|Medicinal plants: Rescuing a global heritage (WB, 1997, 80 p.)|
Of all the developing nations, only China and India have so far officially accepted traditional medicine as an integral part of the formal health system. However, an increasing number of developing countries (Ghana and Zimbabwe among them) recognize the benefits of preserving and more fully exploiting traditional medicine, and are actively seeking ways and means of integrating the traditional and Western medicine systems.
China and India can play an important role in transferring knowledge (South-North as well as South-South) relating to medicinal-plant conservation, cultivation methodologies, harvesting, storage, processing and marketing. However, although these two may serve as role models, Africa and Latin America have their own medicinal plants and traditional healthcare systems. Moreover, different countries have different cultural backgrounds, and healthcare needs.
The revolution in electronic communication is providing unprecedented opportunities -to learn about and to efficiently manage resources. This should allow traditional expertise to be more readily integrated with Western medical knowledge in addressing local, regional and global healthcare issues.
Various international agencies-among them WCMC, IUCN, WWT, IDRC, and UNESCOare involved to some extent in medicinal-plant biodiversity conservation. The International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ICMAP) was formed in 1993 and includes representatives of supporting and affiliated organizations. Recently a Medicinal Plant Specialist Group was formed that concentrates its efforts on the medicinal-plant species with high conservation priority. All such agencies should be encouraged to include efforts to establish cultivation programs as part of their medicinalplant conservation objectives.
The use of advanced information and communications systems (GIS database, multimedia) can lead to a greater awareness of, and sensitivity to, indigenous medicinalplant knowledge.