|dc.description||Getting into commercial production
In Zimbabwe, public demand for medicinal plants is booming. There are several reasons for this, not least the spread of HIV/AIDS and the shortages faced by the conventional healthcare system. Widespread economic hardship is also playing a part; herbal medicines are usually cheaper than those sold in pharmacies, and for those harvesting the plants, they offer a useful source of income. Unfortunately, this is also leading to over-harvesting of some species, threatening future supplies.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, ADRA, is currently working to raise awareness about the dangers of over-harvesting. It is also helping farmers to establish new businesses cultivating and selling medicinal herbs, both to support the livelihoods of these farmers, and to increase the availability of cheap, herbal medicines to the wider population. Herbs being promoted by the organisation include sage, fennel, mint and Sutherlandia, a plant which can benefit those suffering from HIV/AIDS. But adopting a new crop and establishing commercial production is not easy, so when Busani Bafana interviewed ADRA agricultural officer Tingane Ndhlovu, he began by asking what the main challenges had been.
IN: ?Obtaining propagation material has been ?
OUT: ? and commercialisation of traditional herbs.?
BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Busani Bafana reporting from Zimbabwe. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA.
Ndhlovu Obtaining propagation material has been a challenge. And maybe also the know how, or the knowledge in terms of propagation and also usage, has been one of the challenges. Most farmers also need some reliable sources of water so they can sustain these herbal nurseries throughout. I think that is also one of the challenges that we are facing.
Bafana There is also the issue of cultivating these medicinal herbs. What challenge have you faced there and how have you solved it?
Ndhlovu Basically the challenge in terms of cultivation may come with the knowledge of propagation. And what we have done, us as ADRA, we have actually organised deliberate workshops to train them on propagation techniques for all the herbs that we are promoting, whether by vegetative material or by seed.
Bafana What about getting the sufficient quality and quantity?
Ndhlovu We make sure there is no chemical usage, because we are trying to say our farmers must produce herbs that are really clean, not contaminated by chemicals. When it comes also to processing, we are trying to make sure that farmers are using very hygienic methods of processing like the solar driers that are very cheap to manufacture. They are an appropriate technology; they can easily manufacture those in communities and they produce very high quality herbs.
Bafana When your organisation decided to support the farmers, what particular support did the farmers need to establish their businesses?
Ndhlovu OK, first of all, acquisition of propagation material was done by us. So we really bought a big consignment. And then we set up a big nursery in Plumtree and other districts so that that nursery could be a starting point for the propagation material, and then cascade into the whole community. At the same time, the issue of knowledge; we actually held some workshops, funded those workshops, and also awareness within the community through the RDC, the community structures and also the general public ? we funded those kind of workshops.
Bafana Would you say traditional herbal clinics and pharmacies will in any way help communities in Africa access cheaper medicine than those sold in conventional pharmacies?
Ndhlovu Yes, I think it is already overdue to have such kind of clinics spotted all over our communities, so that our people could access cheaper medicines that are even of higher quality. So I am just thinking that if we could just have more and more of these clinics set up all over the country, or all over Africa, yes our communities would immensely benefit from that.
Bafana But is it easy?
Ndhlovu It is not very easy, looking at the playing field, where the other, western pharmaceuticals are already established. There are a lot of challenges. We need to pull together until the herbal fraternity also gains a lot of recognition.
Bafana What about the superstitions surrounding the use of traditional medicines?
Ndhlovu Yes, you know people think that if you are dealing in herbal medicine then that is a bit satanic; you see that is also a big challenge. Like in Zimbabwe, the biggest part of our community are Christians, and for us to put across the message and make it acceptable, I think it needs some extra strength. I wish churches would also be coming to help in this aspect. At the moment our own organisation belongs to Seventh Day Adventist, you know ADRA. That is the only church at the moment that I think is deliberately promoting these plant materials for medicine. I wish many more would really come into play.
Bafana And what are the farmers? future plans?
Ndhlovu The farmers? future plan is to bring together farmers who are high potential producers, so that they can, together, find a market network at the extent of exporting. Especially farmers that are in Plumtree, because they are nearer the border between Zimbabwe and Botswana. So they are really looking forward to pulling together their resources and making quite a bigger production magnitude, and then, up to the extent of exporting.
Bafana There you are listeners. I was speaking to Mr Tingane Ndhlovu, an agricultural officer with ADRA, who are involved in the promotion and commercialisation of traditional herbs. End of track.||en_US