U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Formalisation of local herbal product markets has potential to stimulate cultivation of medicinal plants by smallholder farmers in Kenya

Muriuki, Jonathan, Franzel, Steven, Mowo, Jeremias, Kariuki, Peris, Jamnadass, Ramni
Forests, trees and livelihoods 2012 v.21 no.2 pp. 114-127
alternative crops, biodiversity, cities, economic analysis, farmers, farms, herbal medicines, issues and policy, markets, medicinal plants, packaging, plant anatomy, planting, purchasing, raw materials, trade, trees, Kenya
Trade in medicinal tree products is rising in urban centres of the developing world, posing a threat to biodiversity. Cultivation of medicinal plants is a viable alternative source of raw materials, but evidence on whether traders are willing to source from farms is lacking. In this study, it was assumed that an increase in consumer awareness would stimulate the creation and growth of formal enterprises dealing in herbal medicine, through demand for medicinal products that are better packaged and labelled as compared to openly sold plant parts. The study sought to establish whether medicinal plant traders in Kenya sourced raw materials from smallholder farmers and whether there was potential to raise cultivation levels of medicinal trees by smallholders with increased formalisation of enterprises. The study interviewed 55 herbal medicine enterprises classified as herbal clinics, final product enterprises, and herbal semiprocessing enterprises in four major cities of Kenya and 200 farmers in an area close to Mt. Kenya, where trees are in abundance on the farms there. The enterprises in the final products category were more recent, were the fastest growing, and sourced raw materials mostly from farms through purchasing. Most farmers in our study were not aware of opportunities to sell medicinal plant products, but those who sold products from other tree categories responded by planting more of those trees. Policies that facilitate herbal enterprises to buy more from farmer groups as well as economic analysis of the best candidate medicinal tree species for cultivation as alternative crops are recommended.