Open Access

Ethnobotanical study of plants used in management of livestock health problems by Afar people of Ada’ar District, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine20139:8

DOI: 10.1186/1746-4269-9-8

Received: 9 August 2012

Accepted: 17 January 2013

Published: 23 January 2013

Abstract

Background

The great majority of the Afar people of Ethiopia are pastoralists, highly dependent on livestock and livestock products. Livestock productivity is, however, frequently affected by different diseases. Although many districts in the Region have veterinary clinics, they lack basic facilities. As a result, the Afar people are still dependent on local materials, mainly plants, and traditional knowledge to manage livestock health problems. However, there is a serious threat to such local resources mainly due to recurrent drought and influence of modernization. Hence there is a need for proper documentation and evaluation of the existing ethnoveterinary knowledge in the Region. This study was aimed at documenting and analysing ethnoveterinary knowledge of people in Ada’ar District of the Afar Region associated with the use of plants.

Methods

The study involved interviewing selected knowledgeable Afar people in Ada’ar District on the use of plants to manage livestock ailments. Fidelity Level (FL) values were calculated for the reported medicinal plant to estimate their healing potentials. Specimens of reported medicinal plant were collected, identified and deposited at the National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University.

Results

The study revealed 49 medicinal plants as being used by the Afar people of Ada’ar District for the treatment of various livestock ailments, the majority of which (67.3%) were shrubs. Highest number of medicinal plants was used to treat blackleg, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), sudden sickness and pneumonia. Leaf was the most frequently sought plant part, accounting for 47% of the reported plants. All the medicnal plants used in the District were uncultivated ones growing in semi-disturbed and disturbed habitats as remnant plants and weeds. Cissus quadrangularis and Solanum incanum were the plants scoring the highest fidelity level values for their use to treat blackleg and respiratory tract problems, respectively.

Conclusion

The study revealed that there is still rich knowledge of ethnoveterinary medicine in Ada’ar District. There was no habit of cultivating medicinal plants by people in the study area. Efforts, should, therefore, be made to protect these medicinal plants from further depletion, especially those that are scarcely availabale. Better attention should be given to medicinal plants with the highest fidelity level values as such values could indicate potencies of the plants.

Keywords

Medicinal plants Ethnoveterinary practices Afar Ada’ar District Ethiopia

Background

Ethiopia is among the countries in Africa with the highest livestock populations [1]. Livestock production is an integral part of the Ethiopian agriculture and shares about 40% of the total agricultural output [2]. Although the country is rich in its livestock population, it is among the countries in the world with the lowest unit output. The poor health condition of its livestock has partially been responsible for the low productivity.

Modern livestock health care is still at its lowest stage in the country due to lack of adequate clinics, veterinarians and supply of drugs. Besides, most modern drugs are expensive and, as a result, not affordable by the majority of Ethiopian farmers and pastoralists. As a result, people rely on their traditional knowledge, practices and locally available materials (mainly plants) in the management of diseases of their domestic animals. Ethnoveterinary practice in the country is, however, being affected due to acculturation and depletion of plants as a result of environmental degradation, deforestation and over exploitation of the medicinal plants themselves. However, very little of the ethnoveternary knowledge in Ethiopia in relation to the use of medicinal plants is so far properly documented and analysed [38].

The Afar people of Ethiopia reside in the Afar Regional State. The great majority of them are pastoralists and, as a result, highly dependent on livestock and livestock products. Livestock productivity is, however, frequently affected by different diseases. They, therefore, give high priority to the well being of their domestic animals. As access to modern veterinary facilities in the Afar Region is very limited, the people are still expected to largely rely on their traditional knowledge in the management of livestock health problems.

To the author’s knowledge, there is only one proper ethnobotanical study conducted in the Afar region [9]. The current study tried to document and analyse ethnoveterinary knowledge and practices of the pastoral Afar people residing in Ada’ar District of the Afar Region with emphasis on medicinal plants. Ada’ar is among the districts in the Region with the highest populations of cattle, goats and sheep.

Materials and methods

The Afar Region and people

The Afar people reside in the Afar Regional State, north-eastern Ethiopia. Afar is one of the major pastoral regions in Ethiopia. It shares borders with Eritrea in the north, Djibouti and Somali Region in the east, Tigray and Amhara regions in the west and Oromiya Region in the south. Semera is the administrative town of the Region and is located at about 600 km northeast of Addis Ababa. The Afar Region is divided into five zones, 29 districts (weredas) and 355 kebeles [10]. Kebele is the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia. Altitude in the Region ranges from 1500 m a.s.l. to 120 m below sea level [10]. The Region receives bimodal rainfall with a precipitation of 150–500 mm per annum and temperature varies from 20 to 48°C [10].

Based on the 1994 national census, the population of the Afar people of Ethiopia was projected to be 1.3 million in 2004, of which 56% are males and 44% females [11]. Afar economy is highly dependent on livestock and livestock products. The livestock population of the Afar Region is estimated to be about 4 million [10]. Cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys are commonly raised. Livestock productivity is, however, affected by different diseases that occur in the Region [12]. Although the majority of districts in the region have veterinary clinics, they lack basic facilities such as electricity, water and clinical and diagnostic equipment and most of them frequently face shortage of drugs [10]. Afar people residing in districts adjacent to the neighbouring highlands of the Tigray and Amhara regions cultivate sorghum, maize, teff and cotton [10].

The study district

The current study was conducted in Ada’ar District belonging to Zone 1 of the Afar Region of Ethiopia (Figure 1). The District is bordered by Mile (east), Chifra (northwest) and Dewe (southeast) districts of the Afar Region and Bati (west) and Telalak (southwest) districts of the Amhara Region. The District is administratively divided into 13 kebeles. According to Ada’ar District Administration, the total human population of the District is 59,637. According to Ada’ar District Pastoral, Agriculture and Rural Development Office, livestock population of the District in 2009 was estimated to be 683,977, of which cattle had the highest population (166,964), followed by sheep (164,857) and goat (329,714). The same Office reported that anthrax, blackleg and pastereulosis were among the most prevalent livestock ailments in the District. There are three veterinary health posts and two private drug shops in the District.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-9-8/MediaObjects/13002_2012_Article_304_Fig1_HTML.jpg
Figure 1

Map of Ada’ar District (Source: GIS Team of Afar National Regional State, BoFED, May 2009).

Selection of informants

For the interview, a total of 21 knowledgeable Afar informants (20 males and 1 female) from eight kebeles, namely Burka, Neile-Askala, Siylu-Waky, Ada’ar, Ledi, Woantu-Fursa, Eluwuha and Jeldi were involved. All the informants were Muslims between the ages of 24 and 68 years. The informants were identified with help of Ada’ar Administration Office and elders nominated by the same office.

Data collection method and type of data collected

Ethnobotanical data were gathered mainly through individual interviews conducted with the knowledgeable informants during five trips made to the study area between August 2008 and April 2011. For this purpose, a semi-structured interview guide was prepared in English beforehand. Interviews with informants were conducted by the researchers with the help of Afar translators. During interview, data regarding the kinds of livestock ailments treated or prevented and the types of medicinal plants used (including their local names), the plant parts used, modes of remedy preparations, route of administration and dosages were collected. Besides, information in relation to local trade, cultivation practices, habitat, abundance and threats of claimed medicinal plants was gathered. Specimens of the reported medicinal plant were collected, dried and identified by their scientific name, and vouchers were deposited at the National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University.

Data analyzing methods

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software was employed for organising and analysis ethnobotanical data. Relative importance (RI) of each cited medicinal plant was calculated using a method by Bennett and Prance [13]. RI is calculated using the formula RI = NP + NCS, where NP is obtained by dividing the number of properties (reported specific ailments) attributed to a species divided by the total number of properties attributed to the most versatile species (species with the highest number of properties). NCS is the number of body systems (ailment categories) treated by a given species divided by the total number of body systems treated by the most versatile species. Species with RI value of 2.0 (the highest possible value) are the ones with the highest diversity of medicinal application.

Relative healing potential of each medicinal plant reported was estimated using an index called fidelity level (FL) based on the proportion of informants who agreed on the use of a given medicinal plant against a given major ailment category. The formula for FL is given as FL = Ip/Iu × 100, where Ip is the number of informants who independently indicated the use of a species for the same major ailment and Iu the total number of informants who mentioned the plant for any major ailment [14]. According to Trotter and Logan [15], plants which are used in some repetitive fashion are more likely to be biologically active.

Results and discussion

Medicinal plants reported and ailments treated

A total of 49 medicinal plants were reported to have been used by the Afar people of Ada’ar District for the treatment of different livestock ailments, of which 39 have been identified to a species level (Table 1). Four plants have been identified to genus level and two to a family level. Four plants, for which voucher specimens have not been collected, are only known by their local names. However, attempt has been made to determine the habit of the uncollected plants based on descriptions given by informants. Despite the fact that the study district is an arid land with poor plant cover, a good number of medicinal plants (49 species) are being used in the study area to treat various livestock ailments. This could demonstrate the high dependence of the Afar people in the District on ethnoveterinary service as it is cheaper and easily accessible as compared to modern veterinary service. According to Ada’ar District Pastoral, Agriculture and Rural Development Office, there are only three veterinary health posts and two private drug shops in the whole District. Similar study conducted in Tigray Region of Ethiopia revealed the usage of 44 and 60 medicinal plants in Ofla and Raya-Azebo districts, respectively, for the treatment of different livestock diseases [7]. Ethnoveterinary studies conducted in Dabat District of the Amhara Region [16] and Chiro District of the Oromia Region in Ethiopia [17] uncovered the use of 18 medicinal plants in each district. A recent report [18] indicated the use of 24 medicinal plants by people in Medebay-Zana District of Tigray Region for ethnoveterinary purpose.
Table 1

Medicinal plants of the Afar people in Ada’ar District

Scientific name

Family

Local name

Habit

Part used

Local disease name

English disease name

Animal treated

Administration route

Voucher No.

Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. ex Del.

Fabaceae

kenselto

tree

fruit

gublo

CCP1P

goat

oral

MG-TT-11

     

uruga

diarrhea

Goat, sheep

oral, nasal

 

Acacia oerfota (Forssk.) Schweinf.

Fabaceae

goronto

shrub

bark

geno

sudden sickness

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-14, MG-TT-5

Acalypha fruticosa Forssk.

Euphorbiaceae

subahi

shrub

leaf

indahi

CCPP

sheep

oral

MG-TT-12

Acalypha indica L.

Euphorbiaceae

baro berbere

herb

whole part

geno

anthrax

cattle, camel

oral

MG-TT-38

    

leaf

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral

 

Aerva javanica (Burm.f) Schultes

Amaranthaceae

alyaito

shrub

root

intibiaki

ophthalmic infection

goat

ophthalmic

MG-TT-10

Aloe trichosantha Berger

Aloaceae

ureita

shrub

leaf

geno

anthrax

goat

oral, nasal

MG-TT-15

    

leaf

gublo

CCPP

goat

oral, nasal

 
    

leaf

gublo

CBPP2

cattle

oral, nasal

 

Argemone mexicana L.

Solanaceae

baro bangi

herb

leaf

abeb

FMD3

cattle

oral

MG-TT-45

Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del.

Balanitaceae

uda

tree

root

finoita

bloat

animals

oral

MG-TT-54

    

root

geno

anthrax

cattle, goat, camel

oral

 
    

root

geno

colic

cattle

oral, nasal

 
    

above ground

geno

sudden sickness

goat, cattle

oral, nasal

 
    

root

geremole

trypanosomiasis

camel

oral, nasal

 
    

root

indahi

CCPP

goat

oral, nasal

MG-TT-19

    

root

sole

diarrhoea

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-2

Balanites rotundifolia (van Tieghem) Blatter

Balanitaceae

uda

shrub

root bark

kahiw

pneumonia

camel

nasal

MG-TT-49

Barleria acanthoides Vahl

Acanthaceae

ganselto

shrub

root

harayiti

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular, ophthalmic

MG-TT-47

Boscia coriacea Pax

Capparidaceae

urma

shrub

leaf

abeli

babesia

cattle

nasal

MG-TT-24

    

leaf

geno

anthrax

cattle

nasal

 
    

leaf

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-1, MG-TT-22

Boscia senegalensis Lam. ex Poiret

Capparidaceae

aitineba

shrub

leaf & fruit

arba

tympanic bloat

cattle

oral

MG-TT-48

Bourreria orbicularis (Hutch. & E.A. Bruce) Thulin

Boraginaceae

ulageita

shrub

leaf, bark

dale

wound

animals

local on wound, oral

MG-TT-16

    

leaf & bark

harayita

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

 

Cadaba farinosa Forssk.

Capparidaceae

dinibayto

shrub

root

lahi biyak

pastereulosis

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-29

Cadaba glandulosa Forssk.

Capparidaceae

udodoita

shrub

leaf

geno

pneumonia

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-30

    

leaf

uruga

diarrhoea

cattle

oral, nasal

 

Cadaba rotundifolia Forssk.

Capparidaceae

angelita

shrub

leaf

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-07, MG-TT-25

Calotropis procera (Ait.) Aitf.

Apocynaceae

gela'eto

shrub

branch, seed

abel

babesia

goat, sheep

nasal, auricular, oral

MG-TT-33

    

latex

aray mude

blackleg

cattle

local on legs

 
    

root

geno

colic

cattle

oral, nasal

 
    

latex

-

prophylaxis for different diseases

cattle

local on skin

 

Caralluma sp

Asclepiadaceae

uramo

herb

leaf, stem, whole part, branch

ladore, haraimude

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-17

    

above ground

lahi biyak

pastereulosis

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

 
    

flower

gublo

CBPP

cattle

oral, nasal

 

Cissus quadrangularis L.

Vitaceae

Musriga, yaey’eto

climber

leaf, above ground, stem

Harayiti, ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-9, MG-TT-26

Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.

Cucurbitaceae

dearteba

trailing herb

fruit

kehu

pneumonia

camel

oral, nasal, auricular

 
    

root & leaf

sengite

CBPP

cattle, goat

oral & nasal

MG-TT-8

Cocculus pendulus (J.R. & G. Forst) Diels

Menspermaceae

hayofto

climber

root

finoita

bloat

animals

oral

MG-TT-50

Commicarpus helenae (J.A. Schultes) Meikle

Nyctaginaceae

kerbeti

herb

whole part

abeli

babesia

goat

nasal, auricular, oral

MG-TT-36

Cordia sp.

Boraginaceae

hulten taya'e

climber

above ground

harayita

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-21

Datura stramonium L.

Solanaceae

gali dimak

herb

fruit, leaf

andelityo

nerve problem

camel

oral

MG-TT-51

Dobera glabra (Forssk.) Pair.

Salvadoraceae

garsa, garsaito

shrub

leaf

geno

sudden sickness

cattle, goat

oral, nasal

MG-TT-20

    

leaf

kilem

tick infestation

cattle, goat, camel, sheep

oral, local on skin

MG-TT-3

    

leaf

ladore

blackleg

cattle

nasal, auricular

 
    

leaf

geno

bloat

cattle

oral

 

Euphorbia sp.

Euphorbiaceae

engda'eto

shrub

whole part

sura'ito

CCPP

goat, sheep

oral, nasal

MG-TT-6, MG-TT-52

    

whole part, root

uruga, kehu

diarrhoea

sheep, goat

oral, nasal

 
    

stem

sengite

CBPP

cattle, goat

oral, nasal

 

Grewia villosa Willd.

Tiliaceae

habeleyta

shrub

bark

alhe

delayed placenta

camel

oral

MG-TT-32

Heliotropium longiflorum (ADC. in DC.) Jaub. & Spach.

Boraginaceae

am'ada

 

leaf

indahi

CCPP

sheep

oral

MG-TT-34

Justicia schimperiana (Hochst. ex Nees) T. Anders.

Acanthaceae

werabikela

shrub

leaf

tele

wound

animals

local on wound

MG-TT-39

    

leaf

-

snake bite

animals

oral

 

Kanahia laniflora (Forssk.) R. Br.

Asclepiadaceae

we'a amhala

shrub

leaf

geno

sudden sickness

cattle, goat

oral, nasal

MG-TT-27

Kleinia squarrosa Cufod.

Asteraceae

bisilto

shrub

stem

endahi

diarrhoea

goat

oral

MG-TT-42

Lantana camara L.

Verbenaceae

dat'hara

shrub

leaf

abeb

FMD

cattle

oral

MG-TT-44

Monadenium sp.

Euphorbiaceae

dargudi

shrub

whole part

haraiti

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-43

Pergularia tomentosa L.

Asclepiadaceae

ageraboya

shrub

exudate

abeli

babesia

goat

oral

MG-TT-41

Salvadora persica L.

Salvadoraceae

ada'ito

shrub

leaf

dale

wound

cattle, camel, goat

local on skin

MG-TT-18

    

leaf

geno

sudden sickness

cattle, goat

oral, nasal

MG-TT-4, MG-TT-18

    

leaf, above ground

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-18

Seddera bagshawei Rendle

Convolvulaceae

bekil tefere

shrub

whole part

finoita

bloat

cattle, goat, sheep, camel

oral

MG-TT-46

Senna alexandrina Mill.

Fabaceae

airogit, senoyta meka

shrub

leaf

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral

MG-TT-13, MG-TT-35

    

leaf

sindera

orf

goat, sheep

oral, nasal

MG-TT-28

    

leaf

-

skin infection

donkey

oral

 

Sericocomopsis pallida (S. Moore) Schinz

Amaranthaceae

admegarto

shrub

root

gublo

CBPP

cattle

oral, local on skin

MG-TT-53

Solanum hastifolium Hochst. ex Dunal in DC.

Solanaceae

askena

shrub

root

abeli

babesia

goat

oral, nasal, auricular

MG-TT-13

Solanum incanum L.

Solanaceae

kolodo'ita, wakere ku'us

shrub

fruit

kehu

pneumonia

camel

oral

MG-TT-23

    

fruit

goshin, sura'ito

CCPP

goat

nasal

 

Trianthema portulacastrum L.

Aizoaceae

abure

herb

leaf

antibia

ophthalmic infection

animals

ophthalmic

MG-TT-40

Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal

Solanaceae

kokerabito, ubalto

shrub

leaf

shelaitu

listeriosis

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-37

    

above ground

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal, auricular

 

Ziziphus spina-christi (L.) Desf.

Rhamnaceae

kusra

shrub

leaf

alhe

delayed placenta

camel

oral

MG-TT-31

-

-

ademudu

shrub

whole part

sindera

orf

sheep, goat

oral, nasal

 

-

-

asahada

tree

stem, above ground

kehu

pneumonia

camel

oral, nasal, auricular

 

-

Asclepiadaceae

ata'ali

herb

whole part

haraita

blackleg

cattle

nasal

 

-

Cucurbitaceae

kuranda geita

climber

root

aray mude

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

MG-TT-55

-

-

muyaito

shrub

branch

Indahi, sura’ito

CCPP

goat

oral, nasal

 
    

branch

ladore

blackleg

cattle

oral, nasal

 

-

-

sokoli

shrub

above ground

geno

sudden sickness

cattle, goat

oral, nasal

 

1CCPP = contagious caprine pleuropneumonia.

2CBPP = contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.

3FMD = foot-and-mouth disease.

Some of the plants documented during the current study are used elsewhere in Ethiopia to treat same/similar livestock diseases [7, 9, 19, 20]. These include Acacia nilotica (used to treat diarrhoea); Acalypha indica (used against anthrax), Aloe trichosantha (used against anthrax, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia), Balanites aegyptiaca (used against anthrax), Calotropis procera (used against blackleg) and Dobera glabra (used against tick infestation).

The reported medicinal plants belonged to 23 families and 36 genera. Asclepiadaceae and Capparidaceae took the better share of the reported plants (five species each), followed by Euphorbiaceae and Solanaceae (four species each). The families Boraginaceae and Fabaceae had three species each and the families Acanthaceae, Amaranthaceae, Balanitaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Salvadoraceae had two species each. The remaining 12 families had one species each. The fact that Asclepiadaceae and Capparidaceae contributed relatively higher number of medicinal plants might be attribited to better abundance of species in the study area belonging to these families. Kers [21] and Goyder [22] reported that species of the two families are conspicous in drier habitats like that of the study area. The majority (67.3%) of the reported Afar medicinal plants were shrubs and this could be due to higher abundance of shruby species in the area that better adapt to arid conditions as compared to plants of other life forms. Few were herbs (18.4%), climbers (8.2%) and trees (6.1%).

The plant remedies were prescibed against 23 types of livestock ailments. The majority of the ailments were that of cattle (15), camel (nine) and goat (eight). Six diseases of sheep and one disease of equine were also reported. The higest number of medicinal plants were used to treat blackleg (17 species), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (eight species), sudden sickness (seven species) and pneumonia (six species) (Table 2). According to unpublished data of Ada’ar District Agriculture and Rural Development Office (ADARD), blackleg and CCPP are among the top five econmically important livestock diseases in the District. The majority of the reported plants were used to treat cattle diseases (32 species), followed by those used against goat (21 species) and camel (12 species) ailments (Figure 2). Based on unpublished data collected in 2009 by ADARD, cattle had the highest population among the livestock in the District, projected to reach 166, 964 heads in 2010.
Table 2

List of livestock diseases against which three or more medicinal have been prescribed

Disease english name

Disease local name

Number of medicinal plants used in treatment

Blackleg

ladore

17

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia

indahi

8

Sudden sickness

geno

7

Pneumonia

kehu

6

Babesia

abel

5

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia

gublo/sengite

5

Diarrhoea

uruga

5

Anthrax

geno

4

Bloat

finoita

4

External woulnd

dale

4

Tick infestation

kilem

3

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-9-8/MediaObjects/13002_2012_Article_304_Fig2_HTML.jpg
Figure 2

Numbers of medicinal plants used against diffrent livestock ailments.

Most of the medicinal plants (86%) were used only for curative purpose. However, few (Boscia coriacea, Calotropis procera, Dobera glabra, Salvadora persica and Caralluma sp.) were used for both curative and prophylactic purposes, and one plant, locally known as ’muyaito’, was only used for prophylactic purpose.

Parts used and mode of preparation

Leaf was the most frequently sought plant part accounting for 47% of the reported medicinal plant species, followed by root (22%), whole plant (16%) and aboveground part (16%) (Figure 3). Similarly in studies conducted elsweher in Ethiopia, leaf was indicated to be the most frequently used plant part to treat livestock ailments [7, 18, 23]. A study [24] indicated that collection of leaves poses no significant threat to the survival of individual plants as compared to other parts such as underground part, stem, bark and whole plant.
https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1746-4269-9-8/MediaObjects/13002_2012_Article_304_Fig3_HTML.jpg
Figure 3

Numbers of medicinal plants harvested for their different parts.

Most of the remedies (86%) were processed and used immediately after collection. Few (Acacia nilotica, Aerva javanica, Cadaba glandulosa, Caralluma sp., Grewia villosa and Seddera bagshawei) were reported to be prepared and adminstered while they were fresh or after drying, and one (asahada) was processed and used only after drying. Remedies of 46 medicinal plants (90%) were prepared in juice form. Remedies of three species (Acalypha indica, Senna alexandrina and Caralluma sp) were prepared ethier in the form of juice or decocton, and that of two (Kleinia squarrosa and Sericocomopsis pallida) were only prepared in decoction form. There was no pracitice of storing medicinal plants in the study area for future use and this could create shortage of remedies to be used in the District during the dry season when there is scarcity of plants or parts to be harvested.

Preparations of the majority (65%) of remdies invloved single medicinal plant, which is in agreement with the findings of studies conducted elsewhere in Ethiopia [23, 25]. However, some (35%) remedies in the current study area were prepared in a concotion form, by mixing two or more medicinal plants, which is similar to the findings of studies carried out eslewhere in the country [8, 26]. Many healers in Ethiopia believe that the potency of plant remedies could be enhanced when they are used in concoction form [27].

Water was the most frequently used diluent in the prepartion of remedies accounting for 90% of the medicinal plants and this could be attributed to either its abundance or to the fact that the active principles contained in most plants are water soluble. Remedies from three species (Boscia coriacea, Calotropis procera and Solanum incanum) were prepared with or without the addition of water, and that of Justicia schimperiana was prepared without the addtion of a diluent. Remedy from one medicinal plant (Pergularia tomentosa) was prepared with the addition of milk as a diluent. Other additives are rarely used. Only butter was reported to be used in the preparation of remedy from Calotropis procera against blackleg.

Route of remedy administration and dosage

Oral was the most frequently used route of remedy administration accounting for 90% the medicinal plants, followed by nasal (61%) and auricular (24%). Some were adminstred locally on the skin or wound (12%) and ophthalmologically (6%). The dominance of oral application of remedies could be related to the fact that most of the reported health problems are affecting internal organs.

Almost all treatments were given on daily basis, the majority of which (83%) were prescribed once a day. Some treatments were given twice (11%), trice (2%) or four times (2%) a day. Most treatments (78%) were reported to be completed within seven days. However, some were (22%) known to be given until cure. The amount of remedy taken at one time varied from disease to disease and from informant to informant, even for the same type of ailment. The dose could range from a few drops to one or more litres. Inconsistency of doses have also been reported in similar studies conducted elsewhere in the country [7, 17, 28]. All the reported medicinal plants, except one (Balanites aegyptiaca), were found not be toxic even taken at higher doses. The root of Balanites aegyptiaca could kill animals if given in excess during treatment due its toxic effect.

Habitat, avialability and marketablity of medicinal plants

All the medicnal plants used in the study District were uncultivated ones growing in semi-disturbed and distrubed habitats as remnant plants and weeds. There was no tradition or practice by local people to cultivate medicinal plants. Plants were harvested and processed only when needs arised. The use of uncultivated plants is a common practice in Ethiopia [29] and this has been creating an addtional pressure on the populations of wild plants besides to enviromental degradation and deforestation.

Most of the plants were commonly available in the study area and could easily be harvested from sites not very far from homesteads. However, the plants Acacia nilotica, Balanites rotundifolia, Boscia coriacea, Bourreria orbicularis, Euphorbia sp. (engda’eto), Kanahia laniflora, Withania somnifera, ’ademudu’, ’asahada’, ’muyaito’ and ’sokoli’ were scarcely available in the study area and, therefore, requred longer time to harvest. None of the medicinal plants that were reported from the study area were available for sale in local markets.

Estimation of medicinal plant healing potential and use-diversity

Fidelity Level (FL), as an estimation of healing potential, was determined for all reported medicinal plants. Accordingly, Cissus quadrangularis and Solanum incanum were the plants having the highest FL values for their use to treat blackleg and respiratory tract problems, each scoring 100% (Table 3), followed by Caralluma sp (86%) and Euphorbia sp. (83%). According to Trotter and Logan [15], plants scoring higher informant consensus values are thought to have better potency as compared to plants with less informant consensus values.
Table 3

FL values of medicinal plants cited by three or more informants for being used against a given major ailment category

Plant name

Major ailment group

Ip

Iu

FL value (%)

Cissus quadrangularis

Locomotor problems (blackleg)

4

4

100

Solanum incanum

Respiratory tract problems (CCPP, pneumonia)

3

3

100

Caralluma sp

Locomotor (blackleg)

6

7

86

Euphorbia sp.

Respiratory tract problems (CBPP, CCPP, pneumonia)

5

6

83

Balanites aegyptiaca

Digestive system problems (bloat, colic, diarrhoea)

3

5

60

 

Septicaemic problems (anthrax, sudden sickness, trypanosomiasis)

3

5

60

Estimation of Relative Importance (RI) showed Balanites aegyptiaca as having the highest value (1.75), followed by Calotropis procera and Dobera glabra (Table 4), which could indicate the relative abundance of these plants in the study area. Balanites aegyptiaca is used to treat bloat, anthrax, sudden sickness, colic, trypanosomiasis, CCPP and diarrhea. Calotropis procera is used against babesia, blackleg and pneumonia, and as prophylaxis against different ailments. Dobera glabra is used to cure sudden sickness, tick infestation, blackleg and bloat.
Table 4

Relative importance (RI) values for Afar medicinal plants used to treat three or more specific livestock ailments

Plant name

NP

NCS

RI value

Balanites aegyptiaca

1

0.75

1.75

Calotropis procera

0.571

1

1.571429

Dobera glabra

0.571

1

1.571429

Salvadora persica

0.429

0.75

1.178571

Euphorbia sp.

0.571

0.5

1.071429

Aloe trichosantha

0.429

0.5

0.928571

Boscia coriacea

0.429

0.5

0.928571

Senna alexandrina

0.429

0.5

0.928571

Caralluma sp

0.429

0.5

0.928571

Conclusion

In total, 49 medicinal plants were reported to have been used by the Afar people of Ada’ar District in the Afar Region of Ethiopia for the treatment of different livestock ailments. Leaf was the most frequently used plant part in the preparation of remedies. There was no habit of storing medicinal plants in the study area for future use, and as a result people could face shoratge of supply of parts to be used for remedy prepartion in time of need, especially during the dry season. All the medicnal plants used in the study District were uncultivated ones growing in semi-disturbed and distrubed habitats as as remnant plants and weeds. There was no no habit or practice by local people to cultivate medicinal plants. This could pose a threat to those medicinal plants that are scarecely available in the study area. Efforts, should, therefore, be made to save the scarce medicinal plants of the Ada’ar District from futher depletion through in situ and ex situ conservation methods. Special attention should also be given to those medicinal plants that scored the highest fidelity level values as such plants are thought to have better potencies as compared to those having lower fidelity level values.

Declarations

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Offfice of the Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate studies of the Addis Ababa University (AAU) for financial support to conduct this study, and the Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology (ALIPB), AAU, for provision of a field vehicle. We also thank administrators at diffrent levels in Ada’ar District and Abdu Mohammed, local resident, for his translation service throughut the study peripod. We are also grateful to the veterinariams Dr. Tadesse Eguale and Dr. Nigatu Kebede (ALIPB staff members), and Dr. Abdu (veterinarian in Afar Region) for their assistance in translating Afar disease names into English based on signes and symptoms described by informants. Last, but not least, we are highly indebited to informants who were willing to particpate in the study and share their medicnal plant knowledge with us.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University

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© Giday and Teklehaymanot; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013

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