The Inspiring Tale of a Nigerian Monk, Sustainable Herbalism, and the African Research Institute

Photo of Father Anselm Abodo, MA, MSc, PhD(c) The story begins with Father Anselm Abodo, MA, MSc, PhD(c) (pictured), a Benedictine monk in the Edo state of Nigeria. In 1996, with $200 and colleagues among the Monks of Ewu and a commitment to their local community, he started an herbal company. They named it Paxherbals. Nearly 20 years later, the company has a product line based on 40 local traditional “drugs” as they call them. Paxherbals is a direct employer of nearly 170 local people with 5000 distributors serving some 200,000 throughout Nigeria. The approach to herbs is science based, and research partners are actively sought. Most uniquely, the firm remains deeply embedded in a sustainable business model benefitting the local community.

The company is featured in a new publication from the London-based African Research Institute (ARI) entitled Modern African Remedies: Herbal Medicine and Community Development in Nigeria.  On its website, ARI introduces the reasons for this 24-page policy briefing with this: “In Nigeria, but also globally, there is growing recognition of the need to integrate traditional medicine into mainstream health systems to bolster their ability to cope with an ever-increasing burden.” The authors argue that an  “integrative heath care model as endorsed by the WHO” is the best model for Nigeria and much of Africa and that the values and practices of this firm serve as an exemplar. The authors write: “Through patience, determination and good practice, [Paxherbals] has become an exemplar in its market and is exerting increasing influence where it ought to be heeded—in government, academia and among medical practitioners.”
Photo of African Research Institute (ARI)
Paxherbals’ self-introduction on its site is this: “Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories was established in 1996 as a centre for the promotion, development and proper utilization of African medicine.” The firm declares its mission: “We aim to promote human health and human dignity, not just the eradication of pain which in fact is an essential aspect of being human. That is what we are up to. That is our business.” The firm chooses the herbals it manufactures from local practices, accesses raw materials with local labor, engages Western medical practitioners, and cultivates community in its network of distributors.

Comment: There is much in this story that inspires and gives hope. Such hope is for a stable and well-functioning system of integrative health and medicine that respects traditional practices and links them well with NGO medicine. The story is also one of hope for Nigeria itself. In a section of the report written by Father Abodo, we see this additional evidence of mission: “We constantly remind the local community of the paramount importance of maintaining a connection to the soil. As a society, a nation, we are in danger of losing that connection in Nigeria.”

This language can stimulate a yearning in those for whom the best choice to connect to nature may be flower boxes or rooftop greenspaces.  Abodo goes on: “By reconnecting people with nature, Paxherbals strives to bring them back to health. This might seem very philosophical, but being clear about the purpose of a project gives it a greater chance of succeeding.” Remarkable and uplifting guidance in this. Good for ARI to highlight the work and, more importantly, for the vision and manifestation of those who founded the firm they profile. This model is not only worth a read; it is worth seeking to emulate and replicate.

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