Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Plant and Environmental Science

Advisor

Layton, Dr. Patricia A

Committee Member

Hall , Dr. Karen C

Committee Member

Baldwin , Dr. Elizabeth D

Abstract

Approximately 80% of the rural population in developing countries relies on traditional medicinal plants for their health care needs. As a result, people have developed their knowledge of these traditional medicines through their experiences and daily observations. In the Maasai community, this information is deeply rooted in their culture, transferred from one generation to the next orally and along gender lines. This study explored the traditional medicinal plants used by the Loita Maasai to treat human health problems with the aim of identifying the salient medicinal plants of the Loita Maasai and their uses (Chapter 2). In addition, due to their dependence on the environment, the Maasai have developed traditional mechanisms to protect these plants. To investigate these strategies, this study documented the traditional conservation methods used by the Loita Maasai to protect their medicinal plants (Chapter 3). The data was collected through face-to-face freelisting interviews of 31 women and men from the three villages in Loita of Ilkerin, Inkopon and Entasekera, identified through purposive sampling and snowball sampling and analyzed using ANTHROPAC software and thematic analysis for qualitative data. Orkonyil (Rhamnus prinoides), Oleparmunyo (Toddalia asiatica), Olkiloriti (Acacia nilotica), Olamuriaki (Carissa edulis), Olngonguenyi (Acacia kirkii), Olmisigiyioi (Rhus natalensis), Olperelengo, Oloirien (Olea europaea), and Osokonoi (Warburgia salutaris) were identified as the most salient plants, with some reported to have more than one medicinal use. In addition, the results revealed three primary traditional conservation strategies used in the study area to protect medicinal plants. Sustainable harvesting is a technique used to harvest these plants without damaging them to ensure their availability in the future. Second, the monitoring of these plants is seen as the collective responsibility of all the members of the community, meaning that everyone is responsible for protecting them. Third, a community structure is in place for resource management; the Council of Elders, composed of members elected by the community, is tasked with overseeing the management of natural resources in the study area.

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