Use and management of traditional medicinal plants by Maale and Ari ethnic communities in southern Ethiopia
We do what we know": Local health knowledge and home-based medicinal plant use in Ethiopia Hareya Fassil, DPHIL, Development Studies International Development Centre, Queen Elizabeth House Today, the majority of Ethiopians continue to depend on traditional plant medicines for their basic health care needs. The central propo sition of this thesis is that a significant part of the knowledge underpinning the use of such traditional medicinal plants resides among ordinary local women and men, who depend on them as sources of home-based remedies. Understanding and strengthening such homebased health knowledge and skills can provide a firm underpinning for more effective health care dehvery and community health developme nt. The thesis is based on fieldwork among communities in the rural Babir-Dar district (N. Western Ethiopia). A multidisciplinary approach using quantitative and qualitative methods for data-gathering and analysis was adopted. The thesis comprises six chapters: Chapter 1 sets out the study's conceptual framework, and the main strands of development thought underlying the thesis. Chapter 2 provides an ecological, socioeconomic and cultural background to the study area. Chapter .3 discusses the main types and sources of the locally-valued medicinal plants, while Chapter 4 charactens es the distribution and transmission of the knowledge underpinning their use. Chapter 5 elucidates the overall contribution of local health knowledge and home-based medicinal plant use among the study communities. Chapter 6 summarise s the study's main findings and conclusions. The importance of local health knowledge and home-based plant remedies among the study communities is substantiated by: (a) the documentation of over 80 medicinal plants used as home remedies; (b) the finding that such treatments are used as the first resort in most cases of illness and often may constitute the only therapeutic action taken; and (c) demonstrating that knowledge and home based use of such medicinal plants is intrinsic to the local cultural and environmental context. The study concludes that focused community-based studies, combining ethnographic and ethnobotamcal methods, could provide an effective and practicable means for achieving in-depth understanding of local health knowledge practices surrounding particular illnesses. Such an integrated approach can enable prioritisation of major health problems, facilitate the documentation of illnessspecific local knowledge, whilst also allowing for the identification of specific needs and areas for intervention. A call is also made for a health policy framework which gives full recognition and support to local knowledge and health care efforts at the household-level.