The Kangmei Institute of Community Development and Marketing assists villagers in the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River in China to establish farmer cooperatives and resource management plans that promote the sustainable harvesting of wild herbs and protect giant panda bear habitats. The unsustainable extraction of medicinal plants has historically had a negative impact on pandas and other wildlife, degrading and depleting fragile habitats. Through trainings, on-site guidance, and standards for harvesting, the organization has successfully promoted a ‘giant panda friendly’ method for collecting medicinal herbs.
Seasonal zoning restrictions and designated cultivation areas have reduced the impact of harvesting on trees, branches and local wildlife. This method has been adopted by more than 20 villages and has added value to medicinal plant products being sold in national and international markets. To date, the institute has sold over six tons of dried kadsura and has secured agreements to ensure the sale of another ten tons over the next five years. The group is working through international partnerships to promote its ‘giant panda friendly’ brand and to create certification standards for local harvesters.