Medicinal plant project for Limpopo

5 August 2010

A R20-million medicinal plant conservation project in Limpopo is expected to advance the development, promotion and protection of natural resources in the province.

Launching the project in Maila village outside Louis Trichardt on Tuesday, Deputy Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said the project entails the establishment of a nursery, laboratory, guard house, medicinal plant garden and research centre, as well as the fencing of the whole facility.

“These medicinal plants are used to treat ailments such as coughs, headaches, urinary disorder, throat problems, ulcers, wounds, fever, constipation, cancer and high blood pressure,” Mabudafhasi said.

Growing appreciation

At the same time, she said there was a growing appreciation of the value of medicinal plants and their associated traditional knowledge by the modern industries, especially the pharmaceutical industry.

“Many widely used products such as plant-based medicines and cosmetics produced by modern industries are derived from medicinal plants, and majority of them are indigenous and endemic to South Africa,” Mabudafhasi said.

“This makes South Africa an attractive venture for companies seeking novel compounds for different applications, for example medical, agricultural, horticultural, or environmental.”

Conserving medicinal plants

Mabudafhasi said that traditional medicine was the preferred primary healthcare choice for about 70% of South Africa’s population, and that it has been an essential resource for human health from ancient times.

She said it was important to acknowledge that traditional medicinal practitioners were among the most knowledgeable people about medicinal plants in local communities. The Maila community had proposed the conservation of medicinal plants project.

“They have much to offer in identifying local conservation issues and the development of improved systems for managing medicinal plants,” the deputy minister said.

“Conditions for conservation are greatly enhanced when the owners and stewards of medicinal plants receive equitable benefits arising from the use of these resources, and feel that they are properly compensated for the level of effort involved in their contributions.”

In the context of medicinal plants, Mabudafhasi said equity entailed several major components, including:

  • The rights of local communities to control access to these medicinal plants.
  • Where access has been granted, the rights of the local community to fairly negotiate and enter into material transfer and benefit sharing agreements regarding the sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of their medicinal plants resources.
  • The rights of local communities to protect their indigenous knowledge and be appropriately compensated for any commercial use of their indigenous knowledge.

Social responsibility programmes

In 2006, the department embarked on a rigorous process of consulting with municipalities, communities and provincial departments, calling for project proposals within the mandate to be funded through the social responsibility programme of the department.

The programme is implemented employing the Extended Public Works Programme principles of alleviating poverty and transferring of skills.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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