In the year 2006, NIMR entered an agreement with two Italian NGOs to start and collaboratively run a research and development project on traditional medicine. The project was fully funded by the Italian government. It was a two-year project with room for renewal upon agreement between the partners. The project location was chosen to be in Arusha region, adjacent to the entrance gate to Arusha national park. The aim of the project as stated in the memorandum of understanding was to valorize local natural resources and safeguarding biodiversity of Tanzania through the creation of experimental facilities designed to provide research and development and testing sites for innovative technologies, including (but not limited to) environment protection and preservation. However, upon its completion, the project was never renewed and thus in September of 2008, it was turned into NIMR’s research station and named NIMR –Ngongongare, after the village in which the facility was located.
The station is situated at an altitude of 1,380M above sea level and occupies an area of 25,906.4 square meters (about 6.4 acres). Inherited from the ended project, NIMR-Ngongongare is equipped with a phytochemistry laboratory with equipment for grinding, soaking, extraction and fractionation of medicinal plants. There are also three hostels with a total of seven self-contained rooms. There are four residential houses and an administrative office.
The unique location of the station (close to a game park) and its neighborhood to the Maasai and Meru people offer it with the richness of plant-biodiversity and immense body of indigenous knowledge both of which are a vital feeder to research undertaking in traditional medicines. The self-contained scientists hostels located in a quiet wilderness is so ideal for visiting researchers to read, write and utilize the laboratory facility in their research undertaking. With these merits in mind, NIMR management has recently proposed fusion of NIMR-Ngongongare and NIMR-Mabibo in order to optimize efficiency and resource exploitation. While NIMR-Mabibo will cater mainly for herbal drug production, NIMR-Ngongongare will serve as a collection point for raw material and initial processing of the same. Researchers from Mabibo will have scheduled encampments at Ngongongare for intense research undertakings which involves lab work; intense reading and writing; and focused discussions.
Recently, the government has shown a deep political will to support and promote R&D in traditional medicine. In line with that government commitment, NIMR-Mabibo is in the process of being promoted into a centre. Taking advantage of Ngongongare’s official status of a centre, the fusion of Mabibo and Ngongongare will therefore technically bypass the long bureaucratic process of getting Mabibo gazetted to become a centre. After the fusion, the centre name will be changed to NIMR Traditional Medicine Centre with Head Office at Mabibo.
Thus in summary, the role of Ngongongare in the field of traditional medicine (in NIMR) includes:
1. Raw material collection point (proximity to bio-resources)
2. Source of indigenous knowledge (proximity to Maasai and Meru)
3. Researchers’ encampment for scientific research
4. Shortcut for promotion of Mabibo to the status of a centre