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Friday, July 28, 2017

Scientists meet to find ways of protecting endangered plants for food security

A tourist visiting the Arabuko Sokoke forest which is under threat because of oil and gas exploration./ALPHONCE GARI
A tourist visiting the Arabuko Sokoke forest which is under threat because of oil and gas exploration./ALPHONCE GARI

More than 500 scientists have converged in Nairobi to explore ways and means of protecting endangered plants.

Sports, Culture and Arts CS Hassan Wario said plant science applications have helped address contemporary enviromental challenges.

He was speaking during the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa conference at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Karen, yesterday.

Wario said the more than 1,000 plant scientists across the world have a strong network that has helped share case studies that have found applications that address food security, medicine and crime, among others.

“Kenya’s studies in botany have also resulted in documentation of the country’s plant diversity currently represented by 7,004 vascular plant species.

These species data underpin species distribution maps and analysis to inform sustainable management of natural resources,” he said in a speech read on his behalf by director of administration in his ministry Wenslas Onga’yo.

Wario said plant diversity and species conservation have been key in designing management plans in Mt Kenya, Kakamega lowland rain forest of Western Kenya, and the Arabuko Sokoke Forest in coastal Kenya,which are biodiversity hotspots.

Wario said there has been tremendous success in the documentation of plant uses in the country. The research in botany has contributed to the conservation of genetic resources.

“It has also provided data and knowledge to our government for planning purposes, as well as capacity development in botanical sciences. This is necessary to support law enforcement agencies such as needs for wildlife forensics and mitigation of illegal traficking, and trade in endangered national natural resources,” the CS said.

Wario said the congress directly benefits the developement of botany for academia and Kenya’s tourism industry and economy at large.

Kenya National Museum chief researcher Geoffrey Mwachala said the congress endorses Kenya’s institutions of learning in as far as training is concerned.

Mwachala said a project for recording all plants in East Africa was concluded in 2012, but since East Africa is a large area, information about Kenya was scanty.

“We have just started collaboration with Chinese academy of science to rewrite plant life in Kenya in a series of a book that will be illustrated by maps and coloured photographs. When we finish, Kenya will be the best recorded part of the world,” he said.

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