Thomas Oloo Odiyo
Thomas, now 80 years old, has been farming his entire life. As a child, he learned the traditional methods his family and community used to grow food and raise livestock. Once he started his own farm, he applied much of this knowledge. However, as the years passed he saw fewer and fewer community members using these traditional farming methods. In particular, he saw his community moving away from traditional cures for livestock diseases such as lumpy skin disease. He knew these newer methods–often dependent on external inputs–were not the best option. Thomas decided he would remind his neighbors of the methods and solutions their ancestors had used to treat livestock diseases for centuries.
Remembering back to when he was a child and his uncle’s use of local vegetation to treat many livestock diseases, Thomas decided to experiment with herbs to treat lumpy skin disease in his cattle. From this experimentation, he developed a concoction that successfully cured his cows that were suffering from lumpy skin disease. He has been using this treatment since 1945 and his treatment is so successful that his neighbors ask him to treat their livestock.
To make the concoction, Thomas harvests bwoye grass and okita plant leaves. He then dries both herbs in the shade. Once dried, he mixes a handful of the herbs into a liter of water, stirring until the solution bubbles. Finally, he strains the solution. Cows drink the strained liquid.
Thomas used traditional knowledge to develop his innovation, effectively safeguarding the farming techniques of his ancestors and ensuring they are passed down to yet another generation. Each year, one-size-fits-all industrial practices replace local traditions and indigenous knowledge is lost. These techniques might hold the key to adapting to a changing climate and protecting our food future. Therefore, it is imperative that farmers around the world work to preserve this knowledge. Thomas is one of the farmers ensuring that Indigenous knowledge and traditions are not lost, and are actively used for years to come.