Use, conservation and harvesting of medicinal plants by the Ogiek of east Mau Forest, Nakuru district, Kenya
Ndegwa, Fidensio Kinyamu
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A survey of medicinal plants was carried out in East Mau Forest and questionnaires were used to interview 427 members of Ogiek community, who were above eighteen years of age, on the use of medicinal plants. Plant samples were collected, preserved and later identified at the East African Herbarium. One hundred 20x20m quadrats were marked out in the entire study area. In each quadrat, the number and type of medicinal plants and the harvesting methods were investigated. The data, which was obtained from the quadrats and from the questionnaires were analyzed statistically using percentages to determine the use, conservation status and also to determine whether they use destructive harvesting techniques. One hundred and nineteen (119) medicinal plant species were found to be in use. Out of the 427 respondents, 98.6 % indicated that they use medicinal plants. This indicated a very high dependence on medicinal plants for their health care. The species diversity of medicinal plants was generally low, with Simpson's Diversity Index of 0.2456 and 0.0894 in stations A (near Nessuit Shopping Centre) and B (near Mariashoni Shopping Centre) respectively. The relative abundance was generally high with 28.3% and 37.7% medicinal plants in station A and B respectively, with values greater than 0.5. This indicated that the medicinal plants were still abundant. Hypoestes forskalii and H. aristata were the most abundant medicinal plant species in station A, while Dombeya torrida was the most abundant in station B. The harvesting techniques of most medicinal plants were found to be non-destructive, with 74.29 % medicinal plants showing selective harvesting. Only 10.77% of the respondents indicated that they conserve medicinal plants in any way. This showed that the Ogiek practiced little conservation. Chi-square was used to determine the relationship/association between: use, conservation status and harvesting techniques of medicinal plants on one hand and age and gender on the other. The results indicated that the use and conservation status were not dependent on age, with Chisquare calculated values of 3.6154 and 5.1838 respectively, although harvesting techniques were dependent on age with Chi-square calculated value of 15.90. The use, conservation status and harvesting techniques of medicinal plants were dependent on gender, with Chi-square calculated values of 3.8915, 5.4591 and 5.1104 respectively. Ninety three (93) diseases were documented during the study. The plant parts used mostly were roots (29 %), leaves (23.2 %) and stem bark (15.6 %). The diseases treated with the largest number of medicinal plant species were: stomach problems 17 %, malaria 6.7 % and colds 6.1%. This research work will assist the future Ogiek generations and other workers because the medicinal plants knowledge of the Ogiek will now be in a documented form and will also provide baseline data for further research. Policy makers, who include the Forest Department, may use the findings of this work to advice the Ogiek on the future of their medicinal plants. The results support the hypothesis that Ogiek use medicinal plants for management of diseases, that some medicinal plants are over-exploited and that the use, conservation status and destructive harvesting techniques were related to gender, although only harvesting techniques had a relationship with age. Based on the findings of this work, conservation strategies need to be put in place to protect the most important and most threatened medicinal plant species.