Higher education's contribution to sustainability
Bioctive Plants, Manombo, Biodiversity, Anti-Malaria
Biodiversity Conservation through Bioprospecting in Madagascar: Research for Bioactive Compounds and Phytochemical Analysis on Plants from Manombo
Ecole Normale Superieure
The mainstream Higher Education and the innovation required by the world society has an impact on Malagasy H.E. The University of Fianarantsoa (UF) decided to introduce innovation inside the university. All faculties and schools, all departments are currently ready to take part in this mission to participate in the change of Malagasy community. The Department of Chemistry, facing pandemic diseases (malaria and HIV/AIDS in Africa) would like to do its part to alleviate the suffering of poor people in establishing this project and to make them understand that what is contained in forests is the source of well being of humanities. The Project focuses on the valorization of natural products to help people to recognize their therapeutic uses; Malagasy people who are poor and always sensitive to diseases cannot afford pharmaceutical medications. The discovery of chemical properties of plants will allow graduates to help people in their use.
Fianarantsoa province, in the southern part of Madagascar Island, is among the hotspots of biodiversity. It has primary forests. The inhabitants living in rural areas, close to the forests, are poor, and their villages are in remote areas. The villagers depend on the forests for herbal medicine, firewood, lumber, etc. However, Fianarantsoa is known as the region with the highest education ration in the country. Unemployment after secondary education is very high. This is due, in part, to unaffordable tertiary education and lack of jobs. The University of Fianarantsoa is the only educational institution offering tertiary education in the region and receives students from high schools of the province and also, from the entire island. Due to the cost of life in Antananarivo (the capital), many students prefer continuing their study at the local university. Consequently, postgraduate training programmes were started in many departments at the University of Fianarantsoa. In order to make these programmes meaningful and successful and upgrade the research capability of the university, the university decided that national and international partnerships and collaboration for internationalisation and actualisation of the vision and mission of the university must be embarked upon. The Department of Chemistry, ENS, would like to use this mission to achieve a community based research.
- Develop the collaboration South-South and South-North
- Raise funds for research on Malagasy plants
- Create a National network for biological and phytochemical screening of natural products
- Train graduate and postgraduate students from the universities of KwaZuluNatal, Padova and Fianarantsoa
- Generate useful data for boosting the biodiversity conservation and the improving of the living conditions of the inhabitants surrounding the Natural Reserve
- Discover new bioactive products (antimalarial, anti HIV/AIDS)
Madagascar is rich of approximately 10,000 native higher plants species, and about 8,000 endemic whose value is, both to the local peoples and in a global sense, potentially immense. Despite its importance, this flora is under serious threat (over 80% of the island has been stripped of its vegetation cover). The unique diversity combined with the threats to the remaining native vegetation, puts Madagascar amongst the highest conservation priority areas in the world. To contribute to this conservation and the improvement of the people's living conditions, the Department of Chemistry at the ENS, University of Fianarantsoa launched a call of collaboration, since 2007, to foreign universities. The project consists of exploring medicinal plants in a coastal National Reserve called Manombo. It is located 326 km from Fianarantsoa, in the Southeast of the Island, on 5320 Hectares. Malaria is endemic in the region. Statistics published by the local municipal hospital showed that the rate of malaria infection in 2004, 2005 and 2006 were 1,92%,1,45% and 1,18% of the population, respectively and a high rate of HIV/AIDS is found in a village of this region (16%). It is believed that the figures are much higher as many inhabitants do not go to the hospital but take medicine. The postgraduate training of PhD and the Master’s degree are linked to the research project. The study focuses on antimalarial and anti HIV/AIDS products from the Reserve plants. The usual biological and phytochemical methodologies will be used. Phytochemical studies of antimalarial and anti HIV/AIDS plants will be particularly done. The first part of the study will be done in Fianarantsoa (collect, identification of plants, phytochemical screening) and the follow up at UKZN. The works are carrying out with the partnership of social associations: Madagascar National Park (National Association for the Management of Protected areas) and Kononia (an Italy-Malagasy association which is working for the social promotion of women located in Fianarantsoa). Hence, laboratory works, workshops (within scientists and with inhabitants), international publications and the implementation of an association which can work with local inhabitants in Manombo are in the milestones.
As is especially important to a project within a Department of Chemistry, the main activities are chemical analyses. Since its conception, around forty plants were screened phytochemically and the collaboration with villagers and healers knowledgable of their medicinal uses. The capital result is that the deepened chemical analyses, at the University of KwazuluNatal of one of these plants led to a discovery of an anti-HIV/AIDS, anti-malaria and anti-tumor product; an international publication on it is planned for this year 2010 with UKZN. During the collection in Manombo, the students had an opportunity to explore the forest and to know more about the local situation. They could meet some of the villagers and noticed that to make the local inhabitants understand, the project needs time and much contact with them. In fact one of the milestones of the project is to create a structure inside which students and villagers exchange knowledge. Stakeholders in the project could transmit the potential of the reserve through the book of memory at the end of students’ practical works because many members of families and relatives from this reserve come to attend students oral examination and discussions take place easily between farmers and graduates.
This project was created with the wish to contribute to the world challenges within the University of Fianarantsoa. The usual learning at the university is the transfer of knowledge by theory without taking really account of what exists in the local society. The graduates leave their place to find jobs in town and even to go abroad to send money to their family. In this case only a few families can profit from this situation. In this project a group of students get together to do research based on their villages needs to settle down a structure or infrastructure.