ISLAMABAD: A national seminar on ethno-botany was organized by IUCN and Pakistan Museum of Natural History on behalf of the GEF/UNDP funded project implemented by the Ministry of Climate Change.

In collaboration with the provincial environment and forest departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, in Islamabad, where experts highlighted the importance of the rich flora found in Pakistan’s northern region, and underscored the need for ensuring sustainable use of biodiversity products, including herbs and plants, used often for the benefit of humans.

Representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change, UNDP, IUCN as well as experts from the forestry and herbal sectors, and academia, participated in the event.

The seminar was organized as part of the Mountain and Markets Project being executed by IUCN in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP in the northern areas of Pakistan. The project focuses on developing community and institutional capacity for certified production of 'biodiversity-friendly' Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) in northern Pakistan and stimulates market demand for biodiversity friendly NTFP, thereby, creating new economic incentives for conservation.

Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Federal Secretary and Ministry of Climate Change said that Pakistan has a lot of botanical diversity and a potential for economic growth, especially among the rural people in the mountainous north. Economic scope of Botanical products is expanding day by day across the globe, and therefore there is a need to ensure a speedy and quality-focused value chain, while ensuring a sustainable use of such products.

Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest / National Project Director (NPD) Mountain & Market Project, noted that “all governments preserve the indigenous herbs and plants, and these should be protected for the benefit of humans. Referring to the Nagoya Protocol, he said that the herbal and plant medicine was a billion-dollar industry “and the world is now moving towards organic and herbal medicine – the industry is likely to grow as more and more people become aware.” “But the challenge in this is to ensure that we use these products in a sustainable manner,” he explained.

Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan, said that “we have worked with communities to establish biodiversity conservation in northern Pakistan. Mountain and Markets have tried to add value to the complete value chain of the Non-Timber Forest Products so that the products become more marketable and the benefits accrue to the communities. Under the Mountain and Markets Project IUCN will also develop community’s institutional capacity as Community Based Enterprises for certified production of 'biodiversity-friendly' products and stimulate market demand for biodiversity friendly products thereby creating new economic incentives for conservation.”

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation, explained that “Ethno-botany is where culture, environment, plant and human being interaction is seen and studied in a broad spectrum. Pakistan lacks botanical gardens.” He said Pakistan is planning to establish a botanical garden which will have all types of biomes.