Photos: Madagascar banking on ‘green gold’ to take on coronavirus

As COVID-19 spreads across Africa, Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina is hopeful that he can gift the world a cure for coronavirus. The island which has 405 confirmed cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction made from a bright-green fern-like plant called Artemisia annua. While the remedy has gained popularity locally and seems to be selling like hotcakes in Madagascar, experts question the validity of the country’s newly acquired ‘green gold.

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST 8 Photos
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Plants of Artemisia annua belonging to the company BIONEXX are being grown and transformed in a greenhouse for experimentation, in Faharetana, Antananarivo. Artemisia enjoys a loyal following in Africa where many view it as the go-to cure for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina is the promoter-in-chief of the substance that is being marketed as Covid-Organics in the form of an infusion. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Plants of Artemisia annua belonging to the company BIONEXX are being grown and transformed in a greenhouse for experimentation, in Faharetana, Antananarivo. Artemisia enjoys a loyal following in Africa where many view it as the go-to cure for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina is the promoter-in-chief of the substance that is being marketed as Covid-Organics in the form of an infusion. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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BIONEXX employees set up a nursery to develop Artemisia annua seedlings that will be sold to local farmers who would like to grow this plant. A drink made from this bright-green fern-like plant is being promoted in African countries as the go-to cure for COVID-19. (Rijasolo / AFP)

BIONEXX employees set up a nursery to develop Artemisia annua seedlings that will be sold to local farmers who would like to grow this plant. A drink made from this bright-green fern-like plant is being promoted in African countries as the go-to cure for COVID-19. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Employees of BIONEXX sow Artemisia annua seeds in a nursery intended to develop seedlings. Asserting that the Madagascan brew has the potential to “change history,” President Rajoelina has widely distributed it in his Indian Ocean island nation and exported it to many parts of Africa. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Employees of BIONEXX sow Artemisia annua seeds in a nursery intended to develop seedlings. Asserting that the Madagascan brew has the potential to “change history,” President Rajoelina has widely distributed it in his Indian Ocean island nation and exported it to many parts of Africa. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Rasamiharimanana Solofo, an agricultural engineer and researcher with BIONEXX inspects plants of artemisia annua growing in greenhouses for transformation. Artemisia annua has a long history in its native China, where scientists discovered an active ingredient that made the plant a front-line weapon in the fight against malaria. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Rasamiharimanana Solofo, an agricultural engineer and researcher with BIONEXX inspects plants of artemisia annua growing in greenhouses for transformation. Artemisia annua has a long history in its native China, where scientists discovered an active ingredient that made the plant a front-line weapon in the fight against malaria. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Ravoarimalala Marie Sandrine (R), 18, a day worker with BIONEXX, and her colleagues beats dried artemisia annua to harvest the seeds. The substance has proven effectiveness against malaria, but no clinical trials have tested it against COVID-19, either as a cure or as a preventative. Detractors, with undisguised scorn, dismiss it as a magic potion that is at best useless. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Ravoarimalala Marie Sandrine (R), 18, a day worker with BIONEXX, and her colleagues beats dried artemisia annua to harvest the seeds. The substance has proven effectiveness against malaria, but no clinical trials have tested it against COVID-19, either as a cure or as a preventative. Detractors, with undisguised scorn, dismiss it as a magic potion that is at best useless. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Artemisia annua plants by BIONEXX being grown in greenhouses for transformation. Bionexx is working to develop a hybrid to maximise the strength and effectiveness of wild Artemisia annua, with researcher Solofo Rasamiharimanana estimating that the quest could take four years. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Artemisia annua plants by BIONEXX being grown in greenhouses for transformation. Bionexx is working to develop a hybrid to maximise the strength and effectiveness of wild Artemisia annua, with researcher Solofo Rasamiharimanana estimating that the quest could take four years. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Dried artemisia annua is seen from which seeds will be collected. “We would be very proud if a solution in this war against COVID-19 comes from an African country,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Gabon-based Africa CDC. “But we must be methodical before approving such a remedy.” (Rijasolo / AFP)

Dried artemisia annua is seen from which seeds will be collected. “We would be very proud if a solution in this war against COVID-19 comes from an African country,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Gabon-based Africa CDC. “But we must be methodical before approving such a remedy.” (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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Rafaramalala Rovaniaina, 23, a daily employee of the company BIONEXX, sifts to collect seeds from dried artemisia annua plants. (Rijasolo / AFP)

Rafaramalala Rovaniaina, 23, a daily employee of the company BIONEXX, sifts to collect seeds from dried artemisia annua plants. (Rijasolo / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 08:10 PM IST
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