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Domestication of Albizzia anthelmintica, Euclea natalensis and Steganotaenia araliacea

Dries DESLOOVER student laureate

°1978 Belgium
Bio-engineer land and forest management, Universiteit Gent, Belgium, 2001

Domesticatie van Albizzia anthelmintica, Euclea natalensis en Steganotaenia araliacea

It is a well-known fact that man, in order to be properly fed, depends largely upon plants, and that plants have played a major role in the development of medicine. On the other hand, very often people are not aware that on this earth there are still a lot of plant species the potential nutritional value of which is not known. Nor are people aware of their importance for the preparation of medicine. On the one hand, a huge number of the plant species in nature are completely unknown – and, therefore, have not been named. On the other, there is still a very limited knowledge about the possible use of a lot of the species that have been named. The rewarded work focuses on three plant species, i.e. Albizzia anthelmintica of the Fabaceae, Euclea natalensis of the Ebanaceae and Steganotaenia araliacea of the Apiaceae. These plants are locally used by the NGO ‘Tanga AIDS Working Group’ in Tanzania to treat opportunistic infections resulting from AIDS. The main aim of the work is to guarantee the efficiency of these plants in the AIDS-treatment by means of their domestication. The knowledge about their generative and vegetative propagation is of essential importance, as it may improve the sustainable use of the species and a possible commercialisation of their medicine without putting too high a pressure on the natural habitat. In fact, at this moment the plant species are harvested in their local environment, which may be a threat to their existence in the long run.
The domestication of these species is of great importance to the local population, as it has already become familiar with the use of the plants, and as they do not possess the necessary capital to purchase expensive medicine to treat HIV-infections. On the other hand, the research into unknown medicinal plants can lead to the discovery of better medicine in similar or closely related species.
As becomes clear from the above, this scientific work is constantly focusing on the needs of the local population and the sustainable use of the biodiversity. The study shows that Albizzia anthelmintica and Euclea natalensis can be propagated easily by means of seeds. Steganotaenia araliacea can be easily propagated via both seeds and
cuttings. This should enable the inclusion in agricultural projects and further research without causing damage to the species themselves or to the natural habitat.

report by Prof. Dr. E. Smets, Institute of Botany and Microbiology, Department of Biology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)