Economic Botany Section
Bussmann, Rainer W .
East African plant use – differences in plant use between nomadic and agricultural societies.
This paper examines the differences in plant use between the Kikyu, Maasai and Samburu societies in Kenya. The Kikuyu people mostly occupy the Central Province of Kenya. Farming is the main economic activityin the area with coffee and tea as the main cash crops. This region has high population density and large concentration of forests, which are facing intense pressure due toover-utilization and hence medicinal plants may be disappearing before their uses are documented. The Samburu are pastoralists in Northern Kenya, and have to a larger extent maintained their traditional lifestyle. The "Il-Purko" Maasai live as pastoralists in the South of the country, to which they were moved from Central Kenya by the British Colonial Administration in 1904. This makes their comparison to the other groups studied particularly interesting. Traditionally the nomadic tribes attribute most illnesses to the effect of pollutants that block or inhibit digestion. This can include "polluted" food, contagion through sick people as well as witchcraft. In most cases the treatment of illness involves herbal purgatives to cleanse the patient. There are however frequent indications of plant use for common problems like wounds, parasites, body aches and burns. In contrast, the agricultural Kikuyu regard health problems more as caused by spiritual effects, e.g. the influence of an enraged ancestor.
The differences in lifestyle and assessment of health needs clearly are reflected in the plant knowledge of the study groups. The Samburu have retained a very large plant knowledge, with 249 plant species used in daily life. The Maasai in contrast used only 99 species. The agricultural Kikuyu used the largest number of plant species, which also reflects their privileged location in an ecotone that contains both, savanna and large forest tracts, and thus the most diverse flora of the country.
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1 - Missouri Botanical Garden, William L. Brown Center, P.O. Box 299, Saint Louis, MO, 63166-0299, USA
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: 552B/Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Time: 1:45 PM