Ethnobotany Research – An Approach to Biological Human Ecology Theory
Centralized power to control natural resources under National Park, Conservation and Watershed Forest legislation has led to the exclusion of Indigenous Ethnic Minority People from their ancestral homes, resulting in the destruction of natural landscapes and the loss of biodiversity. Research in Ba Vi Mountain in 1989 and 1990 revealed the extensive knowledge of Dzao women of herbal species and their uses and their consequent concern for biodiversity preservation and led to a questioning of why they could not be retained in their ancestral forest home as its natural preservers. Thus began a movement to connect herbal healers throughout the Mekong region into a Herbal Healer Network under the theme Herbal Wisdom in Community Health Care and Bio-cultural Diversity Preservation. At a conference in 2003 the Herbal Healers Network, after discussing the problem of the unsustainable exploitation of herbal species being encouraged by Chinese traders, decided on a strategy of forming Healer Associations to obtain the right manage herbal forests themselves. The next step was for the healers, together with local key farmers and with the help of SPERI to have the forest allocated to Herbal Associations as legalized by decision papers of the District Authorities. This was seen as a bridging strategy toward the eventual attainment of full community rights to the management of watershed forests according to the customary law. These efforts were legalized in 2004 with the passing of the Forest Preservation and Development Law which at article 29 allowed community right to forests. The demonstrated good management of forests governed according to customary law in different regions was then used as by MECO-ECOTRA
to advocate for full community rights to watershed forests by ethnic minority communities under Circular 07/TTLT/2011. The above journey of the Herbal Healer Network, which was formally extended to Laos in 2007, demonstrates the value of herbal knowledge as cross-cutting of many issues: community health, ethnic identity, biodiversity preservation, natural resource management, customary law, and community governance, and in contributing to a strategy of decentralizing power over the management of natural resource and indigenous and ethnic minority community in Vietnam. The present document “Bio-Human Ecology and Ethnobotany Research 2012 and 2013” is aimed at extending the wisdom of these powerful and charismatic healers into the academic sphere of ethnobotanic research. Healers on behalf of MECO-ECOTRA, researchers on behalf of SPERI, academic advisors on behalf of SPERI scientific council who were directly and indirectly involved into this long journey are healing herbal wisdom for a better life culturally, environmentally, socially, economically and politically.