Botanic Gardens Conservation International
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Collaboration for Conservation

Number 16 - July 1998

A. Attiti






The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) are developing a modern botanic garden in Nairobi. This is a unique case of a modern botanic garden sharing the same grounds with a museum.

Though still in its infancy and not yet fully developed, the NMK Nairobi Botanic Garden has already become part of a growing world-wide movement in making Environmental Education (EE) accessible to everyone. Its education mission is "To provide opportunities for individuals to acquire knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to protect and improve the environment".

Although NMK already serves an large audience of teachers, school children, university students, tourists, casual visitors and local communities, the Botanic Garden will initially prioritise its focus on teachers, schools and tourists.

Schools Education

The Botanic Garden offered its first EE programmes to schools in May 1997. By utilising the existing plants at the site and in the NMK Plant House (opened in July 1996), classes from primary schools around Nairobi were invited for interactive and hands-on sessions in the Garden. The initial response from the schools was overwhelming. Within the first ten weeks, we received 990 pupils from five primary schools. 38 teachers were later invited for an informal teachers' feedback session. The comments which they gave have been used in improving on the subsequent EE programmes at the Garden.

EE programmes in 1998 will target both primary and secondary schools around Nairobi. A series of workshops for teachers are also planned for 1998 with the aim of building confidence among participants to use the teachers' pack.

Teachers' Pack Development

In collaboration with RBG Kew and BGCI, the Botanic Garden has developed a draft teachers' pack entitled Plants Around Us for use in primary schools. This pack aims to enable teachers in primary schools around Nairobi to utilise the resources at the Garden for curriculum-linked EE programmes. It contains background information for teachers, activities for pupils and follow-up ideas for investigation.

Though still in its draft form, we have begun to implement it on a pilot basis, with four topics from the pack  now on offer in the garden: Applying Mathematics in the Garden, Indigenous Plants of Nairobi, Introducing Plants and Discovering Different Habitats in the Garden. The pack largely relates to the science curriculum and will complement the teaching of the newly introduced EE in Kenyan primary schools. In the near future, a more comprehensive teachers' pack will be developed through a consultative process with teachers, curriculum developers and education networks in the country.


In October, 1997 a three-day course for tour guides entitled 'Know the Plants of Kenya' was run by the Friends of Nairobi Arboretum (FoNA) in collaboration with NMK. The participants covered a number of plant related topics and tour guides were taught guiding techniques. To promote the use of the Botanic Garden by tourists, pilot guided walks will be offered in 1998. Interpretation panels and trail leaflets aimed at this non-captive audience are now being prepared.


Environmental interpretation for the non-captive audience is quite challenging, especially for a new botanic garden with limited financial resources. However, the Botanic Garden is beginning to use thematic interpretation of its existing plantings and Plant House. We have adopted an interpretative approach that is entertaining, relevant and thematic. As a cost-effective measure, interpretation texts will be laminated on A4 size paper and mounted on simply designed metallic stands. Some examples of thematic topics being used are:

  • The biblical tree of life was a palm
  • Indigenous trees are part of our national heritage
  • You can make arrow poison here
  • An olive tree that produces no olive oil
  • This tree is fixing atmospheric nitrogen

Creating Environmental Education Networks

To keep the Botanic Garden abreast of developments in EE and ensure the provision of effective and worthwhile education services, strong collaborative links with relevant national and international organisations have been established.  Locally, we are working closely with Nairobi Arboretum in promoting plant-based EE programmes in Kenya. Within the country, we are also liaising with a number of government and non-governmental EE institutions. At the moment we are working closely with these institutions to plan a regional EE course in 1999. As Nairobi is the headquarters of UNEP, we have been able to maintain close links with its Environmental Education Unit. Internationally, we have strong EE networks with BGCI; The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the National Botanical Institute of South Africa, as well as a number of other botanic gardens.

Through these EE networks, we have been able to share useful EE strategies and resource materials. Here in Nairobi, we strongly support the idea of creating a collaborative African network of botanic gardens. Such a network will help raise the profile of environmental education on the continent since it will provide a focal point of contact, which does not currently exist. Being a continent with very few botanic gardens, we cannot afford to work in isolation. As educators in African botanic gardens, we should reflect, set goals and develop viable environmental education strategies for a more sustainable continent.

Once fully developed, the Botanic Garden will certainly play an important role in laying strong foundations for EE in Kenya as we enter the next Millennium.

Collaboration Pour la Conservation


Un nouveau jardin botanique est en cours d'elaboration au Kenya aux Musees Nationaux du Kenya situes a Nairobi. Il a commence a proposer des programmes d'education a l'environnement, d'interpretation de l'environnement et un service de renseignements a trois groupes cibles en priorite : ecoles, professeurs et touristes. Entre mai et juillet 1997, un total de 990 eleves et 38 professeurs des 5 ecoles primaires de Nairobi furent accueillis au jardin botanique ou ils participerent a un programme pilote d'education a l'environnement. Le travail a commence par creer une approche de l'interpretation de l'environnement sous une forme amusante pertinente et thematique.

Le jardin a developp‚ des liens avec des reseaux nationaux et internationaux autant qu'avec d'autres jardins botaniques et des organisations educatives pour l'environnement, afin de conjuguer strategies educatives et ressources materielles.

Colaboracion Para la Conservacion


Un nuevo jardín botanico se est desarrollando en Nairobi, en el Museo Nacional de Kenia. Se ha empezado a trabajar en programas de educación e interpretación medioambiental y servicios de información dirigidos a tres grupos prioritarios: escuelas, maestros y turistas.
Entre mayo y julio de 1997, un total de 990 escolares y 38 maestros de cinco escuelas primarias de Nairobi visitaron el jardín y participaron en un programa de educación medioambiental piloto. El trabajo desarrolla un acercamiento a la interpretación medioambiental que es divertido, pertinente y tem tico.
El jardín tiene relaciones con redes nacionales e internacionales, as¡ como con otros jardines bot nicos y organizaciones de educación medioambiental para compartir estrategias educativas y materiales de recursos.