Lemongrass - More than Just a Plant

21 Feb, 2018

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is one of the important tradable bio- resources in Uttarakhand. It is a well-known cure for common cold, digestive disorders and is also used as mild astringent. Due to surging demands by the pharmaceutical industries for its essential oils, many companies have established contract farming and land lease agreements with local farmers and cultivators. In addition to the cultivation, there is a substantial wild collection of Cymbopogon citratus from the forests of Uttarakhand.

As per India’s Biodiversity Act, companies that are using bio-resources for commercial purposes have the obligation to share a part of their profits with the local communities who are stewarding bio-resources. Obtaining resources for commercial purposes and sharing benefits arising from the use of biological resources is called “Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)”. Legal frameworks under the Act not only support conservation and encourage sustainable utilisation of bio-resources, but also prevent over-exploitation by the companies.

Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board is a state-level statutory institution established to implement ABS. Similarly, at the local-level, Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) are being constituted under the Act. Dudhai BMC in Uttarakhand assisted by the State Biodiversity Board, negotiated benefit-sharing with local traders and companies accessing lemongrass and other important bio-resources, and received an amount of EUR 1,300 (INR 1,00,000) as benefit-sharing obligation from the companies. This amount is being used to develop a Navratna garden for conservation of medicinal plants in the region. Besides, they also actively participate in the forest fire mitigation and control of mining activities in the village. Mr. Rajesh Mall, President of Dudhai BMC, says,

“The ABS paybacks from Industries and traders have improved our livelihoods. The forest fires in surrounding areas have reduced and resources collected from wild are also getting fair value. In future, we hope to be able to participate in the negotiation process with the industries as well.”

Until December 2016, Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board has received more than EUR 1,30,000 (INR 10 million) as benefit sharing obligation by 15 companies. 95% of this amount will be shared with BMCs from the locations where the resources are collected from.