The Executive Director of the Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR), Dr Augustine Ocloo has charged the government to tap into an estimated US$120 billion global trade in plant medicine by encouraging the commercial cultivation of medicinal plants for the export market.
The current world market value of the herbal medicine trade stands at US$71 billion and is expected to increase to about US$120 billion by 2024.
“Ghana has great potential as a leading country with many medicinal plants to benefit from this huge market as exportation of medicinal plant products is gaining grounds very quickly” he said.
In an interview with GRAPHIC BUSINESS on the sidelines of the 2017 national symposium of the CPMR at the British council hall in Accra on Wednesday, October 11, Dr Ocloo said though the country could benefit from the global medicinal trade, it was imperative to protect the country’s forests and make plant resources free from heavy metal pollution.
“We stand to lose out on our increasing market share of this global trade if actions are not taken to protect our forests and make our plant resources free from heavy metal pollution through the activities of galamsey”, he said.
The symposium, organised on the theme, Galamsey; a threat to biodiversity, cultural heritage and sustainable safe plant medicine industry, was aimed at creating platforms for the presentation and discussion of research findings and topical issues on plant medicine.
Alternative source of livelihood
The Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Prof. Kwabena Mante Bosompem in an interview with the paper during the symposium made a clarion call on the government to consider the commercial cultivation of plant medicine to help eradicate galamsey as it will provide an alternative source of livelihood for communities that presently rely on galamsey as a sole source of income.
“If you ask people who survive on proceeds from galamsey to quit then you must provide for them an alternative source of income to improve on their socio economic lives and that is what the commercial farming of plant medicine could help us achieve, so we need to educate the people for them to know the economic benefits of medicinal plant cultivation”, he said.
He disclosed that the activities of galamsey could bring to extinction some variety of plant medicine if steps were not taken to address the growing phenomenon.
Depleting forest resources
The country recorded a loss of 2.5m hectares of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010 according to the 2015 Ghana Millennium Development Goals report by the National Development Planning Commission.
Among the major causes of this phenomenon are the unsustainable harvesting of medicinal plants for production of herbal based medicaments and beverages, logging for timber and the activities of galamsey.
Meanwhile, a medical sociologist at the University of Ghana, Prof. Kodjo Senah in a speech read on his behalf at the symposium said sustainable development implied the utilisation of resources to meet present day needs in a manner that did not prevent future generations from meeting their own needs.
He said the utilisation of medicinal plants today should not compromise the ability of future generations to also benefit from these plant resources and applauded the government for taking pragmatic steps to address the galamsey menace.
“It is ,therefore, heart-warming that the current government has taken a bold and courageous step to stop galamsey”, he added-GB.