Intervention by the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Lena Lindberg,

at the international workshop on Seabuckthorn, Beijing 30 August 1999.


Distinguished Vice-Minister Zhu Dengquan,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I have the pleasure of offering a few remarks at this important workshop concerning Seabuckthorn.

The Vice-Minister called Seabuckthorn a magical plant, and I would like to reinforce this by adding a few words in appreciation of this wonder of nature, even if you all in this audience are very familiar with the plant. Seabuckthorn has the power to live and grow in harsh conditions, withstanding not only heat or cold, but also drought, hard wind, and saline conditions. It regenerates very well naturally, and can even "climb" steep hillsides to some extent. Therefore, it can help stabilise land, where no other vegetation can grow. That would already be enough for man to adore this plant! However, it offers more than that. This magical plant also provides nutrition - nutrition to the soil, to animals and to people. The oil pressed from pulp and seeds of the berries has properties for medicinal application to cure heart and blood conditions and ulcers, to disinfect and to regenerate tissue after burns, only to mention some uses. Furthermore, it produces energy-rich fuelwood and, if carefully managed, good timber. In some areas, it can live and produce for a 100 years. As a medicinal (and cosmetical) plant, Seabuckthorn has high economic value worldwide.

The more and more severe floods in China are caused mainly by the equally severe soil erosion. The Government of China has already seen the power of Seabuckthorn in erosion control, and is since 1991 implementing an impressive programme of sowing and planting Seabuckthorn. Airseeding started apparently already in 1959, and the experience has shown that for areas with rainfall below 400 mm annually, the airseeding is ineffective and planting has to be done manually. With the help of local governments concerned, massive planting campaigns are under way, contracting farmers to plant while allowing them to benefit from the plantations.

At a first glance, one may ask if a development organisation like UNDP has any role to play in this regard, when the Government of China seems so well organised and implementing such effective planting operations. Yet, UNDP responded positively to the government's request for assistance, and a UNDP project started two years ago in collaboration with the Centre for Research and Training on Seabuckthorn (CRTS). The aim of UNDP's assistance is partly to further the technological development of Seabuckthorn, and partly, and most importantly, to ensure advancement in the economic development of the plantations and products, particularly for the benefit of local farmers who are mostly very poor in the degraded dryland areas in question. Economic development for the benefit of the local farmers means working closely together with the farmers in order to understand their needs and capacity, and to assist them in drawing optimal benefits from Seabuckthorn. The project thus is intended to remove constraints and minimise risks in Seabuckthorn plantations established by farmers (providing quality plants, and training on planting, management and harvesting), and introduce mechanisms for self-sustained plantations (private nurseries, processing facilities, marketing services, etc.). In some developed countries, Seabuckthorn is a source of wealth thanks to its oil with medicinal and cosmetical properties. Some of you here in the audience will speak about that, later. Thus, there is also an export value in Seabuckthorn. Initially, however, the UNDP project will concentrate on the values of Seabuckthorn for the domestic market. The local populations in the areas concerned generally lack sources of vitamins, and here we have a plant with berries that are unusually rich in minerals and vitamins (more vitamin C than kiwi!). The juices and jams produced from Seabuckthorn in China are still expensive. This needs to change so that people on the Loess Plateau, in Xinjiang, and Tibet will be able to eat and drink more of the nutritious products from the plant many of them now work so hard to plant!

As a world development organisation, UNDP promotes cooperation between countries, and particularly cooperation between developing countries. UNDP congratulates the initiative to establish an international Seabuckthorn organisation, and appreciates the fact that there are country representatives here today from four continents.

In closing, allow me to mention the world EXPO '99 on horticulture, which is presently ongoing in Kunming, in Southwest China. UNDP has a modest little exhibition booth in the International Hall of the EXPO, and the booth is decorated with a Seabuckthorn plant. This plant is the only live item in the exhibition area where UNDP and other international organisations have their booths, and as such the plant attracts a lot of attention from the visitors. I am very happy that the CRTS assisted us to decorate our booth with a Seabuckthorn plant and its products. Since the EXPO is receiving very high numbers of visitors from China and foreign countries, it will help spread the word that Seabuckthorn is a fantastic plant for the world--a magical plant, as the Vice-Minister said, indeed.

On behalf of UNDP, I wish every success with the workshop!

Thank you.