HerbFEST to showcase health foods, natural products



The indigenous flora of Africa has historically supported healthcare delivery, food security, as well as cosmetics and beauty products manufacturing. The “complex” surrounding herbal medicines and other natural products only serve as a pointer to the fact that traditional health practices and formulations have a significant role to play in tackling health challenges as well as bridging health inequalities.

This is especially the case for Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest poverty level coupled with struggling national healthcare delivery systems amidst very rich biodiversity ecosystems.

Many of our present medicines are derived directly or indirectly from medicinal plants and it is estimated that about 25 per cent of the drugs prescribed worldwide are derived from plants. While several classic plant drugs may have lost ground to synthetic competitors, many others have gained a new investigational or therapeutical status in recent years. Of the total 252 drugs in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) essential medicine list, 11 per cent is exclusively of plant origin. In addition, a number of novel plant-derived substances have entered into Western markets, and the global herbal/natural products market has been steady on the rise.

Nearly 80 per cent of African and Asian populations depend on traditional medicines for their primary healthcare. Plant natural products also play an important role in the health care system of the remaining 20 per cent of world population who reside mainly in the developed countries. These statistics show that the surest way of achieving total health coverage of the world population is through herbs, herbal and natural products.

In Nigeria, more than 80 per cent of the rural population use medicinal herbs or indigenous systems of medicine. A comprehensive review of African Medicinal Plants (See, Iwu, M.M. 1993: Handbook of African Medicinal Plants) listed more than 2,000 plant species that are used in traditional medical practice in various parts of the continent. Notwithstanding this rich array of plant species, Nigeria, like most other African countries, play very insignificant roles in the estimated herbal medicine global trade worth over USD$100b.

Clinical plant-based research has made particularly rewarding progress in the important fields of antimalarial (example artemisinin), anticancer (example taxoids and camptothecins) and metabolic disorder (includes diabetes etc.) therapies, and these are the leading causes of death in West Africa. Natural products can make substantial contributions to health care delivery and general wellness. Their use in the former has however met with various challenges bothered on acceptability, failed perception, quality control and dosage.

HerbFEST aims to tackle such challenges and as well showcase our rich biodiversity and research results.With a view to help stimulate the natural products and bio-business industrial sub-sector and improve the health sector in Nigeria and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) sub-region, Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), a non-governmental non-profit organization, in collaboration with the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), also a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, and the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD), a private research and development Centre, seek to organize a natural products expo, HerbFEST 2015.

The overall goal of HerbFEST is to showcase our achievements, research results, rich biodiversity and investment opportunities to the world and enhance the patronage/recognition, productive capacity and income status of small producers.

HerbFEST is an annual, regional, natural products expo with the mission to bring together a wide range of stakeholders (academia, policy makers-private and government as well as political heads, entrepreneurs, companies, practitioners-traditional and orthodox, general public, research institutions, investors/financial institutions) actively involved in the use, research, promotion and development of herbal and natural products. Each expo is complemented by a workshop to enhance technical capacity in the industry, provide and elicit policy support, share experiences, promote ingenuity and stimulate investment/partnerships.

Focus of HerbFEST 2015 will be on optimal utilization and conservation of medicinal plants and health foods in health promotion and disease management and promoting the activities of traditional practitioners and community health workers as well as stimulate investment in the herbal and natural products field.

The overall goal of HerbFEST is to showcase our achievements, research results, rich biodiversity and investment opportunities to the world and enhance the patronage/recognition, productive capacity and income status of small producers.

This will be achieved through a combination of exhibition and market promotion, enterprise development, presentations and scientific sessions, and training sessions. Unlike the old perception that natural products are being used only by the poor and that herbal and traditional medicines/medicinal products are often administered by herbalists or traditional medicine practitioners who perform some spiritual rituals and incantations, times have moved way ahead of that.

Their role in healthcare has been relegated to the background mostly due to this wrong perception and this workshop seeks to correct such impression and bring to fore the role of these products and practitioners and research scientists/agencies in healthcare delivery. In addition, the workshop would include capacity building aimed at improving the processes involved in the preparation and administration of such herbs/products.

An estimated 100 small and medium enterprises involved in the manufacture of herbal and natural products will exhibit their products to potential buyers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and investors over a three-day period, in Abuja, Nigeria.

To address technical problems faced by natural products entrepreneurs, a panel discussion is incorporated. This forum will enable startups/producers/researchers/ government/financial institutions of repute discuss challenges, share experiences, and exchange ideas on best practices that provide vast opportunities for overcoming problems. A select number of biosciences research experts and leading manufacturers will be encouraged to share their innovative technologies, research findings, and technical constraints. This section also serves the purpose of networking and database update.

The Expo presents great opportunities for small and medium enterprises seeking knowledge/training, marketing opportunities, partnership and funding for food, herbal and natural development in Nigeria and the sub-Saharan region. Other beneficiaries include Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Indigenous healers, Research Institutes, Conservationists, Academia, Media and importantly, Investors.

The exhibition will feature a wide range of products and services in the herbal, health and natural products fields. The industry focus is on companies or entrepreneurs with products and technologies in any of the following fields:
i) Herbal medicines/remedies and medicinal & aromatic plants products
ii) Health, cosmetics and beauty products
iii) Health foods and food ingredients
iv) Natural products
v) Vegetable saps and extracts
vi) Biotechnology or technology innovations
vii) Documentations
viii) Equipments, fabrications and services

Companies interested in exhibiting are requested to submit their profile on or before 30th September 2015 for publication in the expo brochure.

This theme for this year’s Symposium is “Food as Medicine: Utilization and Sustainable Exploitation of African Medicinal plants and Natural Products”. The symposium will feature the following sections:
•Economic Exploitation of Medicinal plants
•Impact of African Medicinal Plants and Natural Products in Healthcare delivery.
•Drug Development from Medicinal plants.
•Good Agricultural Practices From farm to market: Cultivation, Handling, Processing, Packaging (Value chain)
•Herbal Products in the Management of Metabolic disorder
The theme for HerbFEST 2015 training is the “Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for Herbal Medicinal Plants”. The training will center on:
1. Quality System in the manufacture of herbal medicines
2. Good manufacturing practice for herbal medicines
3. Qualification and validation
4. Production Personnel/ Training/ Personal hygiene
5. Premises/ Buildings and Facilities/ Sanitation and hygiene/ Self-inspection
6. Equipment and Utensils
7. Herbal Materials & Reference samples and standards (RAW MATERIAL TESTING)
8. Documentation & Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
9. Good practices in quality control
10. Contract production and analysis
[Training materials and certificates will be given to each trainee].

Select number of research papers will be presented. This session will highlight recent developments in the area of sourcing, processing, research and development of herbal and natural products. It will in addition create networking opportunities for partnerships/collaboration, funding and research grants.

Companies in related fields are invited to sponsor this session and 30 minutes will be given to each to use in promoting and showcasing their products and services.

Individuals/Entrepreneurs, Practitioners, Organizations and Producers considering innovative management practices and production will use the knowledge gathered from the training, symposium and interactions to map out strategies for taking advantage of new opportunities such as medicinal and health foods used in healthcare and wellness, becoming health counselors, on-and-off farm processing, small and medium scale production of herbal and natural products, direct marketing and rural tourism.

Other output from this project will include the following:
•Role of health foods, medicinal plants/products and natural products in healthcare re-established and promoted.
•New natural products introduced to the market, and strategies for doing so learned.
•Export/import opportunities promoted and bio-business introduced as a poverty alleviation and health promotion venture
•Long term framework for a biennial natural products expo in the sub-region, established.
•Equitable bio-partnerships between and among West African natural products companies, entrepreneurs, researchers as well as financing organizations, developed.
•Project document on broad strategies for development of a biodiversity business sector in the sub-region, developed.
•Database containing profiles of natural products companies in the sub-region, developed.
•Educational opportunity provided to a wide range of stakeholders including the public.
*Prof Maurice Iwu is a professor of pharmacognosy and Chief Executive Officer Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), a non-governmental non-profit organization.

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