Mr. President, Gen. Yoweri Museveni; we have many unexploited Prof. Ogwangs

By Chris Mugasha

Your Excellency Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda, first and foremost, I want congratulate you for having a Ugandan, Prof. Patrick Ogwang, whose product  is among the regional and global discussion in fighting COVID-19.

I also join those who have received some relief after using COVIDEX to congratulate and appreciate Prof. Patrick Ogwang’s efforts. I congratulate those in herbal medicine for seeing a herbal product finally competing with conventional medicines in managing this global pandemic, COVID-19.

To Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), thank you for providing space in your laboratories to Prof. Ogwang, to be able to come up with such a product that has become talk in the country in the fight against COVID-19.

Yes, MUST you have been relevant to the needs of the communities but with Prof. Ogwang’s discovery now, its big achievement and you must be proud of it. Even if at a later stage COVIDEX is not approved by our National Drug Authority (NDA) and other pharmacy bodies, COVIDEX has supported some Ugandans to battle the pandemic and there is no doubt those who have managed to survive will live to give testimonies on how COVIDEX rescued them.

Mid the break out of COVID-19, I got the opportunity to meet and interact withProf. Ogwang at Rukararwe Partnership Workshop for Rural Development (R.P.W.R.D.) in Bushenyi district.Meeting Prof. Ogwang you cannot even predict that he is a Professor! He is young, simple, soft spoken with high enthusiasm on issues of herbal medicine.

Prof. Ogwang and other lectures had led a group of students who are undertaking Master of Science in Pharmacognosy and Natural Medicine Science to Rukararwe PWRD to help the students further their understanding on the practice of natural products focusing on the following areas;

-To understand the design and inclusion of the various departments at the center.

-To understand the processes involved in propagation and production of natural products.

-To describe the quality control tests and procedures done in natural products propagation and manufacture.

-To describe the quality assurance measures done at the herbal center.

-To discuss the marketing and supply of natural products at the herbal center.

During the session with these lecturers and students, one herbalist actually inquired from them that; “how can you study pharmacy….and fail to have a product on the market which can support our health care system?” The story is long! But I am happy that Prof. Ogwang (and his team) has finally hit the market.

Your Excellency, this takes me back to my main subject of; There are many people in communities especially amongst the elderly with a range of knowledge concerning herbal medicine who remain unexploited. Unfortunately some like Dr Zakarious Gombekwa who has been the chairperson of Rukararwe’s herbalists died before that knowledge/information is got from them for the benefit of the future generation and for scientists to build on hence value addition.

What has helped Prof. Ogwang to reach this far is may be; his level of education, having access to laboratories, having passion for herbal medicine and interactions with herbalists. If the Prof. Ogwangs canteam-up with our herbalists they can make wonders and save Uganda from the importation of drugs.

Your Excellency, there would not be congestion in our health centres, if herbalists in communities were empowered to be able to add value to some herbs to handle some illnesses at the village level.

Your Excellency, what is happening is that these herbalists just lack simple tools,research funds,laboratories and lack of connections; with universities/research institutions, relevant government Ministries and other funding agencies.

I have been reading a booklet where Rukararwe herbalists gathered and listed down 40 herbs which can support in the treatment of over 40 diseases! Unfortunately this knowledge remains on paper since the herbalistsdon’t have the capacity to venture into value addition apart from advising people to keep on using the herbs in a raw form.

A conclusion in this booklet reads, “Combined efforts to domesticate and protect these resources in different areas will improve the deteriorating environment, the health sector and the economy towards sustainability of Ugandan rural communities.”

Their conclusion clearly shows how herbal medicine/shrubs are well connected to environmental conservation. Supporting them would be killing two birds with one stone that is; having them in health care system and environment sectors.

What can be done;

There is need to take the relevant ministries to the people. Let the ministries stop thinking that everything will originate/start from Kampala.Prof. Ogwang has done it from Mbarara!

Yes government has put in place funds to enable researchers and support innovators to go through these innovations with ease. However, Your Excellency, these herbalists have little knowledge of proposal writing that your ministries always demand for!!  Very few even access and read the calls for proposals in news papers! Accessing some of these funds you have put in place remains a big problem. These funds are sometimes allocated to wrong people just because they are good at proposal writing.

The herbalists must also be helped on issues of patent. Majority refuse to give information to those who would like to venture into value addition because a herbalist does not see where he/she will benefit from when the product is finally on the market.

The Universities and other higher institutions of learning need to increase on their collaboration withcommunities because they (communities) are the beneficiaries/end users of the research. End

Chris  Mugasha is a Journalist in Bushenyi.

0392 840814/0701 086722.

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