Mónica Litovsky Díaz

Ashoka Fellow


This profile was prepared when Mónica Litovsky Díaz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Monica is systematizing medicinal herb harvesting and integrating ancient healing practices into formal health and pharmaceutical markets. She has identified community pharmacies as a key link where regulated modern markets and ancient informal ones must meet, and has laid the groundwork for creative synthesis. Working with all interested parties, including the health establishment, traditional healers, herb harvesters, scientists, the academy, policy makers, private landowners, and business, Monica is creating a system that couples enhanced civic participation of a previously invisible population with policy that protects biodiversity while it expands the availability of high quality medicinal herbs. Further, it helps an enlarging formal market strengthen the position of small producers rather than exclude them. In Uruguay, with large local consumption of medicinal plants, a rich resource base, popular sectors whose knowledge is retrievable and useful, and where certification of medicinal herbs has come onto the public agenda, she has the advantage of starting with something of a blank slate and using what’s been done and left undone in other Latin American countries.
In the process of certification and regulation of herbs, Monica, with the broad array of institutions and participants she has woven together, tackles the issues from every angle. She is building a shared process for scientific cooperation, ensuring quality standards of herb harvesting and medicine production at the community level, preventing business practices that would harm plants or people, and changing policy to facilitate regulation and shape environmental protection.
Monica aims for Uruguay to set the standard for participative certification of medicinal herbs in the region and across the world. She sees applications of her model to be particularly relevant for countries like Brazil, which also struggles to reconcile environmental protection, traditional knowledge, and commercialization. Her work will inform the Southern Common Market’s (Mercosur’s) developing policy for trade in medicinal herbs. At the community level, trained herb collectors are replicating Monica’s work, teaching others, and spreading information.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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