BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
ACCORDING to UNDP’s “Study report on the Valuation of Environmental Service from Forest Ecosystem”, most Solomon Islanders, particularly those in rural areas use bush medicines from forests instead of western treatments.
The report relates to the UNDP implemented Integrated Global Environment Commitments in Investment and Developing Decision Making (IGECIDDM) project for the Solomon Islands of which the government is currently working with UNDP to effectively implement the National REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Roadmap.
UNDP emphasized that this report is relevant in terms of having a clear understanding of the Total Economic Value (TEV) of Solomon Islands forest ecosystems in order for the country to develop the economic and financial framework for the national REDD+ Roadmap.
Moreover, UNDP expressed that about 140 plant species are used as medicinal purposes of which some diseases treated by traditional medicine or locally termed as “kastom medicine” include; diarrhea, malaria, ulcers, constipation, diabetes, cancer, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs), high blood pressure, asthma, yellow fever, pneumonia and hepatitis.
Estimating forest value can be based on various approaches such as market prices for modern medicine in treating the same aliment and the avoided costs of incurring modern medicine expenses.
“Therefore, value of forest as source of medicine is a function of percentage or population reliant on traditional medicine and the cost of modern medicine”, the report said.
Also mentioned, in 2006, an approximate 2.7% of the surveyed population turned to traditional healers first for all sicknesses. The estimated figure is however, deemed to be low.
Additionally, UNDP stressed that there are factors that explain why high percentage of Solomon Islanders use of traditional medicine.
High rural population with acute shortage of modern health facilities and low household income are two main factors identified.
UNDP further stated that the value of forest as source of medicine can be approximated at SBD 37.6m.
“A more conservative figure of 10 percent of the total population was adopted as a proportion of the population using traditional medicine.
On average, it is estimated that the average health expenditure in the Solomon Islands is USD$74/person. Assuming an average inflation of 5 percent, the average health expenditure was adjusted to USD$95/person. This value was estimated as the substitution cost between kastom and modern medicine”
“Using the population of 500,000, exchange rate of SBD 8/dollar, the value of forests as source of medicine can be approximated at SBD 37.6m”, said UNDP.