Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Remembering Klaus Dürbeck: 1956-2016

HerbalEGram: Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2017

Klaus Dürbeck, Dipl.-Ing. Agr., passed away unexpectedly on December 16, 2016, at the age of 60. For decades, Dürbeck carried out field work around the world as an expert consultant for governmental and intergovernmental organizations on projects to develop value chains for the sustainable management and trade of medicinal and aromatic plants. He also was passionate about volunteerism, and played a leadership role in several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with quality assurance and the sustainability of medicinal plant production and trade.

Dürbeck was born in Bad Neustadt an der Saale, Bavaria, Germany, on February 1, 1956. After completing basic vocational training in agronomy at the Landwirtschaftsamt Bad Neustadt (Agricultural Office of Bad Neustadt an der Saale) in 1980, Dürbeck studied at the Technical University of Munich in Weihenstephan from where he graduated in 1984, earning a diploma in agricultural engineering (Dipl.-Ing. Agr.).

From 1987 to 1988, Dürbeck served as associate expert for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in its Industrial Utilization of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme. Starting in 1988, he perennially carried out medicinal plant and natural ingredients sector assignments as an expert consultant for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit* (GTZ; German Agency for Technical Cooperation). From 2001 onwards, he also took similar assignments as a senior expert for trade development for organic products and natural ingredients for the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) and as a natural ingredients sector expert for the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI).

Klaus Dürbeck Consulting (KDC), founded in 1992, became the mechanism through which Dürbeck carried out medicinal plant field work for governmental development aid projects, most notably working with communities in Asia (Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam), Latin America (Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru), and the European Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo). KDC is a family business in which Dürbeck mentored and worked alongside his daughter Teresa Hüttenhofer and niece Petra Dürbeck, together with other upcoming professionals in the field.

Dürbeck’s commitment to good agricultural and collection practices (GACPs), quality assurance, and sustainability standards for medicinal and aromatic plants often elevated him to leadership roles. In 1996, he became a member of Forum Essenzia e.V., a nonprofit association for the promotion, protection, and dissemination of aromatherapy, aromacare, and aromaculture, and served as president from 2004 to 2009. Over the past 20 years, Dürbeck contributed articles to FORUM, the journal of Forum Essenzia, and actively participated in the association’s annual congresses, including the most recent in November 2016.1

Ingeborg Stadelmann, midwife, naturopath, author, and president of Forum Essenzia, in her eulogy to Dürbeck at his funeral in Raubling, Germany, on December 22, 2016, said: “After finishing his term as president, he remained at our disposal as an advisory board member, always willing to offer advice. Not one email remained unanswered and some of his responses were sent from distant, crisis-stricken countries.... Klaus led the association in a future-oriented manner, blazing new trails and also giving shape to them, for example, by connecting countries of origin, trade, science, and therapeutic application. He sought out and established international contacts from the distillers to scientists and pharmacists, to the end-users of essential oils. Thanks to his lobbying and tireless dedication in the countries of origin, we now have many precious, unadulterated essential oils available in Europe. He played an important role in raising awareness of sustainability and wild-collection among essential oil professionals.”

In addition to his fascination with the ecology and biochemical properties of medicinal plant species, Dürbeck was deeply committed to supporting the needs of entrepreneurs in developing countries, as illustrated through his long engagement with the development of trade standards for wild plant products. Version 1.0 (November 2006) of the FairWild Standard, an international standard for sustainable harvesting and trade of plants, fungi, and lichens, was developed collaboratively through the support of Forum Essenzia (represented by Dürbeck), the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), and SIPPO. In 2008, Dürbeck became a founding member of the FairWild Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit organization responsible for the FairWild Standard and certification process, and served as president of its board of trustees. In this latter role, he made an immense contribution to the work of the foundation, overseeing the merging of the original FairWild Standard with the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) and engaging stakeholders in the implementation of the resulting FairWild Standard v2.0.

His legacy was underlined in the obituary announcement from the FairWild Foundation: “With his dynamic personality and drive, Klaus was a key leader of our Foundation who will be hugely missed. In losing Klaus, we have lost a true champion of our shared goals and values, and a great friend. His passion for FairWild, medicinal plants, and the sustainable livelihoods of harvesters worldwide will be remembered for many years to come.”2

Dürbeck also served as an appointed bureau member (treasurer) of the International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ICMAP), an NGO established in 1993 with the objective of “promoting international understanding and cooperation between national and international organizations on the role of medicinal and aromatic plants in science, medicine and industry, and to improve the exchange of information between them.”3

The often-cited book The Distillation of Essential Oils: Manufacturing & Plant Conservation Handbook, co-authored by Dürbeck (with R.O.B. Wijesekera, PhD, and C.M. Ratnatunga), was published in 1993 by the GTZ Protrade.4 Most recently, Dürbeck co-authored, with his daughter Teresa, a book chapter titled “International Trade of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants” for the first volume of a new book series titled Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of the World,5 edited by Ákos Máthé, PhD, professor of botany at University of West Hungary and president of ICMAP.

K. Hüsnü Can Başer, PhD, professor of pharmacognosy at Near East University in Nicosia, Cyprus, and vice-president of ICMAP, said: “I had known him for the last 30 years, since I first met him at UNIDO Headquarters when he was assistant to Dr. R.O.B. Wijesekera. He has devoted all his life to helping herbal producers in developing countries…. His demise is also a great loss for the ICMAP family” (email to M. Blumenthal, December 20, 2016).

Dürbeck’s passion and energy for his profession remained until his last day. On the morning of his untimely death, he was to have a breakfast meeting to discuss future projects with his friend Beat Kündig, owner of Zürich-based W. Kündig & Cie AG, an international distributor of conventional as well as organic-, Fairtrade-, and FairWild-certified natural ingredients that was founded in 1920. “It is always difficult to say something about a person like Klaus without getting too emotional,” wrote Kündig (email to J. Brinckmann, December 27, 2016). “He was tolerant, witty, had great expertise (which he enjoyed sharing with others) and he had a very big heart. It always gave me great pleasure to collaborate with him.” Kündig also spoke at the funeral service.

Dürbeck did not just enjoy sharing his expertise with others, but was determined to transmit knowledge to the next generation, and strongly encouraged his colleagues to join him in that effort. Since 2004, he had hosted an annual “Inner Circle – Outer Circle” (ICOC) workshop inviting selected young, aspiring consultants to participate and engage in medicinal and aromatic plant project work with seasoned experts. Stadelmann, also an ICOC participant, wrote: “At the funeral, everyone agreed that ICOC 2017 should proceed in accordance with Klaus’ wishes” (email to J. Brinckmann, December 24, 2016).

Dürbeck will be remembered not only as a true expert in his field, but also as a lifelong friend. “Ever since we met some 20 years ago, Klaus has been a great companion in my work and life,” wrote Bert-Jan Ottens, managing director of ProFound, a consultancy firm, and fellow FairWild Foundation board of trustees member (email to J. Brinckmann, December 27, 2016). “Starting with concepts for non-wood-forest-products, we ventured into national BioTrade programmes, to more recently develop FairWild certification concepts for a multitude of natural ingredients for food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. These concepts are now being implemented in many programmes and projects. In 2014, we co-founded ‘IN2NI,’ an international network of experts promoting sustainable sourcing of natural ingredients. Klaus was our master in the world of medicinal and aromatic plants, and he will be hugely missed. We are bound to carry on with his legacy.”

His loss will be keenly felt by his family, friends, and many colleagues around the world. As Stadelmann said: “Klaus, it is simply unbelievable that you are no longer with us, that you will no longer board the airplane, but rather are now here in your beloved native land, your final resting place in the Bavarian Inntal Valley.”

Klaus Dürbeck is survived by his wife Gertrud; his children Teresa, Benedikt, and Marian; his mother Lioba Dürbeck; and his brothers and sisters.

—Josef Brinckmann

* As of January 1, 2011, GTZ merged with two other agencies to become the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit or GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation).

  1. Forum Essenzia e.V. News: In Gedenken an Klaus Dürbeck. Available at: Accessed December 27, 2016.
  2. FairWild Foundation. In Memoriam — Klaus Dürbeck. December 20, 2016. Available at: Accessed December 27, 2016.
  3. International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ICMAP). Available at: Accessed December 27, 2016.
  4. Wijesekera ROB, Ratnatunga CM, Dürbeck K. The Distillation of Essential Oils: Manufacturing and Plant Conservation Handbook. Eschborn, Germany: GTZ Protrade. 1993.
  5. Dürbeck K, Hüttenhofer T. International Trade of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. In: Máthé Á (ed.). Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of the World: Scientific, Production, Commercial and Utilization Aspects. Volume 1. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Springer Netherlands. 2015:375-382.