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Monday, July 11, 2011

An Ancient Cure for an Ancient Curse

By: Darina Gancheva

The plant Artemisia can finally bring relief to Africa where a child dies of Malaria every
45 seconds.

Artemisinin, a chemical extracted from
Artemisia Annua, is the key ingredient in Coartem, the most effective anti-malaria drug available. The best part is that the crop can be farmed easily in Uganda and the other African countries.

Clovis Kabasake from Fort Portal, Western Uganda, is a pioneer in bringing Artemisia to Africa. He is also a father who lost his four-year-old daughter due to Malaria. And a man with a big dream:

“I was created to leave the world a better place than I found it. And this has been the driving force all along and I believe if I could drive through my Artemisia venture that can make a better life for my community and myself then I would greatly have achieved my dream.”

Since 2001 when he read about the amazing power of Artemisia and started growing it, he has persuaded three hundred local farmers to join his cooperative. He also found a buyer of the plant -
East African Botanicals, which supplies the pharmaceutical company that makes the most effective anti-malaria drug. Clavis has been putting a lot of effort to encourage African farmers to grow enough of the medicinal plant Artemisia Annua to wipe out Malaria.

“Clovis is an unselfish man. He introduced Artemisia and is always available to provide advice on how to get better yields,” said Grace Musana, one of the farmers inspired by Clovis.

Clovis has bright plans for the future: he wants to expand his cooperative to more than one thousand farmers and to invest in a large drying shed to stop rain damage. Most importantly, he is determined to transform the attitudes of his countrymen saying, “Fighting malaria is one of the obligations I feel I must address because it has done a lot of harm to me personally and to my society in general.”

Even though during the last years the largest absolute decreases in deaths were observed in Africa, according to the UN there were an estimated 243 million cases of
malaria in 2008, causing 863,000 deaths, 89% of them in Africa. In 2007, the Ministry of Health in Uganda indicated that about 320 people die each day as a result of the Malaria epidemic in the country.

“Artemisia is where I’m seeing the solution to the problems of my community. Because it can address the problems of poverty and at the same time can address the problems caused by malaria which is killer number one disease in this region,” said Clovis.

Even if new to Africa, the curing power of the plant has been known to Chinese people for centuries for treating fever. Its credibility was boosted during the Vietnam War, when Ho Chi Minh’s troops used the plant to fight the disease. In the early 1970’s, Chinese scientists finally proved that Artemisia actually cured Malaria.

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