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Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development

Volume 3 Number 2 - June 1999



Agenda 21 is a global action plan for sustainable development into the 21st century.

Sustainable development is a process that aims to meets the needs of the present generation without harming the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is not only about particular environmental issues such as species extinction and pollution but also about economic progress which meets all our needs without leaving future generations with fewer resources than we enjoy. It can be seen as a way of living from nature's income rather than its capital account. Sustainable development is not easy to achieve; it often demands changes in lifestyle particularly if we continue to use up non-renewable natural resources, as we do at present, if we ignore the plight of the poor or if we continue to pollute and waste, then we can expect a decline in the quality of life.

For wealthy nations, achieving sustainable development means adopting and implementing policies concerning issues such as recycling, energy efficiency, conservation and rehabilitation of damaged landscapes. For the developing nations it means policies for equity, respect of the law, redistribution of wealth and wealth creation.

The concept of sustainable development came out of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972 and the report of the Brundtland Commission (1982) called Our Common Future. The conference was held to try and get all nations and industries to agree to act together to reduce pollution so that the cost would be equally shared. However, the developing countries wanted more development to reduce poverty and so were prepared to accept the environmental problems. Since 1972, it has become clear that what we do has an impact on the environment, from the change in atmosphere, the increase in deserts, the destruction of forests to the disappearance of species. It has also become clear that the gap between the poorer nations and the richer nations has become wider which can be measured in such terms as the average income per person and the number of people who live below the poverty line. While the poorer nations often receive little for their goods and have large and increasing debts they are frequently unable to tackle problems such as damage to the environment and a growing birthrate. The Brundtland Commission tried to balance North/South responsibility and suggest ways forward. This finally led to the world community holding the United Nations Convention on Education and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 where the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework on Climate Change, the Rio Declaration and 38 of the 40 chapters of Agenda 21 were agreed.

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was set up to review progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and other UNCED documents. The Commission meets every year and more than 1,000 N.G.Os are accredited to participate in the Commission's work.

The Agenda

Agenda 21 forms the basis for a "global partnership" to encourages cooperation among nations as they support a transition to sustaining life on earth. The central belief is that all countries can protect the environment while simultaneously experiencing growth.

The Agenda is a non-binding programme of action, which was adopted by more than 178 Governments at the 'Earth Summit' in 1992. Although the Agenda lacks the force of international law, the adoption of the texts carries with it a strong moral obligation to ensure implementation of the strategies.

The implementation of the Agenda is primarily the responsibility of governments, through national strategies, plans, policies and procedures. International and regional organizations are also called upon to contribute to this effort. The broadest public participation and the active involvement of non-governmental organizations and other groups are encouraged. Critical to the effective implementation of the objectives, policies and mechanisms agreed by the governments in all programme areas of Agenda 21 will be the commitment and genuine involvement of all institutions and social groups.

The Agenda comprises 40 chapters (arranged in 4 Sections), which address all levels of social organisation, from national and local governments through to development agencies, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in every area in which human activity impacts upon the environment. Each chapter describes a programme area and comprises four parts: the basis for action, objectives, activities and means of implementation.

Key chapters of Agenda 21 of particular relevance to botanic gardens are:

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions (chapters 2-8) concern:

  • promoting sustainable development through trade (chapter 2);
  • combating poverty (chapter 3);
  • changing consumption patterns (chapter 4);
  • protecting and promoting human health (chapter 6).

Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development (chapters 9-22) concern:

  • combating deforestation (chapter 11);
  • managing fragile ecosystems: combating desertification and drought (chapter 12);
  • managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development (chapter 13); promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (chapter 14);
  • conservation of biological diversity (chapter 15);
  • environmentally sound management of biotechnology (chapter 16);
  • protection of the quality and supplies of freshwater resources (chapter 18);
  • environmentally sound management of solid wastes and sewage-related issues (chapter 21).

Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups (chapters 23-32). The groups include:

  • women (chapter 24);
  • children and youth (chapter 25);
  • indigenous people (chapter 26);
  • non- governmental organizations (chapter 27);
  • local authorities(Chapter 28);
  • business and industry (chapter 30);
  • scientific and technological community (chapter 31).

Section IV: Means of Implementation (chapters 33-40) examines the basic resources necessary to push forward this global partnership for sustainable development. It includes:

  • financial resources and mechanisms (chapter 33);
  • transfer of environmentally sound technology (chapter 34);
  • science for sustainable development (chapter 35);
  • promoting education, public awareness and training (chapter 36).

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions

Botanic gardens are involved or relevant in many ways in the social and economic dimensions of the Agenda.

Gardens are able or have the potential to improve the standard of living of people in their surrounding communities through economic development. In developing countries in particular this might be based on the development of non-wood forest products and minor crops, including medicinal plants, gums, resins, dyes, fibres, cultural products, rattan and bamboo. Gardens can provide opportunities for small-scale enterprises for local communities which generate income and promote trade. The strength of such projects is that they can develop local resources in participation with local communities and contribute to the economic development of the country (chapter 2).

  • The Botanic Garden of the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India has made a significant contribution to floriculture in India by producing new cultivars and standardising the agro-technology for commercial cultivation of ornamental crops. The agro-technology of Gladiolus for commercial cultivation has been standardised and passed on to the 1,000 progressive farmers and entrepreneurs under a 'Lab to Land' programme for large-scale cultivation in order to boost the cut-flower industry in India. As Gladiolus is cultivated in poor rural areas, it can improve the economic condition of the weaker sections of society.
  • Many botanic gardens attract large number of tourists, helping in the development of their local economies and relevant service industries associated both with tourism itself and with the botanic garden.

Development issues concerning international trade of commodities such as coffee, bananas and tea are being examined through public awareness programmes in botanic gardens and examples of fair trade initiatives that guarantee a fair deal for Third World producers are being highlighted or supported (chapter 2).

  • Leicester University Botanic Garden, U.K. has developed games for children to illustrate global development issues, e.g. a role-play game that illustrates the unequal distribution of income in the production and distribution of bananas.

Botanic gardens can help combat poverty (chapter 3) by promoting community outreach programmes that empower communities to combat poverty and achieve sustainable livelihoods.

  • The Bronx Green-Up Program of the New York Botanical Garden, U.S.A. has had a dramatic effect on the environments and lives of local people in the area of New York surrounding the Garden. The Program has given the people the tools to build community gardens and composting projects. A greener urban environment is emerging together with a stronger sense of community responsibility.
  • Omaere Park, Ecuador develops participative environmental education and conservation programmes for students, volunteers and the local community. Omaere's work has resulted in the empowerment of local people who take greater responsibility for their environment by, for example, developing community medicinal gardens and nurseries and creating protected areas and forests.

Chapter 4 focuses on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Countries should strive to promote sustainable consumption patterns, by reducing wastage and promoting the wise use of finite resources.

  • During a recent open day, the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, U.K. invited actors in to the Garden to play a compulsive cleaner, a committed environmentalist and a total consumer. The project sought to engage the curiosity of the visitors, perform debates between each of the actors and act as catalysts for conversations on environmental issues with visitor

Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development

Botanic gardens are able to contribute to the sustainable management of resources in partnership with local communities. Botanic gardens are in a position to sustain the multiple roles and functions of a forest, forest land or woodland (chapter 11).

  • A new garden has been developed in the Tam Dao National Park, Vietnam to address the critical issue of wild harvesting of medicinal plants, vegetables, fruits, fodder and timber by local people which threatens the biodiversity of the Park. Continual wild harvesting of medicinal plants for local primary health care needs and cutting of firewood to fuel the homes in the surrounding villages has led to serious deforestation, which can also cause flash floods and mud slides in the wet season. The new garden is propagating and cultivating the most frequently used species, which will be distributed to local people to establish community gardens. 
  • Hundreds of tons of wild mushrooms are exported each year from Russia.. The Mycological Department of the Komarov Botanical Institute, St Petersburg is authorized to issue licenses to control the unsustainable collection of wild mushrooms for trade in the region.

Botanic gardens are working with national parks to restore areas that have been degraded by inappropriate management, unsustainable logging, overgrazing and agricultural expansion (chapters 11 and 12).

  • The Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Garden (Queensland, Australia) is collaborating with the Queensland National Park and Wildlife Service to manage and restore degraded areas of the forest. The garden has developed propagation techniques for species of the dry notophyll vine scrub which have been reintroduced into the forest.
  • The Central Siberian Botanical Garden, Novosibirsk, Russia is working with the managers of strictly protected scientific reserves (zapovedniks) to assist in management and restoration of rare and endangered species for their own region.
  • The Gibraltar Botanic Garden and local ngos have been successful in lobbying the government to restore the Great Eastern Sand Slopes of the Gibraltar (a landscape feature possibly unique in Europe). This habitat in Gibraltar was damaged because it had been covered with corrugated iron sheets to form a water catchment area. Following the conversion to sea water desalination as the main source of fresh water, the habitat is being restored using native species.

Botanic gardens contribute to the management of fragile ecosystems in arid zones by promoting sustainable or alternative livelihood systems in areas prone to desertification (chapter 12).

  • Cyclopia (Leguminosae) is an arid zone plant that has been used as a herbal tea for hundreds of years in South Africa (Honey Bush Tea). This is traditionally collected destructively from the wild. The National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch, South Africa discovered the impact of smoke on the germination of many South African species, including Cyclopia, and so has been able to mass-propagate Cyclopia. There are now 40 communities in impoverished areas where there was formerly no agricultural activity that now have industrial-scale operations for the production of Honey Bush Tea.

Botanic gardens can also provide support for sustainable tourism , through the development of `orientation centres' or `habitat plantings' within their grounds, through the publication of inexpensive wildlife guides or information sheets and through cooperating with national parks for naming and labelling `botanic garden paths' within the reserve. The development of mountain botanic gardens in several parts of the world has provided a valuable educational resource for alerting tourists to the fragility of mountain environments and for promoting erosion control and sustainable tourism practices (chapter 13).

Botanic gardens are well aware that biological resources constitute a capital asset with great potential for yielding sustainable benefits. The objectives and activities in chapter 15 of Agenda 21 are intended to improve the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources, as well as to support the Convention on Biological Diversity. In particular, chapter 15.6 is concerned with evaluating the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources, establishing baseline information on biological and genetic resources, identifying and evaluating the potential economic and social implications and benefits of the conservation and sustainable use of species and making this information available for decision-makers. The achievement of biodiversity conservation targets provides valuable key indicators of local sustainability.

  • The Center for Plant Conservation, U.S.A. undertook a study to determine the economic potential of rare U.S. plants. Of the 3,214 species listed as rare in the United States, more that 80% are used or have economically useful close relatives in the same genus. These taxa were estimated to be worth nearly $10 billion annually in wholesale farm values. The CPC work identifies action required for the protection of such genetic resources.
  • The Donetsk Botanic Garden, Ukraine has developed computer databases to monitor and analyse the state of the regional flora in relation to changes due to human interference.

Botanic gardens also need to be seen as reliable and fair partners in providing access to and sharing benefits of the use of biodiversity (see article on the Convention on Biological Diversity in this issue).

Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups (chapters 23-32).

The groups include women, children and youth, indigenous people, ngos, business and industry and the scientific and technological community. Chapter 28: Local authorities' initiatives in support of Agenda 21 has become one of the most publicised aspects of the Agenda 21 and is discussed further below.

Botanic gardens, through their work with the public and local communities, are in a good position to strengthen the participation of the major groups in sustainable development and provide a local forum for debate, especially with women and young people.

  • The Jardín Botánico Francisco Javier Clavijero, Xalapa, Mexico is working with local women to identify native plants with economic potential, as well as species that the women consider to be in a process of decline, and to promote their rescue and conservation. A sustained management module is being designed centered on organic cultivation. It aims to diversify the use of plants according to the traditional knowledge of the women of the rural communities south of the Cofre de Perote area of Veracruz. A permanent workshop has been set up for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and reflection amongst the participating women from some of the regional communities in this area. 
  • The involvement of youth in the environment, development decision-making and in the implementation of programmes is critical to the long-term success of Agenda 21. Many botanic gardens actively involve young people in plant conservation and the protection of the environment. Through the Georgia Endangered Plant Stewardship Network, U.S.A., students are gaining personal experience with endangered plants. As the children plant, hold and tend endangered plants, they begin to care about the larger environment and the seeds of environmental stewardship are nurtured.

Ngos involved in plant conservation need to foster cooperation and communication amongst themselves and with international organizations, national and local governments with the aim of reinforcing their effectiveness as participants in the implementation of sustainable development. Botanic gardens have already developed strong networks throughout the world and are well placed to support or initiate innovations that develop a common sense of purpose to replace unsustainable development patterns with environmentally sound and sustainable development.

Business and industry can work closely with botanic gardens.

  • The Aburi Botanic Garden, Ghana surveys sites where planning permission is being sought for development. The Garden can then make recommendations and, if required, take wild plants into cultivation for conservation and undertake habitat restoration projects.

Botanic gardens can improve communication and cooperation between the scientific community and decisions makers and the general public.

  • The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, U.S.A. is an alliance between botanic gardens, universities and government and local conservation organizations. The Alliance promote coordination and carries out research, education and conservation programmes on Georgia's endangered plants.

Section IV: Means of Implementation (chapters 33-40) examines the basic resources necessary to push forward a global partnership for sustainable development

Chapter 33 seeks to establish measures concerning financial resources, such as multilateral development banks, relevant specialized international agencies (e.g. U.N. agencies), multilateral institutes for capacity building and technical cooperation (e.g. UNDP), bilateral assistance programmes, debt relief, private funding, investment and innovative financing.

The success of Agenda 21 relies heavily on education and public awareness programmes. Chapter 36 Promoting education, public awareness and training is one of the means of implementation. Agenda 21 states that 'Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues'. Botanic gardens are in the forefront in developing education programmes to support the Agenda.

Environmental education worldwide is now undergoing significant changes by being redefined to incorporate concepts of sustainable development and to address the recommendations of the CBD and Agenda 21. This type of approach to education is widely referred to as "Education for Sustainability" (EfS), with the aim of teaching about local, national and global questions and problems.

This type of education is concerned with the development of values, attitudes and skills to motivate and empower people to work individually, and with others, to help promote the sustainable use of the natural and social environment. Most education programmes in botanic gardens help visitors appreciate the value of biodiversity and the threats it faces. Other programmes highlight trade issues, consumption patterns and pollution.

  • The Chelsea Physic Garden, London, U.K. is undertaking a Cultural Botany project with Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women from North London. The aim has been to record and present traditional knowledge amongst urban cultural communities and to help rebuild personal self-esteem and the social fabric of the community that has been severely effected because of their immigration to the U.K. This project involved a trip back to Morocco for some of the women from Al Hasaniya and the establishment of discussion groups to enable the women to share and record their botanical knowledge. These types of community based projects facilitate access and partnership and aim to help construct a future based upon shared stewardship of the plant world and a recognition of the role of plants in our everyday lives.
  • The Missouri Botanic Garden, St Louis, U.S.A. has developed demonstration carts that can travel through the gardens. These carts attract both children and adults and staff conduct scripted 15-25 minute activities. The topics covered range from photosynthesis and decomposition to chemical reactions and energy. Each demonstration relates to a pressing environmental quality issue such as sustainability of food supplies, availability of metals, air pollution, and availability of fuel supplies. An activity based around a hamburger and its ingredients addresses sustainability of food supplies and the issues of human consumption. People soon realise from the demonstrations that they are part of nature and depend utterly upon it.

Training is one of the most important tools to develop human resources and to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable world. All training programmes should promote a greater awareness of environment and development issues.

  • Horticultural training can enable individuals to find new employment and be involved in environmental and development work. For example, the Singapore Botanic Garden provides vocational training in horticulture through its School of Horticulture.
  • National and international training programmes on Plant Conservation Techniques have been developed through several network organizations such as the Australian Network for Plant Conservation and the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Botanic Gardens.
  • Other international training programmes have been developed by BGCI, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the South African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET) to build capacity and explore strategies to deal with national, regional and local environmental threats.
  • Many botanic gardens run teacher training and volunteer guiding programmes to increase the number of guided tours of the garden: this is often seen as a good use of resources for education departments. The Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offers training on the Basic Route (Caderno 1 - Roteiro Básico) to private and public school teachers at all levels twice a week in three-hour sessions. After training, teachers are considered partners of the Environmental Education Group. They receive a participation certificate which is used to schedule visits. The garden also trains university students and secondary school children who act as guides.

AGENDA 21 – an opportunity for botanic gardens

By working to implement Agenda 21 botanic gardens will be able to improve their contribution to sustainable development. A careful examination or `audit' of all their actions and partnerships using Agenda 21 criteria, can focus botanic garden activities to address the Agenda, as well as to illustrate the valuable contribution that gardens can make to sustainable development locally, nationally and internationally (see Checklist for botanic gardens to promote Agenda 21).

Botanic gardens can contribute by:

  • reviewing their own development policies;
  • exploring and supporting the needs and interests of visitors and of the local community;
  • collaborationing with local organizations and other local partners;
  • cooperating with national governments to support implementation of national policies in sustainable development; and by
  • participating in, supporting or developing international programmes and partnerships.

In-Garden and Local issues

Agenda 21 provides an excellent framework for individual botanic gardens to help them become models of sustainable practices and Agenda 21 resource centres for the community.

  • The Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, U.S.A. has already created an environmental position plan. Particular goals of the Garden's programmes are the conservation of biodiversity, sound horticultural practices, international understanding and action, and the responsible use of all resources. The Garden emphasizes these goals in its own activities and encourages individuals and other organizations to do so as well.
  • The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, U.K.(RBGE), Scotland, has appointed a Community Education Officer. In relation to Agenda 21, one of the key issues for the community education programme at the RBGE is to increase participation in the Garden across the community and to make contact with groups not currently using the Garden and begin to negotiate their involvement. This is being achieved through a range of activities that aim to provide participants with a new or different perspective for decision making. Sometimes the aim is simply to give people a different environment for a few hours. The RBGE also manages three gardens located in more rural areas of Scotland. A travelling programme of curriculum and leisure-focused events has been developed to reach out to the communities of these three sites.
  • The National Botanic Garden of Wales, U.K. is due to open in 2000. It aspires to be a model to a sustainable way of living in harmony with the natural world. The garden will minimise energy consumption by providing optimum conditions for plant propagation and growth and visitor comfort, give preferential considerations to sustainable energy sources, harvest rainwater, use the minimum amount of water for effluent disposal and waste consumption will be handled on site wherever feasible. The Garden aims to work with the public, employees, volunteers and environmental networks at all levels to support the people of Wales in becoming part of a sustainable world. It offers innovative approaches to help people make choices about their future – a ‘preferred futures’ site. 
  •  The "Eco-Restorán" at the Jardín Botánico Nacional, Havana, Cuba is a model of what can be achieved even with limited resources. The restaurant in the Garden is supplied with vegetables grown on the site. In general about 40% of the total plant volume is supplied in this way, which includes over 400 species of vegetable, spice and medicinal plant. They are grown organically, the garbage is recycled using vermiculture and solar energy is used in the kitchens ("Solar dishes" - platos solares). Apart from being profitable, the restaurant highlights the importance of plants for nutrition and therefore the importance of biodiversity conservation. It is also promoted as a way of improving the traditional diet of visitors and developing efficient methods of cultivation.

Consultative processes can be initiated to identify and prioritize local concerns and opportunities through dialogue within the garden, between existing and potential local partners - business, ngos or the community, and also through visitor or local `client' surveys. Some individual botanic gardens are already exploring Agenda 21 issues, such as the use of water, the possibility of composting community or municipal waste together with their own garden waste, and the implications of suburban spread on vegetation and the threat of fire. These botanic gardens are usually responding to an expressed need and are fulfilling a role as resource centres for their local community.

Information concerning water, its relationship with plants and their needs, water use in the environment and water sources can be more widely linked with ideas and suggestions for reducing local water demand, through appropriate planting in botanic gardens. Information on locally relevant issues such as methods of recycling household water for use in the garden or in the wider community and the use of plants to clean and filter water, are also issues which can be addessed by botanic gardens.

  • In the dry areas of the west coast of the U.S.A. there are several demonstration gardens that illustrate the use of water conservation techniques and planting schemes suitable for arid areas. Examples include Landscapes Southern California Style, Riverside, California (associated with the Western Municipal Water District and the University of California Cooperative Extension) and the Desert Demonstration Garden, Las Vegas, Nevada, developed in association with the Las Vegas Valley Water District.

Local Agenda 21

Chapter 28 Local authorities' initiatives in support of Agenda 21 (Section III - Strengthening the role of major groups) proposes that local authorities should undertake a consultative process with their populations and prepare a 'Local Agenda 21' based on priorities set by the local population. In the U.K, the results of some of these consultative processes have shown that concerns about waste, transport issues, clean water, clean air, caring for nature and the energy balance are considered by the community to be of prime importance. In Europe, Local Agenda 21 has dominated the debate on sustainable development; botanic gardens can contribute significantly to these initiatives.

Local Agenda 21 encourages people to be involved in the sustainable use of the environment through their daily decision making and activities. These decisions, whether about transport, consumption practices, recycling or biodegradability, all have an impact on other living organisms.

  • Chelsea Physic Garden, London, U.K. is working in close partnership with the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea under a Local Agenda 21 umbrella of organisations on several projects. The Garden provides an advertising site to publicise the Borough’s plans for changing people’s transport practices under headings such as ‘Don’t Choke London’, ‘Walk to School Week’ and ‘Bike to Work day’.
  • Botanic gardens can provide a global perspective on sustainable development. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, U.K., in collaboration with the Birmingham Agenda 21 and other local organizations, held a schools' conference on sustainability and Local Agenda 21 entitled 'Making your Mark'. The Garden ran a workshop using role-play to raise the awareness on the issues of global trade and sustainability.

National Initiatives

The responsibility to implement Agenda 21 rests firmly with governments as well as other bodies, such as ngos, local communities, and the business and scientific community.

  • The National Botanic Garden, Havana, Cuba is playing a leading role in workshops organized by the government to develop a National Biodiversity Strategy for Cuba for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In Britain, staff from several botanic gardens are members of the UK Biodiversity Steering Group, which has been established by the national Government to produce the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which will set conservation targets. Botanic gardens throughout the world are playing similar roles in their own countries.
  • In Colombia a national law has been passed defining the role of botanic gardens in conservation and development (Botanical Gardens Law - 299 of 1996), possibly the first such law for botanic gardens worldwide. This law has declared botanic gardens a priority in the environmental agenda, and recognizes the important role they are expected and obliged to play in safeguarding national biodiversity. The Botanical Gardens Law also calls for an action plan to be developed by the Ministry of the Environment, the National Botanic Gardens Network and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Such a plan has now been developed.

International Initiatives

Increasingly botanic gardens are developing partnerships and programmes with organisations and botanic gardens in other countries in order to strengthen and coordinate efforts to conserve biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. Such programmes often support valuable institutional capacity building needs. Botanic gardens can also become actively involved in the development of mechanisms for the implementation of a number of relevant international conventions that support environmental protection. Representatives may attend Conferences of the Parties to the Conventions as members of national delegations or as observers and contribute to such global debates and processes. Botanic gardens need to be clearly aware and well informed on relevant issues relating to environment and development globally.

  • As an international resource, BGCI provides a network for the exchange of data and information. promotes technical and scientific cooperation to support the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological and genetic resources and supports capacity-building in the form of training and to helping the development of environmental institutions - their research, management and facilities, such as herbaria, museums, living collections, information management systems, genebanks and laboratories, each relevant to the conservation of biodiversity.
  • The Conservation Action Plan of the Caribbean Islands (1998), published by BGCI was the result of a series of workshops held in the Caribbean from 1995 to 1998. Participants from over 20 countries in the region attended these workshops. The Action Plan provides a framework for action to help development and conservation go hand-in-hand to improve the quality of life for the peoples of the region. A specific objective of the Plan is to show how botanic gardens are playing a major and increasing role in sustainable development of these countries by helping agriculture, forestry, horticulture, tourism and other sectors and in the conservation of habitats and species.
  • In 1999 BGCI invited botanic gardens, conservation and environmental organizations and bodies throughout the world to help revise and update the Botanic Gardens Conservation Strategy (1989) as the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation. This will be an action-based document, incorporating botanic garden commitments to the implementation of the Biodiversity-Related Conventions and to play an enhanced role in sustainable development.

Checklist for botanic gardens to promote Agenda 21

Internal Develop an institutional policy on sustainable development - an Environmental policy statement which covers:

  • Horticulture (e.g. collection practices, composting and use of fertilizers, integrated pest management)
  • Low-impact resource use (e.g. water conservation, waste disposal, energy conservation, paper use, recycling)
  • Equitable sources (e.g. equipment and food stuffs produced from fair trade and sustainable sources)

Decide what level of involvement is possible in each area e.g. exemplify in operations, inform through education, exhibits, interpretation or actively promote.

Designate one member of staff to be your Agenda 21 Liaison Officer.

Distribute information and organise workshops about Agenda 21 for all your staff so they provide leadership and an example in the community.

Set up a project to determine which issues your garden could address of relevance to plant conservation and sustainable living at a local level. These might be issues such as:

  • threats to local plants or local habitats;
  • water shortage during drought;
  • selection of plants for horticulture to suit local conditions (i.e to reduce inputs of water, fertilizers etc.)
  • promote the use of native species in landscaping
  • horticultural methods to reduce inputs of water, pesticides and herbicides, peat etc.;
  • disappearance of traditional knowledge;
  • composting garden waste from the community;
  • invasive plants or animals;
  • greening of public spaces and minimising loss of green areas
  • encourage wildlife in green areas;
  • promoting sustainable tourism;
  • providing baseline information on natural resources to evaluate human impact on natural ecosystems e.g. Floras, Red Lists in both hard copy and electronic formats;

Examine your strengths (possibly undertaken as part of a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in developing a Strategic Plan) which you can contribute to resolving local issues e.g. a focus of botanical and horticultural knowledge, well known public park in the community, provides unique training courses, education materials and education programmes.

Assess the facilities and resources needed and/or available for joint projects (for example - scientific, horticultural or education staff, volunteers, time, budget and materials)

Incorporate education for sustainability into botanic garden education programmes by identifying the conservation / sustainability messages that you want to convey in relation to your Strategic Plan (these might be local issues such as threats to local plants; national issues such as identifying plants that are important to the national economy; or international issues such as the role of your gardens in saving plant biodiversity).

Contact all local groups with a view to collaborating on projects and providing mutual support such as:

  • local authorities;
  • environmental groups and conservation ngos (birds, buildings, parks, wildlife areas); 
  •  local schools, universities, research institutes;
  • neighbourhood and local groups such as women and youth groups;
  • business and industry;
  • nursery trade, private growers and other local botanic gardens;
  • other local botanic gardens.

National and international
Contact the groups at a national and international level to share materials and expertise and for joint projects.

Identify plants that are important to the local or national economy with a view to developing enterprises through sustainable harvesting, community gardens, commercial horticulture, agriculture, forestry etc. e.g. medicinal plants, fruit, cultural products (baskets and brushes).

Contact your national authorities which negotiate International Conventions:

  • Has your county adopted Agenda 21?
  • If it has not, why not?
  • If your country has not adopted Agenda 21, encourage it to sign the treaty as soon as possible.
  • Has your national authority produced leaflets on Agenda 21 which you could use with your education materials?

Sign up to the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation.