Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Botswana
The Useful Plants Project in Botswana aims to help conserve plant species that are most beneficial to the wellbeing of local people.
Locals preparing baskets for useful plants in Botswana. (Photo: T Ulian)
This will be done through ex-situ conservation and propagation of plant species, with a focus on plants that are under threat and those which are important to rural communities.
The main objectives of the project in Botswana are to:
- identify which species are useful to local communities
- collect seeds and conserve them ex-situ
- propagate these species and maintain them in nurseries
- develop community gardens to grow useful plants for use by local people
- investigate the phytochemestry and plant ecophysiology of selected plants
The rural communities involved in the project are from Tsetseng (west of Gaborone) and Lerala (north of Gaborone). The collaboration with the local people is though Community Trusts in the two villages.
Activities in Botswana
Working with inhabitants of Tsetseng and Lerala, the project team has identified the most useful species and agreed which plants are to be propagated in the community gardens. In both communities, facilities have been put in place for training and propagating the useful species. In addition, a school programme has been developed to involve local children in the project.
Expeditions by the project team and staff from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project are collecting seeds which are being dried and stored in the seed bank at the National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC) and in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.
Researchers are studying the plant growth conditions and analysing the chemical compounds of selected medicinal plants in the facilities at the Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA). Several undergraduate students from BCA have been involved in designing the propagation facilities in the communities and carrying out experiments.
The team has already made good progress in different aspects of the project. Training workshops have been organised in the two communities and local people have been involved in different project activities. Plants produced at BCA, VPR&D and the Botswana National Tree Seed Centre (NTSC) have been transplanted in the community gardens with public events having been organised for it.
In May 2009, Dr Paul Smith and Dr Moctar Sacande visited the community of Tsetseng accompanied by British journalists Tim Adams and Richard Scrase, to participate in a planting event (learn more through the related links below).