Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project
The purpose of this project is to improve the welfare of local communities and safeguard useful important plants from extinction in Latin America and Africa.
Many inhabitants in developing countries depend directly on natural vegetation for everyday needs such as food, medicine, fuel and building materials. Plants are faced with a range of threats that include climate change, over-exploitation, and shortage of water, habitat loss and invasion of exotic species.
Project MGU - the Useful Plants Project, aims to enhance the ex situ conservation of native useful plants for human wellbeing by building the capacity of local communities to successfully conserve and use these species sustainably.
Working with the Millennium Seed Bank Partnerships in Botswana, Kenya, Mali, Mexico and South Africa, the main components of the project include: targeting and prioritizing native useful plants; seed collecting and conservation; plant propagation and planting; capacity building and plant conservation in local rural communities; and research to support to in situ conservation and sustainable use of priority useful plants.
Over a thousand plants (1223 taxa) have been identified so far through research and by engaging local communities. The seeds of 630 useful plant species have been collected and conserved in country with duplicates stored in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. Of these, 513 have been tested and germinated and 194 propagation protocols have been developed. The capacity of 12 local communities to conserve and use sustainably a wide range of plant species has been enhanced through training and the improvement of local facilities: 19 useful plants gardens have been established and 9 plant nurseries enhanced in the local communities. Over one hundred species (132 taxa) have been propagated and/or planted in the communities.
Research has been carried out on 168 useful plant species and has included ethnobotanical, phytochemical, plant physiological and plant population studies, DNA profiling and in vitro propagation. Information about the use, conservation and propagation of the species has been compiled in leaflets, booklets, technical information sheets and posters and disseminated in country in order to conserve the associated traditional knowledge and safeguard them. In addition, the project has been successfully working with 12 schools in the villages and has led to the establishment of environmental clubs, school plant nurseries and gardens.
All the targets sets for the first phase (2007-2010) were exceeded and a second phase is being developed to enhance the conservation of native useful plants in the communities, as well as to promote the generation of income through a sustainable use of the plants or the production of plant products. It aims also to scale up and to expand the project to a total of 28 communities and 39 schools in the countries involved, as well as to link to existing species reintroduction and reforestation programmes.
The project began in June 2007 from a proposal made to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank by a philanthropist based in Spain. The name MGU reflects the generous support provided by this philanthropist for the work of the Useful Plants Project.
Key papers published since 2006
- Albino-García, C., H. Cervántes, M. López, L. Ríos-Casanova & R. Lira. (2011). Patrones de diversidad y aspectos etnobotánicos de las plantas arvenses del Valle deTehuacán-Cuicatlán: el caso de San Rafael, Municipio de Coxcatlán, Puebla. Revista Mexicana deBiodiversidad.
- Lira, R., A. Casas, R. Rosas-López, M. Paredes-Flores, E. Pérez-Negrón, S. Rangel-Landa, L. Solís, I. Torres & P. Dávila (2009). Traditional knowledge and useful plants richness in the Tehuacán–Cuicatlán Valley, México. Economic Botany 63: 271-287.
- Serrano, R., T. Hernández, M. Canales, A. M. García-Bores, A. Romo De Vivar, C. L. Céspedes & J. G. Avila (2009). Ent-Labdane type Diterpene with antifungal activity from Gymnosperma glutinosum (Spreng.) Less. (Asteraceae). Boletín Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas. 8: 412-418.
Project Leader: Ulian, Tiziana
Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives
Andrea Diez de Sollano
The Useful Plants Project is overseen by Dr Paul Smith and managed by Dr Tiziana Ulian.
Other members of the management team are Moctar Sacande, Tim Pearce, Michiel van Slageren and Michael Way, with support from Roger Smith (retired).
The research part of the project is overseen by Hugh Pritchard, with support from Charlotte Seal and Louise Colville.
Project Partners and Collaborators
The Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA)
Veld Products Research and Development (VPR&D)
Communities of Tsetseng (south west) and Pilikwe (north east)
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK)
The Genebank of Kenya at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT)
Community groups from the Tharaka district (north east Kenya)
Institut d’Economie Rurale (Rural Economics Institute, IER) in the Regional Centre in Sikasso
Département de la Médecine Traditionnelle (Traditional medicine department, DMT) of the Institut National de Recherche en Santé Publique (National Public Health Research Institute, INRSP)
Université de Bamako (University of Bamako)
Communities of Kadiolo, Koutiala, Sikasso (south east of Mali), Yanfolila, Bougouni (central of Mali), Bandiangara and Bankass (central east of Mali).
Facultad de Estudios Superiores Iztacala, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (FESI-UNAM)
Community of San Rafael Coxcatlán (central-southern Mexico)
Lowveld National Botanical Garden (Nelspruit)- South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency
Community groups/schools from the Lowveld region (Mpumalanga Province)
Useful Plants Project area in Millennium Seed Bank section of Kew website
Conferences and workshops
- Boca del Río, Veracruz, Mexico, 3-7 April (2011) III Congreso Mexicano de Ecología: BRENA BUSTAMANTE, P., E. GARCÍA MOYA, A. ROMERO MANZANARES, R. LIRA, S. CHÁVEZ HERRERA, H. H. CERVANTES MAYA, M. LÓPEZ CARRERA & C.A. TORRES GUERRERO- Estructura poblacional de Agave kerchovei Lem. en la Reserva de la Biósfera Tehuacán‐Cuicatlán. [oral communication]
- Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, 21 - 27 November (2010) - XVIII Congreso Mexicano de Botánica. Sociedad Botánica de México: ALBINO-GARCÍA, C.O., L. RÍOS-CASANOVA, H. H. CERVANTES-MAYA, M. LÓPEZ-CARRERA & R. LIRA. (2010)- Diversidad y aspectos etnobotánicos de las plantas arvenses de San Rafael, Municipio de Coxcatlán, Puebla (Mexico). [oral communication]
- Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, 21 - 27 November (2010) - XVIII Congreso Mexicano de Botánica. Sociedad Botánica de México: LIRA, R., H.H. CERVANTES-MAYA, J.L. GARCÍA-ROJAS, N.I. RODRÍGUEZ-ARÉVALO, P.D. DÁVILA-ARANDA, T. ULIAN, M. LÓPEZ-CARERA-Conservación en banco de semillas de plantas útiles de San Rafael Coxcatlán, Puebla (Mexico). [oral communication]
- Santa Clara, Cuba. 13-29 September (2010) - III Simposio Internacional sobre Restauración Ecológica: Ulian, T., Smith, P., Way, M. (2010) - Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership -Use of seed collections to restore habitats and improve livelihoods worldwide. [oral communication]
- Bamako, Mali, 20 – 24 June (2010)- Project Review Workshop ‘Project MGU-the Useful Plants Project: Ulian, T., Sanogo, A. K., Sacande, M. [workshop]
- Durban, South Africa,2-6 November (2009)- BGCI's 7th International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens : Van der Walt, K., Lukhele C.V., van Wyk E, and Froneman W. (2009) - Propagation protocols for Mpumalanga medicinal plants for conservation and education in South Africa. [oral communication]
- Graaff-Reneitte, South Africa, 7-11 July (2008)- The Indigenous Plant Use Forum: Van der Walt, K., Lukhele, C.V., van Wyk, E. ,Froneman, W.- Developing propagation protocols for medicinal plants in Mpumalanga (South Africa). [poster]
- Adams, T. & Hall, A. (2009). The No.1 Lady Seed Detective. The Observer Magazine pp 31-37 (On line publication).
- Scrase, R. (August 2009). From the Bush to the Garden. Peolwane Air Botswana In-flight Magazine pp 26-30.
- Scrase, R. (July 2009). Domesticating wild trees in Botswana. New Agriculturist (On line publication).
- Scrase, R (2009). Lessons in Collaboration. Research Africa pp 22-23.
- Rushby, K. October (2009). Kenya: the plant hunters. British Airways Highlife Magazine (On line publication).
- Way, M., Ulian, T. & Sacande, M. December (2010). Saving useful plants through the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. (On line publication)