By Mary Mwendwa
May 15, Nairobi: A highly rated Botanical (plant science) congress was officially launched today in Nairobi.
Different plant species planted at the JKUAT Botanical garden.JKUAT has partnered with SAJOREC , chinese Academy of Sciences in this project. / Nanjinia Wamuswa
The congress, The Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa(AETFAT) which is currently underway from 15th – 19th May 2017, brings together about 500 participants including students both local and international scientists in Botany.
The congress, is expected to bring on board a lot of information and knowledge on biodiversity and the important role plants play.
Plant diversity and species conservation status have resulted in some areas to be designated as biodiversity hotspots under Unesco.These areas are ; Mt.Kenya, Kakamega Lowland Rainforest of Western Kenya and Arabuko Sokoke forest in Coastal Kenya.
According to Dr Geoffrey Mwachala Chief Researcher at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) , “This conference is expected to put Kenya at a top position in botanical science by showcasing what institutions and scientists are able to offer in terms of research.”
Adding that Institutions of higher learning have a chance to share their research work, tourism, commerce, and industry are also some of the sectors that will benefit largely.
Kenya , is one of the countries with rich plant life, dissemination of information on this puts it in the international arena, it was noted.
He continued to speak on how they have been documenting plants, “In 2012 we finished a project on recording the plants of East Africa. We have started a collaboration with Chinese Science of Academies in recording the plants.”
Dr Mwachala noted with a lot of concern how the lack of funding has affected research in Kenya, “Botanical research is expensive, the lack of funding makes it look like there are no jobs in botany. We are looking forward to a newly established research fund of Kenya to help in this line.”
"Young people need to know there is a career in Botany," Dr.Mwachala advises.
He confirms NMK needs Ksh 300 million for research projects including botany research per year, “Currently we are getting almost nothing from the government, we fundraise for our projects, government funding is like a drop in the ocean.
Professor Qing–Feng Wang, Director, Sino – Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC), Chinese Academy of sciences said the conference is important because it will help come up with solutions on defragmentation of the environment where biodiversity is lost.“Endangered species found in biodiversity hotspots like Taita hills, Kakamega forest among others will be given priority.”
“For china we are trying to share our experience with our partners here, and helping in capacity building and funding for equipment for research here and technology in agriculture to help in combating food insecurity.”He concluded.
Wenslas Ong’ayo who read the speech on behalf of Dr.Hassan Wario, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts noted that botanical research was important because it will help come up with analysis of the sustainable management of natural resources.
Henry Mutoro who represented, University of Nairobi’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mbithi said how Nairobi university as an institution was involved in a lot of research in biodiversity.He particularly pointed out how research in plants had contributed to genetic coding.
AETFAT main goal is to bring together scholars studying plants which contribute to research and education in botany as well as biodiversity conservation in the continent.
AETFAT was founded in 1950 and held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium. The association organizes congress very three years.
The congress was organized by the University of Nairobi and the National Museums of Kenya with help of other partners.