Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme in Asia (MAPPA), 1998-2009

The Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme in Asia (MAPPA) was initiated by IDRC in 1998 with support from the Ford Foundation as a programme of strategic research, networking, and collaboration to address critical research issues related to the sustainable and equitable use of medicinal and aromatic plants in South Asia. The first phase (1998-2004) focused on five South Asian countries: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. During this phase, MAPPA brought out several publications and contributed to the organisation of international, regional, and national conferences, seminars, workshops, training programmes, and study tours. A number of commissioned studies were completed, and various institutions and organisations assisted in the publication of books, proceedings, journals, and newsletters on topics related to medicinal plants.

The second phase (2003-2007) included projects in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In 2005, during this phase, MAPPA was devolved from IDRC to ICIMOD to increase long-term sustainability and strengthen partnerships. The geographic coverage was extended to other parts of the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region, including countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar. An IDRC grant was provided to ICIMOD in the form of a Devolution Fund to support the MAPPA activities. The main objectives of the grant were

  • identifying, coordinating, and supporting demand driven research focused on sustainability and human wellbeing, and consistent with the priorities set by national programmes, and the local stakeholders and partner organisations with which ICIMOD collaborates;
  • building skills and enhancing the capacity of national research and development institutions and outreach organisations; and
  • strengthening national, regional, and international coordination, cooperation, collaboration, and networking.

Regional outcomes

The Devolution programme enabled ICIMOD to function as a coordinating hub for the regional MAPPA programme. The programme was successfully launched in China and contributed to MAP sector programmes in Afghanistan. It enabled ICIMOD to generate funding for scaling up of good practices in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Some of the significant achievements include the development of organic production protocols and local certification of MAPs through Chhattisgarh Certification (CGCERT) in India; documentation of traditional knowledge of MAPs in China and Nepal; pro-poor value chain development in Nepal and India; streamlining MAPs supply chains in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal; and a review of policies in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. MAPPA successfully competed in a call for global research projects on MAPs by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) funded by IDRC. The project partners in India generated USD 1 million from the seed funds provided by MAPPA from NMPB and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Strategic partnerships with nodal agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Bhutan; National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), India; and Herbs and NTFP Coordination Committee (HNCC) in Nepal, enabled MAPPA to contribute to national MAP programmes in these countries. Collaboration with research institutions such as the Kunming Institute of Botany, China; CSK Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University, India; Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal; and experts in the field, informed both technological and policy aspects of development of the sector. Provincial governments and national and local NGOs have participated in MAPPA programmes to develop innovative mechanisms to strengthen MAPs-based livelihoods and facilitated scaling up.

Major outcomes included improved conservation practices through local communities and income generation from MAPs at pilot sites; capacity development and empowerment of grassroots institutions and poor women and men in MAPs management; development of rural enterprises and value-added traditional medicinal products; improved institutional capacity for management of MAPs at the macro, meso, and micro levels; access to new information and concepts; exposure to good practices in the region and globally; and scaling up of MAPPA efforts by national governments. 

A concluding regional workshop was organised to share key findings and lessons learned with MAPPA partners and key stakeholders in September 2009. Participants appreciated the indispensible role that MAPPA had played in providing a regional knowledge platform, and professional knowledge brokering and networking among actors. Over the years, MAPPA had made significant progress and consolidated its flagship position as a programme of strategic research, collaboration, and networking on MAPs, in addition to its contributions to policy development, strengthening regional cooperation for conservation, and enterprise management and value chain development. 

The Devolution programme ended in September 2009. However, the majority of the projects and activities initiated and/or supported by the programme have become models in their respective areas and have been upgraded and continued by the MAPPA partners and other stakeholders.