The role of traditional management practices in enhancing sustainable use and conservation of medicinal plants in west Usambara mountains, Tanzania

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The study on importance of traditional practices in conservation of medicinal plants in West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania was conducted by using focus group discussions, interviews, participant observation, and botanical survey. Nine traditional practices for conservation of wild plants were identified as domestication; beliefs in sacredness of trees; beliefs in sacred forests; respect of cultural forests; protection of plants at the burial sites; selective harvesting; secrecy; collection of deadwood for firewood, and use of energy-saving traditional stoves. Through botanical surveys of sacred forests, cultural forests, farms/homesteads, and burial sites, some 1,518 wild plants belonging to 100 species were identified. A large proportion (85%) of these plants had medicinal value. Of the 173 respondents, 82%, 81%, 74%, and 71% believed that sustainable use and conservation of medicinal plants can be achieved through secrecy, plant protection at burial sites, sacredness of plants and domestication, respectively. About 89% of the respondents pursued domestication (at least five plants each) and 70% had retained sacred trees (at least one tree each), of which the majority had medicinal value. Few respondents were aware of the positive role played by sacred forests and cultural forests (38% and 21%, respectively) in conservation of medicinal plants. It is concluded that the traditional management practices have a significant role in the conservation of biodiversity. This conservation role has a direct connection with human health since most of the plant species have medicinal value, which a majority of the rural people rely on. The paper recommends that traditional management practices should be encouraged since they serve a dual purpose as important conservation strategy and as an essential component of primary health care.


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Traditional practices, West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, Sustainable use, Conservation, Medicinal plants