Promoting Sustainable Use of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Livelihood Improvement and Biodiversity Conservation under Global Climate Change, through Capacity Building in the Himalaya Mountains, Swat District, Pakistan
Rural communities in mountainous areas face distinct challenges in integrating traditional sustenance and emerging market uses of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs). In Swat District, Pakistan, communities use MAPs for local medicinal purposes and for domestic food consumption. In addition, MAPs are traded in urban markets to generate income. This paper reports on a project aimed at capacity building through awareness raising, training, exposure, and developing market linkages to promote the sustainable use of MAPs. The project comprised a series of consultation and coordination meetings with the local Forest Department, focus group discussions in each village with MAP traders and collectors, and ethnobotanical field surveys guided by community members. The study reports twenty MAP species that had high market value and were used in indigenous medicine systems by all ethnic groups. These species were traded through formal and informal trade networks, including cross-border smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Additionally, the project included a range of interventions to foster sustainable use and livelihood improvements, such as local awareness campaigns, capacity-building training, community mobilization for conservation of threatened species, and exposure visits to link local communities to processors and buyers to maximize net income. Capacity building was the main intervention undertaken to achieve the overall objectives of the project. These ongoing interventions are successfully achieving all planned targets, and although it is too early to measure the impact of these activities, it is expected that the project will serve as a strategic investment for income generation through sustainable harvesting and marketing of MAPs for rural communities in remote northern parts of Swat District, Pakistan.