Rwanda to industrialise local herbal medicine production

By Elias Hakizimana

The government of Rwanda, through National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) plans to develop local herbal medicines processing to enhance the quality of traditional healing.

The move will consist of supporting the establishment of factories to manufacture of process herbal medicine, equipping with traditional healers wit training for traditional healers for them to become professionals in this area of therapy.

NIRDA will support this initiative by encouraging traditional healers to bid for starting up small industries that will be useful to teach other traditional healers from the region.

It will be funded by the government with between Rwf20 and 70 million, plus the contribution of investors.

Kampeta Pitchette Sayinzoga, Director General of NIRDA told The Inspirer that the main problems in herbal and traditional medicine sector include lack of knowledge about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), processing, drying, pulverizing, extraction, isolation, production process, quality and efficacy evaluation of herbal and traditional medicine final products that are limiting the development of Herbal medicine or Phytomedicine value chain in developing countries.

Kampeta P. Sayinzoga, the Director General of NIRDA. File photo

“In Rwanda, the traditional health practitioners are not well organised as some of their enterprises are operating illegally and do not follow adequate procedures while processing their medicines; and therefore, their products cannot be competitive on both local and international markets as they do not meet the required standards,” Kampeta said.

Daniel Gafaranga, the president of AGA-Rwanda Network which is is a federation of traditional healers said the industries will bridge the gap of knowledge they face as everyone has own and different ways of healing. “as these factories are built and start operating, they will train traditional healers on how to improve on their profession,” Gafaranga said, warning traditional healers to put professionalism and integrity on the forefront of a healthy and safe treatment that cannot involve effects on Human health.

World health Organization (WHO) has recently published guidelines for the assessment of herbal medicines taking into account the long and extensive usage of them.

These guidelines should encourage developing countries such as Rwanda to relax some of the current regulations to be realistic in recognising the role of traditional medicines in the health care delivery of their countries.

Designing sustainable solutions

Kampeta said that NIRDA has a priority of Contributing to the development of Herbal medicine or Phytopharmaceutical Value Chain by standardizing the traditional medicines production process in order to increase the quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicine products available on local market in order to come up with sustainable solutions.

This programme also targets supporting Herbal medicine or Phytopharmaceutical industry to acquire adequate processing technology, new technologies, quality assurance, applied research and development, Registration and property rights, technical information, human resource development and marketing services.

“we will be also evaluating the herbal health care industries or Phytopharmaceutical industries status such as registration certifications, etc… to make sure that the processors have knowledge on handling of herbals and extraction process, knowledge on technology related to value added phytomedicines and supporting them to identify and acquire existing techniques, which can improve their competitiveness. We will also will also need to ensure that they have knowledge on development of phytomedicine value added products,” kampeta said.

She added that NIRDA has planned to partner with Traditional Health Practitioners, Innovators and Enterpreneurs who are engaged in the Herbal medicine and Phytopharmaceutical industry sector and support them to develop pilot plant extraction unit replicated by a large number of enterprises to achieve impact at scale.

She said furthermore that the pilot plant will enable the research and Development work (R & D) to be demonstrated to produce final products which can be market tested.

“NIRDA has a plan to provide Capacity building of innovators and entrepreneurs who are engaged in the Herbal medicine and Phytopharmaceutical industry sector; and to Provide and upgrade their equipment and facilities and Promote Trade and Marketing of herbal medicine, Traditional medicine and Phytopharmaceutical products,” Kampeta said.

She added that Sustainable development of industries based on plants requires multidisciplinary activities and close collaboration between scientists, government officials, NGOs and international organizations.

Partners of the initiative

Kampeta said that NIRDA works with a number of partners including the Rwandan government, Universities, NGOs, international organizations and Phytopharmaceutical companies in order to raise the profile of Traditional Health Practitioners and increase the competitiveness of herbal medicine, Traditional medicine and Phytopharmaceutical products on the market.

Technological framework

Kampeta said that with the help of NIRDA, Traditional modes of production of Herbal medicine have to give way to modern technologies to produce, package and market Herbal and traditional medicines.

“Traditional Health Practitioners have to use grinding and mixing machines, blenders, apparatus for bottling and filling tubes and capsules and stainless steel boilers. The production environment must be designed to ensure a stable supply of utilities and continuous output, and equipped with water storage containers, pumping machines and generators,” she said.


She said that Packaging must involve the use of seals and good labelling information relating to dosages, expiry dates and batch numbers. Producers must assure quality using adequate equipment.

“With these innovations, the acceptability of Herbal and Traditional medicine products will not be simply a question of faith or culture but the result of greater confidence in their quality and efficacy. An emphasis on training and research and development will help introduce Traditional health practitioners to new production and processing techniques, quality assurance and good manufacturing practices, among other things,” Kampeta said.

Researchers contribution

Currently NIRDA has 5 researchers and 4 Lab technicians who are engaged to work on Herbal medicine and Phytopharmaceutical industrial research.

Kampeta said that NIRDA works with a number of researchers from the Rwandan government, Universities, NGOs, international organizations and Phytopharmaceutical companies in order to enable applied research and development to increase the competitiveness of herbal medicine, Traditional medicine and Phytopharmaceutical industries and their products on the market as well as the Phytopharmaceutical industrial development.

She said that moving forward to industrial utilization of medicinal plants, NIRDA will involve the production of standardised traditional medicines, galenicals and extracts, the formulation and development of dosage forms, the development of new preparations based on the traditional pharmacopoeia, research and development in processing and formulation and chemical and pharmacological studies.

“New technologies Improved methods for the processing of medicinal and aromatic plants and new techniques for quality assessment are being developed rapidly and continuously and they have to be introduced to developing countries such as Rwanda if they are to forge ahead to keep up with recent developments and new international requirements,” Kampeta said.

One of many methods is Supercritical Fluid Extraction of natural products as an alternative for solvent extraction and it was recently used in Horizon SOPYRWA and is now used both for processing of phytopharmaceuticals and other plant products and for the removal of trace amounts of contaminant substances such as pesticides, toxins and surfactants.

Kampeta said that the vital question of property rights to developing countries such as Rwanda for the use of know-how and genetic resources in the development of modern drugs in developed countries has been discussed in many forums but without a final solution.

Training farmers

Kampeta said that Farmers have to be trained in all aspects of organic farming of medicinal plants and herbs including obtaining certification from associations that do the monitoring starting from cultivation to final harvesting. “Organic farming which is labour-intensive gives the developing countries the comparative advantage to be competitive.” She mentioned.

The stance in next five years

Kampeta told The Inspirer that NIRDA is working on a project, in which small Phytomedicine processing units will be set up in the next five years to develop herbal and traditional remedies for industrial production in Rwanda; also improving traditional medicine from plants, ensuring quality in the processing, regulating dosage, standardising the production process, supporting people to commercialise the medicinal plants and herbal medicine and make the sector lucrative and competitive.

“NIRDA will use its Research and Development facilities and expertise in the next five years to provide to Herbal medicine and Phytopharmaceutical industries, any technical support and access to technical knowledge and expertise; we will Provide services related to monitoring and acquisition of adequate technologies for Herbal medicine and related to technology, process and Product testing, quality control and technical services,” said Kampeta.

The mosquito repellent products have been listed as part of essential medicines and highlighted in extended malaria strategic plan 2017-2020 and revised malaria contingency plan 2016-2020 as primary supplemental vector control strategy to control earlier night and outdoor malaria transmission.

“The ministry of health has initiated this year a PPP, a joint project with NIRDA, and other stakeholders that seek to produce and promote safe, effective and affordable mosquito repellent products from locally extracted essential oils in the next five years. The law governing alternative and complementary medicines in Rwanda will be available in the next five years and its implementation will play a big role in local Herbal medicine production,” she added.

Overcoming constraints

In order to overcome constraints associated with the processing of medicinal plants which may result in reducing their competitiveness in global markets, Kampeta said that the Rwandan government, Universities, NGOs, international organizations, Phytopharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders will come up together to find their remedies.

Those constraints include Poor agricultural practices, Poor harvesting (indiscriminate) and post-harvest treatment practices, Lack of research on development of high-yielding varieties, domestication, etc.

Dr Grorge Nyombaire, Head of Research and Development Coordination Department at NIRDA has so far said that NIRDA has a budget

Traditional healing has grown tremendously in countries like India, China, Korea but remains a problem in Rwanda according to Nyombaire.

The recent research by ‘Institut d’Enseignement Superieur de Ruhengeri’, (INES-Ruhengeri) shows that about 55 percent of traditional healers studied at primary level, which is not enough for them produce a quality medicine with required dosage.

“Most of them have not scientific knowledge about medicine processing, it is the reason why we take time and go to train them,” Nyombaire said.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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