Blog by MBP Volunteer, Hilary
It shouldn’t be surprising to me that there are so many uses for the plants that grow naturally in the forests and fields here in Kianjavato, but the knowledge that some members of the have about the plants is astounding. We’ve recently started working on a project where the previous volunteers left off, which involves interviewing members of the community about the medicinal uses of the plants found locally. The goal of the project is to have a community-run garden where people can harvest and share medicinal plants they have transplanted and tended.
Right now, we are in the process of compiling a list of plant and tree species with their medicinal properties and natural remedies. For example, mashing the leaves of the Pocanelle tree and applying the paste to infected hair for one day can cure head lice. And we already have over 100 of these remedies! I had read before coming to Madagascar that some very important drugs in treating leukemia are derived from a plant found in the Malagasy forest called Madagascar periwinkle, but I had no idea of the number of common ailments that can be remedied from plants found just minutes away from the village.Tessa, one of the last volunteers, left us with an extensive list of over 100 species of plants, 15 of which can remedy a fever. We hope to build on this list with a bit more focus on trees so that in the future, we may have a garden of medicinal plants surrounded by a grove of trees with medicinal properties.
Last week, we interviewed an older woman named Baovelona, who seemed eager to share her extensive knowledge with us. Donovan and I met Baovelona at her brother’s house, Dadaloika, who works full time with MBP, and we were thankfully joined by Fredo to translate. We sat down in the dimly lit one-room home, introduced ourselves, and Baovelona began to tell us some of what she knows. Illnesses and ailments from diabetes to head lice were covered, some having remedies from trees we already plant with the Reforestation team, but we also covered some new species I had never heard of.
One plant that Baovelona very well could have been an expert on was Ramamelona. It seemed liked it could make any woman’s pregnancy a lot easier by minimizing bleeding, curing dizziness and regulating horomones. It is possible that a key factor of one particular remedy was lost in translation, but from what I understood the tree had some spirtitual properties as well as medicinal. What Baovelona explained was that if a pregnant widow is visited in her dreams, by the ghost of her husband, the smoke from the burnt sap of the tree will send the spirit away. Some remedies were stranger than others but it certainly made for an interesting interview. After covering 14 species over about an hour of talking we said our thanks and parted ways. For a first meeting, I think it went pretty well and I’m really looking forward to what the next meeting will bring.