtesy CalState-LA)

Wirikuta, in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico, is one of the most biologically rich and diverse deserts in the world, and one of three Mexican sites included in the pilot program. Said to be where the sun was born, Wirikuta covers some 140,000 hectares and is inhabited by 70 percent of the birds and 60 percent of the mammals of the desert. It is on the eastern edge of an annual pilgrimage of the Huichol "jicareros" where novices eat the sacred cacti that allow them to communicate with deities and ancestors. The site is under threat from uncontrolled tourism, agriculture, overexploitation of underground aquifers, hunting, and illegal traffic in wildlife.
Tiburon, or Taheojc Island
In Mexico's Gulf of California, is part of an area known as the Sarcocaulescent Desert. The island, noted for its rich wildlife including cercidium trees and shrubs, deer, birds and invertebrates, is the last home of the Seri people. The island is central to their view of the universe expressed in stories featuring spirits and deities centered around the heart of the island. Economic and political problems threaten the Seri way of life and also the island's extraordinary biodiversity.
The Sacred Caves of the Wind and Fertility
An eight hectare site sacred to the Tenek, Nahua and Pame people of Huastecan region in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The forests linked with the site have been devastated by cattle grazing. Only a small patch remains that is a reservoir for medicinal plants.


The Cayambe area,
Located in the eastern Range of the Ecuadorean Andes, harbors a wide range of ecosystems including humid cloud forests, alpine grasslands and humid tropical forests. It is inhabited by the threatened Andean condor. The area has great spiritual significance to the Cayanpi and other peoples of the region, with several revered mountains, lakes and rivers. One of the sacred sites is Puntayachi where local people celebrate the cycles of the sun. Other rituals are associated with the appearance in the sky of the Southern Cross.


The Vilcanota Spirtual Park
Located in southern Peru is part of the Vilcanota mountain range and home to the Q'eros people.
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Puma runs through the Manu National Park, Peru (Photo by Heinz Plenge courtesy Still Pictures/UNEP)

The Vilcanota sub-region is an ice-capped mountain range of the Peruvian Andes encompassing 469 glaciers in an area of 539 square kilometers. The area is a hot spot of biodiversity, with a large number of native and unique species including wild vicunas, pumas, Andean geese, and important tree species. Local people believe that values such as the treatment of mountains as divinities have allowed for the maintenance of a strong cultural identity that approaches nature on the basis of concepts of relatedness to the natural world. It also an area of concentrated native agrobiodiversity and livestock populations. A wide range of rituals are linked to ecosystem conservation some of which are connected with cocoa, native potatoes and wild flowers, and some involve banning the exploitation of key pasture lands.
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Human beings are not born with a naturally beautiful dress, like some extravagant birds with their attire of exquisite feathers. Instead, we have to draw on our own ingenuity and creativity when it comes to designing our apparel. In a previous newsletter we talked about natural fibres. Flax, hemp and nettles are but a few sources from which we have learnt to spin fine yarns and weave into textiles. Alas, in their natural state, they are as plain as our skin.

The search for natural dyes to give colour to our world in art, fashion and design is as ancient as it is universal. No matter which culture we examine, each has experimented and explored every conceivable source of colour in its environment - everything from shellfish to lichen, roots, barks, leaves, berries, fungi, and even flower stamens have been explored for their potential to yield every shade of colour in the rainbow.

henna2 (8K)Even in societies were traditionally very little attention is paid to clothing, 'paints' usually derived from ochre, chalk and charcoal have long been used to decorate the birthday suites, at least for special occasions such as rituals, healing ceremonies or initiations. A slightly more elaborate development of this theme can be found in the art of tattooing. However, tattoo practices usually result in a permanent design, which is not necessarily desirable. It would be nice to change designs from time to time depending on the occasion. Certain vegetable dyes have proven suitable to fulfil this need, yielding a strong colour that will last a few days, but which will eventually wash off, leaving the canvas clean for new designs. The best known vegetable dye for temporary designs is probably Henna (Lawsonia inermis), which is still widely used in the Middle East and Asia, particularly in connection with wedding ceremonies. In recent years it has also become increasingly popular in the West, at first as a hair dye and now also for temporary tattoos. In South America indigenous people use Achiote (Bixa orellana) and Huito (Genipa americana) both, for body painting and as a dye for natural fibres.

But colours convey more than just artful fancy. Practically all cultures endow particular colours with specific meanings. Colour is an essential key to the mysteries, which by association unlocks the significance of a whole symbol complex. For example, in practically all cultures each of the four directions was assigned a specific colour, which conveyed its spiritual associations - e.g. the east is the direction of the rising sun, of new beginnings, birth etc. and its colour is almost universally yellow or white. There is a lot of overlap between different cultures and their colour symbolism, though there are also variants. But the relevance to this topic of dyes is that due to the sacred associations of colour, the plants and materials from which the pigments were derived, became part of the symbol complex.

Colour is code. We still use colour this way now, although more often in a secular context than a sacred one. We characterize Communists as 'reds' and Nazis as 'brown', speak of 'the grey (indistinguishable) masses' or label things 'green' if they are eco-friendly. Different social groups still follow an unspoken dress code - business people prefer greys, whites, beige or dark blue, while Goths wear black. Likewise, traditional costumes often represent much more than just another colourful outfit. Instead, in many cultures each piece of clothing was created for a particular person. Woven right into the fabric - colour coded, as it were, in the symbols of the design, they tell a story - the history of the family or the social status of the wearer, for example. Other clothes, worn only at certain times, e.g. during hunting excursions or at particular rituals, were covered in colour coded protective symbols.

Some colours were exceedingly precious. Royal purple derived from molluscs, was long reserved for royalty alone. The price of such precious and rare pigments was dizzying indeed - In Roman times (400AD) a pound of cloth dyed in royal purple costs the equivalent of $20.000! At the time the mollusc from which the dye derived had already become endangered. The high demand drove up prices far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals and aristocrats reserved the right to use royal purple for themselves. Thus it became exclusive to their 'caste' and represented their priviledged status. Other pigments, such as those derived from walnut shells or onion skins were more easily accessible - but the process of dyeing was always laborious and time consuming. Copious amounts of plant materials had to be gathered; the linens and skeins of wool and yarn had to be prepared with a mordant to render them absorbent to the dye bath and at the same time help to fix the pigment.

Mordants are usually mineral substances that are variously combined and prepared to produce varying shades of colour. The body of knowledge regarding natural dyes from around the world is absolutely huge, alas, since the discovery of tar colours at the beginning of the 19th century, natural dye methods and the intricate arts of natural textile design are fast becoming another relic of times gone by.

The basic process:
wool (16K)The yarn has to be prepared by gathering it up into skeins, tying it loosely, but securely with a piece of yarn of the same material. The first step is to thoroughly wash the yarn. If you want to experiment at home, use natural wool to start with since this is the easiest material to prepare. All the natural wool fats have to be removed so use a gentle soap flakes well dissolved in hot water. Rinse the wool with several rinses of hot water to wash out all the soap.

The washed wool is thus prepared for the mordant bath. Numerous plants yield all kinds of colouration, depending on the mordant used. Mordants are derived from metallic compounds and thus can be toxic. Some natural dyers thus prefer to do without, but materials thus dyed will run very easily in the next wash and will not keep their colour well. To make the colour stronger or more intense one can over-dye the skeins, i.e. submit the skeins to several treatments in the dye bath. Only do this with yarn, not with finished pieces of textiles or knitted jumpers since they will shrink in the hot colour bath.

The most commonly used mordant is Alum, which is another way of saying 'potassium aluminium sulphate'. Sometimes the wool is subsequently subjected to other mordants such as Iron, Chrome or Tin or the alum is mixed with cream of tartar (similar but not quite the same as that used for baking). You don't need much equipment, but what you do need, is a large pot and a stick or large spoon. Make these dedicated dye utensils that will not be used for anything else, most especially not for cooking purposes. The metallic compounds are toxic and should be disposed of safely. Also, make sure your workspace is well ventilated. In the summer you can work outside. In the winter it is best to use the utility room with windows open.

To mordant the wool follow this procedure:

Place the aluminium sulphate and the cream of tartar in large pot full of cold water. Stir well to dissolve the powders. Once the powders are dissolved place the wool into pot and slowly bring the pot to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour. If the wool is very fine and soft less mordant and boiling time is required. After an hour take off the heat, drain and gently squeeze out the liquid. (Wear gloves!) The wool can be used for dying right away, or may be dried and stored for later dying.

For the dye bath it is usually best to use fresh plant materials, but make sure you either pick them from your own garden or a place where there is more than plentiful supply. Use about 1lb of plant material per 1lb of skeins. Place the plant materials in a muslin bag and tie securely.

Place the dye pot on the stove, ¾ full of water. Add the muslin bag of dye plants and submerge it well. Place the skeins of wool into the pot and slowly bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about one hour. Stir occasionally. After an hour turn off the heat, but leave the skeins in the water until the water is cold or when you deem the colour to be just right. Lift out the skeins (a pair of tongues will help), and rinse in water of the same temperature. When no more colour runs out you can hang the skeins up on a rod to dry. Fix a light weight to the bottom to prevent crinkling.

CAUTION:Mordants are mineral based substances that can be quite toxic. Such substances must be handled with due care. Wastes must be discarded properly. Wear protective clothing (especially gloves) and don't inhale the fumes. Dying should preferably take place outside or in well ventilated areas only. The information given here is for educational purposes only.

Some common dye plants:

Madder (Rubia tinctorum): Roots deep red with alum.
Woad (Isatis tinctoria): Leaves blue,
Somewhat complicated process involving a real chemical cocktail.
Woad (Indigo) dyes by oxidation, the trick is to get the dye bath right.
Indigo is a fast dye that fades very little in sunlight or in washing.
Weld (Reseda luteola): Whole plant lemon yellow with alum.
Blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus): Fruits shades of purple and blue with alum.
Elder (Sambucus nigra): Berries
purple and violets with alum,
green with alum.
Blackberries (Rubus fructicosus): Shoots
black /greys with iron,
blue, grey with alum
Bracken (Pteris aquiline): Young shoots
yellow/greens with alum;
orange/yellow with alum
Heather (Calluna vulgaris): Shoots: olive/yellow with alum
Fig (Ficus carica): Leaves: lemon yellows with alum
Birch (Betula alba): Leaves: yellow with alum
Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium): Leaves: yellow with alum
Ragwort (Senicio jacobaea): Whole plant yellow with alum
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare): Flowers yellows with alum
Canadian Golden Rod (Solidago Canadensis): Flowers golden yellow with chrome
Pine (Pinus ssp.) Cones: orange/yellow with alum;
browns with iron
Onion (Allium cepa) Skins: golden browns with alum
Walnut (Juglans regia) Shells pinkish browns (no mordant)
Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Root: yellow (no mordant)

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Many other plant materials can be used depending on local availability. Here are some further resources:


International Symposium/Workshop on Natural Dyes
Hyderabad, India, 5-12 November 2006

The Symposium-Workshop will bring together about 600 master craftpersons, researchers and specialists in natural dyes and craft promoters from the five continents.

UNESCO took the initiative to organize an International Symposium / Workshop on natural dyes in India in 2006 in partnership with the Crafts Council of India, and in cooperation with Dastkar Andhra, a non-profit trust concerned with the promotion of artisanal skills working with cotton handloom weavers.

The coordination of the scientific aspects of the Symposium and Workshops on natural dyes has been entrusted to Ms Dominique Cardon, Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, CNRS, UMR 5648 (Lyon), author of the publication "Le Monde des teintures naturelles" - the world of natural dyes (Berlin, April 2003).

The aim of this encounter is to attain practical outcomes based on the diversity of experiences and respectful of the variety of natural, social and cultural environment of the concerned craftspeople. The Symposium will encompass all aspects of the use of natural dyes: scientific, technical and cultural, societal and economical.

The sessions of the Symposium will be held every morning. The working languages will be English, French and English.

Workshops and dyeing demonstrations have been grouped by themes and will take place simultaneously. Poster presentations and exhibitions-sales will also take place in the afternoons.

Provisional Programme of the Symposium-Workshop on Natural Dyes

A first set of documents has been sent to all the applicants by post on 7 april 2006 and the paper version of the working documets will be sent in due time, by post, to all the participants who have confirmed their attendance.


All participants are invited to cover their costs of travel and lodging (see enclosed brochure and the registration form for international delegates). The deadline for an "earlybird" registration has been extended to 31 May 2006.

Indian delegates should apply directly to the Crafts Council of India (e-mail:

UNESCO and Crafts Council of India will provide local transportation, secretarial and interpretation services and facilities for exhibitions.

This site will be updated regularly.

For more information, please contact Mr. Indrasen Vencatachellum (Chief, Section for Crafts and Design)

Start Date: 05 Nov 2006
End Date: 12 Nov 2006
Meeting Type: Symposia
Meeting Location: Hyderabad (India)
Organizer: Section for Crafts and Design (UNESCO)
Partners / Sponsors: Crafts Council of India - Dastkar Andhra
Document 1: progprov_en.pdf
Document 2: brochureeng.pdf
Document 3: regform_eng.pdf

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Annato seeds/Achiote

Bixa orellana


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photo courtesy of

Annatto, or Achiote, as it is usually called in Latin American countries, is a relatively tropical shrub that can grow up to about 20 meters. The pinkish white flowers develop into bright red heart shaped, exceedingly bristly fruit, which is inedible. When ripe the fruit capsule breaks open and reveals an abundance of seeds embedded in orange-red pulp. The bush produces copious amounts of fruit: a single tree can yield up to 270kg.


Annatto is widespread throughout the tropical regions of central and South America where it is native. It has also become naturalized in other tropical regions, such as the Philippines.

History and Mythology

The Latin name of this plant 'Bixa orellana' does not give much of a clue regarding its properties. The genus name is probably derived from the Portuguese 'biche' meaning beak which alludes to the beak shaped seedpods, while the species name is given in memory of Francisco de Orellano, a Spanish conquistador of the 16th century, who accidentally discovered the Amazon.

codice2 (10K)Although the fruit of the Annatto tree are inedible it is often cultivated for its flowers and more especially for its seedpods. The pulp of the Annatto fruit yields a bright red dye, which has long been used both as a body paint and dye stuff for textiles or food. The ancient Maya and Aztecs regarded it as a symbolic substitute for blood and thus ascribed to it sacred connotations. It was also used to make ink and virtually all the ancient Maya scriptures were penned in annatto juice. The seeds also have a reputation as a female aphrodisiac and are believed to make bulls used for bullfighting more aggressive. The whole tree has a long history as a valued medicinal plant that has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions from fevers to cancer.

Indigenous people still use the pulp for 'cosmetic purposes', as hair dye or lip stick, hence the English common name 'Lipstick tree'. The pulp is also said to repel insects and to protect against sunburn due to the UV-filtering properties of the carotenoid pigment known as Bixin.

Its use as a food dye is just as ancient. The Aztecs were known to add Annatto to their sacred xocolatl brew and other foods. Its use as a food dye has persisted until today. Annatto is probably one of the most ubiquitous of all food dyes used by the food industry. It lends its reddish tint to cheeses, butter and spreads, candy and custards. It is also still used as a traditional food dye for meats. This use is most prevalent in the Philippines and in Central America and Mexico. (The bright red colour of Chinese poultry however is due to treatment with a caramelised malt solution.)

achiote (8K)The seed pods are processed by separating the pulp form the seeds, which are washed and used separately as a mild spice. A spice paste known as 'Achiote Recado' is a popular flavouring in Yucatan cuisine (southern Mexico). The meat is marinated in the paste and wrapped in banana leaves. Fish, chicken and especially pork or suckling pig can be treated this way.

Even though Annatto is one of the most widely used food colouring substances of the food industry, some people appear to be highly allergic to it and lobby against the use of this additive. The way in which commercial annatto is processed as a dye involves hexane extraction, which just may possibly have something to do with these reported allergic reactions. Furthermore, the colouring agent, known as Bixin can now be produced by bio-engineering. Scientists have figured out the biochemical pathway and manipulated E.coli bacteria to produce Bixin. It might be interesting to conduct a comparative study of allergic reactions between, a) completely naturally processed annatto (see recado recipe below), bio-engineered bixin or commercially extracted annatto dye.

Annatto dye is also used to colour hair-oils, shoe polishes, floor polishes, nail-gloss, furniture, brass-lacquer, soap, cosmetics and pharmaceutical ointments as well as textiles, wool, leather and calico.

Medicinal uses:

Parts used: Seeds, leaves, bark, roots, shoots

Although commercially only the seed and seed paste are available, in tropical regions where Annatto is grown, other parts of the plant are also used for medicine. In particular the leaves appear to have wide ranging applications. The shoots and young leaves are used for feverish infections including gonorrhoea, dysentery and hepatitis. They are believed to protect the liver and reduce cholesterol. The leaves and seeds are also used to soothe an irritated stomach that is suffering from excessively spicy food. An infusion of the flowers are said to be a useful expectorant for new born babies. In some parts of the Amazon Annatto is used as a treatment for snakebites. Internally it is said to fight parasites and allies the pains derived from intestinal parasites. Externally the extract of the seeds wards off insects and protects the skin against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It is also used as a general skin tonic and to heal skin conditions.

The leaves have a marked effect on the urinary system and increase the volume of urine in cases of renal insufficiency or cystitis. They are also said to reduce benign prostate hyperplasia and generally reputed to have anti-tumor activity, which are thought to be due to the high anti-oxidant activity of the carotenoid compounds Bixin and Norbixin, which are also the source of the red pigment Annatto is known for. These carotenoides have also been found to lower blood sugar levels and have been used for the treatment of diabetes in traditional medicine systems.

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To obtain an orange-yellow food dye simply heat some cooking oil and stir in some annatto seeds. Remove the seeds from the oil before adding other foods for stir frying. While the seeds would not spoil the taste, by themselves they would not add much flavour either. For flavouring they are best when processed as a recado - see below:

Achiote Recado

This recipe is an adaptation based on the traditional recado recipe, which utilizes the juice of bitter oranges (Seville oranges) which are difficult to get, hence the improvisation. Achiote recado is a typical spice paste of southern Mexico which is used to marinade meats, poultry and fish. The finished product is available at most Mexican stores. Making it from scratch takes time and effort, but - taste the difference

In a small saucepan combine the annatto seeds and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to steep for 2 more hours or until soft. Discard excess water, place in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Whizz until smooth. Use immediately or cover tightly. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

To dye textiles

For best results use oxalic acid or tartaric acid to get golden yellow with alum mordant, yellow ochre with copper mordant, brown with iron mordant, orange with tin mordant. Best on cotton, linen and other cellulose fiber. Fair light-fastness. Also known as Achiote, or Lipstick Tree. [Mexico] (SW: 4 oz)

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Bangladesh: Plant trees to protect environment

Source: The New Nation - Bangladesh, 5 June 2006

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia on Monday urged all families to plant ten timber, fruit-bearing and medicinal plants including five Neem trees each this year to help protect environment. She urged everyone to come forward for tackling desertification, alleviating poverty, achieving affluence and protecting the environment. The Prime Minister also inaugurated National Tree Plantation Movement and Tree Fair- 2006 and distributed the "Prime Minister's National Award for the Tree Plantation-2005".Begum Zia said her government, which took over at a time when trees and woodlands were plundered, has transformed tree plantation into a social movement. She said the country is once again full of trees. "The entire country including the capital Dhaka has been covered by greenery." Begum Zia said 25 000 ha of woodland forest had been created under the social forestry programme while Taka 86 crore distributed as dividend among 56 000 poor beneficiary families during the last four years. The trees under the social forestry programme have been valued at Taka 500 crore. She said the government has created a mangrove forest on a land area of 153,000 ha in the coastal zone and distributed five crore saplings at a concessionary price.

For full story, please see:

India: From tobacco to medicinal plants?

Source: Deccan Herald, India, 31 May 2006

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has moved a Cabinet note on trade and taxation policy on tobacco which would have very wide ramification on the tobacco industry in the country. It would be deliberated by the cabinet, especially Finance Ministry and then the Prime Minister, before a final decision is taken. The Note has recommended gradual withdrawal of the subsidy for tobacco industry and gives alternate method of livelihood to farmers engaged in tobacco cultivation. They could be encouraged to take up growing medicinal plants as these are similar to tobacco in many respects and the trade in medicinal plants is going to be worth five trillion dollars in the next few decades.

For full story, please see:

India: "Himachal, a major herbal state by 2025"

Source: The Hindu, India, 1 June 2006

The Himachal Pradesh Government has formulated a comprehensive policy for making it a major herbal destination in the country by 2025. The 'Forestry Sector Medicinal Plants Policy' is focussed on conservation and augmentation of medicinal plant resource in its natural habitat through adaptive and participative management with linkages to sustainable use for commerce and research purposes, a Forest Department spokesman said on Wednesday. Under the new policy, a system would be developed for pricing of wild harvest of medicinal herbs, reflecting the conservation cost and community benefits and organic cultivation of commercially important species on private lands, he said. The policy envisaged public-private community partnership for capacity building for cultivation and putting in place an integral and sensitive institutional mechanism for development of herbal sector. It further provides for networking with other north-western Himalayan states to push community oriented reforms in the medicinal plant sector and to form alliances for better collaboration and coordination of policy issues, marketing the value addition operations. The policy would also promote the use of commercially viable medicinal plants available in the State by the State-owned and private pharmaceutical units and subsidiaries engaged in value addition.

For full story, please see:

India: National Afforestation Programme. Improve forests & livelihoods of the people living around forests

Source: Press Information Bureau (press release) - New Delhi, India, 15 June 2006

The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is the flagship scheme of National Afforestation & Eco-development Board (NAEB). It provides support, both in physical and capacity building terms, to the Forest Development Agencies (FDAs) which in turn are the main organ to implement Joint Forest Management. The FDA is a federation of Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at the Forest Division level to undertake holistic development in the forestry sector with people's participation. It allows greater participation of the community, both in planning and implementation, to improve forests and livelihood of the people living in and around forest areas. The two-tier approach, apart from building capacities at the grassroots level significantly empowers the local people to participate in the decision making process. The objectives of the scheme are: protection and conservation of natural resources, checking land degradation, deforestation and loss of biodiversity; ecological restoration and environmental conservation and eco-development; make people managers of the natural resources in and around villages; fulfilment of the broader objectives of productivity, equity and sustainability for the general good of the people; improve quality of life and self sustenance; and skill enhancement for improving employability of the rural people. Six hundred and eighty FDAs have been operationalised so far at a cost of Rs. 1,489.42 crore. They have treated a total area of 9.05 lakh ha (as on 6th February, 2006). Bamboo plantation, medicinal plants and Jatropha have been given adequate focus under NAP during the current plan period. Last year, 60 new FDA projects have also been sanctioned to cover an area of 36,688 ha through 1,502 JFMCs.

For full story, please see:

Peru: Project on medicinal plant conservation and use

Source: NTFP

There is a project underway at present in Peru sponsored by the Darwin Initiative which is collaboration between the University of Oxford, a Peruvian NGO, Centro EORI and five Indigenous communities in the Madre De Dios region. The project aims to develop, in collaboration with the communities, a participatory management plan for the conservation and use of medicinal plant species in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru. Methodological lessons from the project will be summarised as a model, to be then promoted regionally and nationally. This project is due for completion by September 2007 and progress to date has been good. Inventories of medicinal plant species found in each community have been completed, and lists made of plants used by local people. A participatory manual has been designed and the first phase of monitoring the impact of medicinal plant harvesting has been carried out. Participants are also noting quantities of medicinal plants harvested within each community. Propagation and cultivation techniques have been taught to the participants and plant nurseries and herbal gardens have been established, and some enrichment planting has also been carried out in areas of secondary forest.

For more information visit

Central Africa's first debt-for-nature swap invests $25 million for tropical forest conservation in Cameroon

Source: World Wildlife Fund, 26 June 2006 (in ENN)

France and Cameroon signed the first ever Central African debt for nature swap today. This agreement will invest at least $25 million over the next five years to protect part of the world's second largest tropical forest, home to elephants, gorillas, hundreds of bird species and indigenous groups such as the Ba'Aka pygmies. The agreement comes from France's Debt Development Contract (C2D), a complement to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC), a joint initiative of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The HIPC's goal is to reduce the excessive debt faced by the world's poorest nations. The goal of C2D is to provide complete debt relief of the concessional loans France contracted to other countries. Twenty-two countries are eligible for C2D. The total amount of C2D debt relief is $4.6 billion. The document requires Cameroon to earmark funds among four different sectors: education, health, infrastructure and natural resources. This is the first C2D agreement to allocate funds to natural resources. Previously funding had only been allocated to the education and health sectors, but, after French president Jacques Chirac stressed the importance of natural resources in poor countries last July, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worked with both countries to include conservation in Cameroon's debt forgiveness plan.

"The importance of this unique and history making agreement lies in the combination of debt forgiveness and investment in forest conservation and local communities," said Laurent Some, director of WWF's Central Africa Regional Program Office. Through the funds the Forest and Environment Development Program, a program to reduce poverty while protecting and managing natural forestry resources, will be implemented. The funding will be used to better manage protected areas, wildlife and forest production and increase community forest resources and research capacity. The program is designed to secure some 40 protected areas and increase the present protected area network from 14 to 17 percent of the national land area. Illegal logging and an underdeveloped infrastructure threaten Cameroon's forests. As a solution, the program calls for working alongside forest companies to develop management plans and a demand for certified, environmentally friendly products. Employing 12,000, the forest sector is Cameroon's largest private employer and the second largest source of export revenue after oil. However, forest sector employment has dropped in recent years, so funds will also be used to re-establish two national forestry schools to train the new recruits. WWF sees this agreement as a concrete example of the commitment expressed by the region's heads of state at the Brazzaville summit in February 2005 and looks to other nations to follow France and Cameroon's lead

For full story, please see:

Sandalwood: Big expansion for sandalwood plantation in Australia

Source: ABC Online - Australia, 19 June 2006

An Indian sandalwood plantation in the Ord Valley is undergoing its biggest expansion in seven years. Tropical Forestry Services is planting a further 235 ha of the exotic hardwood, increasing its total plantation to more than 800 ha. The company plans to harvest its first crop in 2012, banking on continuing strong demand from Asia, Europe and the United States. Chief executive Tom Cullity says the company is planning processing facilities at Kununurra to produce sandalwood oil which is used for perfumes and cosmetics. "Oil is from the hardwood; over A$100,000 for a tonne of hardwood. The sandalwood oil that is distilled from the hardwood is very valuable and it's used in a lot of perfumes and cosmetics," he said. The other major grower of Indian sandalwood in the Ord, ITC Limited, has now planted 750 ha, owned by investors. Its first harvest is planned for 2014. For full story, please see:


Bark: Tree-bark extract may help ADHD

Source: M&C News, 20 June 2006

Pycnogenol, a supplement derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, reduces children's symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study. Sixty-one children with ADHD participated in the study, led by the Department of Child Psychiatry at the Child University Hospital in Slovakia and published in the new issue of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The children were between 6 and 14 years old and predominantly male. Forty-one participants were given Pycnogenol for a month, while the other 16 received a placebo. Because the study was a double-blind experiment, neither the participants nor the researchers knew who had received the real drug. The study was funded by Horphag Research, the company that developed Pycnogenol. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Peter Rohdewald of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Germany`s University of Munster, pointed out that many children with ADHD are very intelligent, but their inability to focus contributes to poor grades. He said the study follows case reports from the United States and Japan that showed evidence that Pycnogenol helped relieve symptoms of children suffering from ADHD. The study results suggest Pycnogenol could 'give some children a possibility to do better schoolwork, to have a better social and family life, and to do it with a natural extract,' he said. Dr. Steven Lamm, a faculty member at New York University School of Medicine, warned that Pycnogenol is not a miracle cure and will not replace pharmaceuticals anytime soon. 'I can see Pycnogenol as being complementary in the treatment of ADHD instead of adjunctive,' he said.

For full story, please see: Tree-bark_extract_may_help_ADHD

Bark: Natural pine bark extract relieves muscle cramp and pain in athletes

Source: Medical News Today (press release), UK,18 June 2006

A study published in this month's issue of Angiology shows that supplementation with the pine bark extract Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all) improves blood flow to the muscles which speeds recovery after physical exercise. The study of 113 participants demonstrated that Pycnogenol significantly reduces muscular pain and cramps in athletes and healthy, normal individuals. Researchers at L'Aquila University in Italy and at the University of Würzburg in Germany studied the effects of Pycnogenol on venous disorders and cramping in two separate studies. Cramps are a common problem for people of all ages, ranging to the extreme fit and healthy to people who suffer from health problems. Previously, magnesium was hailed as the natural approach for relieving muscle cramps, however studies continue to show magnesium to be inefficient for reducing muscle cramps. Pycnogenol improves the blood supply to muscle tissue creating a relief effect on muscle cramping and pain. Pycnogenol is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which offer extensive natural health benefits. The extract has been widely studied for the past 35 years and has more than 220 published studies and review articles ensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient. Today, Pycnogenol is available in more than 400 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide.

For more information or a copy of this study, visit

For full story, please see:

Bark: Tongan bark may hold diabetes key

Source: Melbourne Herald Sun - Australia, 8 June 2006

Melbourne biotechnology company Dia-B Tech believes it has found a natural alternative to the anti-diabetes drug insulin in the bark of a plant found in Tongan rainforests. Chief executive Ken Smith is tight-lipped on details, preferring not to disclose the name of the vine until the company has a provisional patent over its use. "But what I can tell you is that plant has been used by traditional healers in Tonga to heal type two diabetes and obesity over hundreds of years," Mr Smith said. "They mix it with a potion of various plants and tree barks which are ground, mixed with water and taken orally with great results." The company has been testing the bark since February last year, today announcing to the Australian Stock Exchange that preliminary results were looking good. Dr Ken Walder, a scientist with Intramed, another biotech company involved in the research, said it was already clear the natural derivative had a component with "very strong" insulin-like qualities. If developed commercially, the component would be used by people with type two diabetes, a metabolic disorder that occurs when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin. The medical and commercial potential would be significant if further research confirmed the component effectively acts as a natural `proxy' for insulin, Mr Smith said. More than one million Australians are estimated to have type two diabetes, with researchers predicting this figure will treble by 2051.

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Saving languages to save species

Source: OpenDemocracy.Net 3 April 2006

Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil have set themselves the ambitious target of slowing down the rate of species loss by 2010. In this article, Ehsan Masood argues that conserving biodiversity goes hand in hand with saving the world's endangered languages. Indigenous communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific often have detailed knowledge of their local flora and fauna that they express only in their native languages. Masood says that if we wish to use this knowledge to protect and sustainably exploit biodiversity, then endangered languages must also be protected. He points out that threatened languages and species are often found in the same places. According to UNESCO, for instance, a quarter of the world's languages are spoken in two of the world's most species-rich countries: Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Link to full article in OpenDemocracy.Net

The evolution of global standards for traditional medicine

Darshan Shankar and Padma Venkatasubramanian March 2005

Much of the developing world is reliant on traditional medicine, and its acceptance in the developed world is increasing. Alongside this growing interest there have been concerns over the quality and standardisation of traditional medicines. Although production of traditional medicines has been scaled-up from a local to a global level, international standardisation of how such medicines are produced and used has yet to catch up. The challenge is to develop modern, international standards for medicines and practitioners that have originated in varied cultural settings within a framework that can be universally understood.

This policy brief investigates the standards that currently exist, and suggests methods for developing standards in the future that are sensitive to the cultures from which the medicines originated.

Calendario - Symposiums, Conferences, Events and Announcements


Tradtional Medicines Congress Extends Comment Period

The Traditional Medicines Congress has announced that they will accept comments on the first draft of the Proposed Regulatory Model for Traditional Medicines until October 31, 2006.

The next phase of their work is to revise this first draft, a process which will be informed by all of the public responses that are submitted. The TMC hopes to publish the second draft of this document later in 2006, or possibly early next year. The second draft will be available for another review phase of several months, which will likely then lead to a next revision (and a next comment period).

To review the complete text of the first draft and to submit your comments, please visit

Earthcorps Training Course

EarthCorps offers a 6-month training course in Seattle, Washington, USA that brings together young representatives (18-25 years of age) of international organizations to learn the basic fundamentals of environmental restoration, community organizing, and leadership. EarthCorps training is ideal for any organization that works with:

Earthcorps charges no fees for its services and in fact supplies insurance, individual homestays, gear, and a monthly stipend to all international participants. EarthCorps provides additional support in acquiring US J-1 Trainee visas.




Candidates should be referred to EarthCorps by an environmental organization (i.e. NGO, LGU, community group or student club). Materials are available online at:

For more information, please contact:

Mark Howard
International Coordinator
6310 NE 74th St., Suite 201E
Seattle, WA 98115, USA
Tel: +1-(206) 322-9296 ext. 224 office
Fax: +1-(206) 322-9312 fax

Conferences, Workshops, Events

July 29-30, 2006: A Weekend in Wales with David Winston. Conwy, North Wales. Lectures will include Talking Leaves, An Indigenous Language of Plants, and Remaking Yourself, The Path to Becoming Human. Contact: Pip Whetstone, Hafotty Gelynen, Maerdy, Corwen, Conwy LL21 9PA (North Wales), 01490 460493. Visit:

August 19, 2006:Planting the Future - VT 2006: A Conference on the Cultivation, Preservation & Uses of Native Medicinal Plants, Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center. East Barre, VT. Rosemary Gladstar joined by Pam Montgomery, Deb Soule, Bob Beyfuss, Matthias & Andrea Reisen, Kate Gilday & Don Babineau, Nancy & Michael Phillips and many others. Classes held from 9am-5pm and will focus on sustainable practice of herbal medicine, "at risk" plant cultivation, plant identification walks and related topics. For more information and registration forms, visit Phone: 802-476-6467.Registration is half full as of mid July . . . register now! Don't miss out!

September 12-14, 2006: 2nd Annual Inside Beauty Trade Show and Conference: "Cultivating the Beauty Market from the Inside Out." New York, NY. INSIDE BEAUTY brings together professionals from the cosmetics, personal care, fragrance, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, botanicals and functional foods industry to platform innovative new products designed to promote beauty while also considering overall health and wellness. The educational conference program covers the latest marketing trends, scientific research, product innovation and thoroughly explores the opportunities and challenges facing this growing market sector.

September 21-23: International Congress on Complementary, Holistic & Naturopathic Medicine (CHNM) and Expo "World Health." There will be touched upon some current and present-day questions of CHNM development both in Russia and abroad. You will have an opportunity to become familiar with the most interesting techniques and to discuss their peculiarities in workshops and master-classes. Phone: +7 846 2705392. E-mail: Web site:

September 22-24: Green Nations Gathering. Rowe, MA. David Winston will be joined by Doug Elliot, Rosemary Gladstar, Cecilia Mitchell, Susun Weed, Elena Avila, and many other superb teachers at the beautiful Rowe Conference Center. Contact: Pam Montgomery, 802-293-5996. Web site: September 22-24: Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. Near Asheville, NC. Red Moon Herbs is proud to present the 2nd Annual Southeast Women's Herbal Conference with Starhawk keynote speaker. Information & registration: Phone: 888-929-0777 or visit Web Site:

October 7-8, 2006: International Conference for Shamanism and Healing, Munich, Germany. 'Global pathways for tiualand healing'. A multicultural, interdisciplinary conference of healers, shamans and scientists from around the world who are involved with aspects of ethnomedicine and shamanism. Two days of lectures and workshops to gain cross-cultural practical and theoretical insights into the world of healers and shamans.
Conference is in english and german. ETHNOMED E.V., MELUSINENSTR. 2, D-81671 MUNICH, FAX: +49-89-40 90 81 29

October 27 - 29, 2006, American Herbalists Guild's 17th Annual Symposium, preconference intensives on October 26,The Millennium Harvest Hotel, Boulder, Colorado
Full program:

Proposal for the 10th International Congress of Ethnobiology in 2006: Chiang Rai, Thailand, Department of Pharmaceutical Botany and Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen 40002, Thailand

For full details see:

November 3 - 5, 2006Herbalists without borders conference: IN THE SPIRIT OF HEALING - Traditional Medicine, Fair Trade, & Health For All at the Ramada Inn Hotel & Conference Center, State College, Pennsylvania, USA. Visit

November 30 - December 2, 2006: First Ibero-American Congresss on Phytotherapy [Primer Congreso Iberoamericano de Fitoterapia]. Mexico City. The conference is being sponsored by the Mexican Social Security Institute and CYTED (Ibero-American Program for the Development of Science and Technology), with the collaboration of the following phytotherapy associations: GA (the European Society for Medicinal Plant Research), SEFIT (Spanish Society for Phytotherapy), ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy), SPFito (Portugal), Argentinian Association of Phytomedicine and the Brazilian Institute of Medicinal Plants. A pre-conference phytotherapy course will be held from Nov 27-29. More information (in Spanish) available at

November 31- December 4: Sixth Mexican Congress of Traditional Medicine. Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. Email: Website:

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