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Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge MOST/CIRAN


Traditional ethnoveterinary medicine


The ethnoveterinary medicine project began in 1989 with 11 Fulani elders who are skilled in the use of indigenous remedies for treating various animal diseases. The project was initiated by Heifer Project International (HPI) in collaboration with the 11 founding members of the Cameroon Ethnoveterinary Association.

HPI staff were motivated to promote the use of ethnoveterinary remedies because of the frustration they experienced having to depend on modern veterinary clinics as the sole providers of animal health care in Cameroon. The modern veterinary sector is plagued by numerous constraints, including the erratic supply and prohibitive expense of veterinary drugs and supplies, poor communication facilities, and a shortage of manpower. The main goals of the project are to promote the complementary use of indigenous and conventional veterinary medicine for sustainable livestock production, and to promote the conservation of medicinal plant resources.

Through interdisciplinary collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations, the project has documented the indigenous treatment of various diseases and ailments of livestock. Farmers receive training from project staff on basic sanitation and basic hygiene in handling drugs. Experienced farmers give village-based training to other farmers not familiar with ethnoveterinary practices. To ensure the safety and predictable effectiveness of indigenous remedies, HPI and its collaborators work with farmers to test some of the remedies for effectiveness and possible toxicity.

The achievements of this project so far include:

  • the documentation of indigenous remedies for more than 150 diseases and conditions affecting livestock (ticks, intestinal worms, coccidiosis, diarrhea, bloat, wounds, fractures, reproductive problems, mange, streptothricosis, etc.);
  • the documentation of over 55 cattle diseases and conditions, and several other diseases of goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry;
  • increased use of effective indigenous remedies for animal health care, which has resulted in reduced costs for farmers;
  • the identification and conservation of medicinal plant resources;
  • the empowerment of indigenous farmers to contribute to their own development.

Region: Northwest Province


Diseases are now being treated using effective remedies that were used by local communities many years before the arrival of modern drugs. The practice depends above all on farmers' knowledge. Modern drugs complement indigenous ones and are used for certain diseases if no effective indigenous remedies are available.


Economic sustainability:
Farmers are now using more local remedies, which are several times cheaper than modern drugs. Low investment costs and increased livestock productivity improve farmersí monetary profits as well as their nutrition.

Environmental sustainability:

  • Important medicinal plants are being identified and conserved.
  • Infectious diseases that could also affect human beings and game animals are increasingly being treated in time to prevent their spread.
  • Local people are being trained in the sustainable harvesting of medicinal resources that grow in the wild.
Other types of sustainability:
  • Farmers have organized themselves into functional groups that promote their common interests.
  • Farmersí knowledge is being used as foundation for development. This is a source of pride to them and stimulates their willingness to participate in development projects.
  • Farmers are transmitting their knowledge to children and young people.

The project involves farmers, members of the HPI staff, development workers, and representatives of government agencies and institutions for education and research.

Livestock farmers of both sexes and all ages are the main beneficiaries, particularly the farmers belonging to groups that receive livestock assistance from HPI. The country benefits from the savings that result from reduced dependence on imported drugs. The academic community and its applied research benefit from the links that are established with farmersí organizations and development organizations.

Each group of stakeholders plays its role:

  • Farmers share the indigenous remedies they use to control diseases.
  • HPI documents indigenous knowledge and coordinates efforts to promote its use.
  • Agencies, organizations and the academic community collaborate with farmers and the HPI to study ethnoveterinary medicine and further develop certain aspects of it.
Altogether, between 1000 and 5000 people are taking part in the project.



  • Costs are low.
  • The practice enhances livestock production for improved human nutrition and income generation.
  • Because the practice builds on indigenous knowledge and practices, it enjoys a high rate of acceptance.
  • Indigenous knowledge is being preserved in a continuing way.
  • Farmers are empowered and encouraged to participate in development.
  • There is increased awareness of the importance of environmental conservation.
  • Cures might be discovered for diseases for which effective treatments do not yet exist.
  • Most indigenous remedies have not been scientifically validated.
  • Collaboration between indigenous and conventional veterinary practitioners is not what it should be.
  • There is a possibility that medicinal plants now growing in the wild will be over-exploited.
  • Information is orally transmitted so it takes a long time to get full details on procedures for diagnosing and treating diseases.

The practice has gained a lot in popularity and is attracting other farmers and researchers, if the number of requests for information that the project receives is any indication. Many farmers have established household gardens for growing medicinal plants, which gives them more access to remedies. Some animal diseases and conditions are controlled using indigenous remedies alone. The practice has a positive effect on the nutritional, economic, socio-cultural and environmental situation of the local communities.


  • Farmers are organizing frequent ethnoveterinary workshops.
  • More than 100,000 medicinal plants are being grown by farmers.
  • Our studies show that effective indigenous remedies are 85-95% less expensive than modern drugs if all costs are taken into account.
  • Livestock mortality has been reduced. This is measured by comparing the livestock deathrate in households which routinely use local treatments with that of households which do not use them. This is certainly very easy to monitor in the case of HPI-assisted farmers because each group receives the same type of livestock at the same time. Before the project began to encourage the sharing of information on ethnoveterinary practices, the farmers were using expensive modern drugs provided by the project. Now, the project provides such drugs on rare occasions: only when no ethnoveterinary remedies are available for a particular disease.

With minor adaptations, the practice is rather easy to replicate. Several factors can have a negative effect on it, however:

  • a lack of appreciation of indigenous knowledge on the part of development workers;
  • the unavailability of medicinal plant resources;
  • a failure to respect indigenous intellectual property rights.
Through HPI, the practice is being replicated in a number of places. The practice began in 1989 in only seven villages in Cameroon but has now been adopted by 50 villages, including all the HPI-assisted groups in three provinces of Cameroon. HPI country programmes in other countries (Tanzania and the Philippines, for example) have initiated similar practices. In 1993 HPI held an ethnoveterinary workshop in Bamenda, Cameroon, for all of its Africa representatives.

Anyone wishing to replicate the practice is advised to do the following:

  • Build up the confidence of the indigenous communities.
  • Involve the government department of veterinary services.
  • Make the project part of a larger effort to develop livestock production, and not just an isolated project for ethnoveterinary medicine.
  • Require an interdisciplinary approach (e.g. anthropology, veterinary science, botany, pharmacology).
Started in 1989 and still in operation.

USD 250,000.00


  • African Development Foundation
  • Global Environment Facility Program
  • Heifer Project International

J. Ngeh Toyang
Heifer Project International / Cameroon
Ethnoveterinary Medicine / Agroforestry Projects

and/or at:

University of Mississippi
School of Pharmacy
National Center for Natural Products Research
Email: ntoyang@olemiss.edu


Organization that provided this information:
Heifer Project International / Cameroon
Ethnoveterinary Medicine / Agroforestry Projects
PO BOX: 467
Bamenda, North West Province

Telephone: 237 363822
Fax: 237 363284
E-mail: hpicam@douala1.com
Url: http://www.heifer.org

Cooperating organizations:

Institute for Agricultural Research and Development
Bamenda, Northwest Province

Medicinal Foods and Plants Research Center
Bamenda, Northwest Province

University of Mississippi
School of Pharmacy
National Center for Natural Products Research
MS 38677 University
United States
Telephone: 601-232-7151
Fax: 601-232-7062
E-mail: ncdnp@olemiss.edu
Url: http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/ncdnp/

Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, Gorlaeus Laboratories,
Department: Pharmacognosy
Leiden University
Einsteinweg 55 / P.O. Box 9502, 2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands.
Phone: +31 71 5274528
TeleFax: +31 71 5274511
E-mail: verpoort@lacdr.leidenuniv.nl
Url: http://wwwpharm.leidenuniv.nl/

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