People for plants

08 February 2010 | News story

Involving local communities is indispensible to ensure that conservation action brings efficient and long-lasting results. IUCN's Vineet Soni uses such a community-based approach in his work on the conservation of an important medicinal plant.

Successful conservation work requires a fully comprehensive approach, combining modern science, government policies and the involvement of local communities, whose lives depend on biodiversity. This last element plays a particularly important role at every stage of a conservation effort and it has been the core of a project led by IUCN's biologist Vineet Soni on the conservation of Commiphora wighii in India.

Commiphora wighii, also known as the ‘Guggul Tree’ or 'Guggul Plant', is a small, slow-growing tree found in the arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Its resin has been a key component in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine as an effective treatment for bone fractures, arthritis, inflammation and obesity, and is now widely used in modern medicine for heart problems.

Unfortunately, Guggul has become scarce due to over-harvesting by the pharmaceutical industry and by local people for religious purposes, lack of cultivation for medicinal use and the loss of the plant's habitat to farming and urbanization.

Enlisting the help of tribespeople, Vineet leads efforts to secure the species in its natural habitat through large scale propagation and creation of a network of protected areas. He and a group of friends have founded the Indian Council for Plant Conservation to conserve threatened plant species of Rajasthan through community involvement, running workshops to help make local people aware of the importance and conservation of plants.

Vineet Soni is a member of IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication and Species Survival Commission (SSC) and received a grant from SSC’s Sir Peter Scott Fund for Conservation
Action to support his work.

Click here to learn more about the project and take a look at the project’s photo gallery.