An option to addressing health challenges in Ghana
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of all is essential to sustainable development. Enoch Keitu is a young Ghanaian who developed love for herbal medicines at a tender age because his mother, a traditional birth attendant has passed on a wealth of knowledge on herbal remedies. With his indigenous knowledge coupled with scientific knowledge, he is now providing solutions to health challenges with certified herbal medicines in Ghana.
Enoch was certified as a Medical Herbalist at age 26 after successfully completing professional qualifying examinations in plant medicine and a Bachelor of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the University.
“I noticed that most of my seniors who had completed were not employed and my parent too were not financially sound. So, I decided to create my own employment with herbal medicines, starting with savings from my National Service allowance”, Enoch narrated.
From research, he realized that historically, it was a challenge getting good quality herbal medicines in Ghana. This is because standard operating procedures to document practices were absent as many traditional herbalists die with their knowledge without documentation, due to lack of formal education.
“I was determined to solve this problem by bringing in sustainable good quality, effective and affordable herbal medicines that stand the test of time”, he said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traditional medicine backed with scientific methods, tools and guidelines can make a significant contribution to provide better access to medicines and achieving universal health coverage in Africa. In Ghana, about 70% of patients use herbal medicines, because these are accessible, available, affordable, culturally, and spiritually accepted, and have sociological values. So, the country has integrated traditional medicine and healing into the healthcare delivering system, to improve access to health services.
A Volunteer Service with Mobile Clinic
“One day, I was very sad to see an 8-year-old boy with a chronic liver disease die, just because his caregivers did not pay attention and did not report the case to a health professional or facility in good time. I also witnessed a woman who died from kidney disease in a community and all these made me realize the extent of work needed in the area of disease monitoring and prevention, so I started a mobile clinic in remote communities, using certified herbal medicines”.
As a certified Medical Herbalist, Enoch ventured into free community health sensitization, screening, giving referrals, and was managing some cases at a subsidized fee using certified herbal medicines from the Centre for Plant Medicines Research.
With the support of his lecturers at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), particularly Dr George Henry Sam, Enoch began researching and formulating herbal medicines right from his student days, through to his National Service times at the Department of Herbal Medicine at KNUST.
He continued prototyping medicines from his kitchen after the national service but needed a standard production facility as part of requirements from the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) to get approval for commercial production.
“I shared my vision with a friend, Edmund Amu, who is also a certified Medical Herbalist and he agreed to partner with me. With his support, we rented a facility from one of his relatives at a good rate”.
To realize the dream, Enoch and Edmund applied for support from the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) of the Government of Ghana, and received a grant. The fund, in addition to savings from the community volunteering case management services, was used to perform external examination of their prototyped products. They were also able to register with the FDA and got approval for two of their medicines, which gave birth to Kenoch HG Herbal Clinic Limited.
Thanks to support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Youth Authority (NYA), Enoch and Edmund were able to overcome the hurdle of equipping their production facility, which was a challenge after getting the FDA approval. UNDP and NYA carried out the Youth Innovation for Sustainable Development (YISD) Challenge, which supported young people with innovative business ideas with grants and business development services.
“With the YISD support, we were able to equip the production factory. We bought the essential manufacturing equipment- a boiler, a reservoir with an automated mixer: which were locally made, a caping machine, and, also catered for the packaging. Now, we have the capacity to produce 2000 bottles of herbal medicines per production batch. Initially, we could produce only 25 bottles per production batch with our kitchen bucket”, Enoch said.
In less than two years of commercial production, Kenoch HG Herbal currently operates two clinics, one in Accra and the other in Techiman. They currently supply products to Government health facilities including the herbal clinics of Eastern Regional Hospital, Bekwai Municipal Hospital and more than 50 pharmacies and herbal shops across the country.
“The business development support under the YISD challenge was helpful in rethinking our business ideas. This also helped us to re-strategize our marketing approach. We started by giving out free trials to the hospitals and after they tried, they then called us for more supplies”, said Enoch.
The company’s certified products include Kenoch Bakta Fight Mixture which is produced to strengthen the body immunity to help fight bacterial and fungal infections, and Venoplus, an immune system booster they noted help with the proper function of the pancreas. The two young herbalists have 25 new prototyped herbal products which are yet to go through certification.
“Most customers like the Kenoch products and buy these often because they said it works for them,” Alex Amankwa Adadei, a Herbal Pharmacist in Techiman stated.
With a standard production line, Kenoch HG Herbal currently employs 13 workers. Though business was good, sales have slowed down due to the impact of COVID-19. The vision of the two young entrepreneurs is to scale up production, so they can take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, to supply to other African countries. With more partnership, they can get a standard laboratory, complete installation of the current production plant with more equipment and acquire a distribution van for mass commercial services.
An integrated approach is needed to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting young entrepreneurs will help unlock innovative solutions towards sustainable development.
Story by Praise Nutakor and Sylvia Senu/ UNDP Ghana. All other photos: Praise Nutakor/UNDPGhana.