Diversity of medicinal plants and anthropogenic threats in the Samburu Central Sub-County of Kenya
Background: Traditional herbal medicine has been a constant source of substances for curing and preventing a variety of ailments. Biodiversity of medicinal plants and effects of human activities on availability of traditional herbal medicine have continuously received just a cursory treatment. This study sought to determine the biodiversity of medicinal plants and evaluate the effects of human activities on availability of traditional herbal medicine among the Samburu pastoral community in Kenya.
Materials and Methods: A questionnaire survey was addressed to 195 randomly stratified household respondents in four villages in Samburu Central Sub-county. Transect walks were carried out in the four villages to determine the diversity of the medicinal plants. Voucher specimens of the medicinal plant species were deposited at Kenyatta University Herbarium.
Results: The species richness comprised of 19 medicinal plants, majority of which grew in the wild but were threatened by human activities. 56% of the households reported that fire incidences highly affected availability of traditional herbal medicine, 50% reported that grazing of livestock moderately affected availability of traditional herbal medicine, 46% reported that building and construction activities moderately affected availability, while 43% and 40% reported that firewood collection and growing of crops respectively lowly affected availability of traditional herbal medicine among the Samburu people.
Conclusion: Most of the Samburu people use traditional herbal medicine. However, majority of the medicinal plants are threatened by anthropogenic factors. This has led to the continued decline of traditional herbal medicine. There is, therefore need to adopt management strategies that enhance the conservation of these valuable natural resources.
Keywords: medicinal plant, traditional herbal medicine, Kenya, Samburu