Ethnomedical knowledge and indigenous healthcare practices in Nekemte District, western Ethiopia: A qualitative study


  • Geremew Gonfa
  • Dessalegn Wirtu



Background: Indigenous healthcare practices are widely used by the majority of people in Ethiopia. People use them for various health needs; however the knowledge and practice of ethnomedicine across different parts of Ethiopia have not been extensively studied. This study explores ethnomedical knowledge and indigenous healthcare practices in Nekemte District, western Ethiopia.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted from March to April 2015 in Nekemte town and surrounding areas in western Ethiopia. The study employed a chain referral sampling technique to identify study participants. A total of 12 indigenous healers were interviewed through semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data procured through interviews were transcribed and translated into English, categorized, and narrated thematically.

Results: The study revealed that ethnomedical knowledge in the study area was conveyed orally and through practical experience, and was characterized by secrecy. Fourteen different human ailments/conditions identified to be treated by the different indigenous healers, including gonorrhea, ‘evil eye’, diarrhea, herpes zoster, measles, and bone fractures. A further finding was that there is a lack of cooperation between modern and indigenous healthcare practitioners.

Conclusions and recommendations: Indigenous healthcare practices were used to treat several human ailments. Although indigenous healthcare serves as an alternative source of healthcare for communities, lack of documentation of ethnomedicine and its associated knowledge, the lack of collaboration with modern practitioners, and the lack of support have a negative impact on indigenous healthcare. Properly considering these factors in health policies will help to preserve the local heritage of health care and resources. [Ethiop.J. Health Dev. 2019; 33(1):17-21]

Keywords: Indigenous healthcare, biomedicine, ethnomedicine, ethnomedical knowledge, indigenous healer, Nekemte