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National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity

   CONABIO has quickly become the most important source of funding for research on biological resources in Mexico. Organized and advised by an enthusiastic and well-trained group of scientists active in different fields related to biodiversity conservation, CONABIO is today the only organization capable of coordinating the efforts of institutions and researchers at the national level.    - JC

   The Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO - National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity) was established in 1992. The purpose of CONABIO is to promote and coordinate activities within Mexico related to the exploration, study and utilization of the country's biological resources. The overall objective is to conserve Mexico's ecosystems and produce criteria for their sustainable management. Activities fall within three areas: (1) improving knowledge of the country's biodiversity, through establishing inventory and monitoring programs, databases and networks of researchers; (2) exploring options for the sustainable use of biodiversity; and (3) diffusion of information and education within Mexico.  

    CONABIO provides financial support for projects (about 200  are currently sponsored), and gives scientific and technical advice to the public and private sectors. The National Information System on Biodiversity, being developed by CONABIO, will bring together a wide range of information including data from biological inventories, and directories of researchers, NGOs and other institutions. CONABIO has been promoting awareness of the importance of biodiversity by supporting the production of television programs, printed publications and CD-ROMs.  

    ‘No single act will succeed in substantially modifying the present situation of what is known about biodiversity and how it is used. Nor shall it be possible to buffer the effects of the current biological crisis by maintaining reserves, fenced-in like islands, in a sea of human activity that is unsustainable in the long run .... The inter ministerial nature of CONABIO allows it to coordinate activities that reinforce efforts now being made, and bring into play new actors in the scenery of the use of biodiversity.’  

From: a pamphlet produced by CONABIO


  • Jorge Soberón, Executive Secretary, Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, Fernández Leal No. 43, Barrio de la Concepción, Coyoacán, 04020 Mexico DF, Mexico; Tel./Fax +52.5.5544332 or 5541915 or 5547472


The Healing Forest Conservancy

    The HFC forms part of Shaman Pharmaceuticals’ innovative efforts to provide compensation to countries and communities in the tropics. The amount pledged to the Conservancy will increase once Shaman makes a profit on plant-based pharmaceuticals it hopes to market in coming years.  -GJM  

    The Healing Forest Conservancy (HFC) is a non-profit organization founded by Shaman Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for the specific purpose of returning benefits to local communities for their intellectual contribution to the drug discovery process, after a product is commercialized. After consultations with indigenous federations and biodiversity-rich countries, and review of federation and international declarations on the sustainable development of biotic resources, the HFC has developed and implemented pilot projects to investigate equitable compensation processes. Pilot projects for compensation options include Terra Nova, to test methods in land demarcation; and Medicine Woman, to train indigenous women in methods to add value to biotic resources locally. Results indicate that indigenous concepts of compensation localize the value of biological diversity while strengthening the integrity of traditional institutions.  This contributes critical elements to the sustainable development of biodiversity in a manner that leads to the conservation of tropical forests and the welfare of tropical forest peoples. HFC presents an annual tribute - the Richard Evans Schultes award - to a scientist, practitioner or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to ethnobotany or to indigenous peoples’ issues related to ethnobotany.   

   ‘The Healing Forest Conservancy operates on the premise that loss or homogenization of life forms and cultural systems is a trend we must resist. Biocultural diversity enhances the sustainability of both natural and social systems because, when necessary, it supplies a greater range of options for adaptation - a cushion against disaster in the face of sudden or irreversible change. By spreading risk, it equips natural and social systems with alternatives for continuing survival if a component of a system fails. Biocultural diversity is valuable because it retains options and possible solutions to crises not yet envisioned, and answers to questions not yet asked. It is in the best interest of The Healing Forest Conservancy, as well as all peoples and all nations, to regain, protect and nurture existing biological and human resource systems while they are still useful, still replicable and still recoverable.’

From: Moran, K. 1994. Biocultural diversity conservation through the Healing Forest Conservancy. Pages 101-109 in T. Greaves, editor, Intellectual Property Rights for Indigenous Peoples: A Sourcebook. Society for Applied Anthropology, Oklahoma City.   


  • Katy Moran, Director,  The Healing Forest Conservancy,  3521 S Street, NW Washington, DC 20007, USA;  Tel./Fax +1.202.3333438 e-mail moranhfc@aol.com


The Gaia Foundation

    The strengths of the Gaia Foundation are its relatively small size and dedicated team.  By choosing not to grow too large, Gaia has been able to maintain a very personal link with the projects they fund. They recognize the value of “micro-projects funds” in addition to long-term larger funding, realizing that small grants at key times can catalyze change. Gaia’s caring, well informed and quietly efficient team gives a rare quality to this organization.   -ABC .

The Gaia Foundation, founded in 1984, works to strengthen understanding of the importance of cultural and ecological diversity, and to focus concern and funding according to the priorities of the South. The Foundation provides a European base for a number of NGO and grassroots networks in Southern countries, including: the COAMA Programme (Consolidation of Amazonia) in Colombia, the Indian Research Centre in Brazil, the International Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and the SEED Trust in South Africa.

     The collaboration with COAMA is typical: it supports small projects, developed by communities, which aim to strengthen the capacity of indigenous people to define and orient their own sustainable development path. As well as helping to obtain financial and political support, the Foundation provides its colleagues in the South with information about developments in the North and vice versa. It also promotes and supports the work of a group of Associates, mostly from Southern countries, who are engaged in developing socially just and ecologically sensitive development processes. 

‘In some parts of the Amazonian region, indigenous communities occupy territories inside of ‘protected areas’ or state natural reserves, thus classified because of their great biological diversity. In this situation are the Siona of Cuyabeno faunal reserve, the Huaorani and Quichua of  Yasuní national park, the Quichua (Oyacachi and Chuscuyacu communes) and Cofanes of Cayambe-Coca ecological reserve and the Quichua of Limoncocha biological reserve. In all of these areas there are existing or potential conflicts between indigenous needs for land and means of subsistence, and conservation of biological diversity ... An unresolved problem is the definition of the rights of indigenous communities to use these areas for hunting, fishing and harvesting of forest products, such as medicinal and other useful plants.’ 

Translated from: Uquillas, J.E. and S.H. Davis. 1992. La cuestion territorial y ecológica entre los pueblos indígenas de la selva baja del Ecuador. Pages 91-112 in M. Cárdenas, H.D. Corra and M. Gómez Barón, editors, Derechos Territoriales Indígenas y Ecología en las Selvas Tropicales de América. Gaia Foundation and CEREC, Bogota.


  Gaia, the Greek name for Mother Earth, was chosen for the Foundation because it represents a world-view that emphasizes the need for humanity to live in balance with itself and with nature, and also because it is a beautiful name.


  •  Liz Hosken, Director, The Gaia Foundation,  18 Well Walk, Hampstead, London NW3 1LD, UK;  Tel. +44.171.4355000, Fax +44.171.4310551,  e-mail gaiafund@gn.apc.org


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