Experts call for sustainable exploitation of natural products

 By Patrick Amunavi

Researchers, scholars and herbal medicine practitioners drawn from various countries in Eastern and Central African region have emphasized the contribution of research and information sharing towards sustainable exploitation of the natural products.

They highlighted Africa’s potential to harness indigenous knowledge and practices while at the same time, advancing the science of natural products.

This was revealed at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) during a two-day International Conference on Natural Products Research Network for Eastern and Central Africa (NAPRECA) that brought together over a hundred  researchers and practitioners in natural products from Kenya, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe to deliberate on their recent research findings and to showcase innovative products that are aimed at encouraging communities to take own initiative in seeking solutions to underlying problems in health related areas using the natural products.

JKUAT Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Administration, Prof. Victoria Ngumi, who represented the Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga, “acknowledged the aptness of the Conference theme – “Utilization of Natural Products for the Betterment of the Livelihood of Mankind,” noting, the conference deliberations were taking place at a time the humankind is facing several challenges.

“Researchers must leverage on the knowledge gained in specific research areas to provide sustainable solutions to the problems affecting people in the region through the utilization of natural products,” Prof. Ngumi stated.

She lauded NAPRECA for exposing young scientists in natural products research area to the nuances of state-of-the-art research techniques and urged them to sustain the momentum of vitality in the network’s activities among member countries.

An expert in plant physiology with research interests in conservation of indigenous plants, in her presentation titled: “Indigenous knowledge of plants and its importance in utilization of natural products,” Prof. Ngumi said studies have indicated that a number of medicinal plants are over exploited leading to their being threatened, and further argued that plants with important characteristics and natural products are likely to be lost forever and called for the use of botanical gardens and herbal gardens as conservation centres of endangered plants.

Kericho County Governor, Prof. Paul Chepkwony, who is also a member of NAPRECA, gave a presentation on: Intellectual property: practical steps in Patenting,” in which he urged researchers and innovators to patent their inventions in order to curb loss of intellectual property rights (IPR).

Drawing from his experience in intellectual property rights with about ten patents, the organic chemistry professor and JKUAT alumnus, took the researchers through the journey of successful patenting of inventions outlining the critical steps that any inventor needs to appreciate in order to benefit from his or her IPR. The main objective of NAPRECA is to initiate, develop and promote research in the area of natural products in the Eastern and Central African sub-region.


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