In 2003, an international aid project entitled 'Medicinal Plants Innovation Project' was begun under the 'not-for-profit' management of a New Zealand natural products company Forest Herbs Research Ltd. through funding from the New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency, NZAID.


Developing an innovative approach the project identified several medicinal plants with potential for international markets. Farmers from several communes were invited to participate in the project through the propagation and cultivation of these selected species. The species selected showed such promise that in 2005, project farmers formed an association, the Sa Pa Indigenous Medicinal Plants Association (SIMPA), to continue the cultivation and production of the plants and their products beyond the term of the funded project. SIMPA became a legally registered Association in 2005; however, it was also acknowledged that to further develop the Association and its activities support would need to be provided for the farmers. This support was provided through the formation of Sa Pa Essentials (SPE). As well as being a business in its own right, SPE works to build the capacity of the Association members through, amongst other things, business training, finding markets for its products, technical expertise, and liaison with lawyers (the Australian law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, AAR, is providing pro bono support to SIMPA regarding IP issues). SPE and SIMPA are so closely linked that it is to the benefit of both that each support the other.



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