Understanding territorial bioeconomy systems: The case of a rural women's community-based organisation in Colombia using biodiversity for the production of plant-based natural products
Daniela Mojica Lopez, Ricardo Vargas-Carpintero
University of Hohenheim, Dept. Biobased Resources in the Bioeconomy, Institute of Crop Sciences, Germany
The urgent need of balancing biodiversity conservation and its use as a source of livelihood options for rural inhabitants has gained increasing attention in the context of a growing biobased economy in rich biodiverse countries. One outstanding case is represented by the Guapi rural women's community enterprise, ‘Ríos Unidos’. This community-based organisation is situated in Guapi, Cauca, in the Colombian Pacific. One of its production lines is Chanzará Products, where wild plants are transformed into phytotherapeutic products, employing traditional knowledge and techniques. Within the Chanzará product line and throughout the practical experience of the organisation, different needs that can be converted into upgrading opportunities have been identified. For instance, the improvement of technical aspects in product formulation and the determination of fair product prices are key strategies. Given the territorially-embedded nature of this organisation, a community enterprise, the transversal consideration of the social dimension is essential. Hence, this study conducts a quantitative and qualitative study with a systems approach of the Chanzará Product line. This is carried out through a multidimensional analysis covering the economic (i.e., value added) and technical perspectives (product formulation), in a context where traditional knowledge and handicraft elaboration are the building blocks of the production system. By means of participatory methods such as net mapping, semi-structured interviews, and observation, the organisational structure and the values associated to the products are elucidated. Additionally, the distribution of economic value along the value chain was analysed using the commercial margin calculation. Two key upgrading strategies and actions were identified. First, an experimental design, execution, and evaluation of product formulation, namely a facial cream, was carried out following a participatory action research (PAR) approach. This resulted in the co-creation of two additional items for the facial line, a tonic and a serum, in addition to optimising the facial cream. A second action was the standardisation of the formulations and procedures for the nine Chanzará Products. This study contributes to generating empirical evidence of bottom-up initiatives dedicated to the sustainable use of biodiversity and identifying success factors and improvement possibilities that can be replicated in other cases.
Keywords: Bottom-up approaches, community based enterprises, participatory action research, phytoterapeutic products, wild plants
Contact Address: Daniela Mojica Lopez, University of Hohenheim, Dept. Biobased Resources in the Bioeconomy, Institute of Crop Sciences, Im chausseefeld 7 zi 6341, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany, e-mail: mojicalopez87gmail.com