Parasitic and microbial infections are dramatic public health problem in tropical countries. The situation is worsened by the evolution of bacterial and parasitic diseases and the resistance of microorganisms to existing drugs. Synthetic drugs and primary health care are not affordable by a large percentage of the population. Plants from different families are used by traditional healers to treat microbial and parasitic diseases (Phytomedicine). Some of these plants have been subject of investigations by research groups in Cameroon and all over Africa. WHO advocates incorporating safe and effective traditional medicine into primary health-care system.[i]
Several African countries are planning their economic emergence around 2030 and they will hence need well-trained and healthy human resources. Therefore, the development of strategies for improving the health status and the quality of life of the population in a sustainable and affordable way is of eminent importance for economic development. A safe approach towards the utilization of plant-derived medicine (Phytomedicine) requires well-trained researchers and well-educated healthcare stakeholders, e.g. traditional healers.
The valorization of available bio-resources becomes necessary for the improvement of the population’s health status, the reduction of poverty and the enhancement of the economic development in a sustainable way. Over the past two decades, medicinal plants have been increasingly recognized for their role not only in health care but also in improving the economic situation of healers. They can be a good source of income for their households.
The scientific investigation with standardized methodology, production and commercialization of plant derived products provides opportunities to address social, environmental and economic sustainability objectives of the SDG agenda. In regard to the social impact, natural products value chains give producers access to supplementary income with the potential to contribute towards poverty reduction, addressing issues such as hunger and insecurity, while enhancing livelihoods in rural areas. The scientific approach towards traditional phytomedicine provides diverse sustainable possibilities for researchers (as scientists and entrepreneurs) as well as for traditional healers.
Like in nearly any society, females are underrepresented in Cameroonian science. Therefore, opportunities need to be created for female students to encourage them pursuing their own career. Role models are required to inspire them and support measures need to reconcile family life and scientific career in a twin-track approach.
Inequalities may refer to vulnerable persons, handicapped persons, migrants, etc. In a large country like Cameroon, e.g. regional, tribal, and religious inequalities may exist, which is counter-productive for development. With respect to academia, scientists from less-favored regions will need support.
Medicinal plants are sources of potent therapeutic agents. The impact of natural product in the discovery of new drugs is due to their amazing structural diversity, which coupled with a great biodiversity, makes them a seemingly infinite source of chemical compounds.[i],[ii] Medicinal plants hence are important resources that can contribute to the economic development of tropical countries. It is thus evident that only a sustainable use of these bio-resources can contributes to the improvement of health of the population, the reduction of poverty and the valorization of ancestral knowledge. Therefore, the development and application of phytomedicine must be intimately connected with the protection of the natural resources.
[i] Akinyemi O, Oyawole SO, Jimoh KA. Medicinal plants and sustainable human health: A review. Hortic. Int. J. 2018, 2(4), 194-195.
[ii] Calixto JB, The role of natural products in modern drugs discovery, Ann. Braz. Acad. Sci. 2019. 91, e20190105.
[iii] Shu Y. Recent Natural Products Based Drug development: a pharmaceutical industry perspective. J. Nat. Prod. 1998, 61, 1053.