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The Cultural Heritage of the Rangi

A Case of Traditional Medecines in Kinyasi Village, Kondoa, Central Tanzania

by Ichumbaki, E. Bwinabona

University of Dar es Salaam

educated and collaboration between them and modern medicine practitioners is enhanced. Introduction Idow (1992) asserts that Africa has very rich cultural heritage resources that have been passed from one generation to another. These resources are currently interfered by values and complications of modern cultures from outside Africa. One of the most affected resource is the traditional medicine practice. Development of colonialism as a cultural enterprise in Africa was inseparable from the rise of biomedicine (Comaroff 1993). That being the case, in Kondoa like other parts of Tanzania, biomedicine was introduced during colonialism and continues in post- colonial Tanzania. Despite the introduction of biomedicine, traditional treatments are still valued and practiced by many African societies and are more preferred than modern medicine (Kilewo et. al. 1987,

Abstract Africa like other continents is rich in cultural heritage inherited from past generations. Some of these include traditional medicine, basketry, smithing, pottery and smelting. Despite these invaluable cultural heritages, very little efforts have been done to develop them. For example, a heritage like traditional medicine, has received very little appreciation despite its contribution to human health. To address that problem this article examines the socioeconomic contribution of traditional medicine technology of the Rangi of Kinyasi village- Kondoa and its future prospects. Results of my research indicate that, the Kinyasi community use traditional medicines to cure

malaria, influenza, stomach problems, oral problems, diarrhea, STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea, and other accidental problems like burns and snake bites. It is noted that more than half of the Rangi prefer traditional medicines to modern medicines. More than 80% of young generations know and use traditional medicines. In addition, it was observed that people prefer traditional medicine not because modern medicine are not available but because they are natural, don't have many complications, have no side effects and are less expensive. It is suggested that, the traditional medicines will have bright future if traditional medicine practitioners are formally




Rahim1994). For example, the magical healers treat many health problems related to neurology and those related to giving births are dealt by traditional birth attendants (Khatib 1999). Traditional medicine remains strong and significant to many African societies including the Rangi. It is, however, unfortunate that, Archaeologists, Anthropologists, Historians, Researchers and the modern health care systems have paid little attention to it. For example, with the exception of Traditional Birth Attendants, according to the 1978 World Health Organization (WHO) report, Tanzania has not included traditional healers in its modern health care system. Traditional medicines are highly valued by the Rangi and this attitude forms the basis of this article. My article therefore aims at explaining the Rangi traditional medicine by focusing on why it is so highly valued by this community. There is also a need of evaluating the socioeconomic roles of it with the purpose of increasing people's interest on learning, using and appreciating it. To achieve this, my article examines the Rangi traditional medicines and forecasts on their future prospects. Previous Studies on Traditional Medicines: Developments in Traditional Medicine Traditional medicine in some countries like China is much more valued and appreciated. For example, until 1976 there were twenty universities of traditional medicine professorship in the history of Traditional medicine, several Research Institutions including a Central Research Institute of Tradi-

tional Medicine and an Official Traditional Medicine Journal (Nkinda, 1976:9). In many African countries, not only are modern medicines superseding many time honored herbal remedies but also government medical personnel are actively opposing the traditional hit-or-miss search for cures (Golomb, 1985). Traditional medicines have been little appreciated by the Tanzanian Government and efforts towards its development are very minimal (Mascarenhas, 1975). Despite However, traditional medicines in Tanzania are little destroyed. Two reasons are responsible for this; first, man is inquisitive and the traditional beliefs fascinate people with different cultures. Second, majority of Tanzanians can not live in vacuum, while traditional and cultural inheritances are being destroyed. Due to this esoteric interest much of the traditional medicine was preserved. Biomedicine did and cannot replace traditional medicines, thus making many Tanzanians, for both pragmatic and psychological reasons, to continue relying on them.

The African Perception on Causes of Diseases For most African societies, diseases are perceived as the result of disobedience and sin against order and will of God and Gods. Those diseases are punishments after one has broken the law imposed upon the society by ancestors. Due to such cultures, diseases arising from that belief cannot be treated by modern medical treatments but only traditional medicines (Okwu, 1979). These practices are used in relation to birth, initiations, marriage, death, leadership, pagan religion, witchcraft and sorcery (Tews, 1950). According to Conco (1972), Africans believe that health problems are caused by both natural and supernatural reasons. These reasons that cause health problems include ancestor spirits, evil spirits and violation of cultural rules, regulations and taboos. However, both natural and supernatural causes of illness can be treated by both traditional and modern medical treatments. Using the Benin societies, Houtandj, (1997) observed that illness is considered as a sign indiA Section of Kondoa District, Dodoma -Central Tanzania.




cating that a taboo or rule has been violated or forgotten. It is a call to order, a message signaling that something abnormal has happened in the dynamics of a family, society or social group, that there has occurred a rupture that can be overcome through rituals a healer or a priest of a kind, will, as a duty describe. Traditional Medicine during and after Colonialism Traditional medicines among the Rangi has been used before modern medical services were introduced during colonialism. From that time (by the 19th century) under German colonialism, traditional medicine was hardly considered. For example until 1908 only one

& Mapunda 2003). During British colonialism there was a steady growth in the activities of traditional healing because, British colonial administrators neither interfered with traditional healing nor officially recognized it. Although traditional medecine was not officially recognized by British colonizers, it was found to be more significant in rural Tanzanian (ibid). Because Traditional Healers were not recognized as medical practitioners, they could be charged with unauthorized practice, or even with a murder in the case of patient's death (Feierman & John 1992). In post-independence Tanzania there was no law that neither restricted nor allowed use of traditional medecine. Traditional mede-

be observed by all members. Briefly, traditional medicine remains strong and significant to many African societies including the Rangi despite the interference from modern medical services. Treatments of Diseases: The Position of Traditional Medicine Mc Clain (1977) and Khatib (1999) argue that health problems are treated depending on the causes of a disease. Modern illness is treated by modern medicine and traditional diseases are to be treated by traditional medicine. Traditional medicines are used to deal with many health problems thought to be the results of witchcraft and/or other supernatural forces. Some of the health

Mr Ichumbaki, Traditional Healer and her Granddaughters at Kinyasi after Interview.

German Surgeon, working for a military, Dr. Weck, wrote about traditional medicine of some localities in the territory. Following this, the District Officers had to issue certificates specifying illnesses cured, prices charged and the practitioners' locations (Lawi

cine specialists met together and formed their association known as "Chama Cha Waganga na Tiba Asilia Tanzania" (CHAWATIATA). Majority of the traditional medicine specialists joined the association and there are codes of ethics that are to


problems are taken to traditional specialists when modern treatments have either failed to treat or found far away from home (Uyanga, 1979). Using Punjab community of India, Bhardwaj (1975) noted that modern treatments take long time to treat certain



disease and thus increasing expenses. In order to avoid such costs, many people consider traditional medicines as the best option. Traditional medicines however should be understood within the totality of society's social and cultural history. Use of Traditional Medicine in Rural and Urban Areas Modern and traditional medical practices are used differently in rural and urban areas. In urbanized areas public health facilities and private clinics are better staffed and accessible. Due to that reason patients consult modern medical personnel before considering various traditional practitioners. In more distant rural areas where modern care facilities are poor and unequipped, villagers continue to rely on traditional medicine much the same or even more than the urban people consult modern medical personnel. Despite the availability of services and higher income in urban areas, people still consult traditional practitioners for services that modern medical personnel fail to offer (Golomb, 1985:162-167). Present researches show that more than 700 medicine

men are engaged in fulltime practice in Dar es Salaam and the number is likely to grow, Swantz (1974). Currently the situation is worse especially in cities of Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Mbeya where traditional men and women have established offices of operation and advertise themselves in popular newspapers known as "Magazeti ya Udaku" the Tabloids. Dr Ibrahim Samba, (WHO Regional Director for Africa 2003) noted that for centuries, traditional medicine played a crucial role in combating multiple and complex conditions affecting Africans and the reasons behind this are its popularity, accessibility and affordability. He further argued that more than 80% of the people in the region continued to rely on traditional medicine for their health care needs, Lawi & Mapunda (2003). Using traditional medicine in curing different diseases have been the case not only among the Rangi but also in many parts of Tanzania. For example, Rachel Haws from the Hopkins college of Health-USA, conducted research in Lindi and Mtwara regions. In his research, one

hundred and twenty five (125) traditional healers were interviewed, The findings indicated that a good percentage of people in the area use traditional medicine to cure different diseases (Nipashe, August 4, 2007). It is noted however that most of the research in this area has focused on traditional medicine either at regional or at national level and did not make an analysis about traditional medicine at a village level. This article has focused on findings of a research conducted at village level; that is the case of the Rangi in Kinyasi village. The findings from this case study may be applied to other parts of Tanzania and Africa in general that have similar experiences. This study was done as a contribution to help people and our future generation to understand, practice and appreciate traditional medicine technology at continent, country, regional, district, village and individual levels. As pointed out earlier, traditional medicine is our rich cultural heritage and thus should be studied even at individual level in order to discover the science underlying this life saving but forgotten heritage. Traditional Medicine Use in Kinyasi Village: Particulars of the Traditional Medicine Practitioners A total of 20 traditional healers were interviews and field results indicate that 19 (95%) were born and raised at Kinyasi while 1 (5%) migrated to the village. The migrant was a fulltime government employee and practiced traditional healing

Current modern dispensary of Kinyasi village built in 1973.




alongside his post as a teacher. According to her, traditional healing was conducted as part time private job and done after normal working hours or during weekends. She is competent in curing malaria, diarrhea, vomiting, timely fever, skin cancer, chicken-pox and infertility problems. It was discovered that 18 (90%) of the respondents originated from families or clans who had a history of practicing traditional medicine technology. Not all members of these families were given an opportunity to practice but those who were visional, disciplined, and respected to all members of the society. Only 2 (10%) respondents out of 20 specialists claimed to have not been raised in a family or clan with history of this technology. One (5%) acquired the technology by learning it informally from other clans while the second acquired it through a dream. Regardless of whether the technology was acquired from one's clan or outside the clan, their ages ranged between 30 and 95 years most of them with 10 to 50 years of experience in that occupation. Structure of Kinyasi Traditional Medicine Technology Three major kinds of traditional health practitioners were identified. These are Herbalists, Traditional Birth Attendants and Ancestral Spiritual Diviners. Herbalists This forms the most common group of traditional medicine experts among the Rangi and are concerned with collection and use of herbs that treat different diseases. They are highly regarded for their

specialization and it is considered that certain illness can be identified and treated by particular traditional practitioners competent to certain types of diseases (Khatib, 1999). The herbalists are divided into various groups depending on their specialization. For example some specialize in mouth diseases, while others accidents, stomach and sexual transmitted diseases (STDs). Also there are specialists for social related problems such as love and protection against evil. According to herbalists respondents, this work was done during the afternoon and evening after coming back from farming and herding activities. The herbalists and other health practitioners sell their products at homes or market places and had customers that range from 0-5 per day. Consultation and medication fees varied from one patient to another and there are no fixed charges for customers. However charges depend on the type of a disease somebody is suffering from, economic status of a person and closeness between the herbalist and a patient. For example if the disease is a complicated one like gonorrhea and syphilis, payments are higher than common illness such as headache and fever. Persons with higher income are charged higher than those who are poor, relatives and friends. The clients' economic status is appraised by the manner in which they dress and conduct themselves when attending practices (Swantz, 1975:253-257). Majority of patients who seek the services of Herbalists and other traditional practitioners were persons suffering from persistent headache, fire accidents, abdominal pains, syphilis,


malaria, gonorrhea, child delinquency, vomiting, diarrhea, infertility, back pains, problems in the menstruation cycle, worms, timely fever and love problems. Traditional Birth Attendants According to Twumasi (1984:56) Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) are people concerned with pregnancy and delivery problems. They have been conducting deliveries from time immemorial, thus are well respected by their communities. They have roles at childbirth and take responsibility for child delivery and care for the mother. Besides these roles they provide services like recognizing dangerous symptoms during pregnancy, health education, nutrition and environmental hygiene. Most TBAs are middle aged and elderly women and serve mothers belonging to their community although in few occasions can serve neighboring communities. The TBAs find out when the delivery can take place and whether the child is lying in the normal position or not. Whenever complications are diagnosed they advice their customers to go to hospital and be attended by modern nurses. TBAs get knowledge from their parents and relatives through apprenticeship and observation. Oral information from the fieldwork shows that within a period of 5 to 10 years of practice, a person becomes an expert in delivery and as well as administration of herbs needed during deliveries. Seventy-five and eighty five percent of all deliveries in the area of study are practiced by TBAs and in some cases they are called to assist modern nurses of Kinyasi Dispensary.



at Kinyasi village by 18 (90%) respondents who claimed to acquire the knowledge from their families and/or clans and through informal training which is still dominant among the Rangi. Trained traditional medicine specialists collect medicines from bushes and forests as well as prepare them for their customers. According to Rangi Traditional healers, many people value their practice and they even get customers from various areas as far as Arusha municipality. Rangi traditional medicine specialists impart their expertise to their children. They emphasize that, all people should use traditional medicines as they are obtained locally, cures fast, less expensive and by so doing, African heritage is not only appreciated but also promoted. People's Knowledge on Traditional Medicine The interviewed people acknowledged that they are not only familiar with the traditional medicine but also value and use them. They travel far distances, go through rough environments such as forests and higher mountains searching for medicinal herbs. Although the work is tiresome with low earnings, the Rangi make sure that the young generations inherit the technology. A case of Kinyasi is different from that of Tanga in which the studies showed that the knowledge of Medicinal plants is fast disappearing among the young generations (Nkinda, 1976). For example majority of traditional medicine specialists admitted that they practically train not only their family members but also neighbors' children who seem to be interested in this specialty.

Religious Based Practitioners These are based on belief systems. Christianity, Islamic and Traditional belief systems are used as medicine for people with health problems. Very few people in Kinyasi contact priests and pastors who pray for them and according to them; their health problems are solved. Some people with Islamic faith do ask assistance from Islamic religious leaders to pray so that they may become better. In case of non-imaginable problems they ask those leaders to read what they call `albadil' so that the causer may be punished (not practiced always). Traditional believers think that the disease is a result of the persons' misfortune and the solution is to confess to the "banensi" (owners of the land). The slaughtering

of goats/cows, drinking local beer choya and playing ngoma, follows the confessions. All these kinds of traditional medicine practices are practiced occasionally. Initiation into Traditional Medicine Heritage According to Foster and Anderson (1978), traditional medicine practitioners emerge through a culturally defined process of selection that includes parental prodding, inheritance, visions, dream instructions and training. Older Practitioners certify competence and acquaintance of this professional image. In Rangi society, traditional medicine practice is a heritage acquired by few people from one generation to another often along the family line. This was attested




Some of the specialists even discussed that they sometimes train their clients so that when they get sick in the future they treat themselves at their residents. The study shows that the Rangi traditional medicine shall continue to be used and valued for several generations to come. This was demonstrated by interviews conducted among standard five to seven pupils at Kinyasi Primary School. Results were that 108 (78.2%) class five pupils out of 138,68 (74.6%) out of 94 in class six and 85 (95.5%) out of 89 in class seven were not only familiar but also use and appreciate traditional medicines. As indicated in the table below, among the Rangi, many girls inherit traditional medicine knowledge than boys. Traditional medicine usage therefore shall spread all over the Rangi community if the slogan that educating a woman is educating the all society is sound.

of their diseases (Majira 20.6.2004, Kiongozi August 21-27, 2004, Hakielimu and Women Dignity Project 2005). According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) Annual Report (1999), Mlay et al (2000) and Hussein and Mpemba (2003) cited in Masemba (2004), people prefer to deliver babies outside modern health facilities because the services are located far away and there is no reliable transport and sometimes labor onsets at night. In addition, place of residence, cultural factor and level of education contribute to choice of the services. In this study however, it was found out that these reasons do not largely apply among the Rangi. Villagers do not use modern medical services not only because they are expensive and there are no enough experts but they believe and trust traditional medicine (The Guardian, 11.11.2004, Hakielimu and

In this study at least 100 people aged between 20 and 80 years were asked about their preference between traditional and modern practitioners for medical assistance. Twenty-one people (21%) said that they would use whatever medicine provided it cures and has no any side effect. Twenty-four people (24%) said that modern medical care would be their choice because they are scientifically tested and are provided by professionals. On the other hand fifty five people (55%) said that they would prefer Rangi medicine because they are available, cure best, have no side effects, have been used by their fore fathers without affecting them, have no restrictions such as to drink lots of water, sleep for a certain time or use certain vegetables and fruits. In additional, traditional medicine care services are cheaper compared to modern ones. One respondent commended that

Knowledge and Use of Traditional Medicine among the Kinyasi Young Generations Know and Use Class Five Six Seven Total Boys 38 30 42 110 Girls 70 38 43 151 Total 108 (78.2%) 68 (74.6%) 85 (95.5%) 261 (81.3%) Boys 22 19 03 44 Do Not Know But Use Girls 08 07 01 16 Total 30 (21.8%) 26 (25.4%) 04 (4.5%) 60 (18.7%)

Source: Field Data (2009).

Reasons for Use of Traditional Medicine The study sought to understand the reasons as to why and how many people are interested in using traditional medicine instead of modern medicine and services associated with these practices. Some scholars noted that villagers especially women do not attend hospitals when they are sick because of shame

Women Dignity Project 2005). For example, it was noted that, even pregnant mothers who reside around the Kinyasi Dispensary (picture below) stay away from modern services for delivery assistance instead go to the nearby traditional healer and birth attendant known as "mama mchangaa". These results contrast those obtained by TRCHS (1999) that Traditional Birth Attendants assist 11% of all births in Tanzania.


one suffering from malaria can be cured by using the Rangi medicine at lower costs than modern drugs. In order to figure out the percentages of people who seek traditional medical care against those who attend modern medical care, an inquiry about the Kinyasi population was made. Sorting out patient attendance at Kinyasi Dispensary for the 2006-2007 followed this. Data



Plant Species of Adenium Obesum for curing Skin cancer.

from the Kinyasi Village Executive Officer (VEO) show that the total population of the village for the year 2006 was as follows: Kinyasi Kati 4102, Kinyasi Majengo 2169 and Ikengwa 2201 bringing the total population in the three villages to 8472 persons (personal communication with VEO,). According to the Head of Kinyasi Dispensary out of 8472 persons only 1812 attended the Kinyasi Dispensary for medical services [including Malaria, skin diseases, stomach and eye problems and sexual transmitted diseases (STDs)] between January 2006 and June 2007. Probably, those who did not attend the dispensary used traditional medicines. This suggests that the ratio between those who attend modern medical and traditional medicine services is 1:5 respectively. From personal observation, this situation suggests that there is need for greater

collaboration between traditional and modern medical care in Kinyasi. Problems Facing Traditional Healers of the Rangi Traditional healers of the Rangi struggle as much as they can to make sure that diseases are minimized among them. In the process of treating people, traditional healers face several problems as follows; firstly, majority of them lack formal education. For example most of them cannot speak Swahili. This limits their communication with people who do not speak Rangi. For that reason people who do not speak Rangi may shy away to protect their privacy. Secondly, some of the traditional medicines are found very far from the practitioners' residence. This costs them several days out of their station to search for herbs. Thirdly, some people have wrong attitude


toward these traditional medicine specialists. This is due to unfair and negative publicity of the occupation by the media and the entry into the business by nonprofessionals mainly conmen who destroy the image of traditional healing practice. This makes the young people to shy away from inheriting the occupation because of fear of being conceptualized that way. Despite that conceptualization, practitioners who are members of CHAWATIATA struggle to make sure that those who are going against the occupation are punished and disqualified, (Mtanzania, 28 th March 28, 2008 p.7). Fourth, most Traditional Healers have no permanent offices to discharge their services. They move from place to place searching for customers and some of them take their medicine to market places. This make their customers not to be able to identify the real area where healing practices takes place. Lastly, traditional medicine providers lack proper facilities to store and display their medicine at home and at the market place. As a result the medications are kept in unhygienic environment and hence lack of hygiene lacks in the process of healing. Conclusion Traditional medicine has a place in Rangi society and hence cannot be ignored. It is therefore important that the problems facing Traditional Healers are addressed and collaboration between modern and traditional medical services is initiated and enhanced in order to improve health services in the area.



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