“Now I Heal with Pride”—The Application of Screens-to-Nature Technology to Indigenous Knowledge Systems Research in Botswana: Implications for Drug Discovery

  • Kerstin Andrae-Marobela
  • Aku N. Ntumy
  • Masego Mokobela
  • Mthandazo Dube
  • Angelina Sosome
  • Mbaki Muzila
  • Bongani Sethebe
  • Keitseng N. Monyatsi
  • Barbara N. Ngwenya


The combination of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) with techniques of modern drug discovery platforms has a great potential to overcome the current innovation deficits in drug discovery. We describe the adaptation of a set of field-suitable bioassays, the “Screens-to-Nature” (STN) system, to a participatory research tool suitable for overcoming some of the difficulties in establishing cooperation between indigenous knowledge holders and scientists. Extracts from 621 plant samples representing 214 species from 71 plant families in Botswana have been qualitatively screened for antibacterial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal activities, as well as for α-glucosidase and protease inhibitory properties. The results provide a first bioactivity profile of medicinal plants in Botswana. Close to half of the samples (47%) were provided by traditional healers and community members from two regions in Botswana, the Kweneng and Ngamiland Districts. Screening results were consistently shared and discussed with indigenous knowledge holders who participated in the STN project. A survey conducted among 28 traditional healers revealed that a large majority (93%) perceived the STN approach as beneficial to indigenous knowledge holders and expressed their desire to continue contributing to natural product research. In that way, the STN approach provided a basis for the establishment of an indigenous knowledge-guided drug discovery platform in Botswana.


Medicinal Plant Drug Discovery Traditional Healer Indigenous Knowledge Research Partnership 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Convention on Biological Diversity


Indigenous knowledge


Indigenous knowledge systems


New molecular entities


Research and development


Sexually transmitted infections





This study was sponsored by a grant of the Office of Research and Development (ORD) of the University of Botswana to KAM (No. R835). We are grateful to the directors of the Global Institute for Bioexploration (Gibex), Dr. I. Raskin and Dr. M.-A. Lila, whose consistent and generous material support in form of consumables and organisms kept the STN screening going. We are indebted to G. Joseph, who established most of the original STN assays. We wish to express our sincere gratitude to B. Abegaz, who initiated the STN/University of Botswana partnership, and to the traditional healers in the Ngamiland District and the community of Mmankgodi with whom we embarked on an exciting journey of participatory natural product research. Finally, we thank N. Makate for critically reading the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Andrae-Marobela
    • 1
    • 2
  • Aku N. Ntumy
    • 1
  • Masego Mokobela
    • 1
  • Mthandazo Dube
    • 1
  • Angelina Sosome
    • 1
  • Mbaki Muzila
    • 1
  • Bongani Sethebe
    • 1
  • Keitseng N. Monyatsi
    • 3
  • Barbara N. Ngwenya
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana
  2. 2.Center for Scientific Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation (CesrIKi)GaboroneBotswana
  3. 3.African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)HarareZimbabwe
  4. 4.Okavango Research Institute (ORI)University of Botswana Maun CampusMaunBotswana

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