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Experts seek to save Mount Elgon ecosystem

Posted on 8th June 2014

KITALE, (Xinhua) -- An integrated plan has been unveiled to save Kenya’s Mt. Elgon ecosystem facing a serious threat from massive population increase,  a Mt Elgon National Park’s official said on Tuesday.

The population trend is worrying and promoting the destruction of wildlife and forest, said Mt. Elgon National Park Senior Warden Collins Omondi during a five day training workshop held in Kitale.

The workshop organized by Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) attended by participants from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda was aimed at come up with a multi-sectoral approach to counter the emerging threats against Mt. Elgon national park and its ecosystem.

Omondi said during the workshop that ended late Tuesday the increasing human activities along the ecosystem are affecting the environments citing illegal poaching by a cartel from Uganda.

    “The increasing population among communities around the ecosystem has influenced a negative impact on the ecosystem. There is high demand for fuel wood and land for farming,” the warden revealed.

He announced KWS and Uganda Wildlife Service have agreed to launch joint tourist strategies to market Mt. Elgon ecosystem to enhance livelihood for the communities around the region and in bid to discourage destruction.

Omondi said communities around Mt. Elgon Park has already initiated a tour guiding program and groups involved are generating income to improve food security in their families.

The official further disclosed that the two wildlife conservators are diversifying tourism to curb illegal poaching and conservation of the environment.

LVBC regional coordinator population and health program Dr. Doreen Odero said the workshop will empower the conservation, health and population workers to strengthen their capacity in bid to enhance integration services to the communities.

LVBC has kicked off series of educational training of health, environment and wildlife workers to equip them with relevant skills on integrated services.

Source: Click here.


Sh32 Million Project to Protect Mt. Elgon Forest


By John Nalianya on March 7, 2012


Mt. Elgon-Kenya.

A Sh32 million project to conserve the Mt. Elgon water tower in Kenya has been launched. This follows an outcry by residents that the forest cover on the mountain has significantly reduced over the years. The climate change mitigation and promotion of renewable energy solutions project is being implemented by the Community Concern Network, a non-governmental organization.


The project, in Cheptais and Kapsokwony districts, which is funded by the European Union through Community Development Trust Fund, will take 32 months to be completed. Government officials among them officers from the National Environment Management Authority and the Kenya Forest Service, stakeholders from the community, the residents and the provincial administration attended the launch at Kapsokwony High School.


Speaking during the launch, CCN project manger Violet Okinda said more than 600,000 indigenous trees will be planted in Mt Elgon region in a bid to conserve the water catchments area. "Many trees have been cut in the area by charcoal burners and saw-milers without replacing them. The project will also see more than 10 rivers and springs protected to offer residents clean drinking water," she said.


Okinda added that terraces will also be constructed in farms in the area to check soil erosion. "Every year, more than 800-tones of fertile soil is lost as result of erosion. That is why we want to teach farmers to embrace the use of terraces to check the erosion," she said. The project coordinator pointed out that members of the community will also be encouraged to plant fodder crops and grass that mature faster. "We do not want residents grazing their animals in the forest. We want them to embrace fodder crops," she said. She said the community will further be taught on use of renewable energy solutions to minimize on use of charcoal and firewood for cooking. "We want the community to learn the use of biogas as a source of energy. We want to discourage use of firewood and charcoal," she said.


A representative of the CDTF board of trustees Mrs.Pauline Ikumi said the conservation of the mountain is line with vision 2030. She said her organization will keenly follow up on the implementation of the project to ensure funds are prudently utilized. She called for the active involvement and participation of the community to ensure implementation succeeds. "We want the project to live a positive impact on the community and the environment at the end of it," she said.


Source: Nairobi Star Newspaper - Kenya


Mount Elgon National Parks In Kenya and Uganda: A charming destination worth visiting.


Posted 01 March 2012 By Esly Kania.

Mt. Elgon is shared by Kenya and Uganda and is the most attractive tourist destination that both the locals and visitors would cherish visiting. The charm of Mt. Elgon includes: Breath taking Moutain climbing, Birding Watching (hundreds of Birds species), Wild animals (Elephant, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, duiker, black and white colobus, blue monkeys and golden cat, and many more), Deep Caves (tunnels from Kenya to Uganda), Spectacular Water Falls, Horse riding and many more attractions that is worth more than your time and money. Below are some pertinent information that you may wish to know prior to booking your flight to Mt. Elgon

>>Mount Elgon National Park- Kenya:"Untamed wilderness, secluded splendour"         

Mt. Elgon is located 420 kms from Nairobi. Access is via tarmac road to Kitale, branch to murram road then to the Chorlim Gate


  • Roads: Mt. Elgon is located 420 kms from Nairobi. Access is via tarmac road to Kitale, branch to murram road then to the Chorlim Gate
  • Airstrips: There is one airstrip in the park


  • Chorlim (main gate)
  • Kassawai
  • Kiptogot
  • Kimothon


  • 196 km2
  • On the western border of Kenya with Uganda, in Trans-nzoia District of Rift Valley Province


  • The climate is moist to moderate dry. Annual rainfall is over 1,270mm


  • At present the park does not operate the Safari Card system. Entry is by cash only.


  • Caves
  • Salt Mining Elephants of Kitum Cave
  • Spectacular Waterfall
  • Game Viewing around the Mountain
  • Birdwatching
  • Viewing the mountain


  • Elephant, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, duiker, black and white colobus, blue monkeys and golden cat, among others.
  • More than 240 bird species in the area, including the African crowned eagle, Ross’ turaco, and red-fronted  parrot.


  •   340 bird species have been recorded, of which 230 are forest dependant, while 110 are forest specialist.


  • In the park: No lodges or tented campsites in the park at the moment
  • KWS Self – Catering Accommodation:
    • Koitoboss Guesthouse. Sleeps 6 pax
    • Kapkuro Bandas. 4 units each sleeps 3 pax
  • Camping Facilities:
    • Public Campsites: There are three public campsites namely Nyati, Chorlim and Rongai Campsites
    • Special Campsites: Saltlick Special Campsite


  • Mountain Climbing. What to Bring: Tent, Sleeping bag, Warm clothes/gloves/hat, Sturdy hiking shoes, Flash light, Water bottle, Rain Gear and First Aid Kit.
  • Horse Riding
  • Picnicking
  • Camping
  • Birdwatching


  • Drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight, walking boots, warm clothing, training shoes, socks, sandals and gaiters. Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and guidebooks. 

Source: Kenya Wildlife Service-


>>MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK : birding spot in Uganda.

Size: 1145, Elevation: 1640 to 4320m above sea level, Birds recorded: 300 species
Habitat: Mixed montane forest (less than 2500m) low canopy montane forest, with bamboo (2400-3000m), montane health (3000-3500m) and moorland (greater than 3500m)

Mt. Elgon is a huge dormant volcano on the Kenya-Uganda border. It is highest peak in Kenya is Koitoboss at 4,155m. Elgon is a Masai word, "ol doinyo ilgoon" for "mountain shaped like human breast".
The park has rich, unspoiled, botanical diversity of tropical moist forests, bamboo, and moorlands containing stands of some of the most rare and threatened species like the great Podos, Elgon Teak, and Cedars. The many streams, waterfalls, rivers, cliffs and diverse habitats are ideal habitats for a variety of mammals and over 240 species of birds. You will also encounter the dense scrubs and brilliant everlasting wild flowers that will add to your
Mt. Elgon adventure. 

Birding in Mount Elgon National Park
Bird lovers will enjoy about 300 bird species including the endangered Lammergeiers, the rareJacksons Francolin, Guinea fowls, Sunbirds, Black and White Casqued hornbills, Redheaded parrots and Turacos.
Mt. Elgon represents the western range limits of some species or races that occur in the highlands of Kenya and northern Tanzania such as Hunter's Cisticola and Jackson's Francolin. These two specie belong to the Kenya Highlands Endemic Bird Areas.

The park has 55 of the 86 Afrotropical highland biome species, notably Moorland Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Alpine Chat, only known for this site amongst the sites. Other interesting highland species include Montane Nightjar, Oriole Finch and Abyssinian Crimson-wing. There is an endemic race of the White-starred Forest Robin. Jackson's Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Black-collared Apalis are all forest dependent species known only from
Mt. Elgon in the Ugandan part of their ranges. Guinea-Congo forest biome species are numerous, with 43 on the list, although most of them are well represented in other sites, especially in Western Uganda. There are three Lake Victoria biome species and seven Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species. 




Photos of Mt. Elgon National Park - Kenya :

Mt. Elgon Lodge in Endebes.


x A close view of Mt. Elgon Mountain.


 One of hundreds of bird species


x Bushbuck




 Sipi Falls.



Kipsei Caves of Mt Elgon, part of Western Kenya tourist destination

Written by Phanice Chepkemoi
Read 544 Times

The entrance to the Kipsei Cave. [Photos/ Phanice Chepkemboi/ West Fm]


In one of my adventures in Mt.Elgon, I decided to visit Kipsei cave in Sendera location just some few meters from Sendera primary school.

According to Mzee Philip Kiptega the name Kipsei originated from the person who used to stay there long time ago from Kamaratiek clan.

“When that person moved to another place the villagers decided to name that cave after him,” said Kiptega.


Kipsei cave is well known as the cave that once was to erupt but it was a false alert. It was on 7th September 2004, when the villagers sighted and smelled noxious fumes from the cave. The villagers concern was taken seriously by the government to the extent that the evacuation of nearby villages was considered. Later the geologists came and found that it was fumes from cow dung burning in a lava-tube cave.


The cave is so big and the tunnel inside goes up to Uganda.


“Even before independence people were staying inside until it came a time when they decided to move out and settle in the farm due to change of lifestyle,” Mzee Kiptega said


As I entered the cave, it was so quiet, cool and dark. It was frightening as it is believed that evil spirits stay there. Mzee Kiptega says, the cave had evil spirits but nowadays they are not there.


“There used to be a big bull that always came in the evening to graze around but it was not a real cow, it was an evil spirit in form of a cow.”


We decided to go in through the tunnel using a torch but we couldn’t go further because the cave has many bats, so when they saw the light they decided to fly all over beatings us.

Cattle inside the caves in search of salt to lick, said it makes them healthy.


The cave has a river inside and a grazing field and is believed to have some animals that no one is looks after them. The rocks inside contain salt (ng’eintha in Sabaot) for the cows that is why people take their cattle there to lick the salt. “The salt gives them appetite and also makes them grow healthy,” notes Kiptega.


Mt.Elgon has many caves like the one found in Kaboywo area that is believed to be the home for lightning and thunder storm, Sakok cave in Kapkateny, Sosok cave in Malakis famously known as “Mlango Nane” because it has a door with eight openings and Chebin cave in Kapkateny.


Children herding cattle in the caves which is also said to harbor cattle that no one looks after.


After the eruption incident, the cave has since been visited by many people who want to see how that cave looks like. People in the area now comfortably reside within the area after they were assured of no eruptions.


They are now appealing to the government to recognize some of those caves as a tourist attraction sites so that they can also benefit from that. “Here in Mt. Elgon we have so many things that can be a tourist attraction, but the government is doing nothing to make this place a tourist attraction,” said Kipsisei who stays near the cave.

Source: WestFM Online News, Kenya.


Ethnobotanical Study of Medicinal Plants Used by Sabaots of Mt. Elgon Kenya

By S V Okello,  R O Nyunja, G W Netondo, and J C Onyango

Faculty of Science, Department of Botany and Horticulture, Maseno University; P.O. Box 333-40105, Maseno, Kenya.



Though the majority of people in Kenya and at Kopsiro Division in particular, rely on ethnomedicinal plant species to manage human ailments, the indigenous knowledge largely remains undocumented. Therefore, an ethnobotanical study was conducted on medicinal plant species used to manage human ailments at Kopsiro Division Mt. Elgon District Kenya. The objectives were to identify and document plants traditionally used for medicinal therapy by the Sabaots, to find out the method used for preparing and administering the drugs and to find out the conservation practices for the medicinal plants. Observations and semi-structured interviews were used to gather ethnobotanical data. 107 plants belonging to 56 families were identified and reported to be of medicinal value to the locals. Roots (47.3%) were the most frequently used parts of the plant followed by the bark (23.35%) then leaves (22.75%). The whole plant (1.8%), seed (1.2%), fruit (1.2%), sap (1.2%), flower (0.6%) and wood (0.6%) are least used in that order. The study revealed other hitherto undocumented medicinal plant species that may be new records for treating various ailments. Traditional medicine in Kopsiro division offers cheap, accessible and convenient remedy that suits the traditional lifestyle of the local community in comparison to the conventional medicine. Most medicinal plant species reported in this study were found to be under threat and this calls for urgent conservation measures so as to maximize the sustainable use of these vital resources in the study area.

Keywords: Ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, indigenous knowledge, medicinal plant, traditional medicine, Sabaots.



Traditional herbal remedies provide health services even in highly industrialized setups because they are important pillars of culture and human socialization (Owuor et al., 2005). In many cases, plants used as herbal remedies are not only important as drugs but also as food supplements with vitamins and minerals (Duke, 1992).Kokwaro (1983) noted that traditional medicine men and women have continued to occupy an important position in our societies. From a social dimension, they are used as a tool to determine the efficacy of indigenous medicine. This is reflected in the fact that the community refers patients with particular ailments to specific practitioners (Kaendi, 1997).

The change in lifestyles has had a negative impact on maintaining traditional knowledge on herbal remedies, hence there is a danger of this knowledge being lost. There is a rapid loss of traditional herbalists and a decline in authentic knowledge in traditional treatment, as a result of death of many aged healers (Cox and Balick, 1994). Overgrazing and over exploitation of plant resources have already led to a decline of the plant material available (Bussman et al., 2006).

With the advent of “modern medicine” and disinterest which many people from the third world countries show towards herbal remedies, there is danger that the knowledge of traditional healers will be lost forever if action is not taken to document the particular prescriptions involved. In view of the rapid loss of natural habitats, traditional community life, cultural diversity and knowledge of medicinal plants, documentation of African traditional plants is an urgent matter (Wyk et al., 2002).

Attempts were recently made to address this knowledge gap for instance: Jeruto et al. (2008) documents medicinal plants used by the Nandi of Kenya, Owuor and Kisangau (2006) made a comparison of plants used in snake bite treatments by two culturally distinct groups (Luo and Kamba), the ethnobotanical data suggests that plant species used by the two ethnic groups are similar though independently derived. Owuor et al. (2005) identified and documented 24 plant species used by traditional practitioners among the Luo for treatment of snakebites. However, practitioners seem not open and readily willing to disclose plants consistently used in snakebite treatment. This observation requires further documentation comparison of ethno-botanical results (Owuor and Kisangau 2006).

Mt. Elgon forest is in danger of being completely destroyed yet has many plant species of economic value such as Elgon teak (Ochuoga, 2002). The Mt. Elgon Integrated Conservation and Development Initiative (MICDI) estimated that the local communities have illegally excised over 5000 hectares of Chepyuk forest; over 2000 hectares of Kitale forest and hundreds of acres of kaboywo forest had been cleared and converted to cultivation of maize and wheat (Ochuoga, 2002).

The plant biodiversity is likely to be eroded hence an urgent need to document medicinal information of the plants in this area. The study therefore aimed at documenting medicinal plants used by the Sabaot community living in Kopsiro division of Mt. Elgon district. The area is faced with poor health services and the community has alternative services offered by herbal plant materials. This paper outlines some of the medicinal plants used by the Sabaot community in Mt. Elgon district, Kenya. Conservation measures for the forest are suggested.


Materials and Methods


Study area

The study was carried out in Kopsiro division of Mt. Elgon district which is one of the six districts in Western Province, Kenya. The district borders Uganda to the north and west, Transnzoia district to the east, and Bungoma district to the south (Anonymous, 1997–2002). The district occupies 936.75 km2 with Mount Elgon forest occupying 645.05 Km2. It is divided into four divisions that is: Kapsokwony, Kaptama, Kopsiro and Cheptais. Kopsiro division occupies 248.78km2 of which 160.95km2 is forested area (Anonymous, 1997–2002). Each division has four locations that are further subdivided into six sub-locations. The altitude of the district lies between 1800 meters above sea level in the south to about 4310 meters to the north (Anonymous, 1997–2002). The main land formation is the Mount Elgon, which slopes gently though some areas around the southern part of the district and central parts rise abruptly in an undulating characteristic to form cliffs rising up to 70 meters. The area is dissected by deep river gorges with frequent waterfalls (Anonymous, 1997–2002). Rainfall is bimodal with long rains appearing in March to June while the short rains in September to November (Anonymous, 1997–2002). However there is no clear distinction between the two rainy seasons. Rainfall received is moderate and ranges between 1400 mm to over 1800 mm per annum and is fairly distributed in the district.

The climate is favourable for a wide range of agricultural and livestock production activities which account for about 90% of the economic activities (Anonymous, 1997–2002). The mountain has a rich natural forest endowed with valuable timber trees such as Elgon Teak, Cedar, and Elgon Olives. Edible vegetables, fibres, fruits and traditional medicinal plants are found (Anonymous, 1997–2002).


Data collection

Ethno medicinal data was collected between August 2005 and December 2006 through field surveys in the four locations of Kopsiro division. Purposive sampling was used in the field survey where elders were used to identify medicinal plant practitioners (prior informed consent was obtained). Emphasis was on both men and women (Davis and Wagner, 2003). Seventy eight practitioners (40 men and 38 women) aged 30 years and above were systematically sampled from each of the four locations and interviewed in their homes by the use of a questionnaire. The respondents provided plant names, parts used, mode of preparation and administration, and the diseases treated. Authenticity was achieved when at least three independent respondents provided corroborative information. Four market vendors of herbs at the local Kapkateny market were interviewed to corroborate information on the plants, the information was considered valid when the three agreed (Johns et al., 1990). The clinical officer at Kopsiro Health Center provided information on the diseases and conditions that are prevalent in the community. One hundred and seven herbarium specimens were prepared and identified at the University of Nairobi and at the National Museums of Kenya Herbaria. The specimens were treated by mercuric chloride and stored as voucher specimens for future reference at the University Botanic Garden Maseno University Herbarium. The nomenclature of all plants follows: for herbs (Agnew and Agnew, 1994), for trees shrubs and lianas (Beentje, 1994). Photographs of the plants in-situ were also taken.


Data analysis

Both descriptive and inferential statistics by using general linear model was used to determine the level of threat to medicinal plants, informant data and factor of informants' consensus (Fic) values obtained from the questionnaires were used (Heinrich et al., 1998). ICF values will be low (near 0) if plants are chosen randomly, or if informants do not exchange information about their use. Values will be high (near 1) if there is a well-defined selection criterion in the community and /or if information is exchanged between informants.



107 medicinal plant species distributed in 102 genera and 56 botanical families were identified and reported to be of medicinal value. The family reported with the highest number of medicinal plant species was Fabaceae (9 species, 8.41%). This was followed by Euphorbiaceae (8 species, 7.48%). Then was followed by Asteraceae (7 species, 6.54%) and Solanaceae (4 species, 3.73%). 9 families had each 3 species (2.8%), another 9 had each 2 species (1.87%) while 34 families had a single species represented (0.93%) (Table. 1). Roots (47.3%) were the most frequently used parts of the plant followed by the bark (23.35%) then leaves (22.75%). The whole plant (1.8%), seed (1.2%), fruit (1.2%), sap (1.2%), flower (0.6%) and wood (0.6%) are least used in that order (table 1).

Table 1

Medicinal plants used by Sabaots in Kopsiro division of Mt. Elgon district.

Majority of the reported species were wild (85.98 %) whereas some (11.21%) were both wild and cultivated, and the rest (2.8%) were reported as cultivated. Of the reported species (39.25%) were trees followed by shrubs (35.54%) and then herbs (29.9%) (Table 1).


Discussions and conclusions

The medicinal use of plants leaves and roots in the management and treatment of diseases has been an age long practice (Sofowara, 1982). Plant derived medicines are widely used because they are relatively safer than the synthetic alternatives, they are easily available and cheaper (Iwu et al., 1999).

Plants in the study area were mainly collected in the morning because in most cases the plants were obtained from far distances, secondly early in the morning snakes could not be encountered due to low temperatures and thirdly they only worked when they were collected in the morning (Okello, 2007). Patients were only referred to hospitals incases where a midwife detected that the head of the child was bigger than the birth canal. Conventional medicine is not used in conjunction with the herbal remedies since they are incompatible (Okello, 2007). However the scientific principle behind this should be investigated.

Roots were the mostly used plant part since these normally have a high partitioning for the photosynthates or exudates (Balick and Cox, 1996) which act as toxins for protection against devourers and most of these are of medicinal value to the human body. This is also the reason for using the bark. The use of roots is dangerous to the existence of individual plants as compared to the leaves or branches (Poffenberger et al., 1992). The utilization of the roots calls for conservation measures on the medicinal plants since the use of roots do not allow for sustainable utilization as the plants in question are depleted by continual use.

Plant remedies were prepared mostly as infusions or decoctions. Infusions were prepared on delicate parts of the plants, that is, leaves, flowers and stem buds. The advantage with this method is that many active principles are extracted with almost no alteration of their chemical structure thus preserving almost all their properties (George and Pamplona, 2000). Decoctions on the other hand were used to prepare herbal teas from the hard parts of the plants (root, rhizome, seeds and stem barks). It was observed that some plants were prepared using more than one method and in some cases more than one plant part was used (Table 1).

Prescriptions of remedies were distinctive to all the practitioners interviewed. Non-the-less, as noted in a similar line of study by Omino and Kokwaro (1993) as well asKisangau (1999), inconsistency of dosage of medicaments was a marked feature. But generally, ½ or 1 glass full of the prepared drug was taken 2–3 times a day depending on the nature of complication of the ailment and efficacy of the drug.

The use of Agave sisalana and pound leaves/bark of Ziziphus abyssinica to treat burns is due to the ability of the plant to accelerate skin regeneration in the burnt area (Okello, 2007). Poultices on the other hand are used to ease nerve and muscle pains, sprains or fractured bones. The use of H. trifoliata in treating ulcers concurs with the findings of Osim et al., (1999) who found out that H. trifoliata accelerates the healing of acetic acid induced peptic ulcer in rats. This may validate the use of this plant in the treatment of peptic ulcers in human.

Several sesquiterpene lactones, including some with a peroxide substructure have been isolated from the aerial parts of A. afra (Jakupovic et al., 1988). These may well be responsible for the antimalarial effect of this species, even though no parasitological evaluation is available. Also, other non-volatile compounds (triterpenes, Silbernagel et al., 1990) and the essential oil (Moody et al., 1994) of this species have been studied.

Investigations on the plant parts used and the mode of preparation and administration indicated that irrespective of the plant part(s) or combinations used, water was the main medium for all the medicinal preparations. In addition to pure herbal preparations, in some cases the drug was administered along with milk, honey, strong tea, oil from sheep and beer. These supplement ingredients may be used to enhance the effect of the herbal preparations or are simply used to make the preparations palatable. However, the exact role of these materials in curing the diseases is not clearly known, as a systematic investigation on the characterization of the active ingredients has not been done. The current study has revealed four medicinal plant species whose medicinal use is undocumented and may be new records for treating various ailments. These are: Dolichos compressus Wilczec,Agrocharis incognita (Norman) Heyw and Jury, Engleromyces goetzi P.Henn andEchinops Angustilobolus S. Moore.

Medicinal plants used in local health traditions are gradually becoming extinct due to over utilization, population explosion and for other anthropogenic reasons. In order to reverse this trend, domestication of wild medicinal plants is of utmost importance. This would augment the income of rural people and in turn help in the conservation of species. In the study area most of the plants used were trees yet only three of the practitioners interviewed practice ex-situ conservation of the medicinal plants in their homes. The rest said there was no need as God provided the plants and at no time can they be completely depleted in the forest. It is, therefore, important that organizations in this division concerned with conservation of plants co-work with them, and provide extension services pertaining to propagation and sustainable harvesting of medicinal plants.

It was evident from the interviews conducted that knowledge of medicinal plants used by the people of Kopsiro division seems to be well known to the culture and tradition of the Sabaots. With the changes in lifestyle and increasing population, it is feared that ethnobotanical knowledge might get considerably limited or disappear in the foreseeable future. This is more evident since this knowledge is still mostly taught orally without written records. An illustrated identification guide for Sabaot plant use, best produced in Sabaot or Swahili is long overdue.

The global demand for herbal medicine is growing (Omino and Kokwaro, 1993;Muregi et al., 2003), while plant species in traditional medicines continue to be reliable sources for discovery of useful compounds screening plants growing under various environmental conditions could provide another source for compounds with antimicrobial activities (Njoroge and Newton 1994Muregi et al 2003). Since the efficacy of these medicinal plants has not been tested, pharmaceutical companies in Kenya are encouraged to explore this area (Kopsiro) for this is a region with plants having the potential to generate novel metabolites.

This study has revealed that medicinal plants still play a vital role in the provision of primary healthcare for the people in this division. The government of Kenya should work out ways of integrating this to the hospitals and provide the necessary infrastructure in this region for proper practicing of Sabaot medicine. This may contribute to the local economic development.



We are grateful to Biota-E01 for financial support from BMB+F and Maseno University. The Sabaots are appreciated for sharing their knowledge on medicinal plants with us.



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22. Okello SV. Ethnobotanical survey and phytochemical analysis of some medicinal plants in Kopsiro division of Mt. Elgon District Kenya. 2007. Unpublished M.Sc thesis Maseno University.

23. Omino EA, Kokwaro JO. Ethnobotany of Apocynaceae species in KenyaJ Ethnopharmacol.1993;40:167–180. [PubMed]

24. Osim EE, Maredza T, Rao PV, Nhandara B, Adeyanju B, Ouri ZJ. Heteromorpha trifoliate (Dombwe) accelerates acetic acid induced peptic ulcers: a preliminary study in the rats. Cent Afr J Med. 1999;45(2):35–40. [PubMed]

25. Owuor B, Kisangau D. Kenyan medicinal plants used as antivenin; a comparison of plant usage.J Ethnobiol Ethnomedicine. 2006;2:6.

26. Owuor B, Mulemi B, Kokwaro J. Indigenous snake bite remedies of the Luo of western KenyaJ Ethnobiol. 2005;25(1):129–141.

27. Poffenberger M, McGean B, Khare S, Campbell J. Field Method Manual, vol II. Community Forest Economy abd Use Pattern: Participatoey and Rural Appraisal (PRA) Methods in South Gujarat India.New Delhi: Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development; 1992.

28. Silbernagel E, Spreitzer H, Buchbauer G. Nichtflüchtige Inhaltstoffe von Artemisia afra.Monatshefte für Chemie. 1990;121:433–436. (Ger).

29. Sofowara EA. Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicines in Africa. Nigeria: John Wiley and Sons Ltd; 1982. pp. 64–79.

30. Wyk BV, Oudtsshoorn BV, Gericke N. Medicinal plants of South Africa. Pretoria: Briza publications; 2002.


Source: Articles from African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicinesare provided here courtesy of African Networks on Ethnomedicines


Strength and Endurance while climbing Mt. Elgon

By Ferdinand Mwongela.


The climb passes through a series of rough vegetation zones. Though a physically exhausting venture, its cool heights offer respite for people from the hot plains. Ferdinand Mwongela was there recently:


 Rising from the jungles bordering Uganda, Mt Elgon is an impressively craggy extinct volcano. I had been told this remote area makes for interesting trekking through    deep forest and across moorlands and I was here to find out.

There was a time the region was synonymous with insecurity, hence my apprehension as we made our way to Mt Elgon National Park, which is just a few kilometres from Kitale. The Chorlim gate derives its name from Chorlim House, barely a kilometre away from the park, it was once occupied by the white family of Buster and Barbara Powles, between 1928-1960. It is now a guest house for visitors to the park.

From the moment we set our feet on Mt Elgon, it was immediately clear that the region had been unfairly classified as insecure. According to park officials and local residents, instances of insecurity were far removed from the park.

One of my main goals was to climb to the top of the mountain, at least to the highest point on the Kenyan side, which is Koitoboss peak at about 4,302 metres above sea level. Since it was late, the climbing was rescheduled for the following morning.

We settled down at the Kenya Wildlife Service’s Koitoboss Guest House within the park for the night. We were encouraged to get enough rest as the climbing was to begin early.

At 5:30am, in the company of two armed KWS rangers, we set off. Climbing all the way up the mountain on foot, we were told, can take about two days. No one was willing to spend two days on this exhausting venture, so we used the land cruiser almost half the distance and covered the rest on foot.

Question of fitness

The journey to the top of the mountain was physically draining. [PHOTOS: FERDINAND MWONGELA AND COURTESY]

The vehicle took us well past the bamboo belt. Immediately we stepped out of the truck, the chilly morning air hit us like a solid punch in the stomach. Full of high spirits, we set off. The first slope left us breathless, making me question my fitness. I felt my strength ebb away when the rangers pointed out where we were going — to a place far off where the mountain seemed to merge with the clouds.

We faithfully fell in a single column, like soldiers with a ranger in front and another up the rear. Mt Elgon looks deceptively wide and flat with cunning steep slopes at intervals. The morning dew made the ground slippery and I regretted why I had not come with proper shoes. Walking tentatively on the sloppy sides and skirting the hills it was soon clear that one wrong step would send me tumbling all the way down.

With less than five kilometres covered, the only sounds were our boots as we trudged through the grass and shrubs, and the thundering heartbeat in my chest.

Our pretentious little band had broken into two little groups pummelling though the narrow track. The rangers, on the other hand, seemed to have an uncanny ability to keep their eyes peeled, scouring the surroundings and keeping their foothold.

Our walking soon changed from the determined tumble through the grass to labouring up slopes and stopping to catch our breath in the guise of waiting for each other. The vegetation turned into slippery elephant grass then to a rocky patch with water seeping from underground.

Within reach

By 3,500 metres above sea level, we hit a moorland belt with a lot of giant lobelia and groundsel plants looking like a massive banana plantation.

Koitoboss peak now seemed quite near. It felt like I could just reach out and touch it, or just close my eyes and find myself at the peak. Our only salvation lay in getting to the peak fast so we could start on the downward trek to a shower and solid food.

In my moments of tiredness and breathlessness, I could have sworn it was smiling mockingly. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that no way was I going to be the schmuck who went up Mt Elgon and never got to the top.

A few heart-thumping minutes and scrambling on our knees, we got to the flat topped Koitoboss peak and what a sight it was.

Giraffes are a common sight in the area. [PHOTOS: FERDINAND MWONGELA AND COURTESY]

Covered in a soft mushy blanket of yellowish green moss and overlooking the gently sloping land below, it was an image to remember. A few happy moments and a lot pictures later, we were on our way down.

Way down

Propelled by the thought of food, rest and shower, the journey down was more treacherous. Six hours later, all I could think about was a nap and a painkiller for my throbbing head.

A slight detour from the route we had used earlier brought us face to face with a mountain elephant in the bamboo belt. The massive beast glared at us through its beady eyes before slowly gathering himself for a charge.

Unlike their lowland counterparts, these elephants have had little contact with humans and are wild as they can charge at vehicles with little or no provocation. The timely intervention of one of the rangers by firing into the air saved us from the wrath of the beast.

The elephant moved off into the bamboos but kept a watchful eye. A little farther on we came to a podo carpus tree with a massive stem that would take about 12 adults holding hands to go around!

We got back to base about ten hours after we left, our bodies beaten by the rugged nature and crying for nourishment.<<

Source: East African Standard Media


Minister warns Sabiny on fresh landslides

(Source: New Vision Newspaper - Uganda  July, 2011)

Tourism minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has warned communities in Sebei region of fresh landslides due to poor conservation practices on the slopes of Mt. Elgon.

He said there were indicators that some areas may experience massive landslides if no measures are taken to address the poor farming methods and demand for more land for cultivation.

Kamuntu on Saturday told residents during a community meeting at Kitawoi sub-county headquarters in Kween district that they had to play a leading role in the conservation of nature.

He said communities within specific parts of the volcanic mountain had cultivated on the hill slopes, exposing them to massive soil erosion and landslides.

“We need permanent boundaries between you and the forest. We also need permanent resettlement to enable you co-exist with the forest,” Kamuntu said

He was reacting to remarks by the district chairman, Lawrence Mangusho.

Mangusho had earlier urged the Government to degazette land for the resettlement of families that were left out during the 1983 Benet resettlement programme.

Kamuntu urged the Sabiny to identify sustainable survival skills that do not make them entirely dependent on land as a major resource for their productivity.

He dismissed the ideology that the land in Uganda was inadequate to cater for the needs of the 33 million people. Kamuntu cited England that has a population of 62 million people and has the same land size as that of Uganda.

Kamuntu was flanked by women MPs Lydia Chekwel Barteka (Kween), Phyllis Chemutai (Kapchorwa) and Everlyn Tete (Bukwo).

The Kween resident district commissioner, William Kabarole, said the minister’s visit was a demonstration that the Government cares about the landlessness of the affected communities.



Introduced Species Thriving in Mt. Elgon Park. By Harold Ayodo.

Visitors who last toured Mt Elgon National Park three years ago would marvel at the many species of animals there today.

Our game drive across the 196 square-kilometre park situated on the western border with Uganda in Trans-Nzoia district revealed a rejuvenated park.

Animals such as Rothschild giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), impalas (Aepyceros melampus), Defassa Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnu) and Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) have since been introduced.

The park’s senior warden Dickson Ritan says the animals were translocated from sanctuaries and farms countrywide.

"Until recently, people came to the park to see the cave elephants and the nearly 340 bird species here," he says.

Other common animals in the area are the leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, duiker, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and golden cat.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) researchers are upbeat that the population of the newly introduced species will increase.

KWS senior researcher Frederick Lala and research scientist Israel Makau say recent studies show the animals have adapted to their new habitat.

Animals Reproducing

"Latest reports of monitoring larger mammals in the park show that the animals are reproducing," Lala says.

In March 2007, 15 giraffes were moved from Nakuru’s Nai farm. Twenty-two impalas were also translocated from Kisumu Impala Sanctuary and Lake Nakuru National Park.

"The impalas have acclimatised, are healthy and have bred. However, their number needs to be boosted to make the population ecologically viable," Makau says.

According to the researchers, all the introduced species spend morning and afternoon sessions feeding.

Giraffes have established their niche and are good feeders thanks to the availability of vegetation.

The zebras focus on roadsides where grazing is abundant. They also prefer open grasslands and bush undergrowths.

Main predators

"The zebras seem to be still acclimatising. However, their mobile lips enable them graze on both soft and hard grass," Makau says.

He told The Standard zebras graze in one area until it is depleted before moving to the next. Lions, hyenas, wild dogs and cheetahs are their main predators.

However, the zebras also take off on sighting humans making it difficult to determine their sex during censuses.

"We monitor the animals regularly and on weekly basis for less than one year old individuals," Makau says.

Ritan says the number of visitors to the park has increased due to the new biodiversity.

"We keep track of the newly introduced species. Their success would encourage us to introduce other animals into the habitat," he concludes.


 Report retrieved from:




The Elgon Biodiversity

by Mr. Godfrey Kipsisey-PhD Candidate, Sabaot cultural center-a concept paper, 2007.

Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Africa and is located around latitude 1ºN and longitude 34ºE. It stretches across the international border between Uganda and Kenya, the highest peak being is in Uganda. It is located north of Lake Victoria on the border between Kenya and Uganda. It is a mountain of volcanic origin, which reaches an altitude of 4,320 metres and is between 15 and 20 million years old. The vegetation is zoned by altitude. Montane forest vegetation spans between 2,000 and 3,500 metres, with many important indigenous species. Above 3,500 metres, Afro-Alpine moorland is the main vegetation type.


The Kenya side of the Mount Elgon ecosystem is situated in Mount Elgon District, and in Trans Nzoia District. It encompasses two Forest Reserves which are separated by Mount Elgon National Park. Of the total Forest Reserves 4,324 ha are in Trans-Nzoia and 42,097 ha in Mount Elgon District. The forest is managed by the Forest Department, while Mount Elgon National Park falls under the responsibility of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). On the foothills of the mountain, Forest Reserves and the Mount Elgon National Park border subsistence farms especially in Mount Elgon District and on the north-eastern side in Trans-Nzoia. A few large scale farms are found on the eastern slopes.


Mount Elgon’s water catchment capacity and its bio-diversity functions are of regional significance for East Africa. It is the major water source for Lake Victoria and River Nile. The importance of the area has been recognised as trans-border mountain ecosystem with the establishment of integrated conservation and development projects on both the Uganda and Kenya sides of the mountain. Evidently however, political boundaries do not take account of realities of nature. Like most other political boundaries, the border between Uganda and Kenya was arbitrarily drawn by colonial governments never having set eyes on the Sabaot people and land. As a result, it severs the community and a functioning ecosystem, which would benefit from a larger scale, regional approach to conservation and development. The adjoining Mount Elgon National Parks in Kenya and Uganda have been recognised also in scientific publications as one of the 136 trans-frontier ecosystems consisting of Internationally Adjoining Protected Areas.


Mount Elgon ecosystem harbours one of the richest biodiversities in the world. Records show that approximately 240 species of birds are found in Mount Elgon ecosystem. Among the most common are the Guinea Fowls, Black and White Casqued Hornbill and the Grey Crowned Crane. The cranes breed in wetlands and forage both inside and outside the wetlands. The bird species have four habitat types which are the bushy grassland, open grassland, cultivated lands and swamps. Other birds include the Grey Heron, Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Night Heron, Hammerkop, Yellow-billed Stork, Hadada Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Duck, Sparrow, varieties of doves, and others. Mount Elgon is considered one of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Kenya. Certain species such as the Splendid Starling are only found in Mount Elgon region. Apart from birds,Mount Elgon ecosystem is a habitat for many varieties of snakes, chameleons, frogs, tortoises and snails. The tortoise is found in salty springs which the Sabaot call koong’ta or ‘the eye.’


Original inventories and oral accounts showed that Mount Elgon ecosystem was inhabited by about 30 mammalian species, but as of now, only 20 can be check-listed. The remaining 10 species have disappeared from this habitat. Commonly seen species in large numbers are Loxodanta africana (Elephant),Syncerus caffer (Buffalo), Hyaena crocuta (Spotted Hyena), Taurotragus oryx (Waterbuck), Galago senegalensis (Bush baby), baboons, Red duiker, Impala, Leopard, Bongo, Hyrax, Giant forest hog, Rhino and various rodent species. The threatened African golden cat, Felis aurata or kimokoyit, and endemic small mammals such as Mount Elgon musk shrew, Crocidura elgonius or nteriit, and Mount Elgon mole-rat, Tachyocites rudii or bung’uung’weet, are indigenes  in the region. Among the carnivores are Leopard, Spotted hyena, Wild cat, and Civet. 

The major concern for the animal kingdom in Mount Elgon forest is with the mammalian group. This is due to their declining habitats and to pressures such as poaching and encroachment by man. Different species of mammals inhabit different vegetation zones, or habitats. There are three main categories of the Mount Elgon Forest as they relate to wildlife habitation and this include montane forest, bamboo zone, and open moorland.


The montane forest (2,000-3,500 m) is comprised of tall trees of various species, bushes, and climbers. It is the area where most rivers claim their sources. Caves that provide natural saltlicks are found in this zone. Where giant trees are found, animals such as waterbuck, buffalo, forest hogs and antelope are commonly seen. Among the mammals found in this zone are buffaloes, cave elephants, black and white colobus monkeys, and the antelopes. The zone offers abundant resources required by these mammals such as water, forage, and natural salt licks.


The bamboo zone (3,500 - 4,000 m) is at a higher altitude than the forest. It is frequented by red duiker and a few varieties of birds like francolins. Seed trees also thrive here hence plenty of food for the birds. Leopards can be found in this zone. The moorland zone, at 4,000 - 4,500 m has little vegetation and is cooler due to the higher altitude. Commonly inhabiting the moorland are rock hyrax, leopard, and a notable variety of rodents. Some stray lowland mammals are also found in this area, including buffalo and bushbuck.


The dominant tree species in Elgon ecosystem are Olea capensis (Elgon Teak), Juniperus procera (Cedar) and Hagenia abysisinica (Rosewood). Areas with pure stands of these particular species have become bare due to wanton destruction and fires while others have been replaced with exotic species includingCypress, Pine and Eucalyptus. Others species are Podocarpus spp, Markhamia lutea, Fagaropsis angolensis, Polyscias kikuyunensis, Hagenia abyssinica (rosewood),Aningeria aldofi and Prunus africana. Several shrub and tree species are exploited by the forest-adjacent community for medicinal purposes. The medicine is extracted from the roots, barks or even the leaves. Some species with medicinal significance include Ficus natalensis, Prunus africana, Croton macrostachya, Acacia spp, Aningeria spp and Elgon teak. On a small-scale, the medicinal value of Mount Elgon forest is being exploited for economic purposes. A few individuals can be noted openly peddling medicinal concoctions in market centres such as Kapsokwony District Headquarters and various places.

The Sabaot community has some cultural beliefs and practices which have assisted in the conservation of wildlife. Hunters were not supposed to kill pregnant animals. Others are not allowed to kill certain species referred to as family "totems" e.g. Kapchebet clan will not kill a buffalo. The community members were not allowed to drink milk for one week after eating wild game meat. Young boys were not allowed to hunt because they could violate the above norms. Most members of the community have long outlived these sustainable conservation measures. Efforts should be made to revive these beneficial cultural norms.


However during circumcision ceremonies, the initiates wear hats made from the skins of the Black and White Colobus Monkey. This indicates that the indigenous community has been involved in poaching, though this practice is dying out slowly as a result of awareness creation campaigns. Emphasis is placed on practice of selective, valuable cultural activities.


Honey hunting is yet another cultural practice that still exists amongst the forest-adjacent communities. The use of fire to scare away bees leaves most of them dead and always is a significant source of uncontrolled fires on Mount Elgon.

Mount Elgon ecosystem plays an important role as a water catchment and is one of the five main ‘water towers’ of Kenya. It is the head catchment area for two major rivers: the Nzoya and Suam or Turkwel rivers. It also provides water to the Morkiis (Malakis) River that crosses the farming area south of the mountain before entering Uganda as Malaba River. The Nzoya River is a critical water source for Western Province where it provides most of the water to highly populated areas before flowing into Lake Victoria. The Nzoya River crosses 123 sub-locations where the total population amounts to 1,054,283 inhabitants, according to the census undertaken in 1989.  The Suam or Turkwel River is one of three major rivers that feed Lake Turkana. It provides water to the Turkwel Gorge dam and its hydro-electric power plant. It is the main river that crosses the semi-arid and arid areas of the region on the southwest of Lake Turkana.


Amongst the major rivers originating from Mount Elgon ecosystem are Kaibei, Kapteka, Kimoson, Mubere, Kiptigot, Chebirirbey, Kamuchong', Chepchoinor, Kipyoywan, Kisawoy Kipkulkul, Cheptantan, Rongai, Kamakoiwa, Sosio, Laba, Kipkuresai Kimelil, Kibuk, Kimobo, Kibingey, Kitaban, Kibusi, Kapkateny, and Terem. Others include Kuywa, Kaptenai, Emia, Morkiis Emanang, Sitt and Rakook. Generally, the rivers are fast flowing. The drainage pattern is radial to parallel on the upper and mid-slopes respectively.


The government has allowed local communities to extract water from the forest for various uses at no cost to the beneficiaries. However, the local communities have not taken full advantage of this facility and only a few water projects exist. These are Salaam and Nyakaguana which serves about 10,000 people, Kimondo serving about 3,500 people, Kibuk (Kimnyokos) serving about 4,000 people, Laba serving about 2,500 people, Mount Elgon Orchards Farm and Wango farm. Most communities in Mount Elgon District are served by gravity flow water systems originating from the mountain. Others get their water from springs located near their homes. Water schemes include Ngachi water project, Chesikak and the proposed Chesekeer water project.


Rivers have certain religious significance attached to them. They are regarded by Sabaot people as very sacred or holy places, where certain vital societal rituals are carried out. During circumcision, initiates are required to carry out customary practical lessons in the river. Each of the Sabaot territorial clans have its own specific river, belonging to them historically and religiously. In Mount Elgon, rivers Rakook, Terem, Sosio Kisawoi and Suam have a lot of spiritual, emotional and cultural beliefs attached to them by the various Sabaot clans eg Rakook for the Kamukeek clan. A newly married woman from western Elgon could not cross Kisawoi River into Trans-Nzoia or Kitale without denouncing her witchcraft and throwing it into the river.




                                  Mt. Elgon National Park - Endebes, Kenya.





Above: Kitum cave








Link to Kitum cave Infoclick here or here


Mt. Elgon National Park - Uganda.


Link here




Mt. Elgon Ecosystem

"The ecosystem contains habitats which support unique and diverse fauna and flora. A considerable amount of research on its bio-diversity has been carried out (for references, see a.o. MEICDP: ‘Proceedings of the workshop on Integrated Natural Resources Management Planning Mount Elgon, September, 1999’ and KFWG, November 2000). The area is a priority for species conservation. A number of plant species are endemic to Mount Elgon, and it is one of the locations (with Kakamega and others) where the Elgon Teak (Olea Capensis) is found. This tree is highly valued by carpenters for its distinctively coloured, beautifully textured, hard wood. It is used for internal decoration, for furniture and as construction wood. Due to the rarity of some of its bird species, Mount Elgon has been the status of an Important Bird Area according to the international wildlife classification system.

The combined Kenyan and Ugandan protected areas (National Parks and Forest Reserves) are sufficiently large to maintain viable populations of many of the larger and rarer species of mammals which are vulnerable to extinction in smaller National Parks. Among them are elephants, buffaloes, leopards, giant forest hog, waterbuck, bushbuck, duiker and various monkeys. Information on small mammals is limited, but indications are that Mount Elgon has higher levels of species richness and diversity than many of East Africa’s low altitude forests.

The caves on the slopes of the mountain are home to large colonies of various types of bats. In addition, the caves provide for salt licks for large and small mammals."as stated from




South African Road Rage!

These photos are from Thursday, Feb. 17 by someone from Centurion in Pilanesberg game reserve,
South Africa ..

The guy in the white Volkswagen was trying to get past the elephant.

The photographs were taken at
South Africa's Pilanesberg game reserve on 17th February, 2011. A 22nd February 2011 report published on the news24 website notes:

Johannesburg - A Rustenburg man has described how his life flashed before his eyes as an aggressive bull elephant flipped his car over with him and a friend inside last Thursday.

"I never thought I would be killed by an elephant,” John Somers of Rustenburg said on Monday.

What is more, it was his 66th birthday - and he was in a Volkswagen Passat he had owned for only two weeks.

Reports suggest that Amarula, the name of the large bull elephant involved in the incident, may have been "making advances" towards the small car. Riaan van Wyk, who was at the scene and took the photographs of the incident told The Sun news:

"Amarula is one of the largest bull elephants in the reserve.

"To make a bad situation worse, he was in musth - a dangerous time where bull elephants become randy, aggressive and pumped full of hormones. "As Amarula made his way closer to the VW Passat I sat quietly in a nearby car.

"Realising what was about to unfold I nervously grabbed my camera."

The driver and his passenger were treated for cuts and bruises but were not seriously injured.

Manager of the reserve Johnson Maoka noted that bull elephants in musth can act unpredictably. Maoka suggest that motorists should not try to pass elephants on the road, bur rather make a u-turn and find an alternative route. However, It appears that the driver of the Volkswagen was unable to retreat in time. He did not actually try to pass the elephant as suggested in the message. In fact, the driver turned off his engine and remained stationary as the elephant approached.