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Kew Magazine - July post

Christina Harrison
16 July 2009
Blog team: 
Gardening the Botswana way

One of the huge benefits of being editor of Kew magazine – if you don't know Kew magazine by the way, take a look – is the wonderful stories about Kew’s work that land on your desk. Stories that not only take you by surprise but ones that really inspire you.

Kew magazine is quarterly but we could fill up a monthly magazine with the amount of tales of great work that staff do here (thank goodness for this new website with all the space for these stories online now).

One such incident happened while I was editing a piece about meadow conservation at Wakehurst Place for our summer issue when a phone call came through from our press office – did I know that not only was Paul Smith, Head of the Millennium Seed Bank Project going to Botswana to meet seed collectors out there but they would also be opening a new community garden near Gabarone (home of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency). Not only this but reporters from the BBC and The Observer would be accompanying Paul. The more I found out about the work in Botswana and about this new community garden the more I knew we had to cover this story in the magazine to show how Kew has such a global reach to help people around the world.

The garden (being planted in the image here) is only the second to be created in Botswana with the help of the Useful Plants Project – a partnership project run as part of the work of the MSBP. It is being filled with useful, edible and medicinal plants that will help the local village thrive and mean that they will not have to risk foraging for wild plants – a risk to both their lives (lion attacks –  I kid you not) as well as a risk to the wild populations of native plant species. Gardening in this way – ‘allotmenteering’ almost – is a new thing in Botswana. People really know their plants but they harvest them from the wild (see the image below of the village  chief) rather than grow them. With help from the MSBP staff, villagers now have all the information necessary to grow what they need successfully. Something to think about next time you are watering your carrots down at your own plot.

Richard Scrase, who went on the trip (and took the images you can see on this page), and produced  a programme for the BBC World Service about his experience, has now written an excellent piece for us on this topic for the autumn issue of Kew magazine with some wonderfully atmospheric images of the Kalahari, the people and the plants. So look out for the issue - it's available from 9 September.  You can buy Kew magazine in the Kew and Wakehurst Place shops, via kewbooks, or by becoming a Friend of Kew.

Keep your eyes peeled on this website too for more on the MSBP this autumn – some great stories  are coming your way.

Images are copyright of Richard Scrase.

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