BOTANIC GARDENS – PROMOTING THE USE OF UNDERUTILIZED PLANTS FOR IMPROVED NUTRITION AND HEALTH
Botanic gardens are a major force for the conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity worldwide. Botanic gardens exist in almost every country and their staff has the skills and expertise to study and manage plants in cultivation and in the wild. This is an important contribution to ecological and human well-being. Many botanic gardens promote the cultivation and use of local, underutilized plants for improved nutrition and health among their local communities. A recent survey carried out by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) identified a number of interesting projects being carried out by its member gardens. For example, the Limbe botanic garden in Cameroon is promoting the propagation of the leafy vegetable eru (Gnetum africanum), which is locally popular in Cameroon and also exported to Nigeria. The National Herbarium and Botanic Garden of Malawi (NHBG) is investigating the use and propagation of Mondia whytei, a woody creeper whose root infusion is popularly used by traditional healers to treat a number of illnesses. However, because of demand for it, and the high prices it can command, the plant is now being over-used and over-harvested in the wild. In another project, the UNAM Botanic Garden in Mexico City has been carrying out a long term educational project on local vegetables known as quelites, which are highly nutritious local vegetables. The objectives of this project were to increase awareness about the quelites, and to rescue them and promote them for the nutritional benefit of Mexicans. For 16 years, various groups have been involved in the program, and as a direct result, these vegetables are now being served in city restaurants. This paper provides further details of these and other projects that are being carried out by botanic gardens worldwide that support the sustainable use of underutilized crops.
Sharrock, S. (2009). BOTANIC GARDENS – PROMOTING THE USE OF UNDERUTILIZED PLANTS FOR IMPROVED NUTRITION AND HEALTH. Acta Hortic. 806, 615-620
human well-being, horticulture, conservation, medicinal plants, community development