The Importance of Ethno-Medicinal Plants amongst the Iraqw in the Karatu District: Cultural and Conservation Implications

Simmi Patel, Muhlenberg College – John Mwamhanga*, Center for Wildlife Management Studies, SFS

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Abstract: This study documents indigenous medicinal plant utilization, cultural implications, and threats affecting the survival of indigenous plants. Documenting the medicinal plants and associated indigenous knowledge can be used as a basis for future development of management plans for conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants in the area. The study was carried out in the Karatu District, specifically in the Buger region between April 11, 2013 and April 20, 2013. Ethnobotanical data were collected using semi-structured interviews, field observations, focus group discussions, and direct matrix ranking with the village leaders on preference of medicinal plants. The ethno medicinal use of 32 plant species was documented in the study area. However, results indicated that only 30.2 percent use ethno-medicinal plants to treat human diseases. On the contrary, 98.1 percent use modern medicine (medicine from a dispensary or a hospital). The most common human diseases in the Buger region were Malaria (47%) followed by the influenza virus (also known as the common cold, 27%). Most of the medicinal plants species were collected from local gardens. Direct matrix analysis showed that Mgunga moto (Acacia mellyere), Msokoni, and Durang were the top ranked most important species used for medicine followed by Matsafi and Garmo. The factors that were tested with use of ethno-medicinal plants were gender, education level, and age class structures. Results showed that the use of ethno-medicinal plants is dependent upon education level but not on gender and age class structures. Our results showed that ethno-medicinal plant species were once a form of a traditional medicine; many have reported to prefer modern medicine over ethno-medicine. These plant species used by the people of the Buger village can be potentially threatened due to several factors, which indicate the need for attention to conservation and sustainable utilization.

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