Sunday, February 24, 2013

Medicinal Plants in PNG


Great publications remain useful and relevant even many years after its first print run. One of my recent acquisitions is a book on medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea. The book is based on many years of scientific research, involving staff and students of the University of Papua New Guinea.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published Medicinal Plants of Papua New Guinea (2009) four years ago. This publication is a result of a series of collaborations among several academics at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).

The scientists of the University of Papua New Guinea were able to compile their data on medicinal plants in Papua New Guinea in this glossy colored book. Professor Prem P. Rai of UPNG School of Medicine and Health Sciences, together with Professor Teatulohi Matainaho, Professor Simon Saulei, and Dr. Umadevi Ambihaipahar were responsible for the data collection and compilation. Dr. Geoffrey A. Cordell, Professor Emeritus of University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, and Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy provided the technical editing of the manuscript before its was published.

The publication brings together a wealth of information or scientific data on 126 medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea. The data includes well-known plants, common ornamentals, and cultivated plants in different ecological environments of Papua New Guinea.

The format of the data follows existing World Health Organization (WHO) templates used in books such as Medicinal Plants in the South Pacific (1998). Data for one plant include scientific identification or naming of the plant, family name and various names people in different places use for the same plant, and the common English names. This data forms important data that all researchers of medicinal plants are expected to collect.

The next set of data includes information about the physical descriptions of the plant, a botanical assay of valuable information about the plant. This information also reveals other related plants under the same family name, with close DNA to species relations.

The habitat of the plant is described in the next section. The information in this section reveals where the plant is found, its natural habitations, and given its uniqueness the place it thrives in plenitude. Plants found in PNG may also be found in other tropical or equatorial areas in the world.

In terms of the scientific evidence of medicinal properties and biological constituents the next two sections cover aspects of chemical constituents and what these plants are used for in medical treatment and development of drugs for specific medical conditions. For example, the plant Adenanthera pavonina L, known to most people as red bead tree or bead tree contains the chemicals Lipids, chalcone, robinetins, loutein, empelopsin and others is useful as an antibacterial, haemaglutinin, and weak cytotoxic. This information is scientific evidence provided by other researchers in the world who have already screened and studied the chemical constituents and biological activities of the plants. The information assembled here is based on published research and scientific study of the plants in the past. If there no data is available for a plant it either means that the plant has never been studied for its chemistry or its biological activity. That means that the plant is a new unknown plant only found in data bank of traditional medicinal practitioners of a particular society.  In the case of Papua New Guinea if no information is available then that plant could reveal new information under careful scientific study.

The information on the uses of plants in traditional Papua New Guinean societies is provided in the next section. The data here also reveals where a plant is used, for what medical conditions it is used for, which parts of a plant are used, and the methods of preparation in traditional medical treatment. If the plant is used with other plants this information is also given in this section. During the primary plant collection research this information is carefully recorded and prepared so that its traditional uses are documented with accuracy.

The final section, of the data on a medicinal plant is the list of references where scientific data are drawn from. This information is important to the researcher. The authority of the data on medicinal uses of plants was first produced in the publications listed here. For example there are three references listed for the plant Clematis clemenciae of the Ranunculaceae family. The listed references are David Holsworth and Wamoi B, who first published their finding in the International Journal of Crude Drug Research (1982); David K. Holsworth’s earlier publication Medicinal Plants of Papua New Guinea (1977), which served as the primary data for this plant. The same data was also published in the Traditional Medicine Database (2002) set up in the PNG National Department of Health. 

The principle researchers of UPNG who put together this publication must be congratulated for bringing this book out to the public.

Apart from those named above, there are several committed professionals I have worked with in research on traditional medicinal plants and their uses, who are also named in this book, especially Mr. Pius Piskaut and Dr. Osea Gideon of the Natural and Physical Sciences Herbarium of the University of Papua New Guinea. These two professionals have made countless research trips around the country, spent endless hours in their laboratory treating and identifying the scientific names and biological properties of plants brought in from the fields, and who are without doubt indispensible in this area of research. I have relied on them on many of my own research materials on medicinal plants. As is noted here Pius Piskaut and Professor Prem Rai are also credited for the excellent photographs of the plants used in this publications.

Thank you World Health Organization for publishing this important book on traditional medicinal plants in PNG.

Students in biology, biochemistry, pharmacy, medicine, and ethnobotany will find this book useful. Others interested in plants and their medicinal uses in Papua New Guinea will also find this book handy.

The book is available at the UPNG Bookshop.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Growing Up Gende


Book Cover: Growing Up Gende 
January was full of surprises for me. A day before the end of the month I had a yellow card from the Post Office at UPNG advising me to collect a package from Marengo Mining Limited.

I collected two copies of a book entitled: Growing Up Gende (2012). Marengo Mining Limited had published the book. The author of the book is Dr. Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi, an anthropologist with long-term engagement with the Gende people of Papua New Guinea for thirty years of her life.

Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi writes that “the work I have done writing and putting this book together has been made without any payments, my only request being that Marengo print plentiful copies to be freely handed out to local schools, individual Gende and other community organizations.” In her Facebook message to me she stressed the same point to me.

This is a marvelous little book dressed with rare historical photographs captured in black and white films, more recent and not-too-distant photographs captured in colored frames, and of course, the simple, terse narratives that strewn together a visual, oral, and printed world of the Gende.

Here is a book that gives a profound impression of a people many people have yet to fully understand who they are and where they live. Do they live in Simbu or Madang?

Les Emery, Managing Director and CEO of Marengo Mining Limited is very supportive of the author’s work and especially his willingness to support the young generation of Gende, especially the children find a meaningful place in society.

Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi brings to life a world permanently captured through the lenses of early missionaries, government officers, and anthropologists.  One particular group of photographs was those taken by Fathers Heinrich Aufenanger and Joseph Much. Having photographs of the past published together with photographs taken by the author and others such as Susan Boothby of the New Tribe Mission and the Australian school teacher, Bernadette Dendle. In her message to me on Facebook Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi specifically mentioned the old photographs of Fr. Morrison.

The montage of photographs complement what words fail to describe what the Gende experienced, felt, touched, smelled, heard, and lived throughout their lives. Illustrations and color plates highlight information that requires such specifications.

The book itself has two parts that capture the narrative and spirit of the Gende. It is a brilliant collaboration that produced a small book that will serve as an important link between the Gende people and the authors of the book.  
It is also an important collaboration between the Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi and Les Emery, the CEO of Marengo Mining Limited because it documents the social-cultural elements of a society already at the threshold of massive modern development with accelerated mining activities in the area.

“For centuries the Gende have lived the mountainous southernmost region of what is now Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. The Gende’s territory in the Bismarck range is bounded on the south by Simbu Province and Mt. Wilhelm ) the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea at 4500 metres) and to the north by the swampy Ramu plains and Ramus River,” writes Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi.

Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi does an excellent job of keeping the ethnographic details short in one or two paragraphs. Part I of the book concerns itself with the customs, rituals, practices, and way of life of the Gende people.  The prose is easy to read and keeps one turning the pages for more.

Part II of the book is on changing times.  Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi captures the dramatic contact experience of the Gendes as well as others in the 1930s.

“The opening up of the highlands in the 1930s and 40s by foreign missionaries, Australian patrol officers and labor recruits brought profound changes to local cultures. The first missionaries to open stations in the highlands did so in Gende territory. In June 1932, Father Alfons Schaefer and Brother Anthony Bass of the Divine Word Mission in Alexishafen left the Madang coast and headed south towards the Bismarck Mountains,” the opening remarks of this section of the book.

The first mission station were built in Guiebi on the 1st of October 1932, from where they visited other Gende villages, according to Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi.

The wheels of change began to spin in various communities the missionaries touched.

“By the late 1930s there were local catechists and mission helpers in every major Gende village. They directed the building of churches and schools where everyone over six years of age was to learn Tok pisin (pidgin English) and their catechism before they were baptized. They also taught hymns, the ABCs, and simple arithmetic.” This was an exciting period in the history of the Gendes.

What happened after the Second World War swung this innocent society into the whirlwind of changes.

“The effects of World War II were profound. Exposure to the wealth and power of the combatants encouraged a desire to achieve equality with the foreign “big men” and the end of the war saw the first real wave of migration away from the area as men and boys headed south to the new towns of Goroka and Mt. Hagen to work as cooks and domestic servants or as laborers on construction projects. Others worked on coastal plantations as far away as Kavieng and Port Moresby or worked on contract in the Wau-Bulolo goldfields in Morobe. Yet others became carriers and native police accompanying Australian patrol officers into remote areas of the country.”

These changes are captured in the book as Dr. Zimmer-Tamakoshi proves her skills as a writer and great storyteller of the Gende world.

Dr. Laura Zimmer Tamakoshi did a wonderful job of researching and writing this book. Its publication is timely as it introduces the Gende to the world where history is constantly being made as the Gendes struggle to gain a foot-hole in the modern world.

It is a great addition to one’s personal library. It is a fit-to-size coffee-table book. Other Papua New Guineans will find the book informatively valuable. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interview with Caroline Tiriman on ABC Radio


The interview I had this week was one of the important things I did this week. Caroline Tiriman of PNG Service ABC Radio in Australia sent me a Facebook message and requested an interview. I agreed to have the interview.The interview was done via mobile phone. One of the amazing thing made possible through modern electronic technology.

The Interview was much better on radio than I imagined it to be. I did not listen to it on radio, but through the computer via Facebook.

Wow... See link below: www.radioaustralia.net.au/tokpisin/radio/onairhighlights/.../1088256

I hope the blog entry will work.




Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Law Made Simple


Dr. Mange Matui

It is important to have many books written by Papua New Guineans in all subjects that concern us. 

In academia we are reminded again and again that we either publish or perish, a call of the highest order, which at times seems to fall on deft ears.

Looking around the corridors of higher learning in Papua New Guinea I see very few Papua New Guineans teaching in our higher education institutions are publishing scholarship in international journals or books.

Very few ever get a book published either based on their research for their higher degrees or from their own researches.  The question to ask is what happened to all the research funding allocated to individuals every year through their research committees? Does it not seem futile awarding funding to those who will never have their researches published at all? It beats me to think about the answer.

Let’s be serious. Make those who receive government funding for their researches publish their works. It is a waste of money and time supporting university staffs who do not publish their research materials.

In recent times I have seen some very exceptional cases of academics who are serious in what they do as a full time occupation. Serious academics are those who teach, research, and publish their works.

One such academic is Dr. Mange Matui, a senior lecturer in law, who teaches law courses in the School of Law, University of Papua New Guinea. Dr. Matui has a LL.B (Honours) in Law from UPNG, a LL.M in Commercial and Corporate Law from London, and a PhD in Law from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

Last year Dr. Matui published his first book entitled: The Handbook on Papua New Guinea Laws (2012). The University of Papua New Guinea Press is the publisher of the book.  The book length is 174 pages; with a glossy colored cover, featuring different areas where law is prominent.

The Handbook on Papua New Guinea Laws (2012) is written for a public audience seeking to know what law is, what law covers, why there are laws, and what happens when a law is broken. The target audience is a lay audience, for those interested in understanding law and the legal system this country follows.

In an effort to explain to his primary audience, his family, Dr. Matui realized that writing a book simple enough with language that is easier to understand, the subject of law or the concept of law can be understood even by someone who has never been to law school or who is not a lawyer.  This became apparent to Dr. Matui during the period he was conducting research for his doctoral degree.

“In an attempt to explain to them the types of laws that affect people in Papua New Guinea every day, I have in a brief and simple manner tried to discuss the various laws prevalent in the country,” writes Dr. Matui in the Preface of the book.

The audience is indeed a broader audience. The book is relevant to students in primary and secondary schools in Papua New Guinea. One of the optional courses on offer in some secondary schools around the country is legal studies? Dr. Matui’s The Handbook on Papua New Guinean Laws is suitable for use as a textbook in this course and at UPNG as well.

To get a sense of what the book covers the author focuses on key areas of laws in Papua New Guinea. He begins the book with the most important question: What is law? In two pages Dr. Matui answers that question before moving on to other elements of law: Making the Laws of Papua New Guinea, the Laws of Papua New Guinea, National Goals and Directive Principles, The National Government of Papua New Guinea, State Services, Constitutional Offices and Government Agencies, Human Rights, Citizenship, Immigration, Religion, Land Ownership, Legal Education and Lawyers, Free Legal Services, and Crime and Punishment.

Dr. Matui aware that legal definitions and language can be intimidating to ordinary people made sure to explain legal concepts in plain language that is easily understood. That is the difficult part. I think Dr. Matui had accomplished that task throughout the entire book. The readable content makes it easier to understand the book.

This is reflected in his discussions of civil actions, marriage relationships, adoption of children, death and succession, health, education, environment and conservation, non-profit organizations, banks, banking and financial institutions, insurance, intellectual property, consumer protection, tax, duties, and rates, employment, savings and retirement, housing, media and media freedom, driving and traffic rules, registration and licensing of motor vehicles, and schedule.

It is important for someone to explain law to the public so as to persuade people to observe the laws of the land, identify laws that regulate and govern our society. Law regulates everything that we do and have in our societies.

“Laws are generally rules that govern or control social behavior… morality, religion, or custom. For example, the social behavior of many people, in the Muslim countries, is controlled by the religious Muslim laws. In Papua New Guinea, customary rules govern the social behavior of its people. Here customs refer to the rules and methods of doing things that apply to any customary groups in Papua New Guinea. The custom of the people of Papua New Guinea is recognized as one of the laws of the country under the Constitution of Papua New Guinea. Therefore custom is the state law. This means that customary laws and state laws both apply at the same time and control behaviors of a person in the society.” Dr. Matui replies, in his authoritative voice, to the question: What is Law?

Right throughout the book Dr. Matui discusses the state laws and how such laws affect the way we relate, organize, and observe the rule of law in our everyday lives.

I salute Dr. Mange Matui for publishing this important book on law. Copies are available at the UPNG Bookshop; selling price is K95.00.   

Friday, February 1, 2013

Embrace Change


Set clear specific goals to achieve and go towards them
Some things were brought with us from last year. The attitudes, behaviours, unfinished businesses, mindsets, and misgivings from 2012 were also brought into 2013. It is now the second month of 2013. This is a new year. We need to think anew, discard what we don’t need, and wear new clothes. We need to leave behind the troubles of yesteryear. We need to begin the New Year on a right footing.

Every year the goals I set for myself are bigger than the last. Whether I achieve them or not is not the issue. The issue is to challenge myself to do better than the last time, to do things in a totally different way from the previous approach I had taken, and to find different new ways of doing the same things, but with a better result. I need to move on in life.

Instead of lettings last year’s wounds hold me down I will stand up and walk towards the goals I had set for myself. I have to aspire to a greater purpose in life instead of dwelling in the past of my life. What is the cost I’m paying for keeping things the way they are?

I had decided to come up with a personal master plan. In the master plan there are seven areas that I need to work on. The areas of focus are in reality the categories under which I will plot in very specific goals that I want to achieve in the next two years. A two-year plan is important because some goals take longer to accomplish and others take a shorter time to achieve.  

The categories are in order of importance: (1) Financial goals—includes income, savings and investments, debt reduction, and credits; (2) career and business goals—includes new projects, partnerships, expansion, new products/services, sales, new ventures, and relationships; (3) free time/family time—includes vacations, trips, sports, reunions, special events: number of weeks off; (4) health/appearance goals—includes plans to lose/gain weight, exercise, nutritional habits, medical, sports, martial arts; (5) relationship goals—includes broad areas such as family, mentors, business alliance, staff, and civic duties or community outreach groups; (6) personal growth or areas that I need to work on such as education, spiritual growth, therapy, and training in skills needed to improve my life; (7) making a difference by giving my time and resources, especially through charitable giving, church tithes, and mentoring.

In each of these categories I have plotted specific goals that are achievable. I also plotted in the reasons to achieve these goals. The reasons are usually in the second column if I am plotting the goals in a table. The third column is then for the date in which a certain goal is achieved.

I have followed this type of master plan for a number of years.  I have seen a lot of changes in my life as a result of this personal development method. I have achieved a number of personal goals and made different amends to my life. I also have gained new grounds and established a level of competency in some areas of my life. The important thing is to be very clear and specific about the goals that I want to accomplish.

An example of a goal that I accomplished in recent times is the area of health and appearance goals. For 26 years I was a smoker, using at least 50 cigarettes a day. About five months ago I stopped smoking. I surprised myself with the decision to just stop the one thing I thought I would never give up. I tried to quit many times, especially as a New Year resolution, but never succeed. I wrote it as a goal that I will give up smoking. When I finally stopped smoking I knew it was time to do so.

I am sharing this one aspect of my life to illustrate the point that if you set your goals to improve in the seven areas of life I mentioned above you also can gain new grounds in your life. I learnt these from the writings of personal development experts like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, Brian Tracey, David Allen, and others.  That’s the other thing: make reading an important habit to help you plot your journey to where you want to go or to be what you want to be. If it means spending money on buying books that will help me, I will, without any hesitancy, take my wallet out to buy the books of useful to me.

An important goal is in the area of finance and financial literacy. It is one area that many people need to work on, including myself. We live in a society that operates on money. We need money to live a happy and comfortable life. Without money we have a miserable life. One of the habits that had caught up with us is the life of borrowing money to survive in the city. This is an enslaving habit like smoking. We need to break away from it in order to find some financial freedom. Another is the habit of living beyond what we earn. Many of us are financially illiterate when it comes to money management. The challenge is to increase the opportunities of earning so as to meet the financial demands of living in a fast changing society.

Embrace change is what I am ranting on about. “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future,” says John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.

In Jack Canfield’s words: “When you embrace change wholeheartedly as an inevitable part of life, looking for ways to use new changes to make your life richer, easier, and more fulfilling, your life will work much better. You will experience change as an opportunity for growth and new experiences.”

I am already looking forward to the changes that 2013 will bring to us.