Bibhu Kalyan Mohanty has enabled farmers and communities to economically benefit from the big business of plant-based natural remedies, while preserving the fast disappearing knowledge of traditional folk medicine and strengthening small organic farming in India.
Bibhu’s organization, Sambandh, first started by establishing the “Healing Heritage Producers Company” (HHPC) owned by local producers, organic farmers, medicinal plant collectors, and women’s Self Help Groups. The HHPC is an organised platform that promotes herbal knowledge products, equity share and assured income and employment. This is meeting the needs of millions while providing alternative employment for more than 10,000 primary producers. In addition, an organic bazaar has been established in two districts in Odisha. The Participatory Guarantee System which certifies organic products through peer groups, has been replicated by various organisations and accepted by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Sambandh has been working with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Odisha Forest Department to identify threatened plant species, and advise farmers on where best to plant them to ensure their survival. In addition, Good Agricultural and Collection practices (GACP) Guidelines, designed to help local healers, cultivators and farmers understand the scientific way to grow and collect plants, are now accepted by the forest department and shared with local healers, producers, collectors and cultivators.
Bibhu has been formalizing traditional health and nutrition knowledge through government and community organizations. For example, oral knowledge is now documented through Community Knowledge Registers across 400 communities. This successful practice has been adopted by the National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai. Bibhu also established the Traditional Knowledge Resource Centre in 2010 to create a national center of learning on the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples. He has set up community level bio-cultural learning centres at four sites providing information on protocols, procedures, rules, and regulations related to health care, conservation of medicinal plants and sustainable use, and livelihood options for poverty eradication.
Sambandh has also been working with the Planning Commission to promote local health traditions in India. The Commision is a key agency on conservation of medicinal plants and is part of the implementation of the Country Cooperation Framework Project of UNDP and in Orissa by Ministry of Environment and Forests. Bibhu plans on building a case for bringing plant-based herbal medicine into existing mainstream health programs in India.
Note: This was updated in December, 2013. Read on for the ELECTION profile