Sustainable Income Models

Conducting Survey on Community herbal forest in Dong Thang commune

  • All remainingnatural forests in Dinh Lap district of Lang Son province are home to Tay and Dao ethnic people of Dong Thang commune. Up unitl only a few years ago, this place was still a special-use forest where, all forms of exploitation were prohibited to conserve the biodiversity of forest species. Not many people know that in this peacefulmountainous area in the North of Vietnam, Lingzhi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum) is still prevalent which is chased by  consumers to grow and develop. This place is also famous for cataplasms from more than 150 natural plants harvested by Tay ethnic people,  and for Dzao people’s traditional medical remedies for women after delivering, such as the herbalbath.

    In order to get to Dong Thang from Dinh Lap town, we have to pass about 17km of forest road with nearly two hours’ motorcycle-drive in dry weather condition. On this road, only a small amount of rain is enough to make the road slippery. In cases of heavy rain, Dong Thang is almost isolated because of the floods caused by the streams across the road.

    Accompanied by the rains of the  rainyseason and passing all the slippery forest roads, 20 herbal healerss, including 60 or 70-year-old traditional healers, young female and male,gatheredto conduct a survey on the Community herbal forest in Dong Thang commune. This is one activity in the framework of community based forest management and use specifically through local healers, supported by CIRUM. During the five days of survey  (from May 21st to May 25th), the pouring rain couldn’t dampen the team’s enthusiasm and commitment. During these days the rain usually started in the e early morning and then stopped after a short while which created  an ideal condition for the medicine workers to go into the forestand then the rain would start again  by  late afternoon, bringing fresh airs to the mountain.

    Nearly 300 herbal medicinal plants were found in the local area

    Unlike the previous times when they met, this time the participants of the survey were  openly sharing their experiences, knowledge about medicinal purposes and ideas about herbal plants that they found during the trip. Therefore, not only young medicine workers but also the elderslearnt  from it.

    The survey on  medicinal plants in the twonatural forests in Pac Giau hamlet and Na Ngoa hamlethas shown that there are 300 herbal medicinal plants often used by local people Many of these are in the Red list of threatened species such as fibraurea tinctoria lour. In recent years, the commune has witnessed the intrusion of traders of herbal plants, predominantly Chinese, leading to the loss of these plants’ genetic resources: such as Sargentodoxa cuneata, Kadsura coccinea (Lem.) A.C. Sm, etc. They are currently endangered and at a point of extinction. During the research, theherbal healersraised their concerns about managing and preserving herbal medicinal plants sustainably and the low value of the medicinal plants that sold to China.

    During the survey,  CIRUM staffs took photos and noted the purposes of all the medicinal plants found in the community herbal forest, in order to publish a book on medicinal plants. This will help to preserve medicinal sources and train young medicinal workers.

    Some of the valuable medicinal plants, which are often used, are grown by the local healers in the herbal medicinal garden that has just been built in Dong Thang. This will be a place of sharing ideas and experiences, training for young generation and preserving medicinal sources for public healthcare.

    A herbal healers meeting

    Another activity has been a meeting  attended by workers 18 herbal healers of Dong Thang, Mrs. Vi Thi Thom, Chairman of Dinh Lap’s Herbal Healers Association, Mr. Nguyen Van Bao of Tay ethnicity and Mrs. Ban Thi Liu of Dao ethnicity from Tan Thanh  and Huu Lien communes, Huu Lung district, Lang Son province. To the herbal healers from of Dong Thang  this is a medicine workers meeting although they  never considered themselves as medicine workers.

    Interestingly, it was also the meeting of Dao ethnic people from 3 communes: Huu Lien, Lam Ca and Dong Thang where special use forest in Lang Son province are located. However, recently, Lam Ca and Dong Thang special use forests have been renamed to protection forests. According to herbal healers it is regretful that many of these valuable medicinal plants are being exploited and  sold to midmen from China at a very low price and there’s no mechanisms to solve this problem, of  dealers and tradingIn addition, themembers of the trip had a chance to listen to the unforgettable and emotional songs performed by the traditional healer, Ms. Ban Thi Liu (Dao ethnic people)  from Huu Lien Her songs and  laughters echoed in the forest. This is likely the very first time the herbal healers  from Dong Thang commune ever had a chance to meet each other to do a  meaningful task, that is to find  ways to protect the forest and preserve the traditional medicinal plants for the community and for future generations.