RTC is an apolitical, non-denominational, non-profit organization that seeks to empower rural populations. It was introduced to natural medicine programming by Action for Natural Medicine (ANAMED), an international non-governmental organization in Germany. Since 2007, the Centre has been working with the people of Bui Division in the Northwest Province of Cameroon to raise awareness on the cultivation, processing and use of natural medicinal plants.
A public health crisis in the Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon
For the past three years, the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon have been experiencing serious unrest which has degenerated into an armed conflict. This has resulted in the loss of human lives and property, restrictions on movement through frequent lockdowns, and ghost towns. The lone water source for the town of Kumbo and its environs was vandalized, leaving the people to fetch water from very doubtful sources. More people now are suffering from water-related diseases such as typhoid.
In Kumbo, the crisis was devastating to public health. Since the escalation of violence, many more people are dying from preventable or curable diseases. With the frequent lockdowns and roadblocks, most of the hospitals and health facilities around the Bui Division could no longer regularly obtain medical supplies. Even when medical supplies reach hospitals, the cost is often too high for average people to afford.
Peace is not just the absence of war, but much more – living in harmony with God, your neighbor, yourself and the life-giving earth.
Natural medicines are available and affordable
Natural medicines are available and affordable. Most often people die of common ailments because of a lack of knowledge of how to harness the riches of natural medicinal plants. Nowadays many people in our communities spend huge sums of money in hospitals for a disease they could easily cure themselves. Or, in some cases, hospitals refer patients with tropical diseases which the hospital cannot handle to traditional healers. Traditional healers, for their part, need to be aware of proper hygienic procedures and dosages in formulating their medicines. RTC workshops brought together health personnel, nurses, traditional healers, community members, and even health-commission members to share ideas for better health care.
Sharing of participants' own knowledge and use of medicial plants
Each of the five training sessions opened with prayers and the sharing of Bible passages related to health and healing. Participants then said what they hoped to learn during the three days. Among the most common expectations:
Identifying and learning to use locally available medicinal plants
Learning to produce medicinal oils and ointments that can be stored for longer periods
Knowing how to prepare the medicines in proper hygienic conditions and how to formulate proper dosages
Acquiring medicinal herbs that are not commonly available locally, so as to cultivate those herbs year-round
Water sanitation – construction of a simple affordable water filter
The first lesson during each training workshop was hygiene and sanitation. A key topic was water sanitation and the production of a simple and cheap water filter. The most common ailments are the result of drinking impure water. For the three seminar days, participants and facilitators drank water from the newly constructed water filter.
One of the ailments that pose a menace both to adults and children here is coughing. In the dry season especially, coughing is very common, yet difficult to treat. There was a whole session on the production of various tinctures. Eucalyptus globulus cough tincture was produced on the first day, then drained on the last day and distributed among the participants.
Awareness of the dangers of skin bleaching
Another session raised awareness on the dangers of using skin-bleaching cosmetics made with dangerous chemicals like mercury and hydroquinone that are destroying the melanin in our bodies, exposing us to skin cancer and damaging the human reproductive system. As a sustainable alternative, participants were taught how to produce body lotions using locally available tropical plants which are nourishing to the body.
Other topics covered
Production of natural tooth powder
Production of rheumatism oil and ointment
Production of hemorrhoid oil and ointment
Artemisia cultivation with focus on malaria treatment and other diseases (seeding, planting, harvesting, processing and consumption)
Prevention and treatment of diarrhea
Treatment of wounds, burns, and abscesses
Skin disorders and skin care
Production and use of “Blackstone”
Production of shoe polish
After each medicine was produced, participants distributed the them amongst themselves to carry home. This would encourage them to create these medicines by themselves so that they would not forget what they learned.
An important part of the trainings was the sharing of knowledge by participants on the identification and uses of various medicinal plants to cure various diseases. On the last day of each workshop, time was allocated for an exhibition of medicinal plants by participants themselves. During this time, the participants learned from each other as they shared knowledge on the healing potentials of medicinal plants.
There were also lessons on the creation and management of medicinal gardens, especially during the dry season.
In all five workshops, participants asked that a social-media platform be created where issues concerning health and natural medicine can be discussed and new ideas, experiences and recipes for treatment shared within the group. The Centre’s field staff was tasked with creating this group.
A local TV station carried live coverage of the trainings which was broadcast nationwide. This has helped to raise awareness on the importance of natural medicine, not only in health promotion but in livelihood improvement.