By Ebele Orakpo
Rev. Father Anselm Adodo is one man that has unquestionable passion for Mother Africa and anything about the black continent.
A few minutes with this man of God would tell you that he loves Africa passionately despite all the paradoxes and ills plaguing the continent described by some as very rich in both natural and human resources, and yet poor. He is so proud of Africa that he is not ashamed to tell all who care to listen that modern civilisation originated in Africa.
Recently, Rev. Father Adodo who is the director of Pax Herbal Clinic & Research Laboratories in the Benedictine Monastery, Ewu, a small community of Christians, Moslems and traditional religion practitioners in Edo State, spoke to Financial Vanguard in Lagos on what made him venture into the field of herbal medicine. Excerpts:
According to Rev. Father Anselm Adodo who is a priest having studied theology and philosophy, an anthropologist and a medical sociologist, Ewu, a community of about 20,000 people had only one health centre serving the entire community in 1999 and no facilities.
â€œMeanwhile, there were 300 traditional healers all over the place and I felt that if we train them on hygiene, would it not be a better way of promoting the health of the people than depending on a health centre that is not funded, is not doing well and with only one medical doctor who comes once in two weeks? You see, if we are intelligent people, I think that is the approach that should be taken.
So I went analysing the medicinal plants around the village and what they can do for malaria, typhoid, and different ailments so that was how the idea started and within five years, it grew so big that we started expanding the building for producing these herbal medicines and within 10 years, it has become the biggest herbal centre in Africa.â€
Adodo said what they do in Pax Herbal Clinic & Research Laboratories â€œis simply to teach the people knowledge of herbal medicine, then to produce them into capsules in a modern form in such a way that even those in the cities could have access to them.
So what we are doing is number one, spreading knowledge of herbal medicine and also producing them in a form that is modern, not the old method and then, we are also trying to change the face of herbal medicine, that people should not think herbal medicine is all about occultism, sacrifices and all those things.
We are trying to remove the fetish aspect and we are well disposed to do that because we are a religious community in the Catholic Church so we are in a better position to talk to the people, to tell them that â€˜look, itâ€™s not paganism, what is unchristian is idol worship, sacrifices etc but there is something good there that should be used and that is what we are doing.â€™ And I am happy it is now becoming clear to everybody that there is something worthwhile in traditional medicine.â€
Pax Herbal Clinic & Research Laboratories not only takes care of the health needs of the nation and beyond, but also employs hundreds of people directly and indirectly. â€œWe have 250 full-time staff at the moment, not counting those in Lagos and Abuja, or the part-time (about 120) who only come when we have more than enough work to do. So with 250 full-time workers from two in 1996 to 250 in 2010. We are still operating at 10 per cent capacity,â€ the reverend gentleman said.
Adodo who said his background has helped him to carry out research data on sicknesses, how people respond to sicknesses, peopleâ€™s interpretation of sicknesses, the socio-economic impact ofÂ sicknesses and collate the data, analyse it and advise government in making policies, stated that the outfit is in partnership with a lot of people.
â€œWe work in partnerships with a lot of people, sharing ideas, experiences etc. So we are working with different bodies at different levels even with government also, we let them see what we are doing. Itâ€™s a gradual thing but then, we would not allow lack of government support to discourage us from doing what we are doing.â€
He said the outfit which started with an â€œinitial capital of N20,000 is worth not less than N800 million in facilities like laboratories, machines, structures etc. That is something in 10 years.â€
Adodo says â€œit is a special privilege that I am now able to do something to demonstrate that you cannot improve the health of the nation from Abuja. You do it from the villages because that is where the people live.
Those in the cities when they are sick, still run back to the village because somehow they believe that the solution is there. So to change the health of Nigerians, start from the rural communities and that is what I have been able to demonstrate and it is becoming clear that, that is where the remedy is,â€ adding: â€œIt is also an avenue of bringing wealth to the people because the raw materials come from the people, we donâ€™t go to the bush any longer, we contract people to plant some herbs and we buy from them.
They would employ people to work for them and those people would employ more hands so you have a chain of wealth distribution that is ecologically healthier than the oil business which is limited to a few corporations and destroys the environment. So my area of medical sociology has been of help in demonstrating the importance of herbal medicines.â€
The servant of God who has written a lot of books on herbal medicine noted that the outfit has succeeded in demystifying African traditional medicine and purging it of elements of occultism, fetishism while promoting its natural use so as to make it a globally acceptable enterprise, the outfit has 25 scientists working there with 1,000 accredited healthcare providers, 21 NAFDAC approved Pax products and eight approved by the American Food and Drug Administration.
Speaking on their turnover, Adodo said he â€œrarely talk of cost of production because we are still operating partly as an NGO in the sense that our products are actually underpriced compared with the demand and expenses, but provided we are able to pay our workers salary, so any figure that is given is grossly unrealistic because we are registered partly as an NGO that has to pay its workers. But it is okay for us because that was our initial intention – to share with other people.â€
On how they have been able to stay afloat despite climate change and lack of power, he said: â€œWe cope the same way that other people are coping without electricity from the national grid. We use generators. I was surprised to hear somebody saying the climate change issue is not urgent now but remember this time last year, there was maize everywhere but this year, you hardly see it. If you put anything in the ground, it will dry up.
Itâ€™s now end of April and maize is not available and itâ€™s affecting us so there may be drought at the end of the year which could lead to shortage of food. So the only way to cope is to plan ahead of time, not to say because it is not affecting me now, we need to be aware. If you plant more trees, it will affect the ecology positively as it will help rain to fall because without the trees (and if we donâ€™t go green), the environment may not be favourable.
The more the trees, the more the clouds will produce moisture and rain. Little, little things like that would help. People should plant crops behind their houses. If you have a space, donâ€™t cement the floor, use it for nature, grow plants,â€ he advised.