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Appendix I: The Nairobi Declaration

Formally Recognizing Traditional Medicine

We, the participants of the Nairobi Conference on Medicinal Plants, Traditional Medicines and Local Communities in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities of the New Millennium do hereby confirm our commitment to the collective goal of Health for All through the primary health care approach and the principles of conservation and sustainable development outlined in the Convention of Biological Diversity.


  • in sub-Saharan Africa in 1999, there were 6,027 deaths a day due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 2,345 deaths a day due to malaria, and 8,181 deaths a day due to diarrhoea; and
  • traditional medicines are often the only affordable and accessible forms of healthcare for the majority of the African rural population;
  • local health traditions - many of which are oral in nature and therefore largely undocumented - are being lost;
  • traditional health systems have not been replaced by the "Western" system because traditional healing is deeply embedded in wider belief systems and remains an integral part of the lives of most African people;

We draw attention to the fact that:

  • African governments have not acknowledged or built upon this traditional knowledge resource-base, thereby making the goal of Health for All more difficult to achieve unless these resources are mobilized and used more effectively;
  • the unsustainable, unregulated and indiscriminant harvesting of medicinal plant species is being compounded by the very low level of understanding of the biology and ecology of the species concerned;
  • it is unlikely that social, technical or economic changes in developing countries over the next decade will reduce significantly the dependency of rural peoples on medicinal plant species resources;
  • though there are few reliable data on global trade of medicinal plants, the loss of species would be a catastrophic blow to productivity, balance of payments, national debt, and GDP.
  • We call on the Presidents of all African countries to declare the period 2000 - 2010 the Decade of African Traditional Medicine and commit their governments through the appropriate ministries to:

  • formally recognize the value of Traditional Health Systems alongside modern health systems in national primary healthcare as an available intervention option in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases;
  • identify compelling scientific methods to evaluate and standardize traditional herbal remedies in order to promote their safe, effective and affordable use;
  • develop comprehensive strategies/policies for the conservation, management and sustainability of supply of medicinal plant species;
  • identify legal strategies that protect the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of knowledge holders;
  • formally recognize the value and contribution of ethno-veterinary knowledge in livestock healthcare;
  • establish an annual recognition week that acknowledges the important role that women play in home healthcare through their knowledge and use of medicinal plant species;
  • work with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to identify a process that effectively regulates the international trade of African medicinal plant species and protects individual countries' resources and rights;
  • establish a partnership of countries to protect and enhance this aspect of African cultural heritage.
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