Geyo hi ildawa (Medicinal Trees of the Rendille)
Geyo hi ildawa (Medicinal Trees of the Rendille)
The use of indigenous plants in human medicine is well documented. Current knowledge on medicinal plants as a source for relief from illness dates back to early civilizations in China, India, and the Near East. Ingredients provided by plants have a wide range of medicinal properties. In areas where there is a perceived high cost of medical care, especially in Asia and Africa, medicinal plants have gained more recognition. This stems from the affordability and accessibility of traditional medicine as a source of treatment in the primary healthcare system of resource-poor communities. Therefore, the focus on the knowledge of plants used in herbal medicines has been increasing.
However, it is now clear that knowledge of medicinal plants use as was embedded in indigenous cultures has slowly been eroding with modernization. Thus, over the years, the decline in cultural diversity has witnessed the erosion of human knowledge on medicinal plant species, their distribution, management, and methods of extracting the useful properties from medicinal plants. Knowledge of the use of medicinal plants was derived mainly through traditional scholarly written traditional documentation of knowledge and pharmacopoeias for doctors and institutions, as well as Traditional Medical Knowledge (TMK), among households, communities, and/or ethnic groups.
Most emphasis on the respect and perpetuation of knowledge about the medicinal plants is espoused by traditional medicinal knowledge (TMK). Although there are numerous reports, published work, thesis, dissertations, books, inventories, media reports, and monographs of the diversity of medicinal plants, most of this knowledge base is still based purely on scientific work that excludes the contribution of the local community members and does not reflect TMK.
Also of interest is that the majority of the works so far carried out in developing countries largely focus on the inventories, utilization, and conservation of medicinal plants. Various sets of recommendations have been compiled relating to the conservation of medicinal plants, such as those associated with international conferences at Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 1988 and Bangalore, India, in 1998 ( Regardless, there is little application of TMK from these inventories.
Kenya is one of the countries experiencing dynamic changes in cultural norms and system, which renders the traditional and local knowledge of medicinal plants to be easily forgettable as most of the indigenous traditional knowledge is transferred to the local community members orally. To our knowledge, there is limited data regarding the traditional medicinal plant knowledge and use by several local communities in Kenya.
The Rendille and Samburu are mostly indigenous nomadic pastoralists, inhabiting the plains and highlands of Northern Kenya. They occupy some of the northernmost parts of Kenya and have settled on biodiversity hotspots in Marsabit County such as Mt Kulal (a UNESCO biosphere reserve), Mt. Nyiro, Mt. Poi and Mt Marsabit. This territory has always been – and still is, one of the remotest accessible areas of Kenya. Due to this remote location the Rendille and Samburu received very little attention from the colonial administration. Independence changed this only marginally. For this reason the traditional way of nomadic life is still much more prevalent, and they are still amongst the most traditional communities of the country that have retained most of their knowledge about the use of a large part of the plants in their environment for a wide variety of purposes. This is more evident especially among Rendille and Samburu as this knowledge is still mostly taught orally, without written record.
The proposed action ‘Geyo hi ildawa’ (Rendille for ‘Medicine Trees’) seeks to firstly consolidate the previously documented and undocumented indigenous uses of certain plant/tree species among the indigenous Rendille and Samburu communities found in highlands of Marsabit South and then document the above in an illustrated identification guide for Rendille/Samburu traditional knowledge on plant use produced in both local and national dialects.
This will be done through desk reviews, observations, focus group discussions and key informant interviews with local community members including indigenous women, youth and elders in Mt Kulal, Mt. Nyiro, Lontolio, Mt. Poi and Mt Marsabit. This will form the basis for the development of an illustrated identification manual guide of indigenous plants/ trees used by the Rendille and Samburu.
The project will then secondly disseminate this information to different stakeholders including local schools (future users), national libraries, the Marsabit County Steering Group (CSG), the Bomas of Kenya and other relevant stakeholders
Finally, and in addition, the project will establish a 15,000 capacity plant/tree nursery of the identified species at Kamboe, Marsabit to act as an indigenous resource and learning centre whose benefits will go to the local community. We shall then create indigenous knowledge clubs in 10 schools at the project sites and distribute seedlings to them for planting and caring.

Project Snapshot

Wings of Empowering Pastoralists (WEP)
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 29,936.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 6,238.45
Project Number:
Currently under execution

SGP Country office contact

Ms. Nancy Chege
(254-20) 7624473
(254-20) 621076


UNDP, P.O. Box 30218
Nairobi, 00100