The cultural beliefs, values and utilization of East Africa Sandalwood Osyris lanceolata (Hochst & Steudel) in and around Chyulu Hills Ecosystem, Kenya
Keywords:East African Sandalwood, Chyulu Hills Ecosystem, Traditional knowledge, Cultural values, Cultural taboos, Cultural beliefs
Background: In Kenya, the endangered East African Sandalwood, sourced mostly from limited natural stands, is widely used by local rural populations for multiple purposes including for nutraceutical and health benefits, but its potential for domestication and poverty alleviation are largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify current sources and uses of the plant, cultural values, taboos, and beliefs associated with its use and management, and how local knowledge of the plant is acquired and transmitted to younger generations, all with a view of contributing to its conservation and sustainable use.
Methods: The data on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, local knowledge of plant utilization, cultural beliefs, values, and taboos associated with the plant, and transmission of inter-generational knowledge were collected from May 2018 to November 2018. Data were collected from seven traditional healers and 384 household heads with knowledge of the plant, residing in sixty Kamba villages and thirty Maasai villages on the Eastern and Western sides of Chyulu Hills Ecosystem, respectively, using structured questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and Focus Group Discussions.
Results: Findings revealed that the plant was mainly sourced from the natural protected forests. The major uses were medicinal while knowledge on cultural values, taboos and beliefs related to East African Sandalwood were known by only 35% of participants. Plant knowledge was transmitted inter-generationally mainly by parents and grandparents (74%). Differences between ethnic group (p=0.000, X2=176.173), occupation (p=0.000; X2=122.615) and on-farm sources of income (p=0.000, X2=131.568) as well as ethnic group (p=0.000, X2=138.433), occupation (p=0.000, X2=113.999) and on-farm sources of income (p=0.008, X2=64.668) were statistically significant on current uses and the cultural values, taboos, and beliefs of the plant respectively
Conclusions: The results should contribute to the on-going domestication, propagation and sustainable conservation of the plant. Although the species is used for multiple purposes, its main value was found in medical applications and hence has a commercial potential in the alternative pharmaceutical sector.
Keywords: East African Sandalwood, Chyulu Hills Ecosystem, Traditional knowledge, Cultural values, Cultural taboos, Cultural beliefs
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