Community biodiversity registry: a tool of empowering people

Green Foundation

Recent developments of the international trade regimes have posed new threats to the conservation of biodiversity.  Patents and intellectual property rights have been defined by the WTO primarily to empower the corporations who are exploiting the biodiversity for commercial interests.  Natural resources like the seed, plants genes, cell lines and soil microorganism are being brought under the purview of the TRIPS of  the WTO.

One of the efforts of the ngo movements in various parts of the world to counter the appropriation of the biological wealth and the knowledge is the reinforcement of the community intellectual rights.  In international law, the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) is perhaps the most comprehensive document.

CBD gives importance to the countries to their biological resources and the indigenous knowledge related to biodiversity. According to the CBD, each country, which is party to the convention, shall subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conervation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovation and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovation and practices

The convention that came into force in 1993 has today a membership of over 170 countries.  However the stated objectives are still to be put in place. In its 42 articles, the convention deals with several issues of biodiversity which are broadly encapsulated in the three main objectives of the convention viz.,a) Conservation b) Sustainable use c) Equitable sharing of benefits arising from biological resources. To achieve the larger objectives, it was agreed that there should be initiatives at various levels to put the process on the move.

Community Biodiversity Registers

Several initiatives are going on in various parts of the world to develop tools and systems for maintaining information on the local resources as a first step towards community intellectual property rights. A community biodiversity register (CBR) is the documentation of the resources and knowledge of biological resources of local communities of the local, regional and national levels by the people themselves for the purpose of rejuvenating the knowledge and conserving biodiversity.  The CBR is a tool keeping biodiversity knowledge alive in the community.  The biodiversity register can also be seen as a political tool to empower people and bring awareness about their rights to the resources.

Green Foundation has initiated a programme with active participation of the local communities. to create an inventory of the local biodiversity resources, firstly, to create an awareness and secondly, to create a sense of ownership of the resources by the community. How it went about making it a reality is being described.

The concept of  biodiversity register was explained to village elders, influential persons and opinion leaders. From these groups, members were selected to form biodiversity management committee. The people’s biodiversity conservation corps was formed from the group of villagers who are actually involved in the listing of biodiversity.

Initially, a resource map of the village was prepared as part of a PRA activity with the villagers. The area from which the data on resources  is being collected is identified and the boundaries are marked.  The documentation about the reources  is being done with the help of the knowledgeable persons of the village.

Green Foundation intends to cover an entire Panchayati in due course.  After all the species are identified and entered into the register, the people of the Panchayati, in the presence of the village administration and the district authorities, would declare that they would protect the natural resources and biodiversity of the community.  This would mean that the present members of the community would act as custodians of the community resources prevent anybody else claiming any right over the private rights over the property which belongs to the community.


Green Foundation

# 839, 23rd Main, J P Nagar II nd phase

Bangalore – 560 078

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