Medicinal plants species diversity and access to traditional herbal medicine among the Samburu people
Dikko, Jeff Gafna
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Traditional herbal medicine (THM) has been used since the ancient times and continues to play a great role in healthcare of many communities in Kenya especially the Samburu community. The species diversity of medicinal plants and access to traditional herbal medicine has little been evaluated in Kenya and among the Samburu people in particular. This study investigated species diversity of medicinal plants and access to THM among the Samburu people. It sought to identify the species richness, characteristics and abundance of the plants commonly used as THM and the influence of various factors like human activities, status of traditional medicinal knowledge (TMK) and perceptions, culture and spiritual beliefs on access to THM. The study used a descriptive survey design. In this study questionnaire, interviews, transect walks and Focus Group Discussions were used as the main research instruments to collect data. Data collected was coded and analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics using Statistical Package for Social Sciences. The Pearson correlation was used to determine the relationship between the variables. The findings of this research were 19 medicinal plant species, out of which 46% were threatened, 23% were found to be presently safe, 15% were sporadic, 8% were vulnerable and 8% were not known. From the study, 56% of the household heads indicated that fire incidences highly affected access to THM, 50% were of the view that grazing of livestock moderately affected access, 46% said that building and construction activities moderately affected access, while 43% reported that firewood collection affected access, and 40% said that growing of crops affected access. From the study, 54% of the respondents reported that disappearance of TMK reduced access to THM, while 46% reported that protection of TMK promotes access to THM. Using the Pearson correlation, there was no significant relationship between human activities and access to THM at 5% level of significance; there was no significant relationship between protected status of traditional medicinal knowledge and access to traditional herbal medicine, since p=0.283; while there was a significant relationship between disappearing status and access to THM, since p=0.042; there was also no significant relationship between perceptions, culture and spiritual beliefs and access to traditional herbal medicine, since p=0.138 is significant at 5% level of significance. The study concluded that, the study area comprised of a variety of species richness, abundance and characteristics, a large number (46%) of whose existence were threatened by various human activities. The study also concluded that the protected status of TMK and perceptions, culture and spiritual beliefs promoted access to THM. The study recommended that, the youth groups should fence medicinal plants in their natural habitat to ensure they are protected; the locals through the community elders should be encouraged to document the TMK. In order to promote access to THM, the locals through the community elders should inform responsible bodies /authorities of any illegal logging or bush fires. The locals through the traditional herbalists should be encouraged to practice ex situ conservation by cultivation of some medicinal plants as live fence and in nurseries, while the younger generation through their parents should learn to embrace some of the cultures and spiritual beliefs related to the use of THM.