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Saving wild plants for food and medicine

Helping communities protect their plant resources

 Faced with a choice about which plants we save from extinction first, which would we choose?

For many people direct utility value comes high on the list of criteria.  However, if we take into account all those wild species used for food, medicine, timber, fuelwood, livestock grazing and a whole host of other minor uses, that still presents a vast array of species.

 local man with medicinal plantsselling peanuts  villager with wild harvested plants for sale

 Antrema villager with medicinal plant

 Ibity villagers selling peanuts

 Antrema villager with wild harvest

In Madagascar, alongside the IUCN/SSC Madagascar Plant Specialist Group, we are preparing a consolidated checklist of medicinal and nutritional plants and Important Plant Areas (IPAs) of the island and are carrying out conservation assessments in line with IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This baseline information will inform practical, on-the-ground conservation strategies. 

Our pilot projects are underway in the Ibity inselberg region and in the coastal area of Antrema.  In these regions, where rural communities are likely to suffer disproportionately with rapid climate change, livelihoods and species are conserved in tandem.

Given the deteriorating environmental and economic situation in Madagascar, plant conservation is an urgent priority within the country and this is widely recognised by the global botanic garden community.  Missouri Botanical Garden has for example been working in Madagascar for over thirty years, undertaking taxonomic work and building up local capacity for plant taxonomy, red listing and conservation.  BGCI is working closely with Missouri scientists on-the-ground in Madagascar.

 wild harvest in Ugandaseeds  seedlings growing in Uganda
   
In Uganda, a recent BGCI workshop brought together the directors of all four botanic gardens in Uganda with botanists at Makerere University, the government agency responsible for medicinal plants and other conservation agencies.

Two pilot projects will be initiated in Uganda. One will be undertaken by the Nature Palace Botanical Garden located in Wakiso District near Kampala. The land surrounding the garden is mainly farmland but there are some good remnant patches of forest in the vicinity. The project will document knowledge on use of medicinal and food species and increase conservation efforts for those that are in decline.

The second pilot project will be carried out by Tooro Botanical Garden which is situated in Fort Portal at the foot of the Ruwenzori Mountains in west Uganda. BGCI, working with Makerere University, will support the documentation of the local medicinal plants, as well as developing community-based conservation for species under threat.

These projects form part of our Wild Plants for Food and Medicine programme, generously funded by SwedBio. 

Please get in touch if you feel you could support this work

Antrema landscape