Plants and herbs have been used as a medicine since ancient times in pretty much every culture. Collecting these plants however requires certain degree of knowledge, as the collector needs to be able to identify herbs correctly, and also know where to find them. This knowledge was often passed down from generation to generation. Today, and since the middle of the 20th century, due to urbanization, changes in land ownership and lifestyle this traditional knowledge is unfortunately being lost. Plant collection that does take place is done in an unsustainable manner leading to the decline of a key employment for vulnerable groups as it is often an important source of additional income for the Roma ethnic minority, women and the elderly.
Central Europe used to be and still is among the main exporters of products originating from plants – e.g. medicinal and spice plants - to processors in Western Europe. Wild collection represents 30-40% of medicinal drug production. In Europe it is estimated that about 2000 plants are traded commercially, of which 60-70% are natives. Up to 90% of these species are still collected from the wild. These plants constitute an important market and an important genetic base for many essential drugs. With continued growth in this sector, it is important for the countries of Central Europe to join forces to develop a coherent approach to plant supply in order to ensure that this demand does not exhaust natural stocks and the traditional knowledge base is preserved. The goal of Traditional and Wild is to protect and share this declining cultural heritage and also to improve livelihoods of vulnerable groups in rural parts of Central Europe.
The aim of Traditional and wild project is to protect, collect and share the declining cultural heritage on traditional use of the wild growing plants. Maintenance and updating of the collection activity would contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of vulnerable groups in rural parts of Central Europe. The project started the last 6 months of implementation. A comprehensive Socio-economic analysis discussed at a workshop in Sep. 2012 in Brno shows the demographic and economic situation in the target areas. According to experiences, collection of wild plants may assure economic value however, local people should be motivated. Training materials on traditional use, written and unwritten rules of collection, national and international regulations, sustainable practices of harvesting and processing of plants were developed and published. Several trainings were organized as the implementation of this new tool. Database about the promising wild plants in the project implementation region was developed. Market and income generation strategy was developed for the target regions. The results were introduced in Lokve, October 2013. The study based on personal interviewing it will help evaluating of market possibilities and customs. This study would support target people reaching market facilities, creating realistic business plans. While using natural resources, sustainability must not be neglected. The results of resource assessments were elaborated and discussed in October 2012 in Lokve. Besides, offering a model for establishing long term utilization of natural vegetation, they serve as basis of further activities in income generation. A Capacity-building strategy including methods of data analysis, mapping of intellectual and natural capacities, personal potentials in target region, describing the way of identification of needs for training and partnership building represent the first comprehensive transnational guideline. Main goals of the project include collection of ethnobotanical knowledge of local populations to detect if people are aware of the treasures of nature. Summary of the regions results were developed. According to data obtained a significant interests both of elderly and young was experienced, however, new information from media seems frequently to overcome traditions. Toolbox will be a useful tool where the most important information, links and regulations are collected about the wild plant collection (Link: whygowild.com). Exhibition sites contribute to raising awareness of people on cultural heritage about plants and teach them to benefit from the traditions. A folklore house has been opened in Kunadacs, Hungary, in October 2012 while exhibition room about religious and superstitious aspects of wild plans has been opened in the Open Air Museum in Kolbuszowa, Poland. Plant dryer has been chosen and installed in Lednice, Czech Republic. Herbal gardens have already been created in Slovenia.