A lot of vegetation in Katubwe-Banda  has been  destroyed to free land   for  economic development activities. Some herbal plants are also dying because of environmental and  climatic  change  resulting from  human activities.  Herbal plants that normally grow in hilly areas of  Mende Hill  are being destroyed in the process of  mining   stones for construction projects. Many of the hilly areas are being leveled to create room  for developmental projects.  The economic activities have therefore resulted in destruction of many local  herbal plants that  are used by the local community for  food  and medicinal purposes. At this rate most herbal plants  in the area will be wiped out in a few years unless immediate steps are taken to the trend. Therefore most herbal plants in Banda area  fall in the endangered category as  a result of increasing pressure on land due to human activities.

Location of integrated farm

In order to protect  local  herbal plants from being wiped out ,  we have embarked on creating  a  permant home for them  on  our  integrated  farm  located  in Katubwe – Banda Wakiso District. The farm is  about 25 km on Kampala- Hoima Road,   8 km from Wakiso Town  and  7 km  off  Hoima Road.

Herbal plants on the farm

We have ventured into the preservation effort of herbal plants and we have so far preserved   over two hundred  (200)  herbal  plants. The plan is to have over 400 herbal plants on the farm in the next two years.  We are lucky enough as a number  of the herbal plants are being brought by wildlife that  visit our forest. We  are also grateful to the local community that has helped us  in collecting most of the herbal plants.  The local  community still use herbal plants for  both medicinal and food  purposes mainly because of low income levels and distrust of modern medicine.

Plant nursery                         

We have also established a  plant nursery to produce seedlings of  some herbal   plants for  sale to customers. We are however still lacking the necessary  infrastructure including  green houses for production of seedlings.

Record keeping

We are currently in the process of developing a herbal plant register that will  indicate   both the scientific and local names and  medicinal value of each plant.  We have so  documented  over  150  herbal plants.

Challenges  with herbal plant farming

We are however facing the following challenges during the process of identifying various herbal plants;

  • We still have limited working capital  to pay salaries of  farm and field staff  and to procure other resources   used in the management of  the herbal plants.  The herbal plants have to be protected  from illegal harvesting by  farm workers and surrounding local community members;
  • It is taking a lot of time to convince some community members to share their knowledge of herbal plants with us because they believe we are going to make too much money of it;
  • Some information relating to some herbal plants are not aligned to religious  belief hence creating a stumbling block.  There is also a mistaken belief that some herbal plants are used for evil purposes hence we are not being trusted by some sections of the local community when they discover that we have the ‘dangerous’  plants on our farm;
  • Local community knows the local names of the various herbal plants but the local names   vary from location to location and from tribe to tribe.  There is still a challenge in  getting  their scientific names;
  • There are no agricultural government extension services being provided to  herbal plant  farmers;
  • It is difficult to get seedlings of some herbal plants and
  • There is a lot of contradicting information relating to medicinal value of the plants and of how they are used.

Benefits of protecting herbal plants

  • The preservation of herbal plants is important for  future generations ;
  • The farm can be used for education and research purposes;
  • The farm will be used for sharing information with the local community to enhance the safe use of these plants;
  • Seedlings of herbal plants will be sold to visitors hence enhancing  the farm income  and
  • The farm will inspire other people to venture into herbal plant farming.

Conclusion

Protecting local herbal plants is important  mainly for medicinal and food purposes.  There is already an influx of herbal plants medicinal products from China , India , USA and other countries that creates a business opportunity for production of local herbal products .   Protecting herbal plants from being wiped out  is therefore a coordinated effort of local community, private sector,  herbal plant farmers, donor community and the government. It is important for us to play  leading role in protecting our herbal  plants for our future generations.



Author: Muhaise
John is developing an agritourism mix farm with the plan of keeping a few animals on zero grazing, growing trees, coffee and bananas among other things. He also plans to engage in bee, mushroom and fish farming projects. John has developed a website www.pearlofafrica.com to share his experience and challenges with other people as he implements his dream.

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