Gujarat's indigenous tribes to get brand registration for tribal medicines

Indigenous tribes from Gujarat would become India's first tribal community to get their age-old medicinal knowledge branded and registered under trademark and geographic indication (GI). The state government has initiated a tribal branding project to create and promote a tribal-made product pool to protect tribal community knowledge.

ET has learnt that the forest department will create a pool of brands for local herbs found in Dangs along with the local tribes to improve the latter's income levels and to efficiently utilise the vast natural resources of the region. This will include value-addition by using modern processing, packaging and marketing system. The proposed brand for the herbs is in addition to the existing brand 'Dhanvantri' that belongs to
Gujarat Forest Development Corporation.

"Currently, middle-men collect herbs from the locals who in turn end up getting exploited. We will create a dedicated marketplace for processed hubs that could be bought by ayurvedic pharma companies," S K Chaturvedi, chief conservator of forest of Valsad and Dang districts.

The Dangs has more than 350 species of medicinal plants scattered over 311 villages and has 60 Bhagats (tribal healers).

The forest department will train the tribals in scientific method of herbs and its preservation, Chaturvedi says. "Modern processing units will be set up to add value to the raw herbs and special training will also be imparted to tribals to improve the productivity of the plants," he said.

Dangs is home to herbs like harde, baheda , mahuda, charoli, shatavri, citrak, white musli, jivanti, kaucha and galo amongst others. "Unlike
Ayurveda, the medical knowledge of the tribals has never been documented by the Bhagats. The knowledge has been passed on to subsequent generation verbally," says Dr Deepak Acharya, director of Abhumka Herbal, that is deciphering tribal knowledge into finished products and sharing profit with the tribal community.

Bio-piracy in the region began in 1990s but reached its peak in 2000. Later, local administration and tribal healers sprung into action to find means to plug it. Registration will empower owners of the said intellectual property to restrict others from using similar intellectual property, says advocate Aayush Modi working with
Nanavati Associates that is working on this state government initiative. The firm along with the State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) has begun applying for trademark registrations for various products manufactured or sold by the tribals. "It will enable sales and promote specific brands emerging from the region," adds IPR specialist Mr Pranit Nanavati.

Abhumka has so far introduced over 12 medicinal products from the region -- herbal cattlefeed DudhNahar, vitality capsules Teranta and StonOff, for removal of kidney stones -- for instance.


© 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.



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Shell scraps controversial biofuels plan after Brazilian Indian protest

A biofuels company set up by Shell in Brazil has scrapped controversial plans to source sugar cane from land stolen from an indigenous tribe after a vociferous campaign by the Indians and Survival International.

The company, Raizen, was established in 2010 as
a joint venture of Shell and Brazilian ethanol giant Cosan to produce biofuel from sugar cane.

But some of its sugar cane is grown on land claimed by the
Guarani tribe, one of the most persecuted and impoverished in South America. Their leaders are regularly killed by gunmen acting for the sugar cane growers and cattle ranchers who have taken over almost all their land.

Now Raizen has agreed to stop buying sugar cane from land declared as indigenous by the Ministry of Justice. Sustained campaigning by Survival, and pressure from Brazil’s public ministry kick-started negotiations between Raizen and
FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian affairs department.

The breakthrough also sees Raizen vow to consult FUNAI, to avoid further investment or expansion in conflict areas that could be recognised as indigenous land in the future.


Guarani Indians have welcomed the news. Many of the tribe live in appalling conditions, in overcrowded reserves or camped on roadsides after being forced from their land.

Valdelice Veron’s community in Mato Grosso do Sul state is directly affected. Guarani here report that their rivers have been polluted by pesticides used in the plantations. She says, ‘We’ll be able to drink water from our land again. We'll be able to start afresh.'

Raizen has acknowledged the sensitive range of issues faced by the Guarani and promises to carry out a ‘social investment programme focused on the indigenous population.’

Raizen told
Survival, ‘We want to use our withdrawal as a good example for other companies to follow. We are committed to respecting indigenous land declared by the Ministry of Justice.'

The landmark decision could set a precedent in Brazil, and will see Raizen’s buying of sugar cane from land declared as indigenous, ‘definitely cease’ by November 25.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Raizen’s decision is excellent news for the Guarani, who have been left to die on the roadside, and squeezed off their land by sugar cane production. Other companies must follow Raizen’s example, and stop bankrolling the theft of Guarani land. It’s time the world woke up to the fact that Brazil’s biofuel is tainted with Indian blood.’


Source : Survival International


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Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site

Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples from the Xingu River Basin have occupied a Belo Monte Dam construction site on Pimental Island in the Xingu River.

The protest began on June 21th, just a few short days after the Xingu+23 anniversary gathering came to a close. The gathering, which ran parallel to the Rio+20 Summit, marked the first major victory against the Belo Monte Dam in 1989.

Initially the protest was led by a group of about 150 Xikrin Peoples; but after successfully managing to paralyze work at the construction site, the group was joined by representatives from the Juruna, Araweté, Assurini and Parakanã.

According to Amazon Watch, The Xikrin simply "set up a peaceful encampment in the middle of the earthen coffer dam, confiscated keys to various trucks and earth moving equipment and stopped all construction works in the area."

It's no permanent solution, but it was more enough to get everybody's attention. Movimento Xingu Vivo (Xingu Alive Movement) reports that Indigenous representatives from all 34 villages in the middle of Xingu River basin are now expected to join the protest in the coming days.

At the center of the protest is the failure of The Norte Energia consortium (NESA)--the group behind the Belo Dam--to resolve any of the project's impacts on the Xingu River Basin's inhabitants. Among the many concerns cited by the indigenous leaders are a decline in fish stocks; a reduction in water quality; an increased risk of negative health impacts like malaria and dengue fever; and a heavy restriction on travel as a result of the dam.

Rather than sit down sit down with the protesters, NESA ran to the courts to ask for an eviction order to have the protesters removed from the construction site.

Fortunately, the Judge ultimately decided not to satisfy NESA's heartless request. On Monday, June 25, the Judge ruled (PDF, Portuguese only) that the Indigenous Peoples' grievances were legitimate and that the government and companies associated with the dam need to sit down with the Indigenous Peoples and address their concerns.

Amazon Watch reports that "officials from the Brazilian government agency FUNAI and Electronorte (State-owned power company and the main stakeholder in the dam) are [now] scheduled to travel to the occupation to dialogue with the communities."

This action is taking place amidst a new campaign of persecution aimed at leading members of Movimento Xingu Vivo. According to Amazon Watch, Brazilian authorities--at the request Electronorte--are trying to obtain arrest warrants for at least 11 local activists and residents including members of Movimento Xingu Vivo, a priest, and a fisherman whose house was destroyed for the dam. The hearing for the arrest warrants was held on June 27. A decision is expected to arrive sometime today.

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam began amidst considerable international upheaval, in January of this year. Should it be completed, the controversial dam would divert 80% of the Xingu River's flow and submerge up to 400,000 hectares of land. In addition to the aforementioned concerns of Indigenous leaders taking part in the Pimental Island protest, the dam would also displace at least 20,000 people.

The Belo Monte is but one of 30 hydro dams currently planned for the Amazon basin and 60 dams for all of Brazil.

Source : Intercontinental Cry


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China Plans to End Nomadic Life in Tibet, Uyghur and Inner Mongolia

Earlier this month, a US-based human rights group condemned the Chinese government's recently-adopted plan to extinguish what remains of the nomadic way of life in Occupied Tibet, Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A May 30th statement posted on the official website of the Central People’s Government of the People's Republic of China, outlines the bare essentials of the settlement plan. You can view that outline, roughly translated to English, by visiting the following link: Twelfth Five-Year Plan for the Project on Resettling Nomadic People within China.

Below, a report by Radio Free Asia, cross-posted from Mines and Communities.

China Plans to End Nomadic Life

By Luisetta Mudie / Radio Free Asia

5 June 2012 - Authorities point to 'overgrazing' but make way for mining and 'unfair' development.

A U.S.-based rights group has hit out at plans by the Chinese government to force three ethnic minority groups to abandon the last traces of their nomadic lifestyles in the next three years.

An undated photo shows dead livestock, run over by heavy vehicles and bulldozers in Inner Mongolia's diminishing grasslands. Photo courtesy of SMHRIC, RFA

"The Chinese Government continues to aggressively pursue and expand its national project for displacing nomadic herders off their traditional lands and resettling them in agricultural and urban areas," the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.

Citing a statement posted on the official website of China's central government, the group said it marked "a major and seemingly final step toward eliminating the remaining population of nomad herders and eradicating the thousands of years-old nomadic way of life in China."

SMHRIC, which campaigns for the rights of ethnic Mongols in China's Inner Mongolia region, said the resettlement policies would affect nomadic herders in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet.

It said the statement confirmed Beijing's determination "to permanently end the nomadic way of life of these regions."

"The Party Central Committee and the State Council have especially emphasized the socio-economic development of pastoral areas, bringing a remarkable improvement to the herders' living conditions and mode of production, causing the majority of herders to be resettled in static locations," the government announcement said.

It said China's 12th Five-Year Plan aims to resettle the remaining nomad population of 1.157 million people by 2015.

Broken commitments

SMHRIC said these policies violate China's obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

According to the Declaration, "indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories."

Experts say that deep-seated cultural ties to the grasslands and traditional nomadic ways of life lay behind a wave of protests that swept across Inner Mongolia in May 2011.

Chinese authorities poured armed police and security forces into Inner Mongolia to contain protests sparked by the death of a herdsman from the Shiliin-Gol (in Chinese, Xilin Meng) region who was run over during clashes with mine company trucks.

Thousands of students were locked in campuses at major schools, colleges, and universities in the regional capital, Hohhot, following demonstrations by hundreds of ethnic minority Mongolians across the region.

Mongolian commentators said the protests reflect a deep and widespread anger over continuing exploitation of the region's grasslands, the heartland of Mongol culture

Environmental destruction

Environmentalists point to large-scale environmental destruction in Inner Mongolian regions where mining is taking place, as well as to more subtle ecological pressures in other areas.

Open-cast, or strip, mining is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of mining, destroying the surface ecosystem over a wide area and releasing pollutants into the air.

Ethnic Mongolians, who make up almost 20 percent of Inner Mongolia's 23 million population, complain of destruction and unfair development policies in the region, which is China's largest producer of coal. The overwhelming majority of the residents are Han Chinese.

Ninety percent of China's 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of grassland now show some degree of environmental degradation, according to official figures, and the government has pointed to over-grazing by nomads as a key contributing factor.

Last year, Beijing rolled out a slew of tax breaks and funding for enterprises in rural areas that implement environmentally friendly programs and technological innovations in the field.

But SMHRIC and other overseas campaigners have said that Chinese authorities and companies are continuing to exploit the grassland in spite of slogans like "grassland protection" and "economic growth."

Source : Intercontinental Cry


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Amazon Indians demand Italian priest’s expulsion over ‘Death Road’

Amazon Indians in Peru have demanded the expulsion of a controversial Italian priest, accusing him of ‘racism and aggression’ over his role in promoting the construction of a new road, which the Indians have labeled ‘the Road of Death’.

Father Miguel Piovesan, parish priest of the tiny town of Puerto Esperanza in Peru’s far south-east, has recruited a host of powerful allies to back his plan to connect the town to Peru’s road network, including influential Congressmen.

But the region’s indigenous people are firmly opposed, fearing that if built, the road would open up the area to illegal logging and goldmining, already rampant in the region. The road would cut through three protected areas established to safeguard the province’s numerous
uncontacted tribes.


Local Indian organization FECONAPU has called for Piovesan’s expulsion from the region for his ‘aggressive’ promotion of the road project, declaring, ‘Piovesan is using his magazine and radio broadcasts to label us pigs and worms, who don’t know how to think’.

Piovesan routinely attacks any form of opposition on his radio station, accusing the local Indians of being ‘brainwashed’ by ‘foreign organizations’ including
Survival International, who he has charged with ‘financing local [indigenous] NGOs’. In fact, Survival does not fund any organization in Peru.

Peru’s Amazon Indian organization,
AIDESEP, insists the road project is a ploy ‘to benefit illegal logging mafias’. Survival has seen disturbing evidence that illegal logging has already started along the projected path of the road.


Amazon Indian organization Fenamad said last week, ‘If the road project goes ahead it could lead to the extinction of the uncontacted peoples’.

Father Piovesan is pressing Peru’s Congress to pass a law declaring the road a ‘public necessity’ to enable it to go ahead.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Where roads are built through the Amazon, deforestation and colonization inevitably follow. What does this mean for its tribal inhabitants? Invariably disease and destitution; frequently, death. As those who stand to lose most from Piovesan’s ill-fated project, Peru’s indigenous peoples don’t want it to go ahead. It’s time they were listened to.’
source :Survival International

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Alarmed UK MPs urge Brazil to save Earth’s most threatened tribe

Dozens of British politicians are calling on Brazil to save Earth’s most threatened tribe by halting illegal logging and land invasions in their territory.

Expressing their ‘concern’ and ‘alarm’ to the UK Parliament, the MPs say Brazil must take action before the Awá tribe are driven to extinction.

In the parliamentary motion, the MPs ‘urge [Brazil] to bring a halt to illegal logging and stop invasions of the Awá’s land.’

Only 460 Awá live in Brazil’s north-eastern state of Maranhão, and their land is being 
destroyed faster than any other Amazon tribe.

As nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Awá depend on their forest to survive.

One Awá man told Survival, ‘The loggers are destroying all the land… This is Indian land… I am angry, very angry with the loggers, extremely angry. There is no game for me to hunt, and my children are hungry’.

Since Survival launched its campaign to save the Awá tribe, an investigation into illegal logging has been ordered, and Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department (
FUNAI) has vowed to make the tribe a top priority.

However, despite these pledges, thousands of illegal loggers are still believed to be operating in the area, and the start of the logging season has renewed fears.

The Awá are
appealing to Brazil’s Justice Minister to do more to protect their territories, which, despite being legally recognized, are being ravaged by deforestation.

The Awá are particularly concerned about the impact land invasions are having on their uncontacted relatives, who are vulnerable to disease.

But the tribe remain determined not to lose their strong connection to the land. One Awá man said, ‘We are nothing without our land... it will not be destroyed, because we are here.’

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘British Parliamentarians are right to be concerned. It’s vital Brazil’s Justice Minister takes action straight away: if he can’t manage to enact Brazil's own laws, the Awá will soon be destroyed.’

source : Survival International


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