Analysis of Traditional Healers in Lesotho: Implications on Intellectual Property Systems

"Traditional healers in Lesotho and other African countries have since pre-historic times played a major role in primary health care, counseling and the rituals performed for different purposes in the society. Traditional healers in the past had their houses located very close to the main house of the village chief. This was to ensure that the healer is always accessible to the chief as they were not only entrusted in disease healing and driving away witchcraft but they were also the main advisors to the chief. The knowledge traditional healers have on forecasting certain events, protecting crops and animals from hail and thunder storm, healing the sick, and driving away the evil spirit is often not documented and as a result it is slowly going into extinction. This valuable knowledge is often not protected by law and known by a few.The rapidly growing number of people claiming to be traditional healers has put pressure on the biodiversity as certain plant species are recklessly being harvested from the rural areas and sold in the cities. The study revealed that herd boys who are considered to be very knowledgeable about the herbs growing in the rangelands and the forests are used to guide in the identification of these herbs or harvest them. They are paid very little money for this activity therefore the community does not benefit from their genetic resources. Healers interviewed agreed that they now have to travel long distances to get certain herbs for their patients which never used to be the case."