Traditional Healers bemoan climate change

 1,061 total views,  2 views today

…as medicinal plants and herbs do not flourish as they used to as climate change rears ugly head with erratic weather patterns

By Nicole Tau

As the world braces itself for the adverse effects of climate change, traditional healers are among the hardest hit and find themselves grappling with extreme weather events that destroy their precious medicinal plants on which their livelihood and medical trade depends.

“Because of the change in raining season, and unexpected weather patterns, the herbs delay to sprout, as a result, it causes us a delay in the harvesting of the herbs.

“So, another thing is that even the herbs that would have emerged in that period, because of the delay in rains, even those that they have already emerged, they are not of good quality as they used to be,” says Khotso Mosisili, a traditional healer who spoke to KDNews.

Mosisili’s medicinal plant stall is just one of many scattered around MASERU city.

Business used to be good, fetching Mosisili and other traditional healers and herbs traders close to M400.00 a day, but in recent years it has become apparent that climate change has become a threat to this medicines and herbs trade.

One such negatively affected traditional healer is a forty-year-old Sekhoane Motlomelo, whose stall is stocked with myriad varieties of medicinal plants.

A husband and a father of four, Motlomelo shakes his head as he reflects on the state of his business on which his family depends.

“I am unable to assist my clients because the people that we order from do not deliver due to the unavailability of the medicinal plants and herbs.

“I used to be able to provide for my family in a stable manner and buy them good, nourishing food, but now we have a poor diet and my children struggle at school due to our dire financial situation at home,” says Motlomelo.

Taught by his grandmother, who was also a traditional healer, Motlomelo had dropped out of school in grade nine to pursue a path in traditional medicine, which his grandmother had then professed to be a lucrative business.

But today, Mosisili says there are medicinal plants that he is no longer able to find due to erratic weather patterns that bring heavy rainfall, drought, and overexploitation.

“Due to high unemployment, there are people who are not traditional healers that dig out these plants with roots in a way that destroys the plants, disabling them from regenerating. As a result, they do it so much that the plants are beginning to disappear at various places,” says Mosisili.

Mosisili says traditional healers are able to help people with issues such as warts, piles, menstruation cycles, period pains, STDs, and bile.

KDNews learned that some of the herbs offered in the stalls of the medicinal and herbs traders include among others: moratoe, manolo, khoara, poo-ts’ehla, hloenya whose roots or leaves are mixed into various decoctions to treat issues such as complications associated with pregnancy, virility in men, uterine disorders and prostatitis.

The Kingdom of Lesotho’s Third National Communication 2021 report, says that over time Basotho evolved strategies to cope with extreme weather conditions, including the capacity to foresee it via behavioral changes in domestic animals and wildlife, insects, trees, and wind direction.

“Indigenous knowledge existed for the sustainability of all aspects of life. This included knowledge about the value and the healing power of the medicinal plants, and techniques to maintain harmony between agricultural practices,” reads the report.

However, the report points that culture in Lesotho faces significant immediate and critical challenges with the projected increase in magnitude, frequency, and direction of climate change extremes.

Climate change, according to the report, disturbs traditional activities associated with specific months of the year, thereby altering the harmony between weather and agriculture.

Furthermore, the report also states that the loss of medicinal plants diminishes the incentive to maintain biodiversity by negatively impacting the ecosystem, particularly rangeland and vegetation.

Having been in the traditional medicine sector for more than 23 years, herbalist Malefetsane Liau, who is also a President of the Traditional Health Practitioner Council (THPC), which has roughly 500 members, concedes that climate change impact is significant and must be addressed.

Liau says that as the subject of climate change began to gain attention globally around 2008, Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) and the World Health Organization worked with traditional doctors on climate change issues.

However, Liau says those discussions were not beneficial to the council and that even now the Lesotho government does not formally recognize traditional medicine.

“Funding is really a problem. Nobody wants to help our association and I don’t know why… We don’t even have a computer. Here in Lesotho traditional healers are just poor, but in our minds, we are quite rich,” says Liau.

The council’s office is within the Maseru city and consists of just a one-room office space that is occupied by Liau and his Secretary. Furthermore, the Office of the Council has one table and many seats lining the two sides of the room, and the association pays M2600.00 in monthly rentals.

Liau says the only funding received by the council is from the fees and licensing of traditional healers.

Liau adds that the council understands the necessity and power of education on mitigation and adaptation plans, as well as empowerment, and has a clear vision on what has to be done, citing the negative consequences of climate change on the profession of traditional medicine.

“Education, which goes hand in hand with empowerment, is extremely vital. So, in addition to educating our people about climate change, we should plan to construct botanical gardens to safeguard our medicinal plants and herbs, which will require some investment,” Liau said.

According to Liau, the problem with funding projects in traditional medicine is not that they are difficult to control, but that people do not appear to recognize or acknowledge them.

“Our people are against their own traditions and culture. When the HIV pandemic struck, traditional doctors were extremely helpful in treating people, but our government, particularly the Ministry of Health, refuses to accept this,” says Liau.

Liau says the association would be grateful if they could receive funding for their botanical gardens as well as information dissemination projects.