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Nairobi Botanic Garden: a Call for Support

Volume 2 Number 7 - December 1996

The Director, National Museums of Kenya

Following the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), in collaboration with various funding agencies, have taken a leading role in meeting the challenge of conserving Kenyan national biological diversity. One approach has been through the setting up of a Plant Conservation Programme (PCP) at the East African Herbarium.

The work of the PCP includes conducting botanical surveys in areas of high diversity, assessing priorities for species conservation - focusing on those species which are rare or unique to Kenya (ie threatened), monitoring natural populations, establishing propagation techniques and holding collections of these priority species at the NMK Nursery and Seed Store. It is now the challenge of the PCP to promote public education in plant conservation issues, and the recently developed Plant House is a first step towards meeting this challenge.

A modern botanic garden, which Kenya currently lacks, represents a special opportunity for people to gain an understanding of the importance and value of our plant resources.

Consultants from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew were therefore commissioned by the NMK to produce proposals for the development of a botanic garden at the Nairobi Museum.

These proposals included recommendations in the following major areas:

  • Site access and infrastructure, including the relocation of the site entrance to the central area, adjacent to the exhibit entrances, thus giving visitors easier access to the proposed botanic garden area and paths, including the implementation of a new and improved path network that will provide access for less mobile visitors and for vehicle maintenance
  • Security and safety
  • Human resources and staffing
  • Education to bridge the gap in botanical and environmental education facilities in Nairobi and to increase the educational value of NMK's exhibits through linkage to the living displays.

A master plan has been developed to promote the enhancement, the better protection and the longÄterm management of the existing and future outdoor spaces and key landscape features of the NMK site.

The proposed layout of the botanic garden (see map) is themed planting which integrates historical and cultural values with habitat display and systematic planting. The visitor has the choice of following the trail through the western side of the garden, learning about ethnobotany and economic plants, or following the eastern trail, which focuses on plant conservation, looking at threats to species and. habitats, and their conservation needs.

The design is based on the floral colour, architectural diversity and richness of Kenyan indigenous flora, planted in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

The estimated cost of the proposed NMK Nairobi Botanic Garden is half a million pounds sterling. A modular approach is being adopted towards the establishment of the Botanic Garden. Thus private donors and funding agencies will have the opportunity to develop an individual project within the garden. To this end, a book of Noted Projects has been prepared for interested supporters of the Botanic Garden: the budgets for these projects range from £750 to £100,000.