Bulama tasks practitioners on harnessing herbs for economic development
… As Bioresources holds Herbfest 2014
For economic development to be a reality in the country, researchers, entrepreneurs, traditional medicine practitioners, and other stakeholders in the health sector, must strive to promote and improve on our indigenous bioresources, natural medicine knowledge, natural products resources as well as initiate means of connecting these resources for the wellbeing of the citizens, Dr. Abdul Bulama, minister of science and technology has said.
The minister, who was also the chairman at the Herbfest 2014, made this submission while addressing the audience at the opening ceremony of the 3-day international symposium, which took place at the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Vitoria Island Lagos, on November 25, 2014.
Speaking on the theme of the workshop titled : “Herbs, health foods, herbal and natural products: shifting the boundaries of health care”, he said it is very relevant at such a time as this, when the government is aiming at using all available resources of the nation to improve on the welfare of citizens.
He described Herbfest as a laudable initiative which has potentials to promote the production of healthy indigenous foods and herbal therapies that will assist in addressing local and global food nutrition and health challenges, encourage sustainable utilization of our vast biological resources, facilitate conservation of our environment and assist the creation of job and wealth creation to the nation through industrial expansion, commerce, science, technology and innovation development.
Bulama, who was represented by Dr. Menesa Gwoza noted that Nigeria possesses about 40 per cent of medicinal plants and assured that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology will continue to provide a credible platform for the development of these natural resources as well as support innovative research to assist in developing these herbal resources research and development outputs which will indeed contribute to create jobs, wealth and improve the lives of the people.
In his own contribution, Director General of NNMDA, Dr TF Okujagu, who is a co-host of the event, said the overall goal of Herbfest is to showcase the rich biodiversity and investment opportunities of Nigeria and the West African sub-region in general to the world and enhance the patronage /recognition, productive capacity and income status of small producers of herbal and other natural products through a combination of market promotion, enterprise development, scientific session and training and simultaneously promote trade and investment in the bio-business sector.
He emphasised the uniqueness of Herbfest 2014, stating that it is targeted on bridging the health gaps created by inefficient use of natural products, showcasing research and products used from nutrition to health and promoting the activities of traditional practitioners and community health workers as well as stimulate investment in the herbal, natural products field and contribute to transforming the country by improving healthcare delivery, creating jobs, wealth and contributing to national socio-economic growth and development.
The main host of the programme, Dr Maurice Iwu explained the essence of Herbfest, as an initiative to bridge the gap between the production of medicinal herbs and pharmaceutical products manufacturing. He acknowledged the fact that many researches have been done, but they are insufficient in quantity and quality to break the barrier frontiers, as there is no integration of scientific components to empirical information available.
The renowned scientist who spoke to pharmanews in an exclusive chat during the conference further said the other challenging aspect of natural medicine is the business component, as there are no many success stories of people making money from medicinal plants, thus there are no industry drivers. “This is why Herbfest now holds annually to motivate and drive inventors into the vast bioresources of our nation, thereby initiating economic growth through plants”.
On the issue of substandard herbal products in circulation, he said NAFDAC is doing a lot to check the activities of these unscrupulous men, by insisting that they submit their products for verification before they circulate in the market.