Household Consumption of Medicinal Plants. A Case Study of Kakamega Forest in Kenya
Ombok, Maurice Ochieng
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Herbal medicine, commonly referred to as alternative medicine, has been treated with a lot of skepticism among the conventional medicine practitioners. It has been described as inferior to conventional medicine with no proven safety and efficacy, perhaps only associated with rural areas where conventional medicine is not easily accessible. Thus, with economic progress and advancements in conventional medicine, one would expect decline in herbal medicine consumption. In Kenya, 70% of the population is dependent on herbal remedies for their ailments. This is against a backdrop of improved access to conventional medical facilities, attributable to increasing sector development expenditure. Therefore, this thesis sought to analyse the factors that influence herbal medicine consumption by univariate logit approach; establish joint consumption for both conventional and herbal medicine by bivariate probit approach; estimate economic value of herbal medicine by Willingness-To-Pay approach and; establish herbal consumption relationship to herbal medicine availability in Kakamega forest by qualitative analysis. Overall, the thesis makes contribution in terms of both literature and methodology. Results showed that consumption of conventional medicine and herbal medicines were indeed inter-dependent. This decision was influenced by gender, education, price of conventional medical treatment, distance to medical facilities, and health insurance cover. Kakamega forest herbal medicines were found to have an economic value. Herbal medicine cultivation influenced 72 percent of the total economic value. Herbal medicine biodiversity was found to be declining due to over-harvesting for consumption. This was influenced by wild exploitation from the forest. The policy implication of these findings is that, herbal medicine remains important but its efficacy should be verified and regulated to protect consumers. In the short and medium term, the government should provide well targeted subsidies on medical services to eliminate the dangers of consumers falling into the traps of unscrupulous providers of unproven herbal remedies. To harness their economic value and reduce wild exploitation, the government and non-governmental organizations should implement incentives that will encourage production of herbal medicines with proven safety and efficacy. This could be tenable by monitoring wild exploitation and developing herbal inventory.