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Collaborating for Conservation: How can Botanic Gardens Staff in Developed and Developing Countries Work Together to Promote Education and Conservation in the Botanical Hotspots of the World

Contributed by Didik Widyatmoko,Center for Plant Conservation, Bogor Botanic Gardens, Bogor, Indonesia & Lorraine Perrins, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Australia


The success of any biodiversity conservation efforts will depend on people’s concern and awareness. Thus, conservation education becomes the key point to achieve successful conservation programs. Environmental education is now incorporated in all the major international strategies for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

The need for a template approach to biodiversity conservation education is identified, in which different actual, relevant examples are provided. Specific examples and emphasis can then be inserted in programmes for particular levels of education. Such methods allow people to relate to particular things (e.g. plants, forests, animals, environmental problems, and household objects) with which they are familiar. Through this technique, biodiversity conservation can become a hands-on matter that can be related to everyday life and be easily understood. Botanic gardens can be the best place to do such activity.

The Role of Indonesian Botanic Gardens in Conservation Education

The four Indonesian botanic gardens are visited by more than 2 million people annually. They are situated at very strategic sites, and accommodate not less than 70,000 living specimens belonging to more than 6,000 flowering plant species. Thus they have a potential role in biodiversity and conservation education programmes and are highly suitable places for conducting public education and promoting biodiversity conservation. Their aim is to make environmental education accessible to everyone. People’s awareness can be stimulated and encouraged through various conservation education programmes (both demonstrations and interpretation) within the gardens, by using enjoyable and efficient methods. Current conservation issues, such as the depletion of tropical forests and the loss of genetic resources, can also be dealt with in these programmes. The resources and facilities in the botanic gardens can enable visitors to:

  • learn about the diversity of the Plant Kingdom
  • acknowledge the economic, cultural and aesthetic importance of plants in our lives, including the links between plants and local peoples
  • understand the major threats that face the world’s flora
  • learn about the work being carried out by gardens to save and conserve the world’s flora
  • appreciate plants and nature as a whole
  • learn about the practical skill and theoretical aspects of plant conservation, propagation, and landscaping
  • develop the attitudes, behaviour, and skills necessary to solve environmental problems.

In line with Chapter 16 of Agenda 21 Indonesia (Indonesian State Ministry of Environment, 1996), this programme specifically identifies the need for establishing biodiversity education centres to promote multiculturalism and indigenous issues and to link science and the sustainable use of plant resource. In the period 1998-2003, the Agenda proposes the development of at least one botanic garden in each province as a priority activity, thus strengthening and building the capacity of Indonesian botanic gardens institutions and their staffs. The Indonesian Decentralized Environmental and Natural Resource Management Programme also prioritise programmes that promote public awareness of sustainable use and biodiversity conservation. The need for public education and awareness is also emphasised in the Indonesian Biodiversity Action Plan (1993); this need has also been identified as a crucial element in biodiversity conservation by the World Bank’s Environment and Development Report on Indonesia.

Project Results, Objectives and Outcomes

Project results

The project result would be the development of a system to educate people and enable them to learn about and appreciate nature and biodiversity conservation, by means of demonstrations, displays and interpretation.

Project objectives

The project objectives are:

  • to strengthen organizational capacity in conducting and promoting public (conservation) education and environmental awareness.
  • to develop a standard mechanism to encourage and enable people to appreciate nature and biodiversity conservation through demonstrations and interpretations.
  • to foster public awareness of, and concern about, the conservation of nature and natural resources through education and interpretation.
  • to provide information, opportunities, advice, and encouragement to the public to enable them to assist and participate in conservation programmes.

Project outcomes

Project outcomes will include:

  • transformed or new patterns of thinking or behaviour of individuals, groups and society towards the importance of biodiversity and nature conservation (particularly of plants) for life.
  • a balance between classroom-based and outdoor teaching and learning, particularly for school groups and students, as our future and planet rests with youth.
  • a better-informed public able to express concerns about the conservation of nature and natural resources to decision makers and public and political leaders
  • the raising of public awareness of, concern about, and the establishment of a public ethical standpoint on, biodiversity and nature conservation.
  • the exploration of links between biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and sustainable living.

Indicators of the project outcomes

Indicators of the project outcomes have been determined. They include:

  • new ways of looking at a range of conservation and environmental subjects have been introduced and established through attractive and innovative demonstrations, displays, and interpretations to meet the needs of people (including audiovisual techniques and non-verbal communication).
  • different packages and formats of conservation education are available for different levels (kindergarten, primary, secondary, tertiary schools and the public), providing well-planned and fruitful visits.
  • members of the public at all levels (including students) are well informed and able to express their concerns about biodiversity and nature conservation to decision makers and public and political leaders, through public and private institutions and the mass media.
  • public ways of thinking about nature and natural resource conservation are enriched and may be changed through effective demonstrations and interpretations.
  • the development of materials to demonstrate the linkages between promote poverty – environment linkages and integration with overall education modalities.

Project activities

Project activities will include:

  • Surveys of people’s perceptions, opinions, and attitudes related to biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources, conducted before and after project activities.
  • The development of an integrated audiovisual system and theatre to promote biodiversity and nature conservation.
  • The design and construction of appropriate packages for different levels of users (both public and students). These will contain substantial information about biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources, focusing on the importance of plants in life.
  • The strengthening of staff capacity to teach biodiversity conservation and environmental education, through formal and informal education and training.
  • The publication, dissemination, and advertising of planned biodiversity conservation education activities.

Indonesian botanic gardens and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have jointly begun the establishment of a regional network of biodiversity education centres for promoting multiculturalism, indigenous issues, and decentralization. The resulting Regional Biodiversity Education Programme must be regionally owned and entail the commitment of local human and financial resources, along with external resources from international communities. Bogor Botanic Gardens (as the headquarters of the Indonesian botanic gardens) is also working with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney on a project to protect Amorphophallus titanum, and promote it as a flagship species for plant conservation in Sumatra. This project focuses on building the capacity of Bogor Botanic Gardens to undertake further ex situ conservation, via the upgrading of nursery facilities and training staff in a range of plant propagation techniques. Educational tools in the form of bilingual brochures, stickers, and schools' information sessions, are also being produced.

The four Indonesian botanic gardens will coordinate and use the “programme approach”, since it offers the best guarantee of ownership, commitment, and the sustainability of results after the completion of project activities. Sustainability means that local individuals, institutions, and systems that were assisted by the programme continue to function effectively after external support ceases and that they have the capacity to continuously improve their ways of working. The development of local capacity is the fundamental aim of the programme, and is accordingly a topic that must be addressed at all stages of project design. Capacity development is the process by which local individuals, groups, organizations, and communities develop their abilities to perform functions, solve problems, and set and reach objectives. Capacity assessment is the first activity to be conducted; it is participatory Problem-solving techniques are used to determine the capacity constraints that affect project design and implementation and how they may be overcome.

The programme approach facilitates intervention of an interdisciplinary nature that addresses the multi-sector character of most education problems. The approach permits interventions to be made in the context of a broad policy dialogue. An essential objective of the programme will be to engage key educators and bodies, government officials, and other stakeholders, in a dialogue about the proper framework needed to raise awareness of the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. The purpose of this dialogue will be to analyse problems, encourage the articulation of biodiversity education programmes, and identify the consultative processes that will need to be followed in order to decide what support the programme should provide to the various provinces of Indonesia.

The Need for Partnership

The partnership between a wide range of stakeholders, including target groups (primary, secondary and tertiary schools), teachers, local governments, civil society organizations involved in public and environmental education, private companies, the State Ministry for Environment, international organizations like UNDP and BGCI, and other donors, is strongly encouraged. These partnerships ensure that potential opportunities and risks, as well as previous experience, are taken into account in the design of the programme. This participation will promote stakeholder ownership and commitment, without which projects are unlikely to be successful. Participation in all phases of project development promotes respect for the rights of all individuals, including those belonging to indigenous groups, encouraging them to participate in the design as a local activity. Women’s participation will be ensured throughout the project’s development.

Education Programmes Offered

Conservation education programmes will be conducted in the four Indonesian gardens. Their subject areas will include:

  • teacher training: reforming educational techniques, science teaching and learning practices, and enhancing the quality of science education.
  • garden exploration and inquiry-based science: encouraging science discovery, and programmes including “Plants and their environment”, “From root to leaf”, “Learning tastes, shapes, and smells”, and “Natural painting competition”.
  • plant exploration techniques: understanding the links between ex situ and in situ conservation and the work of a botanic garden, and introducing plant biodiversity.
  • school environmental programmes: to tell children and students that we really face a serious environmental crisis and thus attitudes toward natural resources and nature have to change to have a safer future; that the future of humankind rests with youth. These, programmes include “School gardens’ planting”, “Slide and video shows”, and “Nature club formation”.
  • interpreting garden designs and systematics: developing a system of guide panels to interpret the gardens, particularly offered for university students.
  • the need for interpretation: leaving messages to public that all life depends on plants; programmes include guided tours, exhibitions, printed materials, information labels, and site specific interpretation.
  • training of guides: staff and volunteers’ training, extending the reach of conservation education efforts.
  • plants in danger: introducing threatened plants, informing people that biodiversity loss is a real danger, and stimulating them to participate in conservation actions.
  • nature appreciation through conservation education: acknowledging that the success of any conservation efforts will depend on people’s concern and awareness. Programmes include “The reforestation project”.


Bogor Botanic Gardens, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, have started to establish biodiversity education centres in Indonesia. Bogor is also working with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney on a project to protect Amorphophallus titanum and use it as a flagship for promoting conservation in Sumatra. In order to be successful, a wide range of stakeholders, both nationally and internationally, are needed to participate in the development and implementation of the programme. Education in botanic gardens will be used as the “programme approach” since it offers the best guarantee of ownership, commitment, and the sustainability of results after completion of activities. We believe that together we can do something better.


Funding from the United Nations Development Programme enabled Didik Widyatmoko to join this Congress workshop. Thanks to Mr. Kishan Khoday for assistance and support.


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