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MMUST COLLABRATION WITH MOTOMWAKA BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION GROUP SET TO TRANSFORM THE FUTURE OF HERBAL REMEDIES IN THE REGION

We may have outlived the days of medicine men and the use of herbs to cure diseases but that does not mean medicine men do not exist anymore and the herbs are no longer effective. In fact, contrary to these modern day beliefs, a team from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology was entranced by a special reintroduction to the ways our forefathers treated illnesses courtesy of Motomwaka Biodiversity Conservation Group. Some of these herbs are among those we bypass every day not realizing how potent they are in treating our health issues. Soon we may not need to run for chemically produced drugs.

MMUST organized a community outreach on 1st July 2021 through the Institute of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Studies (IIKCS), to the Motomwaka Biodiversity Conservation Sanctuary in Ingotse, Kakamega County. The purpose of the outreach was to take part in Motomwaka’s reception of a Certificate of Incorporation from Kakamega Forest Catchment Conservation (KANFOCC) as well as to cement the IIKCS engagement with them. KANFOCC is an amalgamation of Community Based Organizations in Kakamega County that deal with conservation of indigenous knowledge and culture. With this certificate, MMUST and Motomwaka may now officially collaborate since MMUST and KANFOCC have an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The certificate was presented to seven officials of Motomwaka by the KANFOCC Vice Chairman, Mr. Stanley Imbusi who was accompanied by the Organizing Secretary, Mr. Saulo Shamballah and treasurer, Mr. Daniel Muchesya . All the seven officials of Motomwaka have unique indigenous expertise in herbal treatment. They include Mr. John Malenya (Chairman) and Albert Simiyu, herbs expert; Martha Akumu, expert in trees that speak and expert in diseases of the veins, Wycliffe Mukalama – Expert in infertility, Fransica Inyele – Expert in child care, Zamzam Otenyo – Expert in asthma, ulcers and pregnancy and Pius Anyinyo – Expert in mental issues.

Speaking during the event, Deputy Director- Institute of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Studies (IIKCS), Dr. Lucy Mandillah, stated that the partnership with Motomwaka Biodiversity Conservation Group will steer research into herbal remedies from indigenous species. She was accompanied by Dr. Lydia Anyonje - Director Directorate of Corporate Communications and Marketing, Dr. Dennis Ochieno- Coordinator Webometrics and Short Courses, Dr. Rahab Kamau - Lecturer Chemistry Department, Mr. Peter Nyongesa – Biomedical Lab Technician and Judith Velma – PhD Student in the department of Chemistry.

The first thing that caught the eyes of the MMUST team were big sausage-like fruits hanging under the canopies. We persuaded the Motomwaka group to part ways with the knowledge on what those hanging ‘fruits’ were and what they are used for. Motomwaka, not in a hurry to unleash the rabbit from the magic hat kept our curiosity cooking until it was ripe enough to tell. Albert Simiyu, the expert on trees that speak, said the tree is called the Sausage Tree. It is used when a woman dies without having children where the sausage tree fruit is placed on the chest of the deceased in the manner she would hold a child. The medicine men then utter declarations to the deceased that are meant to nullify the childlessness omen on other living women around. The sausage fruit is then buried and the woman buried later.

The occasion got spiced even more when Man Ingwe, a Kenyan celebrity recognized for the Ugali Sosa hit song, showed up and took a sit in our midst. Formally known as Anderson Ambindi, Man Ingwe’s home is just three minutes away from Motomwaka sanctuary and is also working with Mr. Malenya on a community project.

Mr. Malenya, an 89-year-old man who looks way younger than his age is a celebrated traditional herbs expert and a musician who was happy to briefly entertain us with songs from the 80s using an acoustic guitar and a funny looking hat that is a prop for his songs.

“ We are proud to be associated with Masinde Muliro University. Using herbs to treat all kinds of diseases is not ‘uganga’ (witchcraft). These are things we have been taught by our fathers which trace back to having been taught by God. God is the giver of these plants we use for medicine. Our work is to treat, and God heals.” The Motomwaka founder said as he demonstrated to the MMUST entourage and leaders from KANFOCC what certain herbs treat.

Motomwaka would not let the day go any further without getting the MMUST delegation to have a taste of at least one herb. Hot tea was served and flavored with Eucalyptus Salvadora. The herb which is a mixture of 5 plants has been crystallized to dissolve in hot beverages to help in clearing the respiratory tract hence treating coronary complications. While taking the strong mint steam that caused tears and laughter, everyone attested that their chest cavity became clearer than they had ever felt before. If these are the herbs that have such a serene and effective result, you might be tempted to divorce chemists and hospitals.

The Motomwaka herbal sanctuary which thrives on agroforestry is the home of up to 150 species of indigenous trees. The herbal experts say that all the trees have an illness that they cure. Motomwaka has been working with researchers from the department of Chemistry in Analytical Chemistry. The researchers include Dr. Rahab Kamau, Dr. Danstone Baraza and Senior Technician MMUST Biomedical Lab, Mr. Peter Nyongesa.

Today, the fruits of those visits by members of the MMUST Chemistry department lie in wait to ripen even more through the newly formed collaboration of MMUST’s Institute of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Studies with Motomwaka Biodiversity Conservation group. This partnership shows that the strength of a University is in its research agenda and community outreach.


by Jairus KorirVictor Mukoshi