Medicinal Plants could help poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa — World Bank report
World Bank news release
November 3, 2005
NAIROBI, KENYA, October 27, 2005— Dryland areas in Sub-Saharan Africa have a niche opportunity to use selected multipurpose medicinal plants to halt land degradation, and at the same time provide culturally acceptable healthcare, food, and a sustainable source of income by developing niche markets, according to the new World Bank report Capitalizing on the Bio-Economic Value of Multi-Purpose Medicinal Plants for the Rehabilitation of Drylands in Sub-Saharan Africa [(2,089KB PDF)].
“By combining indigenous knowledge and modern appropriate technology,” said Warren Evans, World Bank Director of Environment, “communities and researchers can identify sustainable land management practices to halt desertification. Communities can use Multipurpose Medicinal Plants to rehabilitate their degraded lands, and at the same time capture a greater share of the increased global value of medicinal plants; both of which will improve the quality of life for some of the most marginalized people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Currently, 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population seek their living in 43 percent of the land mass identified as arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid. Approximately 25 percent of these lands are classified as degraded as a result of natural and human and livestock actions.
According to the report, responses to land degradation, inadequate healthcare, and identifying new sources of alternative incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa have met with limited success during recent decades. This study views the problem and solution holistically by showing that many indigenous plants in drylands have multipurpose biological and abiotic values that have not been fully exploited.
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“We are in the middle of the Decade for African Traditional Medicine,” said Evans, “however, few actions on the ground have been made in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop either the production or marketing comparative advantage of indigenous medicinal plants.”
The study identifies a select number of endemic multipurpose medicinal plants for the Sahel/Sudanian Region and the Kalahari/Highveld that could change the situation. The report suggests that these species, if used in community-administered sustainable land management projects, could combine the agricultural aspects with product development, handling, and market training, thus helping reverse the land degradation trend and reduce the poverty associated with drylands.
“The global value of herbal medicines is estimated at $65 billion,” Evans added. “If the proposed actions for the African drylands were to capture only a small share of this value, even one percent, they could bring in $650 million, which could have a significant impact on both improving the quality of life and rehabilitating traditionally degraded lands.”
The report, in PDF format, can be downloaded here.
This is a modified press release from the World Bank.