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FairWildWeek: How to support wild harvesting fairly

The latest in our series with Cambridge Conservation Initiative explores a sustainability drive.

When you’re making a cup of tea, enjoying a handful of nuts, or even taking medicine, do you ever stop to examine the list of ingredients on the back of the packet? You may be surprised to learn that many of these products contain plant ingredients that are not farmed but instead harvested from the wild.

Shea nuts
Shea nuts

Wild plant ingredients can be found in many commonplace foods, cosmetics and health products, including liquorice, argan oil, shea butter and Juniper. Between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of medicinal and aromatic plant ingredients in multiple consumer products come from the wild.

These species need careful management throughout the supply chain to ensure they are not over-harvested to extinction. It is not just species at risk from harvesting – the harvesters of wild plants worldwide rely on the trade for a significant proportion of their income.

“Millions of people rely on wild plant collection for their healthcare and livelihoods – from rural rosehip harvesters in Serbia to baobab fruit collectors in Zimbabwe. Consumers across the world reap the vast benefits of this harvesting,” says Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s senior programme co-ordinator – sustainable trade.

#FairWildWeek – which continues until June 25 – celebrates the hidden wild plant ingredients we encounter in our daily lives and explains how consumers can help create a sustainable future for wild plants and the people who depend on them.

Liquorice harvesters
Liquorice harvesters

“Wild harvested plant ingredients are everywhere – in the medicines, cosmetics, health products, food, drinks, spices and even furniture that we all use,” says Emily King, business engagement officer at FairWild Foundation.

“FairWild Week highlights the use of wild ingredients in our everyday products and celebrates those who sustainably source these wild ingredients through FairWild certification – you can support these producers by looking for the FairWild logo on their packaging.”

#FairWildWeek 2021 is calling companies to get involved too. Are you using wild-harvested products in the products you sell? Proudly declare your use of wild ingredients online by using the hashtag #WeUseWild.

The week contains information for both consumers and businesses to understand the benefits of sustainably managed wild-harvested trade and learn how to get involved. To start the week, you can learn more through a free webinar featured on our website called ‘Wild Plants are Our Business.’

Goji berry harvesters
Goji berry harvesters

#FairWildWeek is co-hosted by the Swiss-based charity, The FairWild Foundation, and TRAFFIC, an international NGO specialising in understanding trade in wild plants and animals.

The FairWild Foundation was established in 2001 to focus on the ecological fair trade of wild plant species and contribute to their survival and sustainable use. The charity, based in Switzerland with the UK secretariat in Cambridge, works in partnership with international organisations, including IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), ProFound, WWF International, the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and TRAFFIC.

“FairWild provides best practice guidelines and certification schemes to ensure the supply chain of wild-collected products is ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable,” adds Emily.

FairWild has some of the same requirements as other ‘fair trade’ standards (Fair for Life, Fairtrade, Fair Trade USA) and environmental sustainability standards (Rainforest Alliance or organic certifications). However, FairWild also has unique additional criteria for environmental sustainability of wild-harvested plants, fungi and lichen ingredients.

Caitlin Schindler, TRAFFIC’s Wild at Home project officer, explains: “As consumers, we need to be checking the social and ecological sustainability of the products we are using. But sometimes that is easier said than done!”

The FairWild logo
The FairWild logo

And this is where FairWild plays a crucial role. By checking for the FairWild logo, you know that the product meets the requirements of the FairWild Standard. The FairWild Standard is a set of guidelines that ensures the sustainable sourcing and ethical collection of wild plants that respects traditional harvest methods.

You can support the growers and businesses by purchasing FairWild products. Look out for the FairWild logo on high street brands such as Pukka Herbs, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Dr Jackson’s and Juniper Green Organic Gin.

As a consumer, you have the power to change the market. Ask the brands you buy from what wild ingredients they use, where they’re from, and what they do to protect the species and the collectors involved.

If you find a company that you think should become a FairWild participant, encourage them to contact the FairWild Foundation Secretariat based in Cambridge.

This #FairWildWeek, let others know about possible wild-harvested ingredients you’ve found – post a photo online with the hashtag #IFoundWild.

Support FairWild’s mission to transform wild plant trade to be ecologically, socially and economically sustainable throughout the supply chain of wild-collected products. Donate and learn more about this international project at fairwild.org and follow @FairWild on social media.

12 to try

  • Frankincense (Boswellia spp) – incense and cosmetics
  • Shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa) – chocolate and cosmetics
  • Jatamansi/Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) – aromatherapy
  • Gum Arabic (Acacia spp. or E414) – fizzy drinks, chewing gum
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – traditional medicine
  • Candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) – lip balms, hair products
  • Pygeum (Prunus africana) – traditional medicine
  • Argan oil (Argania spinosa) - cosmetics
  • Baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata) – food and cosmetics
  • Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) – food
  • Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza spp) – herbal teas, traditional medicine, food and cosmetics
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis) – gin, herbal products

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