At first glance, the Dzedokha village, located in the south-west of Bhutan might not seem to have the makings of a lucrative industry. With 2,672 residents, this mountainous village, like thousands of other communities in this largely rural kingdom, is off the beaten track; it is only accessible via a single farm road, mostly impassable during the monsoon season.
But the Dzedokha area’s cultivation of a plant utilized in traditional medicine – Zingiber cassumunar, or Mountain Ginger – is opening up a world of economic potential, while simultaneously preserving traditional knowledge.
SAVING TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE
Working in partnership with UNDP Bhutan, and financed by the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund and the Global Environment Facility, the National Biodiversity Centre has documented traditional knowledge around the country. Documenting the existence of traditional knowledge and its various practices, this information has been gathered in 113 Gewogs (sub-districts).
As part of the project, Implementing the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing in Bhutan, this work seeks to identify and document traditional knowledge and practices, via visits and discussions with communities about the importance of traditional knowledge and the potential long-term benefits available to the community.
BIOPROSPECTING FOR GOLD
The samples collected via the process of documenting the traditional knowledge undergo a series of rigorous tests at a bioprospecting lab at the National Biodiversity Centre in Thimphu. Bioprospecting is a systematic search for and development of new sources of chemical compounds, genes, micro-organisms, macro-organisms, and other valuable products from nature. At this lab the prototype products are ready for safety testing. The tests are designed to offer information on these potentially valuable (both economically and medically) genetic and biochemical resources from nature.