Projects

Archiving the endangered traditional herbal medicinal knowledge and practices among multi-ethnic groups in Songea district, southern Tanzania

Traditional herbalists and researchers in an ethnobotanical survey to identify and acquire samples of various medicinal plants.
© Thomas Biginagwa 2021
Traditional herbalists and researchers in an ethnobotanical survey to identify and acquire samples of various medicinal plants. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
LOCATION

Songea District, Ruvuma Region, Tanzania

OUR TEAM

Dr. Thomas Biginagwa (PI)

Ms. Sinyati Robinson Mark (CoI)

Mr. Richard Chale (CoI)

SYNOPSIS AND POSITION

Traditional African medicine (TAM) was an advanced sector in the continent during the pre-colonial era. During colonial era Europeans assaulted its development as a step towards installation of total spectrum imperialism. Consequently, TAM was not archived as heritage for the present and future generations to benefit from. The post-colonial environment of colonial-oriented policies and legislations as well as economic constraints was another obstacle towards archiving TAM knowledge and practices. Contemporary land use and western-oriented geopolitical dragnet and changes generally marketed in the name of modernity continue to threaten TAM. This project is an effort to document and sustain TAM as an important African heritage. The project focuses on traditional herbal medicinal knowledge and practices in Songea district, Ruvuma region, southern Tanzania. 

OBJECTIVES AND METHODS

First, the project documents various diseases commonly known among the local people that are cured traditionally using plant-based medicines. This is achieved through oral interviews with members of the local communities and herbalists. Second, the project identifies and documents all medicinal plant species the local herbalists and communities use to cure various diseases. This is done through ethnobotanical survey guided by local herbalists. Third, the project determines the spatial variability of endangered medicinal plants and human land uses that threatens the plants through GIS spatial analyses. Finally, the project documents the established procedures for preparing and administering various identified traditional herbal medicines. This aspect is captured through demonstration by local herbalists.  

WORKSHOPS AND EVENTS

In December 2020 we attended and participated in the workshop/meeting organised and coordinated by Drs. Valence Silayo and Nancy Rushohora of the Imagining Features Tanzania Lab that aimed to bring together the Imagining Futures awardees to share knowledge and experience. During this meeting we presented the progress of our project. We learned how other awardees solved various challenges arose in the course of implementing their projects. To be confirmed

ACTIVITIES

Phase 1: Fieldwork in Songea District, Ruvuma Region (26th July 2021 to 16th August 2021).

    • Interviews with local collaborators on medicinal plants and diseases cured by those plants

Phase2: Fieldwork in Songea District (7th to 21st January 2022)

    • Interviews
    • Ethnobotanical surveys
    • Recording and documentation (audio, documentary film and photographs)

Phase 3: Taxonomic identification of the collected plants samples in the herbarium (23rd to 28th January 2022).

A sample of medicinal trees whose bark are peeled off for use as medicines to treat illness. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
A sample of medicinal trees whose bark are peeled off for use as medicines to treat illness. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
One of herbal remedies prepared from boiled tree roots. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
One of herbal remedies prepared from boiled tree roots. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
Researches being shown various processes of preparing medicines. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
Researches being shown various processes of preparing medicines. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
Herbalists showing researchers various medicinal plants in the bush. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
Herbalists showing researchers various medicinal plants in the bush. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
A herbalist sharing a professional discourse with the researchers on various illness and the corresponding medicinal plants for their cure. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021
A herbalist sharing a professional discourse with the researchers on various illness and the corresponding medicinal plants for their cure. © Thomas Biginagwa 2021

Songea, Tanzania