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Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch., (Asteraceae) known in English as Costus, is a threatened Himalayan medicinal plant listed on CITES (2014) Appendix I, Schedule VI of the Wildlife Protection Act (India) 1972, and Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Wild collection of Costus is banned in India and permission is required for its cultivation and marketing. In the past 100 years of cultivation, various policy and management issues have impacted commercialization of the species. In 2015, we conducted surveys in the village of Kanol, Chamoli District, Uttarakhand, India to determine the status of Costus cultivation, problems associated with its marketing and the potential for expanded propagation to enhance local livelihoods. Forty-nine farmers in the study area were cultivating costus and interest in its cultivation had increased in the recent past due to the availability of governmental support. Annually, 1,250â€“2,950 kg roots (dried) and 20â€“57 kg seeds from this plant were produced by farmers within the study area. The area under Costus cultivation per farm was fairly constant (0.5 or 0.6 ha.) from 2012 to 2014, and the production of roots per farm ranged from 128 to 156 kg per year. Market prices for dried roots per kg had decreased over time. We found that regional and national marketing of the plant was not a problem for farmers, but export of cultivated products was a major challenge due to existing laws. In addition, local understanding related to post-harvest value addition, and self-reliance in Costus cultivation, was generally poor. Better national policies that increase the prospects for export, and more outreach to local villagers, are needed to improve the conservation and sustainable uses of Costus.
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