Zhombwe (Neorautanenia brachypus (Harms) C.A.Sm.) – A recent discovery for mitigating effects of drought on livestock in semi-arid areas of Southern Africa

Chrispen Murungweni, J. A. Andersson, M. T. van Wijk, I. Gwitira, K. E. Giller


In semi-arid areas drought results in cattle death making people vulnerable to poverty. Drought conditions are set to increase as climate change is increasingly becoming an important threat to food security. In southern Africa, people recently discovered Neorautanenia brachypus (Harms) C.A.Sm., as an important medicinal feed that they now use to help cattle survive drought. N. brachypus was evaluated with the aim of providing scientific substantiation of peoples’ claims by determining the extent of its use, feed and anthelmintic value, and the ecological characteristics that explain its distribution. Information on characteristics and use of N. brachypus was gathered from focus group discussions and a semi-quantitative survey that employed structured interviews with both closed and open questions. The results showed that N. brachypus is used during drought by 59% of cattle owners, 14.5% do not use it because they have alternative grazing, and 26.5% did not know it can be used as cattle feed. Feed value of N. brachypus was evaluated as well as the anthelmintic value in the feeding trials with cattle and goats. N. brachypus contains adequate nutrients to maintain ruminant livestock during a drought. Infected animals fed on N. brachypus ended with less strongyloid worm infection in small ruminants (P < 0.05) and in large ruminants (P < 0.01) similar to animals dosed with the conventional recommended drugs. In the natural environment, N. brachypus was more commonly found in eutric vertisols and chromic luvisols than in ferric arenosols and leptosols, more in open spaces than in closed forests and more in cultivated areas than in naturally vegetated areas. It grows in a range of different types of soils and management affects its abundance. Ethnobotanical studies can offer important options on adaptation of human livelihoods to climate change. 

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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