Heritage Medicinal Tree

Traditional plant use is of tremendous importance in Maasai culture. Up to 500 different plant species have been ascribed with special names in Maa, together with their usage and treatments . Amongst these are a range of natural beauty and health remedies such as toothbrushes and mouthwashes, skim balms and salves, soaps and oils, as well as astringents for washing hair and skin.

In the Sekenani valley, there are three indigenous plants which grow in abundance and which have excellent health and beauty properties.   The first is  Olokidigai  Orange Croton – Croton dichogamus, the second is Olorien African Wild Olive – Olea europaeaspp.africana and the third is Ol-soguni the East African Greenheart  Warburgia ugandensis.

Orange croton has antiseptic properties and is already widely used for toothbrushes as well as salves and now soaps. In Ewangan the bees harvest nectar from the orange croton giving the honey a clean distinctive taste, with the added effect of boosting the immune system. African olive is used for a variety of purposes and gives a distinctive aroma to beeswax and creams. East African Greenheart is the base for many chest and cold complaints as well as general muscular pains.

Alongside these, are two other important species growing wild but also being cultivated in Ewangan Maasai Village – Aloe vera and the Madagascar Periwinkle Catharanthus roseus. They both have healing properties for burns, wounds and cuts as well as curative properties in the case of the periwinkle for tonsillitis and more serious conditions such as leukaemia in children.  Both are used in making soaps together with aromatic plants and herbs growing locally, such as mint and lavender.

In the Sekenani valley, the laibon – medicine women and men –  are working together with local elders and warriors and researchers to preserve and build up new knowledge about the natural healing and beauty properties of all the species of trees and plants found in the Rift Valley.  For example, climate change and the intensification of droughts in East Africa has led many plants and trees in semi-arid regions to increase the amount of woody parts laid down ie bark and roots. It is inferred that this may lead to higher concentrations of some of the active biochemical compounds.

Today, the community is nurturing and planting out hundreds of the most important indigenous medicinal trees and plants, to provide traditional medicines and help combat climate change. The activity is being led by Ewangan Maasai Village through its Heritage Medicinal Tree Nursery.

Sekenani Community would now like to extend this activity and make Maasai health and beauty products available to a wider market, based on traditional, natural, organic materials that are without synthetic chemicals. For this, the community recognises the need to work with professionals who have a strong reputation for producing high quality organic products such as these.

The Sekenani Envirotech Centre in partnership with Ewangan Village is now developing proposals that will help create local employment (see below). If you would be interested in helping us develop this project, please contact us at:naserian.letura@gmail.com 

Vision and aims

The long-term vision of the project is to plant medicinal trees across the Maasai Mara in partnership with the local community, Maasai Mara Conservancies, universities and laibon to help combat the effects of climate change, conserve local biodiversity, provide healthy foods and livelihoods for local Maasai laibon healers.

The aim is to establish the Ewangan Medicinal Tree Nursery as a source of livelihod for the local community. In the first phase, the objective wil be to grow from seed and seedlings a full range of medicinal plants typifying the Sekenani area and to plant out in the imemdiate area a total of 300,000 trees by 2022. The nursery will also provide fruit and foods for Ewangan village to improve nutitional status of children and the elderly.  This exercise will then be repeated across the Maasai Mar with local communities. The selection of species will be determined through a research project on indigeous knowledge, that is mapping the occurrence of the most important traditional medicinal tree species and looking at their value to the local community.

In the second phase, we plan to build a Maasai Wellness Centre in the nursery to provide traditional medicine for visitors. The various parts of the medicinal trees and plants will be used to create traditional medicine, and for species that are endangered, the various parts (rot, bark, leaves, fruit) will be carefully preserved and stored.

The Ewanga Medicinal Plant Nursery is being paid by the village and operated by the local community. Funds for further tree planting will be sought from visitors and national and international programmes for enhacning biodiversity. The mapping work is being funded by the University College London, the UN and the Ferderal Government.

Start-up costs

Site preparation

Fencing: 300,000ksh

Water connection: 120,000Ksh

Soil preparation   40,000Ksh

Equipment

Shade netting and frame:  42,000Ksh

Wheelbarrow, spade,fork, hosepipe:  48,000ksh

Plants

Local seedlings plus stocks from Cheptebo, Mau and Karua Forests

Staffing: 2 staff full-time 14,000Ksh /month; 1 staff supervisor 13,000Ksh/month 27,000ksh/month

DONATIONS ARE WELCOME TO SUPPORT THIS PROJECT AND HELP TO PLANT 1MILLION TREES LOCALLY.