Healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are sources of various services that nurture life and enhance human well-being. Of the several services, a cross-cutting one is the contribution that biodiversity makes to secure health of people and life forms in all its manifestations—physical, mental and spiritual.
The Biodiversity and Community Health (BaCH) initiative is a partnership among different leading agencies and stakeholders working on related dimensions of the biodiversity-health nexus to impact poverty reduction and related issues of sustainability. It was launched as a global multi-stakeholder initiative in 2012 during the COP-11 of the CBD in Hyderabad, India. The overall goal of the Initiative is to develop and mainstream community health approaches synergizing utilisation of bio-resources and traditional knowledge. This implies promoting sustainable natural resource management as well as revitalizing effective traditional medical knowledge and local remedies to address the lack of government health care, namely in remote areas in developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The underlying idea is to leverage on the natural resources namely ecosystems and biodiversity as well as knowledge, skills and capabilities of the populations living in close proximity to biological resources in achieving the goals of biodiversity conservation and health security.
Our specific objectives
Applying a holistic capacity development approach and building on experiences of and lessons learned by our partners, we aim to achieve five specific objectives applying a multi-level approach:
- Integrating conservation priorities in health system planning by underscoring the importance of medicinal plants in the local ecosystem as well as local biological and cultural diversity and local development priorities.
- Raising the contemporary relevance of traditional medicinal practices and creating and integrating these into mainstream health systems and supporting the revival, sharing and exchange of traditional health knowledge that is increasingly being lost.
- Identifying best practices for local innovations through livelihood programs and local enterprises and initiating further enterprises in the biodiversity and health nexus.
- Identifying and piloting best practices for self-reliant health systems amongst communities that have limited reach to hospitals and clinics as well as supporting and transferring traditional knowledge and practices related to food and nutrition.
- Operationalizing a comprehensive health and well-being approach and integrating the linkage between biodiversity and community health in relevant programmes focused on agriculture, food and nutrition, environment, trade, health, etc. by governments, development partners and non-governmental organizations.
For this purpose, the Initiative brings together and synergizes the expertise and efforts spread over different multilateral and non-governmental partners such as UNU-IAS, the UNDP-Equator initiative, TRAFFIC International, FRLHT, ETC-Compas, Bioversity International, the BaCH Initiative. At the national and sub-national levels, challenges have arisen with regard to the governance of health systems and coordination of implementation structures to meet goals related to health and conservation. It is important to strengthen linkages between regulations across a supply chain of biological resources from the forests through collectors to traders and industrial bodies and build convergence for a coordinated action for community health programmes.
Promoting the linkages between biodiversity and community health taking into account several related issues such as traditional knowledge, sustainable natural resource management etc., the BaCH Initiative aims to achieve following outcomes:
- Models of integrating conservation priorities in health system planning based on research on evidence of safety, efficacy and quality standards are developed and disseminated regionally and internationally through e.g. UN-channels.
- Pilots and models for in situ and ex situ conservation projects considering local biological and cultural diversity as well as local development priorities have been developed and implemented.
- Concepts and approaches for raising the contemporary relevance of traditional medicinal practices based on a full understanding of the contextual dynamics and expertise underlying it are developed, experiences, lessons learned and best practices are exchanged regionally.
- A radical and innovative approach to integrate traditional medicine into mainstream health systems that can be tailored depending on the context is designed and disseminated through regional exchange forums as well as internationally.
- Concepts regarding the protection of local knowledge taking into account culturally appropriate pedagogical methods with an intercultural inclination and transdisciplinary approach are designed and integrated into formal and informal learning processes in selected pilot countries.
- Mechanisms for protection of such traditional knowledge resources, prevention of their erosion and linking with scientific research are developed and piloted in selected countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
- Supply chains of medicinal resources with health practitioners and consumers with the highest standards of quality, safety and efficacy determined by an interdisciplinary panel of experts are established.
- Local innovations through livelihood programs and local enterprises such as medicines, intermediate products for commercial utilization, dietary interventions are strengthened and best practice approaches are shared regionally and internationally.
- Successful approaches of capacity development for self-reliant health care instilling confidence and skills among households to handle diet, nutrition and lifestyles have been designed and piloted in selected countries.
- Traditional knowledge and practices related to agricultural practices, food processing and cooking methods to consumption are identified and documented as well as protected and disseminated through nutritional guidelines.
- Government and non-government organizations are considering the biodiversity and community health nexus including related issues in relevant programmes focused on agriculture, food and nutrition, environment, trade, health, etc.