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SABONET - A Regional Southern African Capacity-Building Programme

Willis, C.K
National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
Botha, D.J., Winter, J.H.S. and Huntley, B.J
National Botanical Institute, Cape Town

Home | Contents | Abstract | Introduction | Needs Assessment - Preliminary Results | Namibia's National Botanic Garden | Zomba National Botanic Garden, Malawi | National Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe | Table 1 | Networking Southern African Botanical Gardens | Table 2 | Needs of Southern African Botanical Gardens | Conclusion | Acknowledgements | References


The Southern African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET) is a regional southern African capacity-building programme co-funded by the GEF/UNDP and USAID/IUCN ROSA. Participating countries include Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The objectives of the project are to develop a strong core of professional botanists, mainly taxonomists, horticulturists and plant diversity specialists within the ten countries of southern Africa, competent to inventory, monitor, evaluate and conserve the botanical diversity of the region in the face of specific development challenges, and to respond to the technical and scientific needs of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The project mainly involves staff attached to herbaria and botanical gardens. Up till June 1998, due mainly to the nature and timing of the funding support, most of the activities within the project had involved staff working in herbaria. In July 1998 a needs assessment survey of southern African botanical gardens was initiated by the project which is due to be completed by December 1998. The survey will provide essential information as to the existing situation within southern African botanical gardens in terms of living plant collections, infrastructure, staff complement and training needs as well as identifying priority areas for support. Preliminary results from this survey are discussed as well as the proposed role of SABONET in developing human capacity within southern Africa's botanical gardens.

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The Southern African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET) is a regional southern African capacity-building project which was formally started in March 1996 when the first Steering Committee meeting of the project was held in Pretoria, South Africa. The process of forming such a network started much earlier than that, though, and it was at a regional workshop held in Maputo, Mozambique in February 1990 that the idea of forming a network of southern African plant scientists was initiated. Following this workshop, a Network of Southern African Plant Scientists (NESAPS) was started, with one issue of the NESAPS newsletter being published in January 1991. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, NESAPS was discontinued. The idea of developing a regional network of plant scientists was not, however, and the idea was developed and refined during several subsequent workshops and conferences held within the region during the early 1990s. On each successive occasion, unanimity was reached on one central issue: the urgent need for rapid capacity building and institutional support for the inventory, evaluation, monitoring, utilization and conservation of southern Africa's unique botanical diversity. South Africa's National Botanical Institute, on behalf of southern Africa's plant scientists, took the initiative of submitting an initial proposal for funding to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) following the botanical diversity conference held in Cape Town in September 1993. At the Cape Town conference, over 120 botanists from 14 African countries prepared a detailed set of recommendations for the financing and mobilisation of a regional network (Huntley 1994). With these recommendations having been incorporated into the proposal, the process of accessing funds for the network progressed through several iterations, and project proposals in various formats moved back and forth between southern Africa and the GEF/UNDP offices in the USA. Meanwhile, in October 1995, additional funding was made available to SABONET from USAID through IUCN's Regional Office for southern Africa (IUCN ROSA) based in Harare, Zimbabwe. This initial funding, which was made available through IUCN ROSA's Network and Capacity Building Programme (NETCAB), enabled the SABONET project to start functioning while the GEF/UNDP funding proposal was being revised, refined and adjusted to incorporate the new requirements specified by the GEF. It was in fact only in September 1997 that the SABONET Project Document (PD) was approved by the GEF CEO, four years after the initial proposal was submitted. Full funding from the GEF/UNDP was made available to SABONET in April 1998, and will continue until March 2002.

SABONET incorporates botanical institutions in ten southern African countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe - an area covering ca 6,000,000 km2, roughly the size of the USA. Southern Africa, as defined in the project, comprises less than two percent of the world's land area, but contains over 10% of the global flora, i.e. over 30 000 species of flowering plants and ferns. This area incorporates 17 internationally recognised centres of plant diversity and endemism (WWF & IUCN 1994) including the whole of the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), the smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms (Takhtajan 1986). With one of the highest known levels of plant species endemism of any continental tropical or temperate area, the CFR includes seven endemic plant families, 198 endemic genera (19.5% of the total)(Cowling & Hilton-Taylor 1997) and more than 8 550 vascular plant species of which about 68% are endemic (Bond & Goldblatt 1984). In terms of plant endemism, Myers (1990) regards the CFR as one of the 'hottest' of all hot-spots. The region, despite its high species diversity, probably also has the highest concentration of threatened plant taxa in the southern African region (Hall et al. 1984). Other centres of plant diversity include the Great Dyke (Zimbabwe), Mount Mulanje (Malawi), the Chimanimani Mountains (Mozambique/Zimbabwe) and Nyanga (Zimbabwe), the Succulent Karoo (Namibia, South Africa)(Milton et al. 1997), Kaokoveld (Angola, Namibia), the Drakensberg Afromontane Regional System (South Africa), the Drakensberg Alpine Region (Lesotho, South Africa) and the Luangwa Valley (Zambia) and Zambezi source area (Zambia)(WWF & IUCN 1994). Southern Africa also has the richest succulent flora in the world, with ca 46% of the world's known succulent plant taxa (Smith et al. 1997).

Participating institutions within the project range from universities and agricultural institutes to national botanical institutes, several of which include botanical gardens, such as the National Botanical Research Institute in Namibia, Zimbabwe's National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, Malawi's National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens and South Africa's National Botanical Institute, which incorporates a national network of three herbaria and eight national botanical gardens, of which Kirstenbosch is probably the best known. The National Botanical Institute in South Africa is the executing agency for the project, responsible for the administration and coordination of the project. The main objective of the project, as defined in the PD, is to develop a strong core of professional botanists, taxonomists, horticulturists and plant diversity specialists within the ten countries of southern Africa, competent to inventory, monitor, evaluate and conserve the botanical diversity of the region in the face of specific development challenges, and to respond to the technical and scientific needs of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

As funds for botanical gardens were only available for the region as part of the GEF/UNDP funding proposal, the training courses that have been held in the region since November 1996 have mainly benefitted staff attached to herbaria within the region. Thus far, 116 botanists from the ten southern African countries have participated in eight regional and two national training courses held in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa. The focus of these courses has ranged from herbarium management and plant conservation; grass, fern and aquatic plant identification; the PRECIS Specimen database (National Herbarium, Pretoria (PRE), Computerised Information System) which is the database being used to computerise southern Africa's national herbaria; botanical nomenclature; threatened plants and the preparation of Plant Red Data Lists. Products that have emanated from the project include the project newsletter, SABONET News (published three times per year), of which seven issues have so far been published, and the project's occasional SABONET Report Series, of which three numbers have been published thus far. These have included status reports on southern Africa's national/university herbaria (not all of the participating countries have national herbaria)(Willis 1997), an up-to-date index of southern African herbaria (Smith & Willis 1997), and a user guide to the PRECIS Specimen Database (Prentice & Arnold 1998). Several reports in this series are currently in preparation.

Funds were made available to SABONET through the GEF/UNDP funding in June 1998 for a southern African botanical gardens needs assessment. The reason for this needs assessment was that although a national network of botanical gardens has existed in South Africa (and to some extent Malawi) for several years, there has been no regional botanical garden network in southern Africa, with no formal linkages and collaboration between the various gardens. As a consequence of this relative isolation of gardens outside South Africa, little is known at the regional level about the situation in the individual botanical gardens regarding living plant collections, infrastructure, staff complement and training needs. The needs assessment was therefore seen as a logical first step in identifying priority areas for support and developing a regional botanical gardens network in southern Africa, as suggested by Hall et al. (1984). In addition, it was an opportunity to update the information on southern African botanical gardens as listed in the international directory of botanical gardens published in 1990 (Heywood & Heywood 1990). In this paper, we report on progress achieved so far in this regional needs assessment and the possible role SABONET can play in networking and developing human capacity in southern Africa's botanical gardens.

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Needs Assessment - Preliminary Results

Botanical gardens in three southern African countries have been surveyed so far. For each of the gardens surveyed, the mission statement, a description of the garden and its facilities and a summary of the needs are shown.

Namibia's National Botanic Garden

Mission :

The National Botanic Garden of Namibia strives to protect and promote the sustainable utilisation of the Namibian flora and to function as an educational and recreational nature facility for Namibians and visitors alike. Namibia's National Botanic Garden (formerly SWA Nature Garden)(22o34'S; 17o05'E) was founded in 1969 and is managed by staff of the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) in Windhoek, Namibia. The garden, at an altitude of 1700 m, receives ca 360 mm rainfall per annum and comprises an area of 12 ha, all of it being natural vegetation (99% indigenous plants). The geology of the garden comprises an interesting combination of mica/schist with quartz, and lends itself to the development of an interpretive geological trail, such as that which has recently been developed in the National Botanical Institute's Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden (NBGW) in Wilro Park, Roodepoort, South Africa, as well as the 'Shale Trail' in the Karoo National Botanical Garden, Worcester, South Africa.

Dominant plant genera include Aloe (Asphodelaceae), Acacia (Fabaceae), and the grasses Stipagrostis, Eragrostis and Aristida (Poaceae). 120 plant taxa have been identified in the garden. Vegetation types represented in the garden include Namibia's highland savanna (Khomas Highland) with introductions from the Kaokoveld and the Namibian escarpment. The garden staff comprise five labour staff and a single horticulturist. Research facilities are available through the NBRI which includes the National Herbarium of Namibia (WIND) with ca 65 000 specimens and Namibia's National Gene Bank.

The garden has a system of self-guided trails along paths with the most common plants identified by means of labels, but with no interpretive signage. The garden has no threatened plants programme, seed bank, education programme (although guided tours are given to school children and tourists), training courses for horticulturists, nor water reticulation system. The living collections are not computerised. The garden receives ca 200 visitors per annum.

Assessment of needs:

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Zomba National Botanic Garden, Malawi

Mission:: To develop the Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu National Botanic Gardens to serve conservation, education, recreation, training and research in native and exotic species.

The Zomba National Botanic Garden (15o22'S; 35o19'E) was established in Zomba by Alexander Whyte, Government Botanist in Sir Harry Johnston's Administration between 1891 and 1895. The garden offered recreational services and served as an experimental trial area for many newly introduced economic plants that were brought in from various parts of the British Empire. Situated at the foot of Zomba Mountain in southern Malawi, Zomba NBG comprises ca 50 ha of which ca 30 ha is landscaped. Managed by Malawi's National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens (NHBG) since 1988, when it was transferred from Malawi's Forestry Department, the garden lies at an altitude of 1 000 m and receives approximately 2 000 mm of rain per annum.

With 80% of the plants in the garden indigenous to southern Africa, Zomba NBG comprises mainly semi- evergreen riverine vegetation, with a perennial river flowing through the garden. Dominant families in the garden are Fabaceae, Meliaceae, Araucaceae, Asphodelaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Zamiaceae. A checklist of the trees, shrubs and woody climbers in Zomba National Botanic Garden is available. There are 11 permanent staff members, two of these being horticulturists and the rest labour staff. There is a single nursery, one greenhouse, and an associated herbarium being Malawi's National Herbarium (MAL) housing ca 90 000 specimens. Library facilities are also available through MAL. There are no planting records and the living collections are not computerised. There is no threatened plants programme, no research facilities (although laboratories and equipment are available through the University of Malawi in Zomba), no training courses offered for horticulturists. Conservation, however, is one of the important roles played by the garden. For example, the plants found in the garden include endemics such as Mulanje Cedar Widdringtonia whytei and Malawi's only indigenous cycad Encephalartos gratus, which is found on Mulanje Mountain (Magombo & Seyani 1995). Conservation-related research on aspects such as propagation of indigenous plant species is also conducted. Seedlings of such plant species as Dodonaea viscosa, Khaya nyasica, Newtonia buchananii, Brachystegia spiciformis and Pterocarpus angolensis have been successfully raised and are used in reafforestation programmes (Magombo & Seyani 1995).

Although there is no formal education section or environmental education section, both herbarium and botanic garden staff assist in presenting talks to school children, traditional healers, students and adults. A new toilet complex is currently being constructed in the garden. The garden receives ca 1 200 official visitors per annum, although there are many unofficial visitors (only groups are charged an entrance fee).

Assessment of needs:

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National Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe

To increase knowledge and appreciation of Zimbabwean plants; their identity, distribution, uses, conservation and cultivation, through displaying and managing the living collections. The National Botanic Garden of Zimbabwe (17o48'S; 31o03'E) is situated in Harare, Zimbabwe. The garden was founded in 1962 and covers 68 ha of which 48 ha is landscaped using ca 2 000 plant taxa. The remaining 20 ha is known as miombo vegetation, woodland dominated by the genera Brachystegia and Julbernardia (Fabaceae). About 95% of the indigenous plants in the garden are woody trees and shrubs. Vegetation types represented in the garden include miombo woodland, forest (low-, medium- and high altitude forest) and the semi-arid regions of southern Africa (Zambezi- and Limpopo areas). Situated at an altitude of 1 500 m, the garden receives an average of 800 mm rainfall per annum. Major plant families represented in the garden include Fabaceae, Moraceae, Liliaceae, Combretaceae, Burseraceae and Euphorbiaceae. 32 km north of Harare lies the associated garden known as Mazoe Botanic Reserve comprising 46.5 ha of relatively undisturbed miombo woodland with riverine elements and granite inselbergs. The garden has 27 paid staff, three of whom are horticulturists, with an additional three volunteers (one of whom, Thomas Müller, is an ex-Curator of the garden). Planting records are on a card system, with information from ca 1 500 cards having been transferred onto the computer. Living collections are currently computerised using a programme written in DbaseIV. Display labels on living collections are made either from a computerised or manual engraving machine.

The garden includes a Desert House housing a collection of over 240 plant species comprising over 400 specimens from the arid and semi-arid areas of southern Africa. The Desert House is divided into four main sections, namely Kaokoveld, the Namib Desert, the Winter Rainfall region and Zimbabwe. Other major structures in the garden include a Tea House and Education building. There is one nursery and two greenhouses, one of which is derelict. The garden is closely associated with the National Herbarium of Zimbabwe (SRGH) which houses some 500 000 specimens, mainly from the Flora Zambesiaca area (Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe) of southern Africa.

Two staff coordinate the environmental education programme and offer courses on conservation and environmental education to school children, students and adults. Guided tours are offered to colleges, schools, clubs, universities, technikons, associations and farmer groups. The garden does not offer training courses in horticulture, has no research laboratories, quarantine section, bookshop or threatened plants programme (although some threatened plants are cultivated in the garden). The Zimbabwe NBG receives ca 30 000 visitors per annum, and entrance to the garden is free. There is a very active 'Friends of the Botanic Garden' which publishes an annual newsletter - Friends of the Botanic Garden Newsletter.

Assessment of needs:

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Table 1: Research currently conducted in Namibia's National Botanic Garden, Malawi's Zomba National Botanic Garden and Zimbabwe's National Botanic Garden.

National Botanic Garden of Namibia Zomba National Botanic Garden National Botanic Garden of Zimbabwe
  • Taxonomy
  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Medicinal plants Research undertaken by staff of Namibia's NBRI, not botanic garden staff.
  • Horticulture
  • Physiology
  • Propagation
  • Conservation
  • Germination
  • Mycology
  • Ethnobotany
  • Medicinal plants
  • Propagation of indigenous species
  • Horticulture
  • Propagation
  • Conservation
  • Germination
  • Propagation of indigenous species

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Networking Southern African Botanical Gardens - the Way Forward

The concept of a coordinated network of botanical gardens is at the same time simple in concept but difficult in practice, and in most regions and countries takes considerable time to move beyond the stage of discussing the idea of a network (Given 1994). Networks can take various forms: all members can be of equal status or there can be a central core consisting of a few or even a single garden (Heywood 1990). The details of how the southern African botanical gardens are going to network must still be decided by the participating institutions, but it is envisaged that this network will operate through the existing Southern African Botanical Diversity Network. According to Heywood (1990) the key to a network is the willingness to cooperate in implementing a common set of objectives. The objectives of a national network and the activities required to achieve these objectives have been well described in Given (1994). From our preliminary discussions, it does appear that the southern African botanical gardens whose institutions are participating in SABONET are very willing to cooperate in establishing this network of southern African botanical gardens. Once the needs assessment has been completed and the report published, the relevant gardens must come together, probably at a regional workshop, to discuss how they are to take the networking process further and to develop an action plan.

SABONET, as a capacity-building programme, does have funds available within the GEF/UNDP budget to host such a workshop and develop tailor-made training courses for horticulturists in the regional botanical gardens, but there are no funds within the current budget to support infrastructural development within the region's botanical gardens. Heywood (1990) has stated that "the main areas of interest to be covered by networks are probably ex situ conservation in gardens, whether of living material or of seeds, and training and education, involving so called "twinning" arrangements with other gardens outside the area". The concept of "sister" or "twinned" botanical gardens is one which has already been identified by the National Botanical Institute as a possible way forward for expanding the already existing South African national botanical garden network of eight gardens to a 10-country regional network of southern African botanical gardens. Table 2 illustrates the proposed arrangement for the twinning of botanical gardens in southern Africa.

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Table 2 : Proposed arrangement for the twinning of southern African botanical gardens.

Angola Currently no botanical garden
National Botanic Garden, Botswana Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (NBG, est. 1913), South Africa
Katse Botanic Garden, Lesotho Free State National Botanical Garden (NBGB, est. 1967), South Africa
Zomba National Botanic Garden, Malawi Pretoria National Botanical Garden (NBGN, est. 1964), South Africa
LMU Botanic Garden, Mozambique Lowveld National Botanical Garden (NBGL, est. 1971), South Africa
National Botanic Garden, Namibia Karoo National Botanical Garden (KNBG, est. 1921), South Africa
Swaziland Currently no botanical garden. Should it be developed, will "twin" with Natal National Botanical Garden (NBGN, est. 1874), South Africa
Zambia Currently no botanical garden
National Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden (NBGW, est. 1982), South Africa

Apart from the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden (NBGH, est. 1958) at Betty's Bay, it is envisaged that each of the National Botanical Institute's (NBI) gardens will be involved in the twinning exercise. Davies & Ndam (1997) have described the network of NBI's eight botanical gardens existing in South Africa as "the most advanced gardens of Africa". This does not imply that they are any better than other gardens in the region, but have consistently been supported by government in terms of funding (Akeroyd & Wyse Jackson 1995) and have, over the years, developed a core group of experienced professional horticulturists and other staff working in the gardens. These staff are very capable of offering training courses to botanical garden staff in other southern African gardens and willing to share their expertise developed over many years.

The idea of twinning the gardens will have to be discussed in more detail by staff of the institutions and countries concerned and by the SABONET Steering Committee for its approval, but could involve short-term exchange of staff between the "twinned" gardens and the sharing of ideas, expertise and experience between staff attached to the gardens as well as beneficial joint initiatives. These might include undertaking research on specific plant taxa, such as, for example, collaborative research between Namibia's National Botanic Garden and South Africa's Karoo National Botanical Garden in the propagation and reintroduction of the charismatic single-stemmed aloe, Aloe pillansii (for which there appears to be insufficient recruitment of seedlings to replace the adult plants, A. pillansii being a non-sprouter)(Midgley et al. 1996; Midgley 1997), which is listed on CITES Appendix I (Akeroyd et al. 1994), classified as Endangered (Hilton-Taylor 1996; Walter & Gillett 1998) and restricted in its distribution to South Africa and Namibia. This would also necessitate the involvement of herbaria, universities, NGOs as well as national and provincial conservation agencies in the respective countries, and help to promote communication and collaboration between the gardens and these institutions. Botanic gardens in Malawi and Zimbabwe are both well positioned to develop similar rare plant programmes in the respective countries. Botanical gardens and arboreta in general (ex situ conservation) have been recognised worldwide as being important agents in a multifaceted, integrated effort (with in situ conservation) to conserve rare and endangered plant taxa (Hall et al. 1984; Fourie 1986; Elias 1987; Falk 1987; Cropper 1993; Akeroyd 1995; Synge 1995; Akeroyd & Wyse Jackson 1995; Morse 1996; Australian Network for Plant Conservation 1997; Henry 1997).

Few of southern Africa's national botanical gardens have well-structured, functional threatened plant programmes, and there are relatively few documented cases of southern African botanical gardens integrating with in situ conservation programmes. Despite this, however, more than 300 threatened or critically rare species are represented in southern African botanical gardens, often by very small populations (Hall et al. 1984). One well-documented example is the involvement of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden's Endangered Plant Lab in the cultivation of, and research on, one of South Africa's rarest shrubs, Raspalia trigyna (Bruniaceae). Being the only member of the family to grow outside the winter rainfall area of the CFR, the only known existing population of R. trigyna left in the wild comprises a few individuals (Arkell 1995, 1996a,b). The horticultural staff of the Pretoria National Botanical Garden have also played an important role in propagating and cultivating the threatened Soutpansberg endemic Stapelia clavicorona (Asclepiadaceae) for reintroduction to the wild. Other examples of southern African botanical gardens integrating with in situ conservation programmes are described in Hall & Veldhuis (1985). Because of the pitfalls associated with reintroduction (sensu lato) programmes, the need for serious scientific justification and basis for each reintroduction is obvious and supervision and monitoring by qualified scientists is essential (Bramwell 1991; Akeroyd & Wyse Jackson 1995). The documentation and reporting of results is also essential, as information about failures is as important as the reporting of successes (Bramwell 1991). As is probably the case in many other regions of the world, although considerable empirical information exists in conservation agency files and other files, these data are often uncompiled or analysed, and access to them is difficult. Another universal problem is that many reintroductions have been done opportunistically, and have not benefited by strategic planning, biological evaluation or monitoring (Falk et al. 1996).

As has been suggested by Akeroyd & Wyse Jackson (1995), a "priority of networking might be a readily available and accessible data-base of reintroduction examples including electronic linkages between institutions with literature references where appropriate, and a similar data-base of practical aspects of reintroduction, especially techniques of horticulture, aftercare and management." The twinning exercise will, amongst others, also help to address Article 17 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which states that

"1. Contracting Parties shall facilitate the exchange of information....taking into account the special needs of developing countries; 2. Such exchange of information shall include exchange of results of technical, scientific....research, as well as information on training and surveying programmes, specialized knowledge, indigenous and traditional knowledge as such and in combination with the technologies referred to in Article 16, paragraph 1" (which refers to Access to and Transfer of Technology).

The information to be exchanged is not limited to that from developed countries. All countries have potentially useful information relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. Therefore, all Contracting Parties are expected to exchange such information with other Parties (Glowka et al. 1994; Synge 1996). A one-to-one relationship between botanical gardens is not necessarily the most effective one, however, and various forms of linkages should be explored. The benefit of such a regional network, however, is that there are several other gardens available within the network to consult with, depending on the circumstances, and "twinned" gardens are not restricted to dealings with each other. There is probably also a need to informally expand the network of gardens to beyond those participating officially in the SABONET project. This might have great potential benefits to both the ex situ and in situ conservation of southern Africa's botanical diversity. For example, a collaborative research project could be conducted on cycads by staff attached to South Africa's Lowveld National Botanical Garden, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Pretoria National Botanical Garden, Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden as well as Zimbabwe's Vumba Botanical Garden (Murimba 1997) and Ewanrrig Botanical Gardens, all of which have comprehensive collections of cycads (Osborne 1990,1995). Expansion of the stocks of cycads in these gardens should be made from the numbers of plants confiscated from illegal trafficking operations (Osborne 1990).

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Needs of Southern African Botanical Gardens

Based on the limited needs assessment that has been conducted so far, it would appear that most of the staff training needs of the various gardens could be addressed in tailor-made training courses hosted by the National Botanical Institute in South Africa. Components of this course, or a separate course, could be presented on the development of master plans and also the computerisation of collections. The NBI's Data Management section has recently developed an in-house PRECIS Garden Records Database (developed using MS Access) which is currently being used by several of South Africa's national botanical gardens to computerise their collections, and could be adopted by gardens elsewhere in southern Africa. Other training needs, although not specifically mentioned by the gardens surveyed so far might include workshops on the role of gardens with relation to both the CBD and the operation and implications of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Peter Wyse Jackson (1997) has written a very useful article on the impact of the CBD on botanical gardens, as well as producing a basic checklist for botanic gardens to guide their involvement in implementing the CBD. The BGCI's publication A CITES Manual for botanic gardens (Akeroyd et al. 1994) is also an essential document guiding gardens in their implementation of CITES. Other useful publications produced by Botanic Gardens Conservational International (BGCI) include The Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy (IUCN-BGCS & WWF 1989), Handbook for Botanic Gardens on the Reintroduction of Plants to the Wild (Akeroyd & Wyse Jackson 1995), Botanic Gardens Conservation News and the Handbook on Plant Conservation in Botanic Gardens (in prep.). Closer links need to be developed between SABONET, the BGCI, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and other botanical garden networks (Leadlay 1994) and capacity-building programmes around the world. These networks include, amongst others, the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), Canadian Botanical Conservation Network (CBCN)(Galbraith 1996) and the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SABONET and the ANPC has recently been endorsed by the respective governing bodies, and will hopefully stimulate active collaboration between individuals within these respective networks. The project's newsletter, SABONET News, and the occasional SABONET Report Series can, as they are currently doing for staff attached to southern African herbaria, serve as a useful vehicles for sharing relevant information amongst botanic gardens in the region. Such information should, according to Given (1994), include national inventories on plant species for which conservation is important, an inventory of threatened plants in cultivation in network gardens (e.g. Meredith & Richardson 1989) and an inventory of research that has been done or is being done on any of the species in the first two inventories.

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SABONET as a network of plant scientists has proved to be an important mechanism for cooperation, collaboration and capacity-building amongst botanists in the ten countries of southern Africa. Although many of the details still need to be worked out by the countries and participating institutions concerned, SABONET is in a position to act as the coordinating body for a regional network of botanical gardens in southern Africa. Preliminary results of a regional botanical gardens needs assessment have indicated that the staff attached to those gardens so far surveyed have relatively similar needs in terms of training, computerisation of plant records and general botanic garden management. These needs can be addressed by tailor-made regional training courses and workshops. Closer collaboration, however, needs to be developed with national/regional universities, herbaria and conservation agencies, as well as with the BGCI and other gardens and networks around the world.

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The authors would like to thank the staff of Namibia's National Botanic Garden, Malawi's Zomba National Botanic Garden and Zimbabwe's National Botanic Garden for their support and willing cooperation in the needs assessment exercise.

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Copyright 1999 NBI