GSPC Target 13

Objective I: Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognized

Objective II: Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved

Objective III: Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner

Objective IV: Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted

Objective V: The capacities and public engagement necessary to implement the Strategy have been developed


The preservation, protection and promotion of the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of local and indigenous communities (TK) is of key importance, particularly for developing counties. Their rich endowment of  traditional knowledge and biodiversity plays a critical role in their health care, food security, culture, religion, identity, environment, sustainable development and trade.

Developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, traditional knowledge is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language, and agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds.

There is today a growing appreciation of the value of traditional knowledge. This knowledge is valuable not only to those who depend on it in their daily lives, but to modern industry and agriculture as well. Many widely used products, such as plant-based medicines and cosmetics, are derived from traditional knowledge. Other valuable products based on traditional knowledge include agricultural and non-wood forest products as well as handicraft.

Download an introduction to Target 13 here.

Learn more

This target is closely linked to Article 8j of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This article states that each contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:

Subject to national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge innovations and practices.

The implementation of this target is also related to Target 18 of the Aichi targets of the Strategic Plant for Biodiversity 2010-2020:

T18: By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.


Implementation of this target globally is related to the implementation of Article 8j of the CBD.  In this respect a Traditional Knowledge Information Portal has been developed by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in order to promote awareness and enhance access by indigenous and local communities and other interested parties to information on traditional knowledge, innovations and practices relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Implementation of this target is also supported by the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), a family of organizations and regional initiatives that promote agricultural, biological and cultural diversity around the world through research, training and social action.  GDF’s International Programme coordinates the Biocultural Diversity Learning Network (BDLN), which brings together innovative colleagues from diverse backgrounds and institutions to launch new courses, convene meetings to review progress and contribute to an Online Learning Guide on Biocultural Diversity.

A wide range of initiatives to conserve traditional knowledge have been developed at national and local levels, and some of these are documented on our YouTube channel.

Tools and resources

Please also check in the database of Tools of Resources for Case Studies relevant to this target.

Traditional knowledge and biodiversity (4817KB)

This book, published by the United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) includes case studies on biodiversity and traditional knowledge provided by several Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs), 



Traditional knowledge is sometimes referred to as oral traditions for it is knowledge that is practiced, sung, danced, painted, carved, chanted and performed down through generations. The preservation, protection and promotion of the traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities is important especially for developing counties. Their rich endowment of traditional knowledge is vital for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and trade. Implementation of this target is closely linked to Aichi Target 18 (traditional knowledge respected…).

The CBD have developed an electronic ‘Traditional Knowledge Information Portal’ to provide up-to-date information on traditional knowledge, innovations for the plant conservation practices ( The CBD have also been involved with organising workshops and training sessions in the attempt to maintain and preserve traditional knowledge. Further information can be viewed here  

The Potato Park (12,000ha) situated in a sacred Peruvian valley, is one of the few conservation projects where local indigenous people are involved with the management of the park. The indigenous communities are also involved in other aspects such as ecotourism; crafts; medicinal plants and natural products; gastronomy; video production; and potato seed production. - See more at: Through recent long term partnership between, Peru, Bhutan and China indigenous communities have agreed to share and exchange seeds.

India is the 2nd largest exporter for medicinal plants, after China, 40% of medicinal plants are found in the states of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh. Many local communities rely on the knowledge of plant healers. However amidst growing demand and alarming harvesting 316 important plant species are at risk placing many livelihoods under threat. The UNDP (The United Nations Development Programme) along with the Ministry for Forestry and Food have encouraged plant healer to document through ‘People’s Biodiversity Registers’ the medicinal plant used and the treatment they can offered. In the hope that the traditional local knowledge will not be lost.

In May 2013, the Missouri Botanical Garden hosted an international workshop on the need for a global program on the conservation of useful plants and traditional knowledge.  The workshop was attended by a number of international experts who issued a call to action which urged the development of a global programme on the conservation of useful plants and associated knowledge to address the loss of essential knowledge about plants and their uses, especially at the level of local communities. The participants concluded that there was a great urgency to address the vital importance of traditional knowledge about plants, their utility, management, and conservation. This unique, often ancient, and detailed knowledge is typically held and maintained by local and indigenous communities.

Useful information

International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) provides advice to the government parties, and influences the interpretations of government obligations to recognize and respect indigenous rights to the knowledge and resources. (



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