Great Lakes Africa Mission
A team from La Maison de l’Artemisia France, composed of Lucile Cornet-Vernet, founder of the association, Diane de Jouvencel and Sophie Descolas, travelled to Africa’s Great Lakes from 22 October to 4 November 2023. Two intense weeks focused on raising awareness on Artemisia, with a wealth of meetings, discussions and sharing experiences in the field.
As yet, there is no network of Artemisia Houses in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The aim of this trip to the four countries that cover this region – Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – was to meet future partners, farmers, villagers, civil society, health authorities, the media, parishes and schools. And to raise awareness of Artemisia.
At the end of the two weeks, a simple and inexpensive approach was identified: plant artemisia afra, a perennial bush, native to East and South Africa, as a preventive measure in front of every house as a mosquito repellent and for herbal tea.
The mission began with four intense days in Burundi. The aim was to bring together all the players to lay the foundations for a National Artemisia House. In Bujumbura, the team was delighted to meet up again with Ginette Karire in her shop and workshop. Ginette set up one of the first Artemisia Houses in 2015 with her social enterprise Karire Aceci.
The four days were punctuated by a succession of meetings and testimonials: a visit to the ecovillage of Bubanza created by Ginette, a phyto-eco tourist site with a farm as a social business model that could supply artemisia afra plants; a meeting with the Club RFI team in Uvira (in neighbouring DRC), who are highly motivated to continue their experience with Artemisia and launch a local Artemisia House; a visit to a children’s home that uses artemisia afra as a preventive herbal tea and hasn’t reported a single case of malaria; meetings with Caritas teams, visits to schools, cooperatives, farms and parishes, and meetings with priests and lay people involved in raising awareness and spreading the word about Artemisia.
This fieldwork, which included hearing numerous first-hand accounts of Artemisia use, was complemented by a number of official meetings. At the Ministry of Health, the team met with the department for the promotion of traditional medicine to present the virtues of artemisia afra in human, animal and environmental health (One Health approach), followed by a press conference at the Bujumbura press centre organised with the association of environmental journalists.
In this country bordering Burundi, the aim was to consider the next steps for the Kigali Artemisia House and, more broadly, the development of Artemisia in Rwanda, with many local stakeholders. The team met up with Jean-Luc Galabert, an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, medicinal plant grower and author of book on Artemisia.
A meeting was organised at the French cultural centre in Kigali with Bruno Gouteux, with whom Jean-Luc Galabert set up the association “Initiatives et Solutions Interculturelles” (Intercultural and Social Initiatives), and with the “Friends of Artemisia” group. The second objective of this visit to Rwanda was to meet the Emmanuel Community, one of the largest in the world, which runs the Kigali Artemisia House, in order to discuss possible developments. Finally, one of the most moving moments of the visit was the chance to meet up again with Dr Patient Kaloma, DRC coordinator, in Gisenyi on the border between Rwanda and DRC.
In Tanzania, the team wanted to meet the PALES association, dedicated to capacity building and training. Thanks to the association’s efforts, an excellent awareness-raising day was organised in a village community and broadcast on local television station, Ngara TV.
Finally, the last stop on this mission was Uganda, after a 13-hour exhausting drive from Tanzania. The team was welcomed by Winnie Tushabe who founded the Yice association to teach permaculture to poor families and refugees in order to guarantee them food autonomy. Her extraordinary story was the subject of an inspiring portrait in Flore Vasseur’s feature film métrage Bigger than us. Thanks to her determination, an awareness-raising event for around 15 people was organised in her village, where she is building a permaculture school. Following this meeting, Winnie is going to set up training courses to plant Artemisia plants on either side of the entrance to houses. The team then organised a meeting between Professor Patrick Ogwang, formerly with the Ministry of Health and now Associate Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Mbarara, who is also an entrepreneur in the medicinal plant sector, médicinales Jena herbals Ltd (Covidex), and Jacques Bianga, a pharmacist in charge of the National Malaria Control Programme in Maniema in DRC, who is very interested in developing Artemisia herbal teas for the whole of Africa. A partnership is under consideration with AMFRI Farms to propagate plants so some fifteen schools can take the herbal tea as a preventive treatment. The visit ended with some very positive exchanges with communities of women who had received training in Artemisia.
Our ambition is to create a network of Great Lakes Artemisia Houses starting in 2024.
Many thanks to Sophie Descolas for her photos.