Traditional healers join efforts to save indegenous trees

…as deforestation threatens sustainability of their trade

Beatific Gumbwanda

CHIREDZI – Traditional healers in the Lowveld have called upon governemnt to do more to protect indegenous tree species that are at the centre of their business.

The Traditional Medical Practitioners Council (TMPC) is currently engaging traditional leaders in Zimbabwe to conduct awareness campaigns on the need to save natural forests.

The campaigns are aimed at encouraging local people to place greater value on indigenous plant species and save them from complete destruction.

The organisation says the expansion of commercial agriculture in Chiredzi and the growing need for agricultural land in the countryside was having a negative effect on the survival of indigenous plant species.

TMPC Chiredzi district secretary Jonathan Muusha, who is popularly known by his trade name as Sekuru Mupamombe, said the extent of deforestation was worrisome as it threatened the sustainability of traditional medical practice.

He said indegenous trees did not grow as rapidly as exotic specicies, meaning that it is much more difficult to replace them.

“We are now travelling long distances to sacred forests in Njelele (Matabeleland South province), Mberengwa (Midlands province), Chimanimani and Chipinge (Manicaland province) as well as Zaka (Masvingo province) to find the herbs and roots that we need.

“Dorestation threatens the growth of these traditional herbs and we are currently engaging traditional leaders to do awareness campaigns. We are encouraging them to work closely with communities in order to encourage the conservation of indigenous trees throughout the country,” said Mpamombe.

He said TMPC has made an application to the Minsitry of Lands, Agriculrure and Rural Resettlement for a piece of land to grow traditional herbs that are vital for their practice.

“Through TMPC, we have made an application for land to the ministry to get a piece of land where we can grow herbs for the traditional healers to use. I also urge all citizens to play their role in the conservation of our indigenous trees because it takes several years for many of the species to mature,” said Mpamombe.

He said government, through local authorities and such statutory bodies as the Environmental Management Agency and Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe must enforce laws to protect the country’s forests.

Many traditional healers are convinced that local remedies could save many people from such conditions as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other non-communicables if more is done to de-stigmatise traditional medical practice.

Other organisations like the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) have for long bemoaned the demonisation of traditional medicine which began during the colonial era and has persisted ever since.

This report was made possible through support from WAN-IFRA Media Freedom’s Strengthening African Media Programme: Climate Change and Environmental Reporting. Views expressed here do not belong to WAN-IFRA.