Why Support Iboga Conservation?
Iboga is a sacred medicine that is part of a complex traditional healing and initiation system in Gabon and is fundamental to a way of life.
Due to increasing demand in the West, over-harvesting, illegal poaching and trade, this “sacred wood” is experiencing rapid decline in the wild and is becoming increasingly difficult for local people in Gabon to access their own medicine for traditional and cultural purposes.
There are major sustainability concerns facing iboga. Significant measures must be taken to protect and conserve this medicine, or risks extinction in the wild.
Did you Know?
Where your donation Goes
BLESSINGS OF THE FOREST
Their goal is to listen, understand and support the Gabonese people in the work of preservation and reciprocity for the sharing of their natural and cultural heritage, so that ALL PARTIES benefit.
THEY are dedicated to ensuring that this is done fairly and sustainably, through alignment with the direct implementation of the Nagoya Protocol, thereby protecting the rich resources of the Gabonese forest as well as promoting the way of life of the Gabonese forest peoples.
BLessings of the forest
project initiatives by the numbers...
Community villages supported
Iboga Trees protected & Conserved
Iboga trees protected & Planted
Blessings Of The Forest helps to establish Iboga farms led by local communities to turn the cultivation of Iboga into a sustainable alternative to the devastating poaching industry, while supporting the needs of the local communities.
Blessings of the Forest helps encourage villagers to follow traditional permaculture principles to grow Iboga naturally rather than using modern monoculture methods.
They have introduced apiary (bee hives) as permaculture protocol in 5 of the villages which acts as an immediate source of revenue as well as a natural protection from elephants who can damage the Iboga plantations because they love to eat the fruit.
These cultivation projects include community health, access to clean water, and protection of cultural traditions. They also prioritize the transmission of ancestral knowledge, while supporting elders to continue their traditional healing work.
Consent, access, and benefit sharing are key elements of the Nagoya Protocol. This international protocol is meant to ensure fair and equitable sharing of profits with communities with regard to their traditional plants and knowledge.
Ensuring the sustainability and the preservation of traditional knowledge of iboga requires that any exported iboga is traceable and complies with the Nagoya Protocol.
Essentially what BOTF is doing is working alongside the government to set up an ethical fair trade route so that once iboga leaves the country it is traceable to the origin, which allows local communities to then receive a fair percentage of the profits.
These benefits can provide communities with funds for local projects, support for building temples, accessing essential living supplies like water, and training the next generation of spiritual leaders.
What is Iboga?
Tabernanthe Iboga is a perennial rainforest shrub native to the forests of Central Africa containing a therapeutic alkaloid in the root bark known as ibogaine (amongst many others).
Iboga is a sacred plant medicine referred to as “Bois Sacre” – French for “Sacred Wood”.
Local communities in Gabon have traditionally worked with Iboga for healing ceremonies and cultural rights of passage and for many, Iboga is a way of life.
Iboga grows most abundantly in Gabon, yet remains very difficult to cultivate outside of this region due to lack of knowledge and supply of viable seeds.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
has placed iboga on their red list making it a plant of concern around sustainability,
especially in Gabon.
Deforestation in Africa
and climate change are two of the largest factors contributing to increased pressure of iboga in the wild.
In Gabon, there is an extensive network of national parks. Many of the remaining forests are under threat from logging, mining concessions, and lumber trade.
The forests are fenced off, and access for the local people is restricted, yet even in protected areas, there are reports of illegal poaching.
Climate change also has an effect on Iboga. The rainy seasons in Gabon are becoming shorter and the average temperature has increased causing stress and pressure to the entire ecosystem.
The Opioid Crisis in the West:
Since the discovery of the anti-addictive properties of ibogaine in the 1960s, global practices with Ibogaine and iboga extracts have been slowly expanding.
Ibogaine is shown to have potential in the treatment of opioid dependency as well as other addictions.
This makes Iboga an attractive alternative to traditional addiction treatment modalities.
In the last 10 years, there has been a rapid surge of ibogaine clinics, providers and retreat centers popping up all over the world, many of which aim to provide alternative solutions for addiction treatment and recovery.
This is a noble endeavor, however, many of these clinics and providers are (knowingly or unknowingly) contributing to the problem rather than the solution when it comes to ensuring the conservation and sustainability of Iboga.
Iboga can also have psycho-spiritual benefits and is increasingly sought after in spiritual communities as a catalyst for personal growth, placing more pressure on the wild populations of the shrub.
The vast majority of iboga
is purchased on the black market and is associated with elephant poaching and the degradation of the African forest
Most people are unaware that the Iboga they are purchasing comes from the black market, which has many unfortunate consequences.
This illegal black market trade contributes to the degradation of the African forest and facilitates wildlife poaching. Oftentimes, Iboga is sold alongside poached ivory within black markets.
Iboga is native to several countries in Central Africa, however, traditional practices with Iboga are primarily found in Gabon. Illegal trafficking networks in other African countries where the plant is scarce, such as Cameroon, have also had an impact on wild Iboga from Gabon which is taken across the border and sold there.
Based on the work of the NGO “Blessings of the Forest,” in 2019, the Gabonese government began to develop export regulations to ensure the sustainability of the plant and is currently developing processes that will allow for the export of cultivated and traceable Iboga. There is hope that the availability of traceable Iboga will promote sustainable cultivation and reduce poaching.
Iboga is part of a complex and biodiverse ecosystem
that is being destroyed.
Iboga and elephants have a beautiful and symbiotic relationship. The elephants know where Iboga grows and they seek it out to eat the fruit thus spreading Iboga seeds throughout the forest. Some say it is the elephant that taught humans how to consume Iboga.
Over 60% of African-forest elephants live in Gabon, and between 2002-2013 there was a 65% decline in the elephant population. The Gabonese organization Blessings Of The Forest suggests a link between elephant poaching and Iboga poaching.
Rather than partially harvesting the root bark of Iboga, the entire plants are being uprooted, further straining the sustainability of this plant.
The Iboga plant is slow growing, and takes at least 7-10 years to mature.
The traditional and sustainable method for harvesting Iboga is where only a few roots are removed at one time from a plant, leaving the root-stock to redevelop and in fact grow back stronger over a few years.
For ease of convenience and to maximize immediate profits, illegal poachers tend to uproot the entire plant rather than harvest a few roots at a time.
The consequences of this unsustainable harvesting practice over the past 10 years has put additional strain on the supply of Iboga growing in the wild, leaving the future supply of Iboga scarce.
The globalization of iboga, alongside deforestation and other social, economic and political pressures, are impacting traditional ways of life for Gabonese people.
Traditional communities face difficulties in obtaining good quality and fairly priced iboga for their rituals, ceremonies and spiritual practices.
Vibrant and Rich Iboga spiritual traditions – such as Bwiti; a culture about life in symbiosis with the forest – are being impacted
In Bwiti traditions, Iboga is considered both a spirit and a door to the spirit world.
Within these traditions, Iboga is only one part of a complex and intertwined set of beliefs and practices that include ritual, ceremony, traditional healing practices, and relationships with the spiritual world.
Like in many places in the world, long histories of colonization have impacted the transmission of traditional knowledge. Missionaries and Evangelical religions brought stigma against African spiritual practices, which continues today.
In addition, there is currently no government support to promote traditional spiritual and medicine practices.
In the face of these pressures, communities continue to practice Iboga traditions and ways of life. Some are aware of the globalization of their sacred medicine and want to be included.
Alternatives to Wild Harvested Iboga
The sustainability of T. iboga in Gabon, as well as the conservation risks outlined above, all lead to an increased need for alternative options to meet the global demand and ensure consent and benefit sharing with traditional cultures and communities.
At the time of writing, the only traceable ibogaine present in the international market comes from a semi-synthesis extraction from Voacanga africana plants that are mainly cultivated in Ghana.
Further cultivation of V. africana is an important step in ensuring that there is a supply of ibogaine and other alkaloids for the international market.
To secure the future of iboga in a globalized context, further research is needed to increase our understanding about T. iboga cultivation, to identify alternative sources for ibogaine, including V. africana, and synthetic alkaloids.
What we can do
to make this happen?
WE HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN PROTECTING THE SUSTAINABILITY OF IBOGA AS WELL AS TO PROMOTE RESPECT FOR THE IBOGA SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS.
Iboga is in deep synergy with the ecosystem and we are not separate from the ecosystem.
It is vital that we honor traditional cultural practices and the sacredness of the plant. If you choose to journey with Iboga, please consider deeply what your intention for taking this medicine is and how you can be in right relationship with the plant and the culture that it comes from.
Due to global over-consumption of Iboga, the poaching of animals that naturally plant it, deforestation, climate change and the abandonment of the traditional village way of life , Iboga is becoming increasingly rare in Gabon and could well disappear from the Gabonese public domain by 2025 if no sustainable conservation and plantation projects are put in place.
– Yann Guignon, Blessings of the Forest