We are blessed with a rich variety of indigenous plants which should be used to drive socio-economic development, said Dr Nox Makunga of the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Monday (2 June 2014).
She was the speaker at the fourth Stellenbosch Forum Lecture of 2014. The Stellenbosch Forum lecture series provides regular opportunities to staff and students at SU, as well as interested people from the public, to learn more about the relevant, world-class research that is being done at SU.
Makunga said we have a rich biodiversity with many indigenous plants already being used as traditional medicine to treat numerous illnesses.
“About 25% of all our common drugs contain at least one compound derived from plants.”
“Traditional medicine is part of our health care system. About 70 to 80% of world’s population still relies on herbal medicine.”
Makunga added that while the natural products industry generate billions of dollars globally each year, Africa fails to take full advantage of this despite the abundance of indigenous plants at our disposal.
“Although we have a high biodiversity, matched with a high bio-cultural diversity that is interlinked to people-plant use, we export most of our plant material to Europe in its rawest form without any additional value attached to it.”
Makunga said the use of biotechnology can help us create additional revenue through indigenous plants. “We are sitting on a botanical gold mine,” she added.
She mentioned that government, in realising the value of our indigenous plants, came up with a bio-economy strategy to use our natural resources sustainably and to drive bio-based innovation.
Makunga said it is important that we protect our flora and also capture our indigenous knowledge in its current form before it becomes lost to future generations.
She added that academia and industry should work together in this regard.
By Alec Basson
Source: Stellenbosch University