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Nature Appreciation Through Horticultural Education

A formal horticultural education programme was instituted in 1972 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with the establishment of the School of Horticulture. Its primary mission is to provide trained horticulturists at all levels to develop and maintain Singapore's Garden City. Today the School of Horticulture, the educational arm of the National Parks Board, has enlarged its role to include the promotion of nature awareness and appreciation among Singaporeans.

An original piece of the equatorial tropical rainforest can be found within the heart of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The four hectare forest, with 200 or more native plant species, offers visitors a unique and enriched experience of discovery and wonder. To manage this valuable piece of heritage, sponsorship was found to fund a three-year reforestation project. There are three phases to the project:

  • survey of plant species in the Gardens' forest
  • weeding and reforestation
  • provision of interpretive plaques and educational materials.

The survey is being conducted by a taxonomist and an ecologist from the National University of Singapore. Based on the information from the survey, native species in danger of extinction are sourced and reintroduced. Exotic species are removed.

To help nature restore the forest composition, student volunteers are recruited through the scouts and the National Youth Achievement Award Council. The Council encourages youths to volunteer for activities which will lead to personal growth, self-reliance, perseverance and responsibility. Students are guided in their tasks of removing exotic species like the African yam (Dioscorea sansibarensis) and Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia spp.) They study the biology of these weeds to determine the best method for control. Students also collect seeds of native species for propagation and learn how to nurture seedlings for regeneration.

Since April 1991, about 250 volunteer students have participated in the "rescue" programme quickening new life to the forest. Another 200 students were invited from sixty-one institutions for the March and June school holidays in 1993. Participants follow a structured programme, which comprises fieldwork in the forest, talks on conservation, field tours and leadership training. The aim is to develop a core of well-informed and dedicated leaders who will support the National Parks Board's conservation programme.

The initial project ended in December 1993. Preservation of the forest will continue with public education and support.