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Ethnobotanical knowledge on indigenous fruits in Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions in Northern Namibia

Ahmad Cheikhyoussef* and Werner Embashu

Author Affiliations

Indigenous Knowledge System Technology (IKST) Food & Beverage Program, Science, Technology and Innovation Division, Multidisciplinary Research Centre (MRC), University of Namibia, Private Bag 13301, Windhoek, Namibia

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:34  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-34

Published: 22 May 2013



Indigenous communities in Namibia possess a rich indigenous knowledge expressed within many practices of these communities. Indigenous wild edible fruits are available along the Namibian 13 regions of which it forms a rich source of vitamins, fibres, minerals and a heterogeneous collection of bioactive compounds referred to as phytochemicals for indigenous people’s diet. The aim of this study was to record the different IKS practices on the indigenous fruit trees in Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions of Namibia.


An ethnobotanical survey was undertaken to collect information from local communities from 23-29 October 2011. Data was collected through the use of questionnaires and personal interviews during field trips in the Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions. A total of 65 respondents were interviewed; 54%; women, 38%; men and 8%; both in group interviews.


The majority of the people interviewed were in their thirty’s, with the youngest being 18 years old and the oldest being 98 years old. Forty three plant specimens were collected from the two regions; these specimens belong to 20 genera and 25 species. Regarding to the indigenous knowledge; 87%; of the respondents indicated that their knowledge on indigenous fruits was learnt mainly through their parent. Indigenous people’s perception on declining indigenous fruits revealed that 56.3%; of the respondents reported that indigenous fruits were declining. Only a 42.2%; indicated that the indigenous fruits populations are increasing. Regarding to the management practices to improve the production of these indigenous fruit trees; 38.6%; reported that there are some efforts on management practices; on the other hand 61.4%; reported there are no management practices on the indigenous fruit trees in their areas. Four species were found to be the most frequently used and mentioned fruits which need to be given high preference in terms of conservation are: Berchemia discolor, Hyphaene petersiana, Sclerocarya birrea and Diospyros mespiliformis. The following diseases and ailments have been reported to be treated by the indigenous fruit trees which include: toothache, diarrhoea, cough, tonsillitis, burns, skin allergy, stomach ache, snake bit, constipation, etc. 28%; of the respondents mentioned an ethno veterinary use(s) of these fruits, e.g. the use of the Ziziphus mucronata roots to treat diarrhoea in cattle, the bark of eembe (Berchemia discolor) to treat calf weakness.


The local communities in Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions have relatively good knowledge and practices regarding the indigenous fruit. This study enhances our understanding on the indigenous fruit in Namibia and their uses by local communities.

Ethnobotanical knowledge; Ethnoveterinary knowledge; Indigenous fruits; Namibia