Hausa Language Academic Website

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Place Of Climate In Hausa Tradi-Medical Tradition

Human health and climate are very much related in the philosophy of Hausa healing tradition. Body temperature, circulatory and respiratory systems of body anatomy translate climatic conditions of the very environment we live in. In this respect, our tradi-medical heritage is scientifically and culturally controlled by the climatic condition of the region we found ourselves. The focus of this paper is to examine the relevance of climate change in sub-saharan Africa particularly in that northern part of Nigeria, known as the Hausaland, with reference to the ancient institution of traditional health care delivery. To be precise, the desired target is to read through the negative impacts of climate change to the medicinal plants and trees, special species and materia-medica with special reference to some climate sensitive…

The Place Of Climate In Hausa Tradi-Medical Tradition

Faculty of Humanities
Department of Nigerian Languages
Umaru Musa Yar’adua University,
Phone: 0803 431 6508

Being a paper presented at the Scientific Session of the International Conference, Possible Impacts of Climate Change on Africa, in the Institute of African Research and Studies, Cairo University, Egypt 18th – 20th May, 2014

Human health and climate are very much related in the philosophy of Hausa healing tradition. Body temperature, circulatory and respiratory systems of body anatomy translate climatic conditions of the very environment we live in. In this respect, our tradi-medical heritage is scientifically and culturally controlled by the climatic condition of the region we found ourselves. The focus of this paper is to examine the relevance of climate change in sub-saharan Africa particularly in that northern part of Nigeria, known as the Hausaland, with reference to the ancient institution of traditional health care delivery. To be precise, the desired target is to read through the negative impacts of climate change to the medicinal plants and trees, special species and materia-medica with special reference to some climate sensitive diseases in the region.  The aim is to highlight the cultural components of Hausa traditional medicine and its response to the epileptic weather conditions in Hausaland. Should the current trends of the climate change persist, what would be the fate of Hausa traditional health institutions? In the light of the aforementioned observations the deliberations are as follows:

What Is Hausa Tradi-medical Tradition?
Hausa tradi-medical     tradition is the ancient traditional health institution found across Hausaland and elsewhere among the Hausa speaking communities. It includes general medicine in the healing art, professionalism in the healing tradition, herbalism and materia- medica, spiritual and religious traditions in the application of the art, scientific and supernatural forces employed in the medicinal practices. Medicine is named magani and medicine men are mai magani (singular) and masu magani (plural). The popular ancient name of Hausa healer is Boka in general term (Bokaye is the plural) but they are subdivided according to the areas of their specializations. Experts in bone-setting (masu ɗori) birth attendance (unguzoma), psychiatric (Bokaye) and fortune tellers (‘yan arwa/duba) are the second group in the classification. These groups are the health ministry, pharmacy and dispensary of the native Hausa speakers occupying the geographical space of Hausaland. An interesting question to be raised is: Do these men have the knowledge of climate and its impact on human health? Do they have the idea of the climate effect or climate change on their profession? What are the consequences of the climate change to their clients and the ingredients of their materia-medica? To address these questions we must identify:

Ingredients of Hausa Tradi-medical Traditions:
In the study of Hausa traditional medicine, medicinal ingredients that are concocted, grounded, mixed up, cooked, stored or dried, are the solid foundation of the healing art. Sources of the ingredients that are used in the ‘secret of the art’ can be generally classified into:
i)             Plants and trees
ii)            Insects
iii)          Birds
iv)          Animals and fishes (of all categories)
v)           Waters (river, well, springs, rain water, lakes)
vi)          Mineral deposits (salt, iron, soils, etc)
vii)        Food (grains, vegetables, fruits, leaves, root tuber, etc).
These seven categories are the principal actors in the preparation of all types of Hausa native medicines. In some illnesses only one ingredient is used. In complicated and some selected cases two or more are combined to produce the required drugs. Certainly, these ingredients may vary from one region to another, even in the geo-political zones of Hausaland itself. However, selected ones from the area are recommended, being the ingredient familiar with the weather and friendly to the climatic condition of the very land. The philosophy behind the selection is that, the illnesses or diseases to be cured are common to our environment and the required drugs to put on trial are the vegetations of the land, as depicted in one popular Hausa proverb: Karen da ya yi cizo da gashinsa ake magani, “The hair of the dog which bites should be used to heal the inflicted wound”. In this view, the notable illnesses and diseases of a given area can be confronted with medicinal plants and trees available in the environment. Are the climates and weather party to the application of these ingredients? And the answer is:

Climate As a Factor:
In the context of Hausa health care delivery, climate is the principal actor in the illnesses and well-being of human health. The four traditionally classified climatic conditions, namely: Rani (dry season), Damina (wet season) and the two middle seasons Hunturu (the cold season during which we experience the harmattan wind between Dec-Feb) and Bazara (the hot season just prior to the west season) seasons, have a very special role in the philosophy of Hausa traditional medicine. In all the seasons Damina (wet season) is the most preferable. Professional herbalist depend very much on damina season for their herbs and materia-medica for several reasons:
i)             Medicinal plants and trees are very active and sufficient with all their medicinal components, fully greenish during the season.
ii)            Special species of the selected insects and birds with medicinal nutrients are available during the season.
iii)          Some selected wild animals whose body parts, organs, diet, are of medicinal impact are mostly available during the season.
iv)          Waters of all types, river, spring, well, lake, rain, etc could be obtained easily and be stored for the preparation of the drugs.
v)           Mineral deposits that are required in some of the medicaments are obtainable during the season.
vi)          Very few medicinal plants and trees can withstand prolong drought. Thus, delay in getting the rain may extinct the species. In contrast, some may not withstand heavy rain and therefore may not germinate under such a condition.
Certainly, the aforementioned study speaks on the relevance of climate change to the general activities of Hausa tradi-medical heritage. In this view, the dry season occupies a very insignificant aspect of the art. The dry season is considered as:
i)             Holiday period or season for the concoction and preparation of the medicaments.
ii)            The season is a breeder to the greenish medicaments extracted during the wet season.
iii)          In special cases, very few of the medicinal plants and trees like: Gudai -Allium cepa (onion), Kaiwa: Parkia biglobosa (locust bean seeds), Goriba:Hyphaene thebaica, Gumbi: Mimosa pigra, Kaba: Hyphaene thebaica (young dum palm) and the likes survive the season.
vii)        Dry season is the chosen period for the general practice and the advert of the healing art and tradition. Healers and professionals take advantage of the period by migrating to the urban areas to display their expertise and wares to their clients.
The remaining seasons of bazara and Hunturu are of less importance to the real herbal art and preparation of the medicinal materials. As it is noted before, these periods are polluted with communicable diseases and illnesses. All the efforts in the preparation of medicine are targeted at this period to dispense the drugs. These does not mean that, damina and rani seasons are free of any disease, of course there are, but not very much widespread as in rani period. In this attempt, I therefore wish to peep through the effect of the climate change to this great art in the history of the most widely spreaded community in the sub-saharan region of Africa “the Hausa community”.

The Effect of Climate Change on Hausa Medicine:
In Hausa cultural perspectives, medicines are not man made because man has no hand in the creation of the species administered as drugs. The originality of the species is divine, man is only a factor to examine, experiment, test and evaluate these materials to confront any health discomfort found in his body anatomy. The side effects of climate to the health comfort provokes the desire to arrest the unhealthy condition which opens up the door to the healing art. Without illnesses there would be no need for medication. It is the ill-condition of health which leads to the experiment to confront the discomfort caused by the weather the climate change of the region. Harsh weather is attributed to harsh climatic condition resulting in the unhealthy situation of the environment, which consequently pollutes the environment with varieties of diseases.
Naturally, inhabitants of any region must have had the experience of its health history. Their ancestors must have tested varieties of herbs and materia-medica to address their health conditions. The secret of these herbs are passed on to generations with all the methodology, styles, dos and don’ts attached to the healing art. The prescription and mode of administration of the drugs are all preserved in their oral arts from time immemorial. However, the medicinal substances involved in the therapy may be species that were terminated long ago by the climate change and therefore no where to be found. The extinctions caused by climate change to the various medicinal ingredients in Hausaland effect the original orthodox Hausa tradi-medical tradition. Consider the following medicinal components of the early 19th century Hausaland to the late 20th century, in the contemporary 21st century situation as per the materia-medica of the following categories.

Certain endogenous insects are prominent in the treatment of minor and major illnesses such as mild fever, vomiting, jaundice, food-poising, stomach ache, and septic wounds. In some cases, some of the insects are used in treatment of supernatural nature and magic. To some extent some are used as biological weapons in the pre-colonial Hausaland. Gradually, the climate change witnessed in the 21st century terminated nearly 45% of these species as we may wish to note from the notorious ones such as:
1.                Damina:
2.                Buzuzu: A dung-beetle
3.                Zanzaro: A mason or doubler-wasp
4.                Kwaronwuta:
5.                Sunge:
6.                Gyare:
7.                Zuma: Honey bees
8.                Rina: Wasp/hornet
9.                Zarnaƙo:
10.           Ƙozo (kwaɗo): very bit frog
11.           Shadare (bobo): An insect which does great damage to nearly ripe bulrush-millet.
12.           Ahihiya: A very big/large tortoise
13.           Hawainiya- Chameleon
14.           Matsettseku (Turguni): A small lake insect with two mouths
15.           Dole-Dole: big maggot, grub
16.           Shanshani: A centipede, with long flat body
17.           Kaska: A tick
18.        Zago: A variety of large white ant.
A dung-beetle is used for the treatment of mental problems. Mason is an important element in Shamanism. Chameleon is a special element in magic and illusion. A tick is used in the prevention of witchcraft. Honey is multipurpose in all traditional concoctions and medicaments. In pre-colonial period, Shadare is used to poison sword and arrows. With exception of honey bees, these insects were frustrated with unsuitable climate change and virtually at the born of extinction. By implication their medicinal usages are diminishing.

West African birds attract research attention of many serious scientists in the area of African studies. The most interesting aspect to the species of birds is that, some of them are domesticated, which gives the native Hausa speakers chance to study their lifecycle, productivity and medicinal impact. Apart from utilizing parts of these birds in the preparation of traditional medicines their favorite diet is also recognized as medicaments of certain illnesses. To, our dismay, climate change is affecting many of the species in Hausaland and tremendously reducing their number. Some are gone for ever, some a very few in very few places, while many are only known in the treasury of Hausa orature. The more we lose these species, the more we lose our traditional medicines. In the history of our healing arts the following species are very active:
1.                 Shamuwa: white-bellied stork, a harbinger of the wet season
2.                 Belbala: Butter churned by the movement of the cattle
3.                 Fakara: Francolin (francolinus bica/caratus)
4.                 Babba-da-jikka: Saddle-bill/African Jabiru (Ephipplorhyndus senegalensis).
5.                 Suda: Senegal bush shrike (Pomatorhyneus senegalus)
6.                 Jimina: Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
7.                 Kurciya: laughing dove (stigmatopelia senegalensis)
8.                 Takabarbada: Lily trotter or African Jacana (Actophilonis africanas)
9.                 Angulu: vulture
10.            Shirwa:African black kite (Milvus migrans parasiticus)
11.            Zarɓe
12.            Kumare: The crown bird
13.            Tantabara: A pigeon
14.            Makwarwa: Double-spurred francolin (Francolinus bicalcaratus)
15.            Bilbilo: A swallow (Hirundo aethiopica)
16.            Damatsiri:
17.        Aku: A parrot.
White-bellied stork and butter are great sign of good season of the year. Butter is utilized for love medicines. Jackal and saddle-bill are of great benefit to improve mental capability. Ostrich intestines are used as poison for weapons. In addition to that, it is the best ingredients in Tauri magic and performing art. Kurciya (laughing dove) is used by orators, singers and poets to improve their memory in composing songs and poems. Due to the unpredictable rainy season caused by climate change, great numbers of these birds are going down annually. The more they varnish the more we lose our tradi-medical heritage.

The animal kingdom is a very big kingdom in African folklore. It is a well known kingdom in human folktales, legend, myth, saga, figures of speech and proverbs. Medicinal relevance of Hausa domestic and wild animals in the geographical location of Hausaland is well preserved in Hausa Orature and culture. Animal bones, feathers, hide and skin, vital organs, intestine, blood, etc are very common in the preparations of many Hausa traditional medicines. The uncertainty of the climatic condition of the 21st century is affecting the survival of many of these animals. While some are completely off the land, others are only available in the zoos, and quiet a significant number of them hide in very dangerous desert not humanly habitable. By implication, the tradi-medical heritages attached to them are also at large. It is very sad that the land is now almost empty of the following species:
1)           Alfadari:
2)           Kurage: A ground squirrel
3)           Dila: Jackal
4)           Barewa: Dorcas gazelle
5)           Zaki: Lion
6)           Kura: Hyena
7)           Gwanki: Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinum gambianus)
8)           Bika:
9)           Dorina: Hippopotamus
10)       Ayyu: Monatee
11)       Jimina:Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
12)       Giwa: Elephant
13)       Damisa: Leopard
14)       Doki: Horse
15)       Jaki: Donkey
One may observe that some of these species mentioned herein are still available in the land. However, we should also note that very few of the varieties are in existence especially those of the families of Donkey and Horse which are of twenty four varieties (twelve each) and now only two or three varieties exist. In the categories of animals, they are widely utilized in the field of magic, use of supernatural power, divinity and sorcery. Many of their organs are also used in the preparation of special drugs for some major illnesses. Human and natural factors contribute to the fast encroaching desertification which is forcing wild animals to vanish from our forest, and grazing lands. Consequently, our traditional medicines are also being eroded from our land, leaving us unprotected, health wise.
Animals are the greatest treasury in Hausa pre-colonial and pre-Islamic medicines. In most cases, the medicines under these categories are of general purposes. Tail hair of a squirrel (kurege) is used in causative medicines to weakened the manhood of an enemy. Lion fat and bones are the best treatment for joint pains and very useful in the traditional bone-setting by professionals. Hyena’s head and mouth are used in magical medicines for protecting members of the royal household in the society.

In Hausa land there are more species of plants than species of trees. The plants species are very common during the wet season. They are of thousand varieties and quickly disappear with shortage of rainfall. Majority of the species cannot withstand desert condition and short rain fall. Plants are the major sources of Hausa traditional medicine from time in memorial. They are some-times considered food as medicine and medicines as food by ethnographies and anthropologists. Infact, most of the plants are used as food especially during the hard period of famines. Still, they are considered as the major sources of Hausa traditional medicine. Recently, climate change is affecting areas in which some of the species are found, and with time they are gradually disappearing. This assessment can be verified with the following species:
1.           Jema:Urely trum giganteum
2.                 Yaɗiya: Lepatadenia hastate (tears)
3.                 Bunsuru: Heteropogon
4.                 Ƙyasura: Pennisetum hordeoides
5.                 Sanga-Sanga:senna occidentals (coffee senna)
6.                 Babbajuji: Datura metal (hairy thorn apple)
7.                 Ƙuduji: Striga spp (witch weed)
8.                 Bubburwa: Erogrostis tremula
9.                 Doɗɗoya: Ocimum basilicum (sent-leaf)
10.             Lalo: Covchorus tridens (jute)
11.             Bado: Nymphaea latus (water-lily)
12.             Ƙyara: Parinar Kerstingli (Coffee senna)
13.             Tafasa: Senna occidentales
14.             Tamakka: Moringa oleifera
15.        Garahuni:Momodica balsamina (balsam apple)
16.        Baabaa:Indigofera
17.        Baushe:Terminalia
Interestingly, recent scientific discovery of the medical values of some of these species is have renewed interest in them as they now make a comeback to the challenges of our health care delivery. In this respect, Tafasa, Tamakka/Zogala, sanga-Sanga, Bunsuru and Ɗaɗɗoya are now prominent in rural and urban areas. To confront the effect of climate change, they are now domesticated in farms and produced in large quantity.
Senna accidental is used for high fever and liver problems. Datura metal is used for mental diseases. Moringa Oceifera is used for the general stomach problems. Leptadenia hastate is used for rashes and septic wounds. Pennisetum hordeoides is anti-bleeding and is used for the treatment of fresh wounds and running nose. Heterogonous is anti-mosquitoes and a good remedy for fever believed to be caused by mosquito bites. As at moment, these species are virtually gone and the said medicines attached to them are reducing tremendously.

In Hausa tradition, it is said, “a tree can not make a forest”. It is only when they collected together that they can make a forest. In the forest lies our food and medicine. Thus, in the absence of forest, our food is gone and so our medicines. The harsh climatic conditions of the 21st century couple with the human factor is seriously depleting the forest in Hausaland. Well known trees in history and folklore are at the brink of disappearing. The following are the varieties of tree endangered:
1.           Kukkuki: Sterculia setigera (karagum tree)
2.                 Kaɗe: Vitellaria paradoza (shea)
3.                 Durumi: Ficus polita
4.                 Ceɗiya: Ficus thonningii
5.                 Lodaa: Rogeria adenophylla
6.                 Faru: Lannea microcarpa
7.                 Giginya: Barassus aethiopum (fan, deleb palm)
8.                 Maƙafro: Afromosia laxiflora
9.                 Tsiidau: Capsicum annuum, c (chili)
10.             Gamji: Sorghum bicolor (large-grain)
11.             Kauci: Englerina gabonansis
12.             Tsamiya: Tamarindus indica (tamarind)
13.             Tarauniya: Anogeissus leicocarnus
14.             Marke: Acacia macrostachya
15.        Gardaye:

Englerina gabonensis is used for general medicines (medication and magic). Tamarindus is a good drug for dysentery and mild stomach problem. Ficus polita and ficus thoningii are good treatment of sudden rushes and general body pain.
Tree categories are the mother aspects of Hausa traditional medicine. All aspects of Hausa medicines must have one or two ways to do with trees. In the recent studies of Hausa medicine more than thirty parts, of trees are utilized in different manners in the traditional healing art. Medicinal trees contribute in both health and supernatural medicines including charms and amulates. With trends, in climate change, it is very unlikely that medicine attributed to these species may survive the wind of change.

Climate change is so severe to Hausa healing tradition to the extent that I so wish to consider it as a second colonial domination to the healing heritage of Hausa speaking community. Indeed, the treasury of Hausa Orature is fully aware of the wind of change as a great sign of the hour. The climate change, is not only directly affecting the Hausa man physically, so to say, but the whole efforts of his traditional medical heritage is at the brink of extinction. The unsuitable weather produces a lot of unknown diseases, and medicinal herbs and medicaments to confront them are affected by the climate change. The insects and animals utilized in the healing art have no capacity to resist the unfriendly climate change of our century, and they finally died leaving us with an empty treasury in the healing art. All efforts to arrest the situation in urban areas to domesticate some of the species could not protect the interest of our traditional health practitioners for the fact that they are not actively involved in the preparation and documentation of the said materia-medica. A good team work of the natural scientist and scholars of Hausa tradition and cultures should be formed by the center of Africa studies, university of Cairo with any of the affiliated Nigerian University in the heart of Hausaland to handle the situation appropriately.


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