The Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Professor Kwabena Bosompem, has called on the government and the Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR) to encourage the cultivation and planting of medicinal plants.
He said the cultivation of medicinal plants, apart from contributing huge revenues to the country, would help protect and conserve rare medicinal plants.
According to him, many medicinal plants were fast becoming prone to extinction due to increasing human activities such as deforestation and illegal mining, popularly called ‘galamsey.’
Prof. Bosompem made the call in Accra last Wednesday during a national symposium on herbal and plant medicines.
This was in a presentation on the topic: “Sustainable safe plant medicine industry.”
The symposium organised by the CPRM, Mampong-Akuapem, was on the theme: “Galamsey; a threat to biodiversity, cultural heritage and sustainable safe plant medicine industry.”
Prof. Bosompem explained that medicinal plants were key to the sustainability of the herbal and plants medicine industry, hence destroying the plants would greatly affect the industry.
“I will encourage the Mampong Centre for Plant Medicine Research into Plants Medicine to enhance traditional medicine through genetically modified technologies,” he said.
Galamsey and herbal medicine
Touching on the threat of the menace of galamsey to the herbal medicine industry, Prof. Bosompem said the illegal mining activities were not only contributing to the destruction and extinction of some important medicinal plants, but they rendered herbal medicines unsafe for consumption.
He explained that because some of the chemicals, such as cyanide, mercury and heavy metals used by illegal miners found their ways in water bodies and soil, medicinal plants absorbed such poisonous chemicals and when such plants were used in preparing herbal medicine, they posed danger to its consumers.
Prof. Bosompem, therefore, urged the government not to renege on its efforts to end the menace of illegal mining in the country.
The Executive Director of the CPMR, Dr Augustine Ocloo, said the extinction of plants would have dire consequences on the existence of mankind.
“Plants, unlike animals, which are mobile and can move away from danger, are sedentary and are, therefore, more prone to the effects of environmental degradation,” he stated.
Dr Ocloo said there were huge opportunities in the medicinal plants industry which Ghana could take advantage of if the country took the necessary steps to protect the flora.
“Current world market value of herbal medicine stands at $71 billion and is expected to increase to about $107 billion by 2024. Ghana has great potential as a leading country with many medicinal plants to benefit from this huge market. Exportation of medicinal plant products is gaining grounds very quickly in Ghana,” he said.
The Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, in his remarks expressed worry about the way the country’s forests, which contained medicinal plants, were treated by people.
“We need to be careful the way we treat our forests,” he said, adding that: “it is good to preserve our forest so that we can go in there to get animal and plant species for medicinal purposes. It pays to preserve the forests because the forest is the pharmacy of God.”
The Chairman for the symposium, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, the Paramount Chief of the Essikado Traditional Area, said the country could have avoided the huge importation of medicines if it developed its herbal medicine industry well.
He said it was sad that people destroyed the environment, particularly medicinal plants, without considering their effects on the country’s health sector and economy.