Vietnam: traditional knowledge-based herbal products for community development

Vietnam: traditional knowledge-based herbal products for community development

The bath medicine of the Red Dao ethnic group is well known and has been remarked upon by almost all visitors to the Sapa district of the Lao Cai province, in Vietnam. These bath medicines consist of herbal remedies made from mixtures of various plants collected in the mountains, which are cooked with water.

This old tradition of the Red Dao community has many uses. For example, women use bath medicines several days after delivering their babies to recover their health and prevent diseases. They are also used for relaxation, relieving sore feet and pain, skincare, and the treatment of diseases such as rheumatism, arthritis and headaches.

In 2006, Sapanapro Company, a community enterprise, was established with the support of Hanoi University of Pharmacy (HUP) and the Centre for Research and Development of Ethno-medicinal Plants (CREDEP), to commercialize traditional bathing medicines of the Red Dao ethnic people. Their main products are bath medicines for women after pregnancy based on traditional knowledge of the Red Dao ethnic group.

Monetary benefits are obtained for those holders of traditional knowledge (“bà mế” in vietnamese). The company also pays collectors of medicinal plants, according to the value of the plant species collected. In addition, the company contributes a proportion of company profits to the communal development fund for the community’s socio-cultural activities.

With their successful bath medicine, Sapanapro company and the Red Dao people in Ta Phin Ward, Sapa district, have been chosen as the core of the project’s demonstration activities, with the aim to produce a new pain-relief product for which a proper agreement will be established between the traditional holder, genetic resource providers and the company.

Contribution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

This biodiscovery case directly supports several Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

It engages the Red Dao people themselves in the protection of their genetic resources and traditional knowledge through the sharing of accrued company benefits from commercialized products back to the communities, contributing to the achievement of SDG 15 (Life on Land).

The local people collect and grow medicinal plants and provide bathing remedies and materials for Sapanapro (becoming providers of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge), but they are also shareholders of the company, which makes them users of genetic resources as well. This creates livelihoods for local communities. Therefore, the project contributes to SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Furthermore, the women from the red dao ethnic group in particular, are the masters and repositories of the techniques of bathing-product development. They play key roles in the company activities. This helps to enhance their participation as well as their voices or influences in the community which contributes to SDG 5 (Gender Equality).

Read more on this ABS biodiscovery story here.

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