Samoa’s flora and fauna potential

By Alexander Rheeney 25 November 2018, 12:00AM

Samoa’s medicinal plants and flora and fauna should be subject to more scientific investigation as they have the potential to be turned into pharmaceuticals.

That is the conclusion of Dr. Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni, who is manager of plants and postharvest technology, at the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa (S.R.O.S).

She was quoted in a publication titled “ABs is genetic resources for sustainable development”, which was launched recently by the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P) at the 14th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-14) in Egypt. 

According to Dr. Seeseei, the S.R.O.S has done five years of work on Samoa’s medicinal plants—and together with other scientific work with a particular focus on Samoa—they believe there is a lot of potential.

“With our five years of research, together with previous scientifically robust accounts, we are of the opinion that Samoan medicinal plants, together with our other diverse fauna and flora, warrant further scientific investigations, as potential sources of unique bioactive natural products that can be utilized for pharmaceuticals,” she said in the U.N.D.P publication.

As an example, Dr. Seeseei talked about a 2013 study which the S.R.O.S undertook that identified 11 plants which were collected and studied. 

“Interestingly enough, our 2013 study identified that of the 11 plants we collected, the plant with the most bioactivity against the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was Psychotria insularum. The leaves and bark of P. insularum are crushed and made into a potion in Samoan traditional medicine to treat supernaturally attributed ailments, as well as fever, abdominal distress, abscesses, incontinence, skin infections and wounds, general body aches and swellings, as well as vomiting.”

Samoans see land and traditional knowledge as important parts of their lives, according to Tessa Tafua—who is the programme analyst at the environment and climate change unit at the UNDP Office in Samoa—and was also quoted in the same publication.

“The people of Samoa hold its land and traditional knowledge at the highest importance and will do anything to protect this knowledge and resources for the future generations. The Government of Samoa looks to formalize the process to protect the genetic resources of Samoa and its traditional uses,” she added.

Tessa also said Samoan traditional healers are careful who they share their knowledge with.

“The traditional healers of Samoa are often careful with whom they speak regarding the methods and mixtures that they use for medicinal purposes in the communities, because they have had experiences where their knowledge is exploited by some researchers. This was a general feedback when this project on ABS was introduced in the country at its inception workshop.”

By Alexander Rheeney 25 November 2018, 12:00AM

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