The clamour for more attention to nature for solution to much of mankind problem continues to grow. November 20, 2020, WOMEN Initiative for Climate Change, WlCC, organized a Seed Fair, an exhibition of plants/vegetables and seeds indigenous to people in the Niger Delta, used for feeding and tackling health challenges in the communities. Participants were drawn from Akwa Ibom, Bayela,Cross River, and Rivers State. Venue was Aldgate Hotel, Abacha Road, Port Harcourt and about 70 community Women participated in the fair, the first of its kind in the region.
Declaring the fair open, Ms Emem Okon, executive director, Women Initiative for Climate Change said WlCC, a non-governmental organization specifically focused on women and issues relating to environment and climate change, after careful observation of the challenge arising from environmental degradation in the Niger Delta as a result of oil and gas extractive activities and lamentation by women that both their livelihoods and health are being adversely impacted, decided on the fair to help take stock of what was traditionally available, what is still available and how they are being used as well as what has gone extinct.
She expressed gratitude to Both End for funding the exhibition and urged participants to go round, take stock and be open to new learning as the fair featured a displaying of a wide variety of plants, roots, seeds and herbs from different communities and cultures in the oil rich region.
Goodwill messages came from the board members, Chief Constance Meju and Rosemary Inkio-Dokubo, who described the fair as timely, especially in view of the Coronavirus pandemic and worries over food security. A founding member of the organization, Unity Otitio also addressed the gathering, congratulating WICC on the event, which, she described as laudable.
Unity told the women, “WICC has gathered you from Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River states to share experiences, learn, preserve nature, use natural products to chase off diseases, infertility, etc., as well as preserve our rich natural heritage”.
All congratulated WICC for taking the initiative to focus attention on our forests, trees and seeds. Unity said she was overwhelmed by the multitude of seeds assembled.
A discussion panel followed, moderated by Chief Constance Meju with Grace Nwindee, Cynthia Bright and Dr. Mfon Utin as discussants.
The panel highlighted varied ways plants, roots and herbs used for consumption and healing in communities in the Niger Delta.
The women said there is an abundant supply of natural products for man’s survival noting, that nearness to nature took care of infertility but regretted that much of the natural herbs that aid fertility can no longer be found as a result of environmental degradation from oil exploration and gas flaring.
They stated that herbs (application/consumption) help in curbing COVID-19 pandemic in the region. They recalled how Niger Delta women used to survive and take care of their children and family as they stressed the need to identify and preserve these herbs and roots which are medicinal and very useful to humanity.
Grace Windee told the people that Ogonis go to nature for survival – “We use leaves, roots for treatment. There are leaves for treating new born babies, treatment of the umbilical cord, treatment of arthritis, treatment of poison cases (liquid squeezed from special leaves are used to neutralize the effect of poison, massage troubled points on the body, treat cough for adults and babies (juice mixed with salt). Shea butter is applied on the nerves to cure headache. Milk mixed with pumpkin or Avocado leaves act as quick blood supplement, the community woman leader added.
Cynthia Bright from Edo State, a natural healer, said natural products have no side effect unlike orthodox medicine and treat a variety of ailments. She explained that body massage is a known natural cure system in the region especially, in Ijaw land and that naval massage treats internal disorders while muscular massage addresses issues on the tissues, veins, muscles.
“Massage has helped save live from joint dislocation, stroke, obstruction during pregnancy, arthritis, etc. Herbs from local plants are used as cleansers, blood and hormone boosters”.
She stated the importance of bitter leaf as a cancer deterrent and blood sugar regulator.
Dr. Mfon, a chemist said she believes in natural healing but advised that care must be taken to identify the right quantity to apply to avoid disastrous consequences. She called for a re-examination of eating style noting that current dependence on processed food is causing bodily harm to people.
“Natural herbs are nutritional and medicinal but watch the concentration for most terminal sicknesses arise from failure of systems because of a high concentration in doses administered to them”, Dr Mfon warned.
“What we are eating is killing us today. Our forbearers lived up to 100 years but now people who live up to 70 years are considered advantaged. Technology is killing a lot of people”, the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt lecturer added.
She urged women to embrace and eat what can build the body; eat plenty of vegetables and seeds but be mindful of the danger of excess consumption of water leaf, a commonly used vegetable for special soups by Niger Deltans. According to her, research has linked excessive consumption of the vegetable to joint problems among women in Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom states. She advised that rather than be used raw, the vegetable should be blanched before use to reduce the harmful component.
Mfon called for the search of simple natural healing seeds/vegetables, roots, etc. and disclosed that Acha, a northern cereal is a good food for diabetics.
“Acha, funiro (for diabetes), can be consumed in different forms like rice, pap. Embrace Acha, critical patients have been saved by this food. There are some natural things we can consume for food. Also, fresh tomato does not need to be over-boiled,” Dr Mfon further advised.
Mrs. Ngozi Eguma from Erema in Ogba Egbema, Rivers State said in Erema, a new born baby that fails to cry at birth is treated with sand and those convulsing, with a leaf known as Akpi.
“A baby slow to crawl is treated with Agama Lizard. For treatment of bleeding after birth, water from the rotten pulp of the plantain stem is given to the woman to drink. It stops bleeding instantly.
“Chest pain is treated with roots and coconut water while leg pain is treated with shots from a mixture of forest roots”, he informed.
Mr Stella Amadi from Emuoha Local Government also in Rivers State in her contribution, reaffirmed the use of the leaves mime tree (dogonyaro) for malaria; scent leaf salt (efirin/ekeni/nchanwu) used with a dash of salt for stomach problem as it neutralizes unhealthy contents in the internal organs.
Garlic used for treatment of candidiasis; Ginger is good for cold, nerves, joint issues/Cucumber, Aloe Vera are also useful for health and fertility treatment.
A brand of Aloe Vera (Aloe Bromii) used with alligator pepper, was identified as a fast cure for pile.
Stella lamented that coco-yam was a staple food in the past but poor extraction practices by oil companies has made the plant to go extinct adding to hunger and poverty for the women and their families.
Shepherdess Peace Mgbemwa from Okwuzi is also a Seven Day Adventist. She advocated the use of water to cleanse the system.
“Drink a cup of water every morning and before going to bed; keep pawpaw around- eat ripe pawpaw daily to avoid malaria. “Keep charcoal as a first aid (one produced from the mango tree). Mix Charcoal with water, administer 2 teaspoons 3 times a day,” she advised.
“For bites, open the surface of the wound, clean it and apply charcoal. Charcoal heals and aids indigestion,” he added.
Peace said her community uses some special herbs to treat infertility and she came with some samples to the fair.
The women were however, cautioned to note that most plants have look alike, which may not have same properties so there is need to be sure before usage while the panel called for further research on the exhibited products to help develop proper dosage and possible more modern ways of producing health products from nature.
Attention later moved to the exhibition where many plant, roots, vegetables, herbs and oils were displayed and the women were on hand to explain their uses and mode of application.