African Field Trip Report by BGCI General Secretary Sara Oldfield
26 April 2011
In February 2011, the Secretary General of BGCI Sara Oldfield visited a two botanic gardens in the Democratic Republic of Congo which she says are amongst the most beautiful botanic gardens she's ever seen. Read her account below, or see photographs of the botanic gardens visited.
This year, 2011, is the International Year of the Forests, designated by the UN to celebrate the importance of forests for people. Keeping forests in the news will help to remind us all of the need for botanic gardens to be involved in forest conservation and restoration. BGCI is a partner to the International Year of the Forests and we have various activities planned to support forest biodiversity.
Recently I was privileged to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country which has six percent of the world’s remaining tropical forest. The main purpose of my visit was to participate in a project to produce a Red List of exploitable timber species for the country. BGCI is actively involved in tree Red Listing, providing the Secretariat for the IUCN/SSC Global Trees Specialist Group, and is a partner in the IUCN Red List Programme. The invitation to the DRC timber Red List workshop in Kinshasa also gave me an opportunity to visit two of DRC’s botanic gardens – a truly remarkable experience.
With 148 million hectares of tropical forest representing over two thirds of the remaining forest in the Congo basin, the results of the IUCN Red List timber assessments will be used as a tool to guide decision-making and planning of long term, sustainable management of forest resources. This is urgently needed in DRC where much of the timber trade is informal and unregulated but where there is great potential to produce well-managed valuable hardwoods for the global market. The selection of species to be targeted by the project was carried by representatives from government departments, botanic gardens, NGOs, the private sector, the scientific community and development partners.
Most Beautiful Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Garden at Kisantu is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited. The Director of Kisantu Botanic Garden, Leopold Nsimundele, sets very high standards for the garden which has an area of 225 ha and around 3,000 species in cultivation. Included in the grounds of Kisantu is an arboretum with around 200 native tree species together with collections of medicinal plants and local crop cultivars. Historical ornamental features at the garden have been carefully restored. New facilities have been developed including accommodation for training courses Leopold Nsimundele is about to retire and is very keen for international support in training young people in horticultural, botanical and management skills.
Officially re-opened by the president on June 27, 2010 there are now plans to develop an environmental education centre in Kinshasa Botanic Garden. DRC’s botanic gardens are symbols of hope in a war-torn and poverty-stricken country. The international collaboration between the National Botanic Garden of Belgium and the gardens of DRC, highlights yet again the importance of botanic gardens working together globally for conservation, education and sustainable development. BGCI is looking at ways to continue working with the botanic gardens of DRC as part of our expanding Africa programme.
Botanic Gardens: Modern-Day Arks' considers the essential conservation role of botanic gardens. This beautifully illustrated book by Sara Oldfield,Secretary General of BGCI describes botanic gardens from around the world. Sales will help support BGCI's work.
Published 2010; 240 pages. BGCI members can use the promotional code 'BGCI' on the New Holland Publishers website. Further details (and online purchases) from New Holland Publishers.
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