Original Research

Assessment of traditional ecological knowledge and beliefs in the utilisation of important plant species: The case of Buhanga sacred forest, Rwanda

Runyambo Irakiza, Minani Vedaste, Bizuru Elias, Brigitte Nyirambangutse, Nsengimana Joram Serge, Ndimukaga Marc
Koedoe | Vol 58, No 1 | a1348 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v58i1.1348 | © 2016 Runyambo Irakiza, Minani Vedaste, Bizuru Elias, Brigitte Nyirambangutse, Nsengimana Joram Serge, Ndimukaga Marc | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 August 2015 | Published: 22 July 2016

About the author(s)

Runyambo Irakiza, Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), East and Southern Africa, Weed Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (ACNR), Kigali, Rwanda
Minani Vedaste, Institute of Scientific and Technological Research, National Herbarium of Rwanda, Huye, Rwanda
Bizuru Elias, College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
Brigitte Nyirambangutse, College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
Nsengimana Joram Serge, Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda (ACNR), Kigali, Rwanda
Ndimukaga Marc, Association pour la Promotion des Etudes d’Impacts Environnementaux au Rwanda (APEIER), Kigali, Rwanda


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Abstract

Traditional ecological knowledge is an integrated part of the African people and indeed the Rwandese for cultural purpose. Buhanga sacred forest is a relict forest of tremendous ecological importance to Rwandan society located in Musanze District. The aim of this study was to assess the traditional ecological knowledge and belief in the utilisation of some important plant species for the conservation of Buhanga sacred forest. Ecological information about ethnomedicinal and traditional practices were collected following structured questionnaire through interview involving eight traditional healers and three focus group discussions. Data were collected from the natural habitats, home gardens, farmlands and roadsides of Buhanga sacred forest. A total of 45 botanical taxa belonging to 28 families were reported to be used by the local community. Species such as Brillantaisia cicatricosa and Senna septemtrionalis were the popular species cited by traditional healers to treat human and animal diseases and ailments, respectively. The results of the study indicated that because of the cultural norms and values associated with the sacred forest, this has led to non-exploitation. The study presents key sites and plant species in which their use and belief can lead to their conservation. However, not only is it imperative to conserve traditional local knowledge for biocultural conservation motives but there is also need to train traditional healers on how to domesticate indigenous species as conservation measure because some species have become susceptible to extinction.

Conservation implications: Highlighting indigenous species investigated in this research will provide a powerful tool for ensuring biodiversity conservation through community participation in a country of high population density in Africa. Some plant species that provided satisfactory Local Health Traditions among communities surrounding Buhanga can contribute as good material for further research in Rwanda.


Keywords

Conservation, Ethnobotany, Traditional knowledge, Sacred forest, Rwanda

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