Gender and socio-economic factors influencing domestication of indigenous medicinal plants in the west Usambara mountains, northern Tanzania


The limited capacity of governments in developing countries to service primary health care has resulted in a rapid increase in use of indigenous medicinal plants. This increase, together with other biological and non-biological factors, has rendered these plants vulnerable to over-use and extirpation. Domestication is a conservation intervention that can relieve pressure on medicinal species. In order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability of an intervention, understanding the influencing factors is imperative. We examined the influence of gender and some socio-economic factors on domestication of medicinal plants in the West Usambara Mountains of northern Tanzania. Participatory wealth ranking, structured and semi-structured interviews, botanical surveys and participant observations were employed in data collection. Results showed that domestication has played a fundamental role in conservation of medicinal plants in the study area. Forty (89%) and twelve (27%) of forty-five indigenous plant species were domesticated on farms and around homesteads, respectively. A total of 89% of respondents (n ¼ 173) had domesticated medicinal plants on their farms and around homesteads. Gender was the most important factor that influenced this practice, with more male-headed than female-headed households involved in the domestication effort. This can be attributed to social and cultural factors that, besides dispossessing women of tenure rights over resources and land, also subject them to heavy workloads and therefore diminish the time available for plant domestication. The number of domesticated medicinal plants also depended on age, affluence, farm size, household size and ethnicity. We recommend that agroforestry research should focus not only on integrating forest plants in farmlands, but also on cultural, socio-economic and institutional aspects affecting the whole system of domestication.


Journal Article


Medicinal plants, Primary health care, Conservation, Domestication, Gender, Socio-economic factors