By Johannes Hangula
THE Museum Association of Namibia (MAN) recently launched a mobile exhibition at the UNAM School of Medicine that seeks to raise awareness on the medicinal use of plants by traditional healers.
The exhibition demonstrates different ways in which different cultural communities have identified and used plants and trees for medical purposes, and it further provides a deep historical knowledge that Namibians have of their environment.
The exhibition raises two talking points, the first highlights the way in which indigenous knowledge of the curative properties of local plants has been used to develop commercial products. It uses the examples of Devil’s Claw and Hoodia to highlight the importance of ensuring that communities can benefit economically from such developments. The second talking point links to the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill that is currently being considered and which is intended to regulate the work of Traditional Healers.
Herbalist Anna-Maria Kopper from Keetmanshoop is concerned that not everybody who advertises as a traditional healer is genuine. ”I have seen many using not the right or correct plants to produce this medicine just to make money, they see it as money making thing and not for the right purpose which I see as totally wrong,” she said.
“I learnt everything from my grandmother from a very young age. She showed me from my childhood how the plants look, where to find them, where to look for them, what they are used for, and how to dry them for medical purposes.
“I believe in many of these medicines, I have tried them on myself and I have seen great effects and changes.”
Kopper uses jackal liver, ostrich egg shell, and baboon tongue for her remedies. One of her common cures is called ‘Apu’ in Khoekhoegowab, a concoction of powdered ostrich eggshell, jackal liver and baboon tongue that prevents fever in small children or the powdered eggshell mixed with sugar to stimulate children’s appetite.
Dr. Jean-Pierre Ilboudo from UNESCO in Windhoek believes that traditional medicine can cure some of the illness that riddles modern treatments. He further confirmed that UNESCO is currently looking at launching a programme that will see to it that an inventory is established for the number of traditional healers, the work they do and which plants they use.
He added that it would be advisable for Government to register all the plants found locally and used for medical purpose as a way to reclaim the property rights of communities.
“It would be a further loss if the Namibian Government failed to value and label communities’ intellectual property,” concluded Ilboudo.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015