Rural community ethos for development: Part Two…herbal medicines gaining traction

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By Vitalis Ruvando

THIS article interfaces the ‘Big Picture Learning’ curve on herbal practice with COVID-19 prevention and treatment among rural communities in Zimbabwe.

World Bank (2019) estimates that 53,06 percent Africans live in rural areas. 

Zimbabwe has about 68 percent residing in rural areas.

WHO estimates that 163 million people got infected while 3,3 million have died as a result of COVID–19

Earlier, WHO (2014) projected that 67 percent of mortalities will result from blood poisoning (sepsis) and scientific disabilities by 2050.

There is need to crisscross rural community ethos, perceptions, cognitions, beliefs and experiences with COVID-19 in relation to its herbal responses. 

“Is God asleep?” asks Fr Sebastian Walshe (2020) or “God is dead” as cultural critic Friedrich Neitzsche (1882) could have retorted. 

“Why have herbs remained a theatre of dreams in curbing COVID-19?” Chief Gutu asked pro-nuncio svikiro Gore.

Said President Emmerson Mnangagwa: “Vision 2030 is alive and beyond COVID-19, its accomplishment must be accelerated.” 

In order to prop Vision 2030, indigenes’ voices about COVID-19 in circumstances of medicalised xenophobia need to be interrogated or else indigenes may stay guinea-pigs forever. 

“There is need to Think Big beyond the COVID-19. Big Picture Thinkers on rural community ethos remain secreted,” remarked Chief Ndava of Masvingo. 

The proposed Big Picture Thinkers propose to develop herbal industries, gardens and plantations, create jobs, prop technological transfer and add to strides being made towards achieving a disease-free world.

Researches by Dr M. Gelfand (1979) and Prof T. Shoko (2007) posit that herbs motivate indigenes’ national identity, unity, culture, pride, health and well-being.

Perhaps ‘Africans are notoriously herbofilial’. 

However, the aforesaid proposition is slated by transnational pharmaceutical companies’ marketers.

Colluding are sections of mainstream media that are sightless to knowledge gaps that shy allopathic medicine from COVID-19 prevention and treatment. 

The said are mystifying synthetic COVID-19 medications as ‘medicine par excellence’. 

They debase Afro-herbal medicine as archaic placebos or dirty concoctions; the upside down of synthetic medicine or frontline palliatives.

In response, rural communities are using social media platforms. Such podia are replete with herbmaniac narratives on COVID-19 prevention and treatment. 

“Herbal medicine is a sleeping giant worth trillions of dollars. It is degraded to a medical nuisance by proxies of transnational pharmaceutical companies,” the late Mhondoro nuncio Sekuru Mushowe once remarked.

No doubt, there is need to highlight Afro-herbal heritages’ identity, successes and failures in mitigating COVID-19 inter alia the medicalisation of colonialism.

One global health analyst argued: “…autarchic health laws and policies; lack of transparency and accountability in operations of transnational pharmaceutical companies and their monopolies call for democratisation of the valued existing health systems.” 

Patriots resident in rural communities advocate: “Colonial or capitalist motives engendered by global north pharmaceutical companies and covertly waged researchers, politicians, clinicians are conspiring against herbal ascendancy in COVID-19 prevention and treatment.”

The late cultural icon Prof L. G. Chavunduka (2003) remarked: “Some African leaders are heftily paid by pharmaceutical companies to destroy herbal practice as a way to sustain valued existing yet monopolistic synthetic drug chains.”

As such, there is need to navigate the socio-medical impact of COVID-19 on herbal heritages with the aim of inspiring strides being made towards achieving global health. 

The rational for doing so is based on assumptions:

  • Afro-herbal medicines that contour traditional food culture are reshaping prevention, treatment and palliative practices during the COVID-19 era; 
  • Inclusive use of Afro-herbal medicines in backgrounds of modern food culture compromise the effectiveness and efficacy of allopathic medicines; 
  • Exclusive use of traditional food culture and allopathic medicines effects optimal effectiveness and efficacy of herbal medicines;
  • Colonial perceptions demean hygiene and doses associated with allopathic practice;
  • Afro-herbal heritages are tried and tested, acceptable, accessible and efficacious — they have been in use since time immemorial. 

For the sake of clarity, food culture is changing attitudes, beliefs, connections and experiences citizens have with food. 

Indigenous food culture is interlaced with antecessors, Afro-herbs, health outcomes and eventual levels of sociability of clients.

Despite doubts about the extent traditional food culture can inspire herbal practices, WHO (2000) observes that 80 percent of global citizens use herbal medicines.

In fact: “Herbal medicines, when consumed in environments of traditional food culture provide body supplements as opposed to synthetic medicines that prompt sepsis and multi-faceted side effects,” noted Village Head Mkadziwashe.

“More often than not, herbal medicines are showing promise in mitigating COVID-19 and unprofessed laboratory engineered viral infections,” noted Chiremba: psycho-somatic Sage Nyathi.

Perchance, indigenes believe that recognised or subdued efficacies of herbal medicine will, like a kite, shine whenever virus related pandemics threaten Africa.

Resulting from the impact of COVID-19, herbofilial pastors, priests, bishops, pharmaceutical scouts and medical anthropologists have reawakened. 

Clinicians, religionists, politicians and researchers are searching for COVID-19 responses in African forests not hospitals, churches, rallies or laboratories.

Vanishing are church homilies or political utterances that used to demonise herbal medicines as typecasts of Satanism. 

Perhaps the mute button has been pressed on strategies used to vilify herbal heritages. 

This seems to amplify growing scepticism on the efficacy of synthetic medicines.

Put on hold are health laws, policies and religious practices that deem illicit the administration of herbal medicines on affected families and infected people.

Subsequently, a deconstructed Afro-herbal welfare culture that engender a robust homespun care giving ethos is looming in rural communities.

Arguably, ballooning COVID-19 mortalities are imposing medical sentiments that disfavour Western medical practice in preference of herbal heritages. 

Many times, synthetic medicines are an afterthought much to the displeasure of pharmaceutical companies that are keen on profits at the expense of health.

Arguably, COVID-19 is uncovering capitalist adjuncts in Western medical frontiers that are hostile to strides being made towards attaining a disease-free world.

While challenging transnational pharmaceutical dictates, Madagascan and other African leaders are advocating the science and art of apothecary in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Despite the impending Afro-herbal ascendency, readers are encouraged to follow existing guidelines on COVID-19 as directed by the Head of State.

“I, therefore, challenge all of us in our respective communities to accept the vaccination programme and to shun vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and the negative conspiracy theories,” noted an anonymous Member of the House of Assembly

“Ignored should be the conflict of interest arising when African governments insist on synthetic medicines, motivate citizens to adhere to synthetic medical standards when the fiscal is drained and rural communities are investing in herbal innovations.” 

Local universities’ innovation hubs will make sense among rural communities if and only if they indulge in herbal value addition and other culture-based novelties.

Earlier, Prof Chavunduka (1998) observed that the prevailing scope in drug formulation and manufacturing point to an anthropological contention that African herbal heritages provide diverse molecular structures that motivate the development of transnational synthetic medicines.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 scourge presents a wake-up call in medical milieus where indigenes are less excited about exotic medicines because they do not motivate the development of herbal novelties. 

Rural communities view COVID-19 as a global north biological warfare frontier.

As COVID-19 infections snowball, rural communities are witnessing the dusk to fast foods and the rush for traditional foods like mifushwa, macimbi, and michero, among others.

Affected and infected citizens are using moringa (oleifera), zumbani (lipia javanica), mufandichimuka (myrothamnus flabellifolia), munyaka/museresere (serpentine), mutandangozi (butterfly orchid tree); matunduru (granite mangosteem). 

This far, Dr Michael Bhebhe (2019) proffers that lippia javanica mops out toxic chemicals from the body and mitigates COVID-19 diseases associated with overthinking or intense physical exercises, cancer, diabetes or weak immune system.

Homework arises: “Can one suggest that the tempestuous COVID-19 maybe inflamed by indigenes’ indifference to using their rich herbal heritage?”  

“Is the global east or west inspiring herbal sages and governments in the global south to develop their herbal heritages?” questioned Mhondoro nuncio Nehoreka

“We want to thank the Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care for incorporating traditional knowledge systems in the fight against COVID-19,” said the president of the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association, Friday Chisanyu.

In short, now is the time for Big Picture Thinkers to re-engage changing perceptions and cognition of herbal practices, develop herbal industries, create jobs, flare up the fiscal by complementing allopathic and synthetic medical practices in order to combat existing and looming epidemiological challenges.

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