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Through Women’s Lenses: A Photo Story on Documenting Biocultural Plant Species in the Salween Peace Park by the Women Research Group

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Nestled amidst the lush rainforests of Myanmar, the Salween Peace Park is a haven for biodiversity. Within its borders, a dedicated team of women researchers, known as the Women Research Group, is embarking on a crucial mission: documenting the biocultural plant species that sustain their Indigenous identities and communities. This photo story delves into their journey, capturing the challenges they face and the remarkable achievements they’ve made in preserving this vital knowledge. Prepare to be inspired by their dedication as we explore the intricate world of plant life in the Salween Peace Park, documented through the lens of these remarkable women.

All information provided by Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
All photos provided by the Women Research Group (KESAN)

The Women Research Group (WRG) consists of Indigenous Karen women who passionately document the Salween Peace Park (SPP) biodiversity, which is an Indigenous conserved territory spanning over 6,000 square km in Mutraw district, Kawthoolei, Myanmar.  

As the primary caretakers of their communities and territories, Indigenous Karen women have an intimate understanding of the environment and the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Documenting ethnobotanical knowledge is risky and sometimes dangerous.

Here one of the research team members is crossing a river on a bridge made up of bamboo.

Without their brave endeavors, we wouldn’t know facts like the leaves and flowers of the honeysuckle are edible and have medicinal value.

One of the important aspects of their work is working together and sharing knowledge with the local communities.

Before conducting research in the forest, the locals pray for their safety as a sign of respect for nature and the spirits.

One way of documenting progress is by measuring plants. Here, the research team is measuring the “Ter Aye Shay” plant during field research. Some “Ter Aye Shay” plants are found in forests, while some are planted. They are edible, and their roots are cooked with meat. 

Another way is to label the plants so that they are on file for record and future reference. Here, the plant is labeled in the Karen language. “Paw Kwaw Gaw” is one of the flowers that bloom during the rainy season.

“Bulbophyllum bittnerianum” is a flower found in the Karen area. It is considered the ‘spirit of rice’, and the locals also use it for decoration and other purposes.

“Agaric fungus” is one of the edible varieties of mushrooms found in the forest.

Aside from ethnobotany, the WRG also organises awareness-raising events with participants, including students, community leaders, and the Kawthoolei Forestry Department members. The WRG shares information about the ethnobotany survey and insights about local plant species with the community.

As a result of their hard work, other community forest leaders have extended invitations to the Women Research Group to conduct research in their community forests.

This is a big win for women working in biodiversity conservation!


ABOUT KAREN ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL ACTION NETWORK (KESAN)
KESAN is a restoration site partner of Women4Biodiveristy in Myanmar. Their focus area is 5, 911 hectares (strong coverage with some degraded areas) of the Kheshorter Community Forest, located west of Lu Thaw Township, Mutraw (Papun) District and east of Mon Township of Klerlweehtoo (Nyaunglaybin) District of Kawthoolei in Myanmar. The forest is under the collective governance, protection and management of fifteen (15) indigenous Karen communities living in three village tracts: Kay Pu, Ler Mu Plaw, and Saw Mu Plaw of Mutraw District. This project will also involve communities from nearby CFs Lay Kay and Ler Mu Khlo.

READ the report on Gender Responsive Approaches to Biodiversity Governance: A Review of Policies and Frameworks in Kawthoolei and Myanmar.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, go here.

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