The Currently Increasing Pressure on Biodiversity is Changing the Metaphysical Beliefs on Medicinal Plants Domestication: The Concern of Traditional Healers in Assosa Zone, Bgrs. Western Ethiopia

Dereje Mosissa, Dejene Reda

Abstract


This paper describes the assumptions and results of a study to assess whether cultivation of medicinal plants can serve as a tool for combined biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. The study was carried out in Assosa Zone of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State, Western Ethiopia, where sustained beliefs in medicinal plant use, also under non-traditional conditions, has resulted in an increase in commercial demands. It was based on the assumption of poverty alleviation not only referring to an increase in income and labour, but also an increase in social capital and human dignity. The study assessed the local perceptions of the use and cultivation of medicinal plants and the need for conservation of these plants, as well as the features of already ongoing cultivation practices and options for increased cultivation. It consisted of participatory assessments in twelve kebeles involving around 190 traditional healers. The study indicated that the growing demand for medicinal plants is related to the great cultural significance attached to medicinal plants. The growing demand has not only resulted in increased hazard for overexploitation of wild plant populations, but also increased interest in cultivation. Several factors need attention in linking of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation: (a) selection of specific target groups and the identification of the links between cultivation practices and livelihood conditions, (b) role of cultural factors in medicinal plant use and cultivation, and (c) cultivation by local people being not primarily based on local awareness of the loss of wild species, but on local perceptions about financially lucrative medicinal plants. It is concluded that the scope for cultivation of medicinal plants for combined biodiversity conservation and livelihoods should not be considered light-heartedly. However, the impact can be positive in case cultivation is considered within the context of protecting and strengthening the cultural values of biodiversity and creating a positive attitude towards biodiversity conservation in general. Moreover, Sustainable harvesting and deliberate cultivation have been proposed to ensure continued supply of medicinal plants to meet the health care needs of rural dwellers in the study area.

Keywords


biodiversity conservation; cultural values; medicinal plants; livelihoods

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