Conserving Indigenous Knowledge of Bakarwalls about medicinal plants.
Bakarwal – the nomadic people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir rear meat-producing animals and live in mountainous regions. The estimated population of Bakarwal families is around 200,000 having a distinct culture. Their economic life depends heavily on green pastures and forests. In every winter when there is shortage of fodder on mountains due to heavy snowfall, they move down to plain areas and relocate to hilly areas in summer. Bakarwals are highly ignored people, especially in terms of provision of basic social services of health and education.
From hundreds of years, the Bakarwals have their specific travelling routes in mountains of NeelumValley, Deosai Plains and Northern Areas. Before every winter, they travel on foot, along with their hundreds of thousands goats and sheep towards the Pothar Plains via NeelumValley. They are very conservative type of people and don’t like social mix up with other communities. They don’t enroll their children in schools for education and even avoid visiting hospitals for disease treatment.
Bakarwals—they have indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants that grow in mountains, transferred by generation to generation. They use these precious medicinal shrubberies for treatment of disease and illness. According to some information, these Bakarwal people are also involve in destructive harvesting of these precious shrubberies for illegal trade. They use old techniques to harvesting of these medicinal bushes, dry them and sold to the agents that deal in purchase of precious medicinal plants.
Currently most of the trade of these medicinal herbs is happen through the middlemen and Bakarwals receive a very fewer share of total value of the commodity. This easy earning makes Bakarwals (collectors) uncaring for regeneration and long-term survival aspects of the plants.
Subsequently, the sustainably of most of these precious medicinal plants/herbs is under severe threat due to the over-grazing, and destructive harvesting practices.
Sukhi is making efforts to conserve the precious medicinal plants and document the indigenous knowledge of Bakarwals. Sukhi’s intervention in this area is limited due to limited resources.
Sukhi involve ‘Baji Qasim’ in this early intervention stage to build linkage with these nomadic communities. Baji Qasim, is the spiritual leader of the Bakarwals and considered very respectful among Bakarwals. There is a strong belief among Bakarwal communities that their livestock would die if they did not follow teachings of Baji Qasim. Almost all of the Bakarwal populations across AJK and Pakistan attend Baji Qasim annual function (Urs) at Rian Sharif in Kotli district of AJK held in the month of April.
Sukhi arranged a special sermon of Baji Qasim on the importance of valuable medicinal plants and need for conservation. With the involvement of Baji Qasim, Sukhi also established mobile schools in various groups of Barakwals to provide basic education to their children.
Sukhi is also making efforts to conserve the precious medicinal plants and document the indigenous knowledge of Bakarwals through delivering awareness lectures. However, Sukhi’s intervention in this area is limited and required sustainable assistance.
A long term sustained project required for identification and documentation of indigenous knowledge of Bakarwals about the precious medicinal plants that exist in the mountains in Northen Areas.
Sukhi has designed a comprehensive plan to achieve the following objectives.
·Identification of threatened medicinal plants/herbal species through involving groups of Baralwal communities.
·Recording existing practices of the Bakarwal communities of harvesting medicinal plants/herbs
·Sukhi is analysing impact of existing harvest practices on natural resources and devising species-wise feature and norms of medicinal plants.
·Development of a comprehensive Biodiversity Conservation Plan by involving conservation planning experts.
·Establishing pilot micro-plantations of select, endangered, high value, high demand, and native species of medicinal plants
·Training of Bakarwal communities on modern techniques of cultivation and harvesting of medicinal plants including harvest limitations and appropriate harvesting season. Separate trainings required for men, women, and youth to enable full participation of stakeholders.
·Identifying of suitable sites for both in-situ and ex-situ conservation of medicinal plants through setting of herb orphanages by these native people.
·Financing Bakarwal communities for establishment of herb orphanages in terms of purchase of seeds and to train them regarding preservation of seeds.
·Generate awareness of medicinal plants conservation issues in the Bakarwal communities and educating them on efficacy of these species as cash crops.
·Forming community managed bio-cooperatives and connecting them directly to efficient marketing outlets to enhance their supplemental incomes.
·Establish trade links and exchange visits with conservation projects and organisations for efficient planning, scientific management and technical assistance of the project
·Encourage fair trade in medicinal plants by motivating and assisting the Bakarwal communities to get permits from pertinent Forest authorities in order that over-grazing, illicit harvesting and black trading is curtailed.
Objective 2: To safeguard and preserve indigenous knowledge of Bakarwal communities on use and benefits of medicinal plants/herbs.
·Collecting information on traditional practices in using medicinal plants for disease treatment of Bakarwal community by involving community elders– male & female and Baji Qasim.
·Document and authenticate indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants collected from the Bakarwal communities, by involving ‘Hakims’.
·Establish links with Hakims, ethno-botanists, projects and organisations for establishing detailed profiles of each medicinal species for enhancement of the traditional and ethno-botanical medicinal knowledge.
Project Beneficiaries: The beneficiaries include the following stakeholders:
Global community: The global communities will benefit from the project as the project includes conservation of wild floral species of global significance that otherwise would face local and global extirpation.
Indigenous people: Bakarwal communities and mountain populations of the conservancies in the long run.
Fair trade in medicinal plants species is certainly required to control illicit destructing harvesting and export of medicinal plants. Besides, the Forest department needs to be sensitised to make a check on illegal harvesting of medicinal plants.
Sukhi required assistance from international community to sustain its human cause of preserving medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge of Barakwals.
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