International Workshop

05 - 10 February 2018, Cotonou, Bénin

„Ethnomedicinal abundance of Western Africa – understanding and preserving the value of regional traditional natural medicines“

We are pleased to announce the organization of an international workshop „Ethnomedicinal abundance of Western Africa – understanding and preserving the value of regional traditional natural medicines“ to be held at the IRGIB-Africa University campus in Cotonou, Benin, from 05 – 10 February 2018. This workshop is sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation and jointly hosted by the University of Leipzig and the IRGIB-Africa University, Cotonou and aims to elaborate a work program for the compilation, documentation and scientific exploration of regional natural healing strategies of Western Africa.

The event is divided into a main workshop and a training session for young researchers (Young Researcher Camp).    

Media reports


All human cultures throughout the time have utilized plants and natural remedies as a source of medicine and healing strategies. The African continent features areas with extremely high biodiversity and high levels of endemism, indicating that many of the continent’s plant resources are uniquely African (Heywood and Davis, 1994). Traditional medicine in Africa is therefore based on a broad ethnomedicinal knowledge and represents a major socio-cultural heritage, which has accumulated during the last millennials and features valuable and unique ethnomedicinal information.


Traditional medicine used to be the dominant health care system in Africa prior to influence of Western education, Christianity and increased contacts with global markets. The progress of globalization and urbanization is resulting in gradually vanishing of the orally transferred traditions and customs alongside with the emergence of modern scientific medicine (Sindiga et al., 1995).


However, inadequate accessibility and costs of modern medicines for disease management in developing countries build a growing demand for the reintegration of traditional medicine, which is more economical and easier to access (Cameron et al., 2009). Many African countries focus therefore on the institutionalization of traditional medicine in parallel with modern medicine in the national health care scheme (Okigbo and Mmeka, 2006).


Based on these considerations, the aim to of the overall research project is to promote the preservation of traditional medicine in less developed parts of Africa (a special focus will be laid on Western Africa) and its integration into existing health care systems. In this regard, systematic documentation and examination of the traditional knowledge is of utmost importance.


Therefore, the major aims of a middle to long-term project are to:

i.      Collect and document the traditional knowledge of the resident population of Western Africa regarding traditional natural     healing resources,

ii.      Examine the traditional natural healing remedies with regard to their scientific effectiveness applying modern methods of phytochemistry, in vitro pharmacology, toxicology and clinical investigations,

iii.    Develop strategies to preserve the endangered biodiversity of medicinal plants in Western Africa,

iv.    Create knowledge and technology for the development of affordable and high-quality phytomedicines for local marketing by establishing state-of-the-art monographs and quality control measures of medicinal plants.

Aim of the workshop

Numerous ambitions by different research groups have been made to tackle the outlined issues in different parts of the Africa. Thus, in order to develop successful solutions which can be applied in Western Africa, it is important to pool existing experience and competences of leading researchers in the field.


Therefore, an initial workshop in Western Africa as a platform for leading scientists is organized in order to raise awareness and elaborate practical solutions that meet the outlined goals of a long-term project. For inclusion of young scientist, a Young Researcher Camp will follow the main event

Program overview

The workshop will be organized as a 3-days main event followed by a 2-days “young researcher camp”. During the main workshop 05 – 07 Feb. 2018, researchers from Europe and Africa will work together in respective working groups and discuss relevant issues on the topic “Ethnomedicinal abundance of Western Africa – understanding and preserving the value of regional traditional natural medicines” An optional excursion to Ouidah – a historical town of Benin with memorial of slave trade legacy – will be organized for cultural exchange.


04 Feb. 2018


05 – 07 Feb. 2018

Main workshop incl. working in work groups on the topics:



Field study design and data collection



Botanic identification



Data evaluation and management



Biopiracy issues



Experimental (Phytochemical, preclinical and clinical screening)



Project organization and communication



08 Feb. 2018

Excursion to Ouidah (optional)


09 – 10 Feb. 2018
Young Researcher Camp