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Suisse / Lausanne

Organising an ancient industry

FloreS, winner of the second call for projects in ‘Biodiversity and local knowledge’

Behind almost every product using natural ingredients is a collector of wild plants. The cosmetics, pharma and agro-alimentary industries are drawing increasingly on the natural resources of France’s wild flora. The FloreS project helps professional wild plant gatherers to achieve greater recognition for their unique skills and knowledge.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Organising an ancient industry
© Michael Arnou

Wild plant collecting in the French countryside has long been viewed as a minor, even archaic activity. But now, professional collectors are working to modernise their image. Wild plants are increasingly used by global industries; faced with their growing popularity, plant gatherers are eager to highlight their unique expertise and secure recognition for their craft as a guarantor of quality and environmental sustainability.

In partnership with the Association Française des Cueilleurs Professionnels de Plantes Sauvages (AFC) – and with support from the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès – the FloreS project explores ways to develop and promote sustainable wild plant gathering. Wild plant collecting is not an officially recognised activity: gatherers must choose from a variety of professional statuses that fail to reflect the true characteristics of their trade. Achieving professional recognition is a gradual process: one important first step – steered by the FloreS project – is the drawing-up of a charter for AFC members setting out the core principles and values upheld by the profession, and a systematic inventory of local knowledge and best practice. AFC members are the custodians of uniquely detailed knowledge of local flora and landscapes. As such, they seek to work more closely with certification organisations, and wilderness area authorities, to secure recognition for their profession, ensure the sustainable exploitation of wild flora, and preserve wilderness biodiversity. FloreS offers scientific support to this end.

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Project run by:
University of Lausanne – Institute of Geography and Sustainability

Valérie Boisvert, environmental economist (UNIL)
Claire Julliand, doctoral student (social anthropology) (UNIL)
Florence Pinton, sociologist (AgroParisTech)
Committee members of the AFC, Association Française des Cueilleurs Professionnels de Plantes Sauvages
Ezra Ricci and Florian Reinhard of the ADAP.