Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences
ISSN (Print): 2328-3912 ISSN (Online): 2328-3920 Website: Editor-in-chief: Alejandro González Medina
Open Access
Journal Browser
Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences. 2018, 6(4), 118-127
DOI: 10.12691/aees-6-4-3
Open AccessArticle

The Trade in Wild Medicinal Plants, Narok County, Kenya

Peris M. Kariuki1, 2, , Catherine W. Lukhoba3, Cecilia M. Onyango4 and Jesse T. Njoka1

1Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology (LARMAT), University of Nairobi, P.O.Box 29053 00625 Nairobi, Kenya

2Kenya Resource Centre for indigenous Knowledge (KENRIK), National Museums of Kenya (NMK), P. O. Box 40658 00100 Nairobi, Kenya

3School of Biological Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya, P. O. Box 31197 00100 Nairobi, Kenya

4Department of Crop Production and Plant Protection, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya P.O.Box 29053 00625 Nairobi

Pub. Date: November 09, 2018

Cite this paper:
Peris M. Kariuki, Catherine W. Lukhoba, Cecilia M. Onyango and Jesse T. Njoka. The Trade in Wild Medicinal Plants, Narok County, Kenya. Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences. 2018; 6(4):118-127. doi: 10.12691/aees-6-4-3


Sale of wild plants can provide income security for rural communities during times when their livelihoods are disrupted by land use change, globalization of economies and climate change. This study was carried out to describe the trade in wild medicinal plants in Narok, a rural region of Kenya. Data were gathered between July 2013 and June 2014. Semi-structured questionnaires were administered to traders in wild medicinal plants. These were supplemented by key informant interviews and field observation. Results showed that trade in wild medicinal plants in Narok was a recent phenomenon, it started in the early 1980’s and the number of traders had gradually increased over the last 30 years. The average age of traders was 48 years and most (65%) of them had no formal schooling. This trade was dominated by men at 85% and it was unregulated in open air markets. Most traders (66%) were engaged in it on full time basis. Fifty five percent (55%) of all traders interviewed were mobile and moved from one market to another while the rest operated from a fixed location. At least 106 wild plant species were on sale in the markets, with the family Leguminosae having the highest number of species 16% traded followed by Compositae at 5.7%. Most traders had 11-30 plant species up for sale. The clientele for wild medicinal plant products were households, hoteliers and livestock herders. Medicinal plant products on sale were sourced from the wild. The increasing popularity and marketing of these wild medicinal plants was seen to be a threat to the remaining wild stocks. This project recommends that conservation measures that include both in situ and ex situ measures be undertaken to meet this demand. In addition the traders should be organized into groups to help self-regulate the trade.

wild medicinal plants trade dry land Maasai Narok

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  Maundu, P., Kariuki, P. and Eyog-Matig, O. (2006). Threats to medicinal plants species – an African perspective. Conserving medicinal plants species: securing a healthy future. Mithpala, S. (Ed) IUCN Ecosystems and Livelihoods roup, Asia. Pp 47-63.
[2]  Siri, E. and Katrina, B. (2011). Sustainable adaptation to climate change. Climate and Development, 3 (1) 3-6.
[3]  Dlamilini C.and Geldenhuys C.J. (2011) Quantities and values of selected forest medicines harvested by eight villages adjacent to natural woodlands in the four ecological zones of rural Swaziland. African Journal of Plant Science Vol 5 (12) pp 730-741.
[4]  Belcher, B., Ruiz, P. and Achdiavan, R. (2005). Global patterns in use and management of commercial NTFPs: Implications for livelihoods and conservation. World Development 33 (9) 1432-1452.
[5]  Paumagarten, F. and Shackleton C.M. (2011) The role of no timber forest products in household coping strategies in southern Africa: the influence of household wealth and gender Popul Environ (2011) 33: 108.
[6]  Shackleton, S., Shanley, P., Ndoye, O. 2007. Invisible but viable: recognising local markets for non-timber forest products. International Forestry Review 9 (3):697-712. ISSN: 1465-5489.
[7]  Cunningham A.Anocho V.F., Sunderland T. (2016) Power Policy and the Prunus african bark trade, 1972-2015. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 178 pp323-333.
[8]  Muriuki, J., Franzel, S., Mowo, J., Kariuki, P. and Jammadass, R. (2012). Formalization of localherbal product markets has potential to stimulate cultivation of medicinal plants by small-holder farmers in Kenya. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 21 (2) 114-127.
[9]  McMullin, S., Phelan, J., Jamnadass, R., Liyam, M. and Nieuwenhuis, M. (2012). Trade in medicinal tree and shrub products in three urban centres in Kenya. Forests Trees and Livelihoods Vol. (21) No. 3. 188-206.
[10]  Waiganjo, F.W. (2013). Safety and antimicrobial activities of herbal materials used in Management of Oral Health by Traditional Medical Practitioners in Nairobi County, Kenya. PhD Thesis Kenyatta University.
[11]  Marshall, N. (1998). Searching for a cure: Conservation of medicinal wildlife resources in East and Southern Africa. Traffic International. Pp1-96.
[12]  Kariuki, P. and Kibet, S. (2007). Medicinals Traded in Kenya; Market Survey Report on Nairobi, Nyanza and Coast Regions. Project Report Submitted to International. Development Research Centre (IDRC) Network on Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine Eastern Africa Unpublished Report IDRC/National Museums of Kenya.
[13]  Barirega, A., Tabuti, J. R. S., Van Damme, P., Agea, J. B. and Muwanika, V. (2012). Potential for commercialization and value chain improvement of wild food and medicinal plants for livelihood enhancement in Uganda. Curr. Res. J. Bio. Sci. 4(2): 108-116.
[14]  Otieno, J., Abihudi, S., Veldmna, S., Nahanson, M. Van andel, T. J. and Boer, H. (2015).Vernacular dominance in folk taxonomy: a case study of ethnospecies in medicinal plant trade in Tanzania. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11: 10.
[15]  Hamilton, A. C., (2004). Medicinal plants, conservation and livelihoods. Biodiversity and Conservation 13:1477-1517.
[16]  Rukangira, E. (1998). Medicinal plants and traditional medicine in Africa: Constraints and challenges. Sustainable Development International. Pp179-184.
[17]  Zaal, F. and Morgan, S. (2006). Contextualizing conflicts; Introduced institutions and political networks combating pastoral poverty. World Bank/ILRI/SAGA conference 27-28 June 2006.
[18]  Maundu, P., Berger, D.J., Ole Saitabau, C., Nasieku, J., Kipelian, M., Morimoto, Y. and Hoft, R. (2001). Ethnobotany of the Loita Maasai: Towards community management of the forest of the lost child- experiences from the loita ethnobotany project. People and Plants working Paper 8. UNESCO Paris.
[19]  County Government of Narok (2013). County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2013-2017. County Government of Narok.
[20]  Peters, C. M. (1996). Beyond nomenclature and use: a review of ecological methods for ethnobotanists. In Alexiades M. N. (1996). Selected guidelines for ethno botanical research: a field manual. New York Botanic Garden. Pp 241-276.
[21]  Martin, G. J. (1995). Ethnobotany: A methods manual. New York: Chapman & Hall. 268pp.
[22]  Beentje, H. (1994). Kenya trees shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.721pp.
[23]  Agnew A. D. O. (2012). Upland Kenya wild flowers and ferns; a flora of flowers, ferns, grasses and sedges of highland Kenya. East Africa Natural History Society.
[24]  Taylor–Powell, E. and Marcus, R. (2003). Analyzing qualitative data (G3658-12) Program Development & Evaluation. University of Wisconsin Extension. Cooperative Extension Publishing Operations. Pp 3-10.
[25]  Orwa, J. A., Jondiko, I. J. O., Minja, R. J. A. and Bekunda, M. (2008). The use of Toddalia asiatica (L) Lam (Rutaceae) in traditional medicine practice in East Africa. Journal of Ethnopharcology 11. (5) 257-262.
[26]  Tshisikhawe, M. P., Van Rooyen, M. W. and Bhat, .R. B. (2012). An evaluation of the extent and threats of bark harvesting of medicinal plant species in the Venda Region Limpopo Province South Africa. International Journal of Experimental Botany, FYTON ISSN0031 9457 (2012) 81: 89-100.
[27]  Petersen, L. M., Moll, E. J, Collins, R. and Hockings, M. T. (2012). Development of a compendium of local, wild-harvested species used in the informal economy trade, Cape Town, South Africa. Ecology and Society 17(2): 26.
[28]  Abtew, A. A., Pretzsch, J., Secco, L. and Mohamod, T. E. (2014). Contribution of small-scale gum and resin commercialization to local livelihood and rural economic development in the dry lands of Eastern Africa. Forests. 5, 952-977.
[29]  Ngari, F.W., Gikonyo, N. K., Wanjau, R. N. and Njagi, E. N. M. (2013). Investigation of selected pathogenic microorganisms and toxic elements in herbal materials used in management of oral health in Nairobi. J.Appl. Environ. Bio.Sc. 3 (12) 1-7.
[30]  Kariuki, P. M. and Simiyu, S. (2005). Community Based conservation of Medicinal Plants Project CBCMP Technical Report on ConservationAssessment and Management Planning (CAMP) Workshop 3-5 April 2005 in Matuu, Machakos District Kenya. Unpublished Report IDRC/National Museums of Kenya.
[31]  Nahashon, M., (2013). Conservation of wild-harvested medicinal plant species in Tanzania: Chain and consequences of commercial trade on medicinal plant species. Master thesis in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University, No. 124, 50 pp, 30 ECTS/hp.