Home-grown industry – modernising Zaamin’s pharmacy gardens
25 Jun 2016
By Blogging Consultant James Brindley
For centuries Zaamin has been Uzbekistan’s natural pharmacy, with a combination of medical herbs and a clean environment making it ideal for spas and treatment centres.
The area’s plants have long been gathered and sold, but the challenge is to modernise the process as a way of improving local-level economic growth. It is not the first time UNDP and its partners have recognised and sought to tap into Zaamin’s potential – the Local Governance Support Programme boosted the region’s health tourism potential as a means of making sure profits stay in communities.
In the same direction, UNDP’s ‘Reducing Pressures on Natural Resources from Competing Land Use in Non-Irrigated Arid Mountain, Semi-Desert and Desert Landscapes of Uzbekistan’ project and Zaamin District Forestry are seeking to grow the industry in directions that will benefit communities.
Big industry on a practical scale
Buckthorn, hawthorn, Indian cumin, water pepper and many other herbs grow in the region – previously they’ve been used in teas and poultices, to the benefit of the people that collect them, but the beefnits have not been enjoyed much further afield. It’s UNDP’s goal to keep this industry on a community scale, but to enhance the numbers of employees involved and introduce more profitable practices, so that communities can grow, while more people benefit from the herbs.
The Zaamin District Forestry’s manager Abdukadir Sarimsokov told us the number of people who have benefited from the industry’s expansion. “Currently about 1,000 people from 12 villages are collecting and selling medicinal plants, 70% collected from within the forestry territory," he told UNDP. “More than 18 medicinal plants are cultivated by these groups, for a good price that benefits them.”
Boosting the industry has been a multifaceted effort. Firstly, the means by which farms operate have been revaluated – desert plants have been used on the ‘Rustamnamo’ and ‘Zomin Chorvador’ model farms, in order to prevent land degradation.
These farms have since yielded good results and intend to share seedlings with other farms – ultimately it’s hoped that most plants will be grown on private properties, a practice that will help propagate rare species. “Special attention will be paid to chamomile and rosehip,” Mr. Sarimsokov added. “They are rare in the wild and distributing them among the population will increase their volumes,”
The industrial side of herb processing is also a target for investment. To boost efficiency and keep profits in communities, the project has provided processing equipment and field expertise, with the purpose of making a marketable product within Zaamin that can be quality controlled at its source.
“This project will demonstrate efficiency in producing medicinal plant products, in contrast to the uncontrolled collection and sale of medicinal plants in local markets and roads,” said project manager Tulkin Farmanov. “It will prevent unwanted spoilage of raw materials and increase product values, while creating additional jobs and incomes for households and farmers.”
This effort is expected to have significant economic impact. Previous annual collection and processing techniques generated only 20 million UZS (7,000) in profit, but revenue has now grown to 80 million UZS (27,400), divided between maintaining the industrial infrastructure and supporting residents involved in the industry.
Building overseas interest
In common with many other business development project in Uzbekistan, the challenge of this initiative is generating international interest and attention, while building people’s abilities to market and sell the products. This is a challenge that needs to be faced, and will be discussed in future blogs.
To learn more about the ‘Reducing Pressures on Natural Resources from Competing Land Use in Non-Irrigated Arid Mountain, Semi-Desert and Desert Landscapes of Uzbekistan’ project, visit its page here.
By blogging consultant James Brindley