The LITSARA Story - Innovating Ancestral Knowledge

May 22, 2017

Lg Telingan Harvesting Tenem

The serenity of the highlands of Sarawak, Malaysia has an enigmatic hold on those who set foot on its soil.  From the cool mountain climate of the Lawas and Bario highlands in the north, to the remoteness of the Padawan range in the south, these areas are blessed with breath-taking views, peaceful remoteness and rich soil that leaves one with a feeling of calm and content.

Amidst these gentle hills and rolling valleys, the Kelabit villages of Pa’Ukat and Pa’Lungan in the Bario Highlands, Long Kerebangan and Long Telingan are homes to the Lun Bawangs in Lawas and the Bidayuh community of Kampung Kiding in the Padawan Range.  These five villages share a common resource, the Litsea cubeba tree which each community has long utilized for its culinary and healing properties. Through its Traditional Knowledge (TK) Documentation Programme and Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) of Biological Resources pilot demonstration project supported by UNDP with GEF grant financing, the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) has partnered with indigenous communities to study and develop innovative products from this exciting plant species.

Known to the Bidayuh as “Pahkak” and to the Kelabits and Orang Ulu as “Tenem”, the tree produces a scintillating scented essential oil that invigorates, rejuvenates and inspires. Laboratory tests have found that the essential oil derived from the Litsea trees in Sarawak differs from the same species which is found in China and other parts of the region. The essential oil show anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties, and is able to repel insects which making it suitable as an active ingredient in personal care products. This potential multipurpose oil derived from the fruits and leaves of the Litsea tree has led to Intellectual Property certifications - Geographical Identification (GI) for the tree (Sarawak Litsea) and Trademark for essential oil (LitSara®).

LitSara® project demonstrates the good spirit of ABS which utilises the acquisition of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) from participating communities, who themselves, are actively involved in the project which including the in-situ conservation of the Litsea cubeba plant’s natural habitat through sustainable harvesting using Good Wild Craft Practice. The project ensures that the valuable traditional knowledge is recognised and benefits, both in monetary and non-monetary way, are appropriately shared.

The project creates a value chain from the utilization of traditional knowledge associated with biological resources to the development of products for healthcare, personal care and cosmeceutical industries. The sharing of benefits with local indigenous communities allows them to improve their livelihood and at the same time preserve their traditional knowledge while promoting the sustainable use of the biological resources.


For more information on TK and SBC's work: | |

For more information on Access and Benefit-Sharing of Biological Resources in Malaysia:

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