Litsea cubeba

Traditional knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how skills and practices that are created, maintained and passed down from generation to generation within a culture, often part of its cultural or spiritual identification.

Also, in the context of indigenous peoples, traditional knowledge generally means traditional practices, culture and the knowledge on plants including their methods of propagation and animals. However, the commitment of indigenous communities to the protection and productive use of biological diversity goes beyond their position as natural resource managers.

In Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme (TK) plays a major role to initiate the process of product development by documenting the plant usage by the community before further research is done. These sections also encourage indigenous communities to cultivate useful indigenous plants for their own uses and sustainable resources for further research project.

Roles of Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme in SBC

  • Engagement with the community – To explain to communities on Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme, Prior Inform Consent (PIC) and Access Benefit Sharing (ABS).
  • Exploration of community area – Field trip to indigenous communities places for plant collection, herbarium samples collection and inventory management.
  • Capacity building:
    • Plant materials allowance – SBC to request for plant materials needed from indigenous communities for research purpose.  Allowances for plant materials supply to SBC is provided to the communities.
    • Propagation workshop – SBC engages with the community on propagation workshop to increase plant populace and maintain a sustainable supply for research and product development purpose.
    • Community garden – SBC encourages indigenous communities to establish Community Garden for awareness and appreciation purposes.

Process of Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme in SBC

  • Consultative meeting
    • Meeting with Head of village from the area to introduce Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme, Prior Inform Consent (PIC) and Access Benefit Sharing (ABS) done by SBC.
    • To encourage indigenous communities from the area to join SBC Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme.
  • 1st TK Workshop trip - Collecting samples, herbarium, TK data recording and documentation, inventory of plant
  • TK follow up trip - To get more information and plant samples on project plant at specific area.
One example of products developed as a result of TK programme and R&D is LitSara® personal care products. The products used essential oil of  Litsea cubeba plant that naturally grown abundantly at highland areas of Sarawak as the main ingredient. The essential oil extracted from the fruit produces a lemony smell while the essential oil extracted from the leaf produces a refreshing, minty aroma. According to lab study, the essential oils from the fruits and leaves of L. cubeba have anti-microbial and insect repelling properties. L. cubeba was commonly used by the indigenous communities of Kenyah, Lun Bawang and Bidayuh in their daily routines such as for food seasoning and stomachache relievant. The brand name of LitSara® is derived from Sarawak L. cubeba.

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