Ethnoveterinary of Sahrawi pastoralists of Western Sahara: camel diseases and remedies

Pastoral populations around the world hold complex and detailed ethnoveterinary knowledge, essential for the survival of their herds and securing their livelihood. In recent decades, several studies have given attention to local veterinary remedies and practices and their validation, and to the local conceptualization of livestock diseases. Despite this, relatively little has been reported on indigenous knowledge of camel diseases (e.g., aetiological factors, epidemiological patterns, symptoms, prevention and treatments). This paper focuses on the traditional knowledge of camel diseases and their treatments among Sahrawi nomads, detailing how this knowledge is powerfully reflected on pastoral adaptation strategies to the ecological system of Western Sahara. Between 2005 and 2010, freelisting exercise on camel diseases with 46 Sahrawi nomads and refugees, semi-structured interviews with 36 knowledgeable informants about camel diseases and associated treatments, and a voucher specimen collection of the plants and products cited were conducted in the territories administered by the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Western Sahara. Analytical methods included standard ethnobiological, ethnobotanical and cultural consensus analyses. In total, 42 camel diseases were freelisted by informants, with four (i.e., mange, dermatomycosis, respiratory infections, and mastitis) found to be culturally highly salient. These four represent the most common veterinary conditions experienced by Sahrawi pastoralists. In addition, 42 plant species belonging to 22 botanical families (Hammada scoparia, Acacia tortilis, Zygophyllum gaetulum, Nucularia perrinii, and Panicum turgidum among the species most used) were listed as used in the treatment of these diseases, as well as about 30 remedies of animal (e.g., from camels, donkeys, and/or spiny-tailed lizards) and mineral origin, and of cauterizations. This study provides an overall picture of the most important camel diseases and remedies as reported by Sahrawi informants, detailing how the vast knowledge that the Sahrawi hold on the health and disease of their camels is constructed through contrasts between their customary nomadic land (and associated climate, soils, grazing and therapeutic resources) and the surrounding areas (and associated diseases), which are traditionally used only in cases of drought.

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