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The Role of Indigenous Knowledge and Practices in the Conservation of Medicinal Plants

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Brief insight of the Report

Indigenous knowledge (IK) is defined as a distinctive body of knowledge, skills, practices, technologies that have been developed by local communities over many generations living in a particular environment. The definition of IK in medicine is interlinked with that of TM of WHO which defines TM as the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

It is estimated that, currently about 80% of Uganda population is believed to rely on TM to meet their health needs directly or indirectly. This is because many households continue to rely on TM practices, due to perceived effectiveness, lack of allopathic alternatives, and cultural preferences. The practice of TM involves a number of specialties that include; herbalists, bone setters, traditional birth attendants, diviners and spiritual healers.

The TM practitioners use plant, animal and mineral resources for medicinal purposes or treatment. TM is prepared using methods such as infusions, decoctions, tinctures, essential oils, extracts, or pure compounds. Herbal medicines are used for treatment of diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, skin diseases, headache, worms, ulcers and HIV/AIDs opportunistic infections, which are very common in developing countries.

However, over the past years over exploitation, destructive harvesting practices, degradation of forests, agricultural expansion, grazing pressure and human population pressure have negative implications on the sustainability of medicinal plants. Besides, important IK and practices on MP conservation has not fully been documented, since it is most orally transmitted from generation to generation.

The overall objective of the activity was to provide information on the IK and practices that should be promoted to enhance conservation of MP in Uganda. The report includes assessment of IK practices in conservation of MP, role of cultural institution in conservation of MP, the policy, legal and institutional framework that promotes Indigenous Knowledge and practices in conservation of MP and conservation practices of MP in Uganda.

Diversity of IK and practices used to ensure conservation and sustainable utilization of MP and the role THPs and cultural institutions in conservation of MP have been documented. The case study of Busoga kingdom, as a cultural institution was considered for this study. The existing policy and legislation relevant for conservation of biological diversity was reviewed for its relevance, adequacy and effectiveness.

In conclusion, it was generally realized that, IK and its practices have played a significant role in the conservation and sustainable utilization of MP. Hence, Uganda being a signatory to CBD needs to integrate multisectoral framework to promote conservation of MP and utilization of IK for development of the health sector.

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