Launch of SUBLIMAGE L’EXTRAIT using Bhutanese Swertia chirayita – From Lauri Gewog, Samdrup Jongkhar to Chanel Parfums Beaute, France

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The SUBLIMAGE L’EXTRAIT, a Chanel product using an active ingredient from Swertia chirayita grown in the remote parts of Lauri Gewog under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkag has been launched by Chanel Parfums Beaute (Chanel PB) based in France in October 2022. This product from Chanel is an outcome of the last almost 10 years of communication, planning and research under the access and benefit sharing (ABS) collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan and the Chanel PB.

The following link provides the details of the product (https://www.chanel.com/us/skincare/p/147450/sublimage-lextrait-intensive-repair-oil-concentrate/)

The collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, through the National Biodiversity Centre, Serbithang and the Chanel PB on access and utilization of Swertia chirayita  (locally known as Jatig/Khalu) for possible use in the cosmeceutical products started at the end of the 10th Five Year Plan .i.e sometime in 2013.

The plant Swertia chirayita is a potential non-wood forest product serving as a source of income for the local communities in Lauri Gewog under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag. In the past, this plant was collected from the wild without much management plans and sold mainly to India through an open auction process fetching just about Nu. 150-200/ kg of dried material depending upon the quality.  Today, after the successful cultivation research trials supported by the National Biodiversity Centre and the Department of Agriculture, Lauri farmers now grow Swertia chirayita in their backyard fields along with other crops. With the successful domestication of Swertia chirayita, it is now sustainably sourced and used without depleting its stock in the wild. It is harvested manually after every 3 years during the flowering cycle and then researched for active ingredients for skin-restoring complexes specific to Chanel PB.

A formal group of chirayita growers mainly from Tshothang, Rashithang, Betshaling, Wongthi, Lauri, Momring and Dungmanma under Lauri Gewog was formed with fifty-eight members and it is known by the name Pedmai Tshothang Ngomen Khalui Bedrur Dey. It is a community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) group sourcing the domestically grown S. chirayita to Chanel PB and hence the plant now has a secured market under the contractual (Access and Benefit Sharing) agreement between Chanel PB and Ministry.

Pedmai Tshothang Ngomen Khalui Bedrur Dey- the S. chirayita growing community of Lauri Gewog, Samdrupjongkhar Dzongkhag

The group is guided by a by-law and it obliges the group to supply a required quantity of quality chirayita to Chanel PB annually and in the event that they have excess chirayita they are allowed to explore additional markets. This creates a win-win situation whereby the group does not have to worry about the market of their produce and Chanel PB has a secured supply of the raw materials in the process. A minimum of 2000 kg of chirayita is supplied to Chanel annually at the rate of Nu. 750 per kg (dried) which is a much higher rate as compared to the price when sold through auction in the neighbouring markets. In addition to the monetary benefits, the group also receives various non-monetary benefits such as capacity-building training and the supply of tools and implements required for growing S. chirayita. From the benefits they receive from the Chanel PB, annually, the group contributes Nu. 100,000.00 to the Bhutan Access and Benefit Sharing Fund (BABS) as a symbolic contribution towards biodiversity conservation efforts. In addition to the above, the group also receives various other supports to benefit the whole community. This venture has immensely benefited the group in enhancing their livelihoods, particularly in terms of supporting their children’s education. This secured income proved to be their lifeline especially during the COVID19 pandemic when the borders were closed and the region was declared a high-risk zone with the restriction of movement outside the region.

It is hoped that Bhutan with its rich biodiversity and its good practices for conservation and sustainable utilization of its biological diversity, would be able to find good partnerships with some companies and or individuals both within and outside the country to derive tangible economic benefits and enhance rural livelihood through the ABS regime. Chanel has been a wonderful partner in this initiative and we thank Chanel and look forward to continuing our collaboration and take it to a greater level.

The ABS policy of Bhutan ensures the three most important aspects of using the biological diversity of the country i.e. (1) Conservation; (2) Sustainable utilisation; and (3) fair and equitable sharing of the benefits generated by the resources of the country.