THE NEED FOR A SUSTAINABLE USE OF THE MEDICINAL PLANTS IN KWAZULU-NATAL
Therefore, high demand for indigenous plants products results in a high intensity of harvesting of these plants. Sustainability of indigenous plants such as Siphonochilus aethiopicus (Isiphephetho in Zulu) and Boweia volubilis that are faced with extinction need to be encouraged (1). Medicinal plants need to be sustained because of the high rate of natural habitats destruction, shrunk and modification. Urbanization and commercial agriculture are the two main cause of habitat destruction. If not sustained, medicinal plants will become extinct, which means that plants which save lives will be lost.
In both urban and rural areas of Kwazulu-Natal, native plants are greatly utilized, because of the economic importance attached to them. These indigenous plants provide people with different goods such as building materials, fuel wood, traditional medicines and wild fruits (2). The importance of native plants products together with the needs for sustainable supply of the medicinal plants need to be sustained for future generation. People earning low wages in both rural and urban areas often use traditional medicines as a primary health care. The use of these traditional medicines is dominant in the province of KwaZulu-Natal because of the highest rate of poverty in the province (2).
Factors that encourage people to use traditional medicines include: prices which are low compared to western medicines, local availability, easy access to the traditional healers which tend to save the transport cost and other diseases which western medicines cannot cure such as Hlogwana in Nothern Sotho. Hlogwana occurs when the baby is born and the skull is not fully joint. The Government of National Unity (GNU) also recognizes the importance of traditional medicines (3). Another important factor which leads to the need for the sustainable use of the medicinal plants is their contribution in the economic growth of the province of Kwazulu-Natal. It is estimated that medicinal plants generate R62 million each year in Kwazulu-Natal which lead to the creation of jobs (1). The more the money is generated, the higher will be the number of the people employed in the gathering of medicinal plants. This is because medicinal plants are no longer found in abundance near the place where traditional healers work. The money is generated through the selling of the indigenous plants products such as roots, barks and other mixture of plants materials. Many trees are stripped of their bark for medicinal purposes.
The removal of large number of the trees results in negatively impacts, both ecologically and socially (1). This means that the majority of the people will lose medicines, and healers will lose their livelihoods. Medicinal plants are harvested from savanna, grassland and forests (1). In future, the remains of the above mentioned biomes will never meet the needs of the people. The majority of the medicinal products which are sold come from the biome of forest. The population of the wild plant species are in the decrease (3).
Planting the high number of wild plant species will lead to low unsustainable use of the indigenous plants. Programmes such as public awareness and permits to the traders need to be implemented. Conservation of medicinal plants for long term need to be sustained by the land owners. The supply and demand of the indigenous plants products were highly unknown in the past. The planting and usage of the medicinal plants has been undermined by both the agricultural sectors and formal health. Good management of the medicinal plant forests will lead to the sustainable benefits on both social and ecological perspectives.
1. Maender, M.; Maender, J; and Breen, C. 1996. Promoting the cultivation of
Indigenous plants for markets: experiences from Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.
[Online]. [Cited 2007 March 02]: Available from:
2. Karmann, M. and Lorbach, I. 1996. Utilization of non-timber tree products in
Dryland areas: Examples from Southern and Eastern Africa. [Online]. [Cited 2007
March 01]: Available from:
3. Botha, J. Witkowski, E. T. F. and Shackleton, M. C. 2004. Market profiles and trade in medicinal plants in the lowveld, South Africa. [Online]. [Cited 2007 March 02]: Available from: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=213333
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