D Cruz Lancelot S.J.
Department of Biology, St. Xavier s College,
Ahmedabad 380 009, Gujarat, India.
Tel: +91-79-26301075 (M) 09427026611

The Bhil Vasva tribals inhabiting the Shoolpaneshar sanctuary area in the Dediapada region of South Gujarat have a rich tradition of indigenous medicine. Despite living in an area of high biodiversity, these tribals remain within the lowest economic strata of society. The current paper presents a collaborative venture wherein the educational, research, pharmaceutical and the NGO sectors join together with this group, the overall objective being the socio-economic development and protection of the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants of these tribes in the Dediapada forests.

The genesis of the current project lies in the successful completion of a 3-year project carried out for the Gujarat Ecology Commission entitled People-Forest-Laboratory Linkages for conservation of Ethno medicinal Biodiversity . This involved the setting up of an interactive network of medicine men, the documentation in CD-format of 100 significant medicinal plants, the setting up of 5 enclaves of medicinal plants in the vicinity of five tribal schools and the use of these forests for environmental sensitization of tribal students. The conservation initiatives included the use of plant tissue culture for conservation of threatened ethno medicinal plant species and ex situ conservation carried out at the St. Xavier s College Campus in Ahmedabad.
The present venture is the first phase of a project that seeks the agro-productive development of medicinal plants in the Dediapada areas. For this purpose, the native plants from Dediapada and their traditional uses as also the demand in the Indian market are being studied. A bio-prospecting study to assess the current situation of the native medicinal plants along with a Market Research Study and Business Feasibility Study are being carried out. This will provide the groups with enough information so as to enable them to select the plants they want to cultivate. To facilitate round the year cultivation of these selected plants, a series of irrigation systems designed by the tribal groups along with expert guidance will be put in place. The project aims to enhance the capacities of the beneficiaries through a series of capacity building workshops on entrepreneurship, administrative functioning, participatory decision making, gender equity, health promotion, water harvesting skills, etc. Through workshops on disease prevention and health promotion the groups will strengthen their local knowledge to prevent illness. The community linkages in the area and the traditional medicine systems will be strengthened through organizing workshops for school children and local groups linked to the setting up of medicinal plant forests in three tribal schools.