Bioprospecting To protect Cambodia’s rich biodiversity and promote sustainable, equitable and just access and sharing of its benefits

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Energy, agriculture, tourism and other major sectors – including development planning – are all undergoing paradigm shifts towards more nature-friendly investments to build human security and climate resilience.

Prospecting, once considered the domain of flint miners, is undergoing an equally green transformation.

Nowadays, rather than the extraction of metals and minerals, bioprospecting is the exploration of plant and animal species for the use of their genetic resources in the pharmaceutical and biochemical industries and in the production of a wide range commercially viable products.

It has led to new treatments for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and cancer, highlighting once again the interdependence between ecosystems and human health and well-being.

Bioprospecting is based on a sustainable approach bringing economic and social benefits to often poor communities that would otherwise resort to unsustainable land use, consumption of environmental resources or other negative coping mechanisms such as than economic migration.

A rich vein of natural gold
Cambodia’s rich biodiversity and associated genetic resources make it attractive for commercial bioprospecting. It encompasses a large number of known indigenous medicinal plants.

There are many well-known species of medicinal plants native to Cambodia. They include Mmoem Tthnam Cchin (a herbaceous perennial in the Zingiberaceae family), Rromdeng Pprey (Alpinia conchigera), Rromeit Pprey (Curcuma sp.), Kkravah (Amomum kravanh), Mreah Prov Phnom (Dysoxylum lourieri) , the Dey Khla (Gardenia angkorensis), Tepongru (Cinnamomum cambodianum) and Vohr Romiet (Coscinium usitatum). Other native plants such as Voer Romiet (Coscinium sp.) are also found throughout Asia.
Cambodia’s biological wealth under threat

As the country continues to manage its transition from an economy based on subsistence agriculture to an agro-industrial economy, its biological resources are increasingly under threat.

These threats include competing land use for agriculture, urbanization and infrastructure; overexploitation of wild plants and animals for national and international trade; overexploitation of forest products; and climate change, among others.

Currently, several indigenous medicinal plants are threatened with extinction and are no longer available in sufficient quantities for use by local people. A total of 324 medicinal plant species native to Cambodia are considered potentially threatened – or could otherwise become vulnerable in the longer term.

These include three species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and 21 additional species included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature List. IUCN red. Some native plants have been taken to the point of extinction in southwestern Cambodia, especially from the Cardamom Mountains region and areas of Bokor National Park.

Cambodia’s highland mountainous regions also hold a wealth of traditional knowledge on nature conservation, health and well-being, sustainable agricultural practices, and the use and management of plant and animal species.

They are home to approximately 1.7 million people (11.68% of the country’s total population), of which more than 200,000 people are from indigenous minorities who have lived for centuries in harmony with their natural environment.

In many cases, these communities have lived in isolation or minimal contact with other groups, developing complex cultural norms and rules that govern their worldview, spiritual beliefs, and coexistence-based livelihoods. sustainable with the natural environment.

These reserves of knowledge vary according to geographical areas, indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities.

Trainings designed to build the capacity and awareness of different stakeholders. Photo: ABS Cambodia/UNDP Cambodia Project

The erosion of this valuable traditional knowledge on the use and protection of genetic resources would have a negative impact on the effective conservation of biodiversity and ultimately lead to the loss of nature-based solutions and benefits (monetary and non-monetary). monetary) for local and indigenous communities. , and ultimately to the country and the global community as a whole.

game changer
The power of innovation combining traditional knowledge with modern science and technology has transformed genetic resources into medicines, foodstuffs and many other products essential for human existence.

In fact, it can be said that genetic resources and innovation underpin sustainable development. There is a clear link between the sustainable use of biodiversity and economic growth.

Research institutes, private pharmaceutical companies and NGOs have in recent years recognized the importance of retaining and using this knowledge. However, the corresponding benefits have often not been shared with communities.

The protection of genetic resources and the guarantee of access and benefit sharing require institutional capacity and awareness of different stakeholders, namely public authorities (the regulator) and the private sector, universities, research institutes and indigenous and local communities (users).

The Nagoya Protocol, a supplementary agreement to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, provides a platform for equitable benefit-sharing that facilitates sustainable development for indigenous peoples and local communities, and the continued conservation of our natural capital for many years to come.

In Cambodia, there is a legal instrument for indigenous and local community access and benefit sharing. However, implementation is pending; no formal permit has been issued and no APA contract has been approved by the competent national authority to date. Consequently, no public-private partnership has yet been developed following the entry into force of the ABS regime in Cambodia.

Since 2011, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with funding from the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Facility (NPIF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been supporting governments, local communities and the private sector to develop national ABS frameworks, build capacity and harness the potential of genetic resources.

This support is used to develop new products for agriculture, crop protection, pharmaceuticals, personal care and food/beverages in more than 40 countries.

In Cambodia, UNDP and the General Secretariat of the National Council for Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment are implementing the project “Developing a comprehensive framework for the practical implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Cambodia”.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project creates an enabling environment to strengthen the country’s legal and institutional capacity for access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources, and the conservation of relevant traditional knowledge.

A national ABS framework and implementation roadmap has been developed, including bioprospecting templates, a monitoring and evaluation framework for tracking the application of genetic resources and a corresponding financial mechanism for resource sharing. benefits of APA agreements, with an APA administrative permit system to provide a solid foundation. basis for increased legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources. UNDP

  • Key words: Bioprospecting Protect, green transformation
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