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Informal Letter

Informal Letter

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Published by renukakashyap63

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Published by: renukakashyap63 on Jan 29, 2009
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May 1999Respected Sir,Please find enclosed the photocopies of the two articles which appeared inthe magazine ‘Down to Earth’ about Kani tribe of Kerala and I promised togive them to you when I last met you. I am sorry for not sending them toyou earlier since I was occupied with a few guests at home. Hopefully, Iwill also be able to read the book critically during these holidays and willshare my views after having done so.It was very kind of everyone at the college to be so hospitable during myvisit and I honestly look forward to many more such occasions.With regards,Yours sincerely,
Renuka Kashyap797, Laxmibai Nagar, New Delhi –110023Phone-4674766
elixir of the Kani tribes of Kerala and their Intellectual Property (IP) rightsBy D.P. Agrawa
The Kani tribals know of a wild plant, which can provide almost unlimited energy for trekking through the forests for hours together. The Kanis have an extremely rich andunique Traditional Knowledge about the use of the resources, particularly the biologicalresources around them. The Kani tribals belong to a traditionally nomadic community,who now lead a primarily settled life in the forests of the Agast-Hymalai hills of theWestern Ghats, a mountain range along south-western India, in the Thiruvananthapuramdistrict of Kerala. The Kanis, numbering around 16,000, live in several tribal hamlets,each consisting of 10 to 20 families dispersed in and around the forest areas of Thiruvanathapuram district. The Kanis are the traditional collectors of non-timber forest products from the forest.Mashelkar recalls that in December 1987, a team of scientists working on the All IndiaCo-ordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology (AICRPE) led by P. Pushpangadan wastrekking through the tropical forests hills. They were surveying the Kani tribalsettlements and got exhausted after a while. This team was accompanied by a few Kanitribesmen as guides, who surprisingly remained energetic and agile. They occasionallywould munch some small blackish fruits. One of them offered a few of these fruits to theteam pointing out that if they ate those, they could go on trekking without fatigue. Andthat is what happened to the AICRPE team when they ate these fruits! This 'magical' plantwas subsequently identified as
Trichopus zeylanicus
.Detailed chemical and phamacological investigations showed that the leaf of the plantcontained various glycolipids and some other non-steroidal compounds with profoundadaptogenic and immmuno-enhancing properties. The fruits showed mainly anti-fatigue properties. The Tropical Botanical Gardens Research Institute (TBGRI) was successful indeveloping a scientifically validated and standardized herbal drug, based on the tribalknowledge. The drug was named as
and was released for commercial productionin 1995 by Arya Vaidya Pharmacy. While transferring the technology for production of the drug to the pharmaceutical firm, TBGRI agreed to share the license fee and royaltywith the tribal community on a fifty-fifty basis.The prime concern of the tribals in the beginning was to evolve a viable mechanism for receiving such funds. With the help of TBGRI, some government officials and NGOs, thetribals formed a registered trust. About 60% of the Kani families of Kerela are membersof this trust. From February 1999, the amount due to them has been transferred to thistrust with an understanding that the interest accrued from this amount alone can be usedfor the welfare activities of the Kani tribe.It is heartening to note that TGBRI has trained 25 tribal families to cultivate the plantaround their dwellings in the forest. In the first year itself, each family earned about Rs.8,000 on sale of leaves from cultivation of 
T. zeylanicus
in half-hectare area by eachfamily. But unfortunately the forest department objected to the cultivation with the pleathat the tribals might remove the plants from the natural population of the species in the
forests and thereby make it endangered. This problem has now been resolved and theforest department has recently approved the cultivation of this plant. Mashelkar informsthat it is significant to note that while the issue of material transfer and benefit sharingwas discussed and debated after Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), India hasalready pioneered one of the first models (Mashelkar 2001).
Mashelkar, R.A., 2001. Intellectual property rights and the Third World.
Current Science
81 (8): 955.
embers of the Kani tribe, a small nomadic community based in the Western Ghats inKerala, have reason to be pleased. They believe they made a small difference at the ten-day Earth Summit in Johannesburg, which concluded over a month ago on September 4.A unique profit-and-benefit-sharing experiment that the tribal folk have successfullyimplemented at home made waves among the United Nations agencies and multilateralfinancial institutions.Kuttumathan Kani, a leader of the tribe, is much excited after his return home. "My tripto the Earth Summit was a great experience. I never knew that the rare plants that wemade herbal medicines with could make a difference globally. We are proud of our tribalheritage in India."At the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on Sustainable Development, Kani and aleading scientist, Dr P Pushpangadan, explained to a jury of 60 from multilateral financialinstitutions a novel global model of benefit sharing, which the scientists and globalfinancial experts present at the summit hailed for its novelty and utility.The benefit-sharing model is the result of 15 years of effort made by the Kanis, scientistsin Kerala, and the state government.Kani says the story begins with a wild plant called arogyapacha (scientific name:Trichopus zeylanicus). For many years, when allopathic medicines failed to cure criticalliver diseases, the local population in and around Thiruvananthapuram used to get curedwith a concoction called malamarunnu (literally, medicine of the mountain) that the Kanielders prepared out of arogyapacha."Even though people used to come to our mountains for our malamarunnu, we continuedto live in penury as we never charged any money for the treatment. We even treateddozens of patients who could not get their various diseases cured in various medicalcollege hospitals across Kerala," reveals Kani.The penurious plight of the Kanis, numbering about 16,000, continued till a team of scientists working on the All-India Coordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology, led byDr P Pushpangadan, went trekking through the tropical forest hills way back in December 1987.

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