Omotembe”, as it is referred to in my mother tongue, is a deciduous tree species that belongs to the Fabaceae family.

When I was young, (not that am so old now,😜well, much younger than I am now – a lad in the village) “Omotembe” was the first tree species that I knew was more than just a tree. It was important. At least in my village.


You remember those baraza’s where all people in the village gathered upon a signal (it was usually a whistle) from “Omogambi”? -that’s how local administrative chiefs were referred to in my community. Guess where my village gathered to listen to Omogambi’s key note address, Omotembe.

You see, Omotembe did not only serve as a landmark in my village because there was only one, (guess my local church’s name? – SDA Church, Omotembe 😄😄) it also had other uses such as medicinal. Traditional. When we were lads and we used to wet our beds🤫🙈, my grandma told my naughty cousins and I to pick a few pieces of firewood, go throw them at Omotembe and run away without looking back🏃🏽‍♂️. Whether this worked or not, we will revisit another day.

So, Omotembe was phenomenal in our traditional beliefs.

Deeper digging into present day ethnobotany studies reveals omotembe as a traditional medicinal plant, whose almost all parts are useful. However, the root and its bark are the most commonly used

>A crude extract of the root bark has shown antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum

>Stem bark extracts have also shown antiplasmodial activity, including activity against chloroquine-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum, and flavonoids have been isolated as active ingredients

>The bark is used to treat a wide range of conditions including snakebites, malaria, sexually transmittable diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, amoebiasis, elephantiasis, cough, liver inflammation, stomach-ache, colic and measles

>The bark sap is drunk as an anthelminticerythrina_abyssinica_il_5_20160605_2036093751

>Used externally, the roasted and powdered bark is applied to burns, ulcers and swellings[299

>The liquid from the crushed bark of green stems is used to cure conjunctivitis caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (trachoma)

>The roots are used to treat peptic ulcers, epilepsy, malaria, blennorrhagia and schistosomiasis

>The pounded flowers are used to treat dysentery

>A maceration of the flower is drunk as an abortifacient, and applied externally to treat earache


Now, after knowing these benefits that accrue from just one tree species, why could someone in their sober mind want to cut down “Omotembe”? Just, why??

If you got a chance to plant one, to avoid a possibility of its extinction, why could you possibly let such a golden opportunity pass by? If my kids wet their beds, I will make sure they do what my grandma told me to do and confirm if it really works😃.

Let’s conserve “Omotembe” for future generations.




Biodiversity at the periphery: We must urgently act to safeguard it

The international community is currently gathered in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – an international treaty to which every other country in the world apart from the U.S is a member. During this two weeks conference, discussions will majorly be centered on the various threats to the world’s wildlife and habitats that include but are not limited to tropical rainforests and world’s oceans. The parties have a golden opportunity to ensure that the next gathering, which will be launched in Beijing in 2020, becomes more ambitious and effective in the protection of biodiversity.

Congo 2
Credit: Wild Frontiers

Our planet is in the midst of an extensive and catastrophic biodiversity crisis. We are witnessing a huge loss of world habitats, species, and ecosystems that are crucial to our planet’s health. They are also important to the well-being of humanity especially the indigenous peoples and local communities that are directly dependent on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Alarming Downward Trend

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services indicate that biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world. This is significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers world economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere.

According to the reports, the extent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems that can still be considered intact and ecologically functional is significantly diminishing. Threats across the globe today are massive and include environmental degradation and habitat loss. Others include illegal poaching and mysterious death of wildlife as recently witnessed in Kenya, illegal and unsustainable fishing as witnessed in West Africa’s waters, illegal and unsustainable forest logging as witnessed in the Congo Forest Basin, harmful mega-infrastructural and development projects such as Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway famously referred to as SGR, climate change, and many more.

Credit: Africa Conservation Center

Africa is well endowed with immense natural resources and its diverse cultural heritage is among its most important assets for both human development and livelihood support. It’s the last place on Earth with a vast range of gigantic mammals, yet according to the IUCN’s Red list of threatened species, today there are more African indigenous plant species, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and large mammals that are threatened with extinction more than ever before by a range of both human-induced and natural causes. Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and this will have adverse impacts for especially socially and economically marginalized rural populations.

Today, the sights of degraded derelict lands devoid of their natural biodiversity, vast large-scale industrial monocultures basically dominated by corporates, and largely empty seas have become all too familiar and all too dominant. The consequences on biodiversity are clear and dire – ballooning numbers of species facing extinction and the degradation of the critical ecosystem services that underpin the very health of our planet and our own survival. In a nutshell, we are slowly shifting from a serious erosion of biodiversity to a critical ecological crisis that will impact all of us.

A Call to Action

As the world seeks to adopt new targets to set the course of biodiversity conservation for the next decade and beyond, we need to endeavor to expand the scope of this critical work.

More than anything, all governments presently in Egypt must work collaboratively and commit to saving the planet’s last intact places – the only remaining boreal forests of Canada and Russia; the two largest remaining tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin and the Amazon Basin – commonly referred to as the lungs of the Earth; the remaining grasslands of Central Asia; and the remaining coral reefs found in the tropical belts worldwide. These are just some of the world’s most critical biodiversity strongholds.


Peatland Forest in DRC
Credit: Greenpeace

These intact forests, grasslands, coral reefs, and other intact landscapes and seascapes must be prioritized for various obvious reasons; they are the most resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change and growing pressures of development and offer the greatest potential for protection of biodiversity for future generations.

This calls for an urgent need for recognition that, for a business as usual scenario, a further loss of biodiversity is inevitable and that political goodwill is needed to make tough decisions aimed at protecting biodiversity. The future generations will ultimately be the judges of our present-day actions. We need to commit ourselves to action and leadership to protect biodiversity now more than ever.