About the Medicinal Plant Research Project
One of the issues faced by native or mestizo communities in Madre de Dios is the use of medicinal plants. In particular, finding effective ways to document existing use of these plants, to understand how and why plant use varies both within and between communities, to help better transmit plant knowledge from older to younger generations and to improve knowledge among the general public regarding the virtues of medicinal plants.
This project also aims to encourage short-term visitors (ecotourists) to appreciate plant-lore, and to find better ways to introduce quality plant-based remedies into local markets for economic gain. The Medicinal Plant project has worked on a strategy together with community representatives that combines plant science, anthropology/sociology, digital photography and videography, which volunteers and interns can assist with.
The Medicinal Plant Research & Eco-Tourism Development programme is focused on visiting local native and mestizo communities in the lowland rainforest, recording their multiple uses for medicinal plants and assisting them with their ecotourism development plans. By spending time with shamans, healers, and other community members, and using a combination of direct observation, structured and unstructured interviews, as well as botanical data collection alongside experts, the aim is to:
- identify the diversity of medicinal plants used in each community
- to calculate the abundance and extraction rates of these plants
- to document the main methods used to prepare the twenty most common plant-based remedies in each community
- to understand how medicinal plant ecology and use varies between communities (including between sex and age groups)
- to help develop a road-map for those communities interested in offering their remedies in local market.
Recording the use of other natural resources (timber, bush meat, etc.) is also important. In terms of ecotourism, the programme aims to develop photo and video guides of medicinal plants to help visitors from Peru and abroad identify the plants and better understand their use. The project also aims to develop text, images and video for community websites and social media platforms (where these are in place or planned) as part of community marketing strategies, as well as offering direct experience to community members of what it is like to have small groups of visitors staying with them. The project also incentivises members to become skilled as temporary tour guides, cooks, and boat drivers.
Volunteers will spend approximately 70% of their time on medicinal plant research activities, and the remaining 30% on ecotourism development activities.