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Utilizing accessible and sustainable natural products for contraception

Reproductive Health Research Group aims to develop contraceptives from local resources to address accessibility in Nigerian communities

Photo of Tome Bafor
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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

Lack of access to contraceptives particularly due to poverty has made unplanned pregnancies and an explosion of population a problem in some rural communities despite the hard economic situation.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

Why is there an increase in population particularly among poor and rural families? How can they be informed and use cheaper and more readily available contraceptive sources in the form of plants as drugs?

Explain Your Idea

My organization aims to investigate the use of locally available plants as contraceptives. Through our years of research trying to develop new drugs for contraception, we discovered that the rural woman or man still lack access to and proper utilization of these highly developed drugs due to poor finances and poor compliance. By communicating with several people in the communities, we have found that they would be happier to consume plants as drugs against purchase of synthesized drugs or use of contraceptive implants. We have therefore begun through intensive survey and communication with traditional healers, to compile a list of contraceptive and safe plants with high potency of achieving contraception based on traditional use. We then intend to perform laboratory investigations looking into the potency and validity of the traditional claims and also investigating dosage of the plants in their crude form. We also intend to investigate how the respective plants can be farmed locally in the various communities. We will then proceed to educate the communities on the knowledge and use of the selected plants.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

1. Our idea will promote ease of access to contraceptives 2. Reduce unplanned pregnancies 3. Reduce population growth and increase life expectancy

How is your idea unique?

The uniqueness of the current idea lies in that we are looking inwards to the real needs and real solutions that will make a real difference where contraception is concerned. Ever so often, there has been huge investments in development of new drugs or devices for contraceptives which are well beyond the reach of the peoplein the rural settings. These are people who look to local remedies for slightest ailments and deliver their babies at home as they are unable to afford hospital care no matter how subsidized. These people are the target of this idea. By utilizing what they have to meet their needs - this is considered a sustainable action.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

The most important concern is how to standardize the use of the plants in a manner that encourages compliance at all ages.

Who are your end users?

End users are boys, girls, men and women of reproductive age particularly those who live in rural areas or are unable to afford available contraceptives. They will benefit by having easy access to controlled family planning or unwanted pregnancies. Realistically we estimate hundreds of end users.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Nigeria

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Other

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

The primary proposed implementation settings are at the surrounding villages of the University of Benin, Benin City Nigeria where our organization is based. The major challenges will be road access to the villages, transport to collect information and plant materials, laboratory resources and electricity supply.

What is your organization's name?

Reproductive Health/Ethnopharmacology Research Group (RHERG).

Tell us more about you.

RHERG is a research based organization and our main focus is to develop new products and resources for the management of reproductive health. Our team comprises of researchers, plant experts and medical practitioners.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Community - 1+ communities within 1 country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

We are based and registered at the University of Benin, Edo State Nigeria

What is your organizational status?

  • Not formally registered but are a formal initiative through a school / university.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.



Join the conversation:

Photo of Eunice Kajala

Hi Tome, in our African settings, people tend to prefer plants and medical help from traditional healers. How are you going to ensure that individuals in your area, continue to seek help from the sexual and reproductive health services, inspite of the new plant contraceptive ? After several testing in the laboratory, on potency, validity, and dosage, what will be your next step? Any plans for clinical trial?

Photo of Tome Bafor

Hi Eunice, thank you for your comment and post. I am targeting the use of plants as affordable effective sources and these do not necessarily have to come from traditional healers. There are essential health checks and monitoring that can only be adequately received from reproductive health services and this cannot be undermined.  My idea acts like a bridge bringing together the invaluable reproductive services  and natural therapy. As part of my long-term plan, I intend to organize workshops and seminars for both reproductive health care practitioners and the rural dwellers (a bit like a town and gown symposium in some instances) where we can all be well informed of the need for and effective utilization of both sides of the coin.
For your next question, after the laboratory testing and validation, I intend to go two ways: 1. prepare the plant in its crude form as natural supplements (this is easily achievable and affordable to the rural dwellers).
2. proceed to determine active constituents for further development and synthesis (this can serve to go beyond the rural setting for those who are uncomfortable with natural therapy and traditional medicines and for the larger society. It is after this, that the clinical trials can come in. Of course you know, that the first phase of clinical trial is actually the laboratory tests and optimizations which this initial step captures as well.

Photo of Eunice Kajala

Hi Tome, thanks for your response. One more concern, how are you going to maintain the health seeking behavior at the sexual and reproductive health services by women in your area, it is not a secret, people prefer natural herbs in African culture.

Photo of Tome Bafor

Hi Eunice, thank you for your post. I think that maintaining health seeking behaviour in any community requires extensive study of the current pattern and gaps and development of appropriate measures, it was not the primary aim of my idea. However, to address this I would begin by regular community outreach. Not forgetting that health seeking behaviour (HSB) is governed by several factors. As you know, if a community is low on finance, or have poor road infrastructures, these  may reduce the chances of consulting reproductive centres, regardless of how knowledgeable they are on the benefits of such services. With community outreaches, there should also be induction analyses to inform on the barriers to HSB in the respective communities, this can be achieved by teaming up with community health practitioners and researchers. I hope I have been able to address your concerns.

Photo of Eunice Kajala

Thanks, all the best.