Traditional healers need Rwf400m to save endangered medicinal plants

Traditional healers grouped under AGA Rwanda Network, an association of traditional healers in the country, are seeking Rwf416 million to implement a project that intends to restore endangered medicinal plants in the country.
Some participants in an indigenous knowledge system and public healthcare symposium looking at medicinal herbs and bottled traditional medicine at University of Rwanda in Kigali. / Courtesy
Some participants in an indigenous knowledge system and public healthcare symposium looking at medicinal herbs and bottled traditional medicine at University of Rwanda in Kigali. / Courtesy

Traditional healers grouped under AGA Rwanda Network, an association of traditional healers in the country, are seeking Rwf416 million to implement a project that intends to restore endangered medicinal plants in the country.

The move would see traditional plants and herbs thrive and protected such that they serve medical purposes, according to Daniel Gafaranga, the president of the network.

Speaking to Sunday Times ahead of African Traditional Medicine Day to be celebrated on August 31, 2017 at Petit Stade in Kigali, Gafaranga said that research conducted by traditional healers recorded over 700 medicinal plant species that are in danger. 

He cited a tree locally known as ‘Umuhanga’ - a medicinal tree whose charcoal was used to cure a poisoned person - among the threatened species.    
 
The healer said that traditional medicine is important, noting that there are countries that have promoted this type of therapy.

Underscoring the rationale of the project, Gafaranga noted that some tree species in Rwanda are declining, and the majority of them are pharmaceutical plants.

Figures from the State of the Environment and Outlook Report 2015, Rwanda produced under the auspices of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), shows that there are some 42 threatened species in Rwanda. 

REMA states that those species are mainly threatened by human activities such as over-harvesting of the medicinal plants, timber and fire wood collection; habitat loss caused by land degradation, erosion and conversion to other land uses like agriculture, settlements and infrastructure development. 

In a bid to address this pressing issue, Gafaranga said that they requested the Ministry of Health to help them get a piece of land ranging from two to four hectares in each district to grow and nurture such threatened species.  

The association recently submitted a project on the restoration of endangered medicinal plant species to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as it seeks funding to implement the project.

It also wrote to districts requesting land for the project.

“We wish that each district gets a garden for medicinal plants, and have such garden protected,” he said.

“Most importantly, the project will help researchers carry out studies on traditional medicine and tourists can visit the gardens to learn about medicine that Rwandans used to cure diseases in the past,” he noted said.  

An 80-year-old Léocadie Mukarugagi, a traditional healer in Nyarugenge District, said that the decline in medical shrubs has resulted in lack of raw materials and this makes healers make long distances to fetch herbs.  

“Curative plants need to be nurtured, and guidelines for their proper harvesting as well as a law ensuring their regulation and protection should be set up,” she said.

AGA Rwanda network has over 3,000 registered healers, while there are about 14,000 traditional countrywide.

The Head of Pharmaceuticals and Chemical Industries division at National Industrial Research Development Agency (NIRDA), Marie Jeanne Mukazaire, told Sunday Times that the institution was ready to support the traditional healers because it was realized by the WHO that such traditional medicines are can treat and help people significantly.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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