WildCheck: Assessing the Risks and Opportunities of the Wild Plant Ingredient Trade

Incense resin

Wild plants are important in all socio-economic groups and geographic regions. A walk through the kitchen can reveal Brazil nut in your closet, gum arabic in your soda and licorice in your herbal tea. Your bathroom may have lotions or makeup containing candelilla wax or care products based on baobab or Argan Oil. Incense or Jatamansi can be found on the bedroom table as an ingredient in your perfume.

Behind seemingly minor ingredients lie complex supply chains and significant environmental and social risks. But there are also opportunities for sustainable management that could benefit the local ecosystem and the communities that depend on these plants.

Caitlin Schindler, TRAFFIC’s Wild at Home Project Manager and lead author of the WildCheck report

Thousands of plant species used in everyday products are threatened mainly due to habitat loss and other factors such as climate change and overexploitation. Of the 21% of medicinal and aromatic plant species whose vulnerability status has been assessed, 9% are considered threatened with extinction. However, people who depend on specific species for a living income are also often exposed to socio-economic, political and sometimes health risks.

“WildCheck: Assessing the Risks and Opportunities of the Trade in Wild Plant Ingredients” report is launched to coincide with this year’s celebration earth dayand highlights opportunities for sustainable business development in the context of increasing global demand for wild plant ingredients (an increase of over 75% in value over the past two decades).

Sven Walter, FAO Senior Forester adds; “The sustainable use of wild plants has critical implications for food security and for millions of livelihoods around the world. It is time for wild plants to be given greater consideration in our efforts to protect and restore habitats, promote sustainable agri-food systems and build inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies, especially as countries work on post-Covid recovery. .

The report assesses twelve flagship wild plant species, dubbed the “wild dozen” by assigning species social and biological harvest ratings to highlight areas where improvements can be made. Of the twelve wild-harvested flagship ingredients reviewed, the majority of the risk assessment scores (both biological and social) were medium or high, with only a low biological score and a low social score. This shows that these ingredients need to be considered in due diligence, policies and purchasing decisions. However, across the twelve ingredients, a range of engaging opportunities are noted, including sustainable harvesting, wildlife conservation and restoration, access and benefit sharing, research, partnerships and engagement. with best practice standards and certification. The outlook for these flagship products, and for Wild Ingredients as a whole, can be promising if appropriate actions such as those suggested throughout the report are taken by various stakeholders now.

The goal of our social and biological risk assessments is not to deter companies and consumers from using wild plant ingredients that can be harvested sustainably. Rather, it is to guide actions to ensure the long-term survival of wild-harvested species and the availability of source ingredients, improve marginalized livelihoods, and strengthen business ethics.

Danna J. Leaman, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Medicinal Plants Specialist Group and co-author of the report

With responsible sourcing, these ingredients can support broader wildlife conservation and improve the livelihoods of some of the world’s 1 billion most vulnerable people who are thought to depend on them.

“In line with this year’s Earth Day theme ‘Investing in our planet’, the report highlights the time for companies to invest in responsible sourcing of wild plant ingredients and opportunities to support the conservation of iconic animals and the livelihoods that depend on these plants,” said Caitlin Schindler and similar to another TRAFFIC project doing just that; learn more about TRAFFIC’s Jatamansi project in Nepal.

“Other stakeholders also have a role to play. Governments and researchers must prioritize data collection and research on these important but often invisible ingredients to ensure continued sustainable trade for plants and people.

“This is an important year for the global effort to conserve biodiversity, with governments, businesses and the public rallying around the ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework. Sustainable use of wildlife, including wild plant resources in everyday products, is an important strategy to ensure multiple benefits for nature and people. This groundbreaking report paves the way for needed market change for these often “hidden” resources. We call for ambitious commitments that businesses, investors and governments can make through the #WeUseWild Pledge,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, Senior Program Coordinator, TRAFFIC – Sustainable Trade.

The key wild plant ingredients highlighted in the report are:

  • Incense: Present in northeast Africa, as well as in Oman, Somalia and Yemen, its resin is used for incense, aromatherapy, cosmetics, perfumes and traditional medicines.

  • Pygeum: Also listed in the ingredients of medicines and herbal products as Prunus, African Cherry, Red Stinking Wood or African Almond, this tree grows in forests throughout tropical Africa.

  • Shea: grows throughout Africa, from Senegal to Uganda. Widely used in the food industry as an equivalent of cocoa butter, it is also appreciated in cosmetics. Locally it is used as a healthy cooking oil.

  • Jatamansi: Perennial and aromatic plant that grows in the Himalayas, its roots are harvested for their medicinal properties.

  • gum arabic: This species grows in the gum belt region of Africa and is mainly used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as an additive, emulsifier or stabilizer. It is a popular ingredient in soft drinks.

  • gold seal: Also known as ground raspberry, this species is native to eastern North America and is used primarily for medicinal purposes.

  • Candelilla: Found in Mexico and parts of the southern United States, candelilla wax was once a common ingredient in chewing gum. Today it is used as a food additive (E902) and in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as in industrial waxes and varnishes.

  • Argan tree: Also known as Moroccan Oil, its anti-aging properties make it a popular choice among European and North American cosmetics consumers, while its oil is also used to treat several ailments, from acne to acne. ‘arthritis. It is harvested exclusively in Morocco.

  • Baobab: The Adansonia digitata variety of this species is native to mainland Africa. Baobab powder is used as an ingredient in foods and beverages, while its seed oil is used as a cosmetic ingredient.

  • Brazil nut: Entirely harvested from the wild, the tree is primarily harvested for its nutritious and edible nuts which are packed with nutrients and antioxidants such as magnesium, zinc, protein and selenium. Harvesting it has helped preserve millions of hectares of Amazonian forests, which is why it is often called the cornerstone of Amazon rainforest conservation.

  • Licorice: This perennial herb is native to Eurasia, North Africa and Western Asia, and is mainly used for medicinal purposes, as a sweetener, as an ingredient in herbal teas and in the tobacco industry.

  • Juniper: Juniperus communis is a species of the temperate and subarctic northern hemisphere. Its berries are a key ingredient in making gin. They are also used as a food flavoring, essential oil, ingredient in cosmetics, and have a long history of use in traditional medicine and religion.


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