SROS to Preserve Native Medicinal Plants for Traditional Healers

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By Joshua Lafoa’i

Samoan traditional knowledge in medicine is proving valuable for SROS – the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa in their exploration of native plants.

The SROS  Plants and Postharvest Technologies division at Nafanua is led by Masuisuiolemalietoa Dr. Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni who says Samoan native plants have shown huge potential in medicine.

“There are 500 native flowers in Samoa, and about 200 ferns in Samoa,” she said.

“Traditionally, we’ve discovered that much of these plants can be used in everyday Samoan life. From medicine to consumption to other uses,” added Masuisuiolemalietoa.

Over 130 plants found in Samoa are used or can be used for medicinal purposes but only 84 of those are used by local traditional healers known as taulasea.

The fuesaina. Scientific name: Mikania micrantha also known as the Japani Lota জাপানী লতা

Masuisui says that some plants from the list of 130 medicinal plants that were widely used in the past, are no longer used today with some now extnid

“Others were recorded in historical writings, but we have not come across any confirmation as of yet,” she added.

Masuisuiolemalietoa revealed that the traditional doctors’ community in Samoa are under threat because they are finding it difficult to source the right plants.

Masuisuiolemalietoa Dr. Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni

“Only a few traditional healers have access to the plants they specialise in, and some have come to lose their practice because the plants they are accustomed to have become either extinct, or very rarely found, and some are only found in certain parts of the rainforests, and in other cases, entire parts of rainforest have been wiped out, eradicating along with it are the plants our traditional healers rely on,” she added.

This has caught the attention of  Cabinet who have responded by giving priority to the replanting, and preservation of Samoan native plants identified by SROS to be of high value to Samoan livelihoods.

A special garden is in the pipeline for SROS under the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries where SROS will plant, nurture and preserve all plants recognised by Masuisuiolemalietoa and her team.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi welcomed the initiative and immediately impressed onto the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua to capitalise on the space at the MAF Crops division in Nu’u.

“We have been pushing this initiative for quite some time, but now we’ve put the plan in action,” the Prime Minister added.

“It is important that we preserve the plants that have been proven useful to our Samoan people’s livelihoods in medicine and food for consumption. I would advise that this project be implemented in Nu’u where there is adequate space to host all the plants needed for the project,” said the Prime Minister..

About SROS

Established in 2006 to support economic development through a research focused approach, SROS is now currently headed by Dr Seuseu Tauati.

Vision: “Achieving a significant improvement in Samoa’s GDP and social benefits through research and the development of value adding to Samoa’s goods and services.”

Mission:  “To conduct scientific research and development technologies of great value in the sustainable development of value added goods and services for export, and to achieve reduction in fuel imports and greenhouse gas emission.”