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Barcoding 'Dhingila' in Namibia

21 Feb 2020 - 13:00

In recent years there has been growing popularity of a group of medicinal plants in the Apocynaceae family locally known in Namibia as 'Dhingila'. The root of these plants is claimed to cure various ailments, including cancer. Concern over unsustainable harvesting practices has prompted the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to take conservation action. PCU’s PhD Candidate Kirsti Nghidinwa and Dr Ezequiel Fabiano of the University of Namibia (UNAM) are leading the project in Namibia, with the much appreciated assistance of UNAM student Tanaka Muradzikwa who is manning the trap in Zambezi Region. There has been some confusion, however, regarding the botanical name of the plants, with some media articles citing an unrelated species that is also reported to “cure” cancer.

In collaboration with the National Botanical Research Institute, Herbarium of Lubango, and industry stakeholders in Namibia, a systematic collection of Dhingila plant specimens was recently undertaken throughout northern Namibia. The aim was to determine which species are targeted and to establish an inventory to support conservation planning. DNA barcoding and morphometric analyses will help unveil the taxonomic identity of these plants, a first step towards establishing sustainable use of Dhingila in Namibia and the region. The project was supported by a Seed Grant from the CBD Bio-Bridge Initiative.

A Dhingila plant climbing up a Makalani Palm near Grootfontein, Namibia