4 August 2018

Building a national seed collection in Zambia

The partnership between Zambia’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been formally launched. With seed collecting at its heart, the project will support the conservation of some of Zambia’s most threatened plants.

The formalities

Kew has had many successful decades of collaboration with Zambian botanists, and as we approach the completion of the first description of all Zambian plants in the ‘Flora Zambesiaca’, new partnerships are still being developed. A new Memorandum of Collaboration with the Ministry responsible for both the largest National Herbarium and the Forestry Tree Seed Centre supports a new era of seed conservation in Zambia.

Building a National Seed Collection

Zambia’s Forestry Research Division has managed the National Tree Seed Centre in Kitwe since the early 1970s. As with most African Tree Seed Centres, emphasis has been on the sourcing of seed for forestry planting, mostly with exotic species. While the demand for this will continue, the aspiration now is to enhance the availability of native plant seed from a wide range of rare, threatened and useful plant species. 

With funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, this new project will help to put in place the skills, facilities and equipment that are needed for the National Tree Seed Centre to deliver high quality seed collections. Over the three-year plan, the team will make more than 500 seed collections from 450 species, delivering a vital 300 new species to the collections held across Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.

Training a new cadre of seed collectors in Zambia

As part of this project, a Kew Seed Conservation Techniques course will be run in Zambia later this year. Alongside staff from the National Tree Seed Centre, staff from Kew’s other seed collecting partners in the region including from South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, will also be invited to attend.

Much experience and knowledge can be gained through regional exchanges between seed collecting partners. It’s also a great way to ensure that gaps in our Millennium Seed Bank collection are filled by the most appropriate collection team.

Species targeting for Zambia

Of the three herbaria in Zambia, the historic herbarium originally based in the town of Ndola is the largest collection and is now housed in the Forestry Research Division’s headquarters in the nearby mining town of Kitwe. Sadly, so far, there has been insufficient investment to maintain the collection to the high standards that are needed. Kew will be hosting several visitors from the Kitwe team, providing support and guidance, to raise the standards of the herbarium. We’ll also be complementing their existing plant records with important material from Kew’s herbarium collections to assist in the field work programme. The historic links between Zambia Forestry and the Daubeny Herbarium in Oxford will also be a vital source of material for targeting the seed collecting plans.

This trip was made possible by funding awarded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

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