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.
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.
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.
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.