Enrichment from naturally medicinal materials – Potentials and Opportunities
Being favored with abundant plant resources, Vietnam possesses over 4000 species of valuable plants used in disease prevention and treatment. These plants are cultivated across the country from the high mountains to the midlands, deltas and the coastal areas. Plenty of them is grown as bonsai and spice plants in home gardens. How to take advantage of these available resources and turn them into an opportunity to get rich?
The posed problem
Whoever setting foot to the northern mountainous provinces such as Ha Giang and Lao Cai must have heard the stories of the Dao ethnic and their precious medicines and remedies passed down from generation to generation. For example, the famous bathing remedy made from dozens of forest plants with blood circulation and body toxins elimination effects that only Dao women know the full formula is being advertised all over the tourist town Sapa. Along with the rapid speed of industrialization and development of tourism, urban residents now have had more chances to easily access to the tradditional unique health care secrets from different regions and therefore, the people of remote areas also have had the opportunities to earn extra income from such traditional knowledge.
However, there are many hidden risks behind this demand-supply relationship. First, it is the reality that people care only about the profit leading to eradicated exploitation of resources and depletion of precious medicinal plants. Second, it is the resource drain when traders buy from people at very low cost and sell across borders. And more seriously, it is when there is no longer holder of the traditional knowledge, no one would ever know the full home remedies, no one would know how to find and differentiate the medicinal herbs among thousands of plants. Thus, it is not only natural resources but also resources of our knowledge will be threatened. So what is the solution to the problem of Vietnamese medicinal potential?
Finding the solution
Understanding that people will only conserve resources when their income is guaranteed, or in other words, they will be benefited from those resources, BioTrade concept was initiated based on the principles of sustainable exploitation of natural resources, creating a fair and sustainable economic model. When being put into practice in Vietnam, the project BioTrade has been cooperating with some typical enterprises in phyto-pharmaceutical sector to exploit and develop the medicinal material areas following international standards, first of all the standards for clean and safe cultivation such as GACP-WHO and Organic. Farmers in these areas have been receiving training sessions about growing techniques and support for seeds, materials as well as product consumption by contracts signed with enterprises. Compared to income from rice and corn, that of planting medicinal plants is 3 to 4 times higher which makes farmers assured of living and self-aware that they need to conserve resources and protect the environment to maintain income.
With the financial support from the European Union, BioTrade has built partnership with 12 companies accounting for 80% market share of domestic herbal medicines. Those enterprises participating in the project have built up their own stable material areas both in quantity and quality rather than having to import medicinal materials with unguarateed supply and quality. In addition, the project also supports the expansion of the market, communication to raise awareness of consumers about the Vietnamese clean and standardized traditional medicines, as well as export to international markets, ensuring the output of production.
With the intervention of BioTrade from the first to the last medicinal value chain, consumers now have more choice of natural and safe health care products. The number of products being manufactured according to the principles of the BioTrade has reached nearly 70 so far. To help consumers to easily identify, in future, these products will be labeled with BioTrade stamp, which helps improve competitiveness and encourage other companies to apply. With those good signals in today phyto-pharmaceutical sector, we can be optimistic about the future when Vietnam becomes an internationally recognized supplier of herbal products, which take advantage of available resources to get rich sustainably.