Seaweeds of Zanzibar, herbal STI treats of Samburu, Malawi’s drought proof tea

Irene Kamanja

RISE has given students an opportunity to present their work and the work is impressive.

And, indeed, the bag of research from students is mixed. One project that came up yesterday was the distribution and nutritional composition of selected sea weeds that are used as marine fishing baits in basket traps in Zanzibar.

Grace Mutia of the Western Indian Ocean Regional Initiative wants to know the nutritional properties of seaweed and why parrot fish, a common local food source, choose them. The aim is to isolate and produce a fish-attracting chemical that will reduce seaweed demand and improve the lives of local fishermen.

Irene Kamanja from the University of Nairobi, under the African Natural Products Network, wants to establish an inventory of plants and formulations used to manage sexually transmitted diseases in Kenya’s Samburu community, 324 kilometres north of Nairobi. One hopes results will come out on the efficacy and toxicity of the priority plants used by local people to treat STI’s.

Malawians can now benefit from draught tolerant tea. Pelly Malebe of the Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products network, at University of Pretoria told me they have managed to identify drought tolerant genes for tea grown in Malawi. Hopefully improved quality life is assured for small farmers that will replace old tea cultivars with drought.

And Secilia Ilonga of the University of Namibia hopes her research into indigenous plants compounds that can treat cancer could help bring about safe and effective treatment in future.

This is just about the briefest pick of the vast research on offer by RISE students. They deserve best wishes.

Munyaradzi Makoni is a freelance journalist

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