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Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project in Kenya

In Kenya, the Useful Plants Project aims to enhance the ex situ conservation of plants that are beneficial to human wellbeing. Ex situ conservation involves conserving seeds outside their native habitat and helps to protect plant life for our future.
A community nursery in Kenya (Photo: Tiziana Ulian)


The Useful Plants Project (UPP) is working closely with local communities to increase their capacity to propagate useful species.

The main objectives of the project in Kenya are to:

  • identify the most useful plant species for conservation
  • conserve these important plants ex situ
  • carry out research in order to support the conservation and sustainable use of selected useful species
  • enhance the capacity of Government of Kenya (GoK) agencies and local growers to cultivate target species

Activities in Kenya

Through literature review and ethnobotanical surveys, investigating the use of plants within community groups, the project team have identified the most useful plant species.

Four nurseries have been selected for enhancement. They have been surveyed to discover which useful species were already propagated by the local people, identify those with propagation problems and highlight plants of particular interest.

The UPP team is running workshops in the communities to educate local people about the importance of conserving useful species and preserving local knowledge. Training is provided and teaches techniques for seed collecting, conservation and propagation, enhancing the ability of the local community to cultivate useful plants.

Outside Tharaka, the team collects nationwide. Germination tests are carried out at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) with assistance from the Genebank of Kenya, at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), where seeds are conserved. The seeds are duplicated at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to ensure their long term conservation.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) is assisting with the propagation of difficult plants, while Kew scientists from the Jodrell Laboratory are collaborating with Kenyatta University to study the phytochemistry of the African satinwood (Zanthoxylum gilletii) in different geographical areas. 

Gallery of the Useful Plants Project in Kenya

Project partners and collaborators