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BotSoc, SANBI discussions could lead to membership changes

APR 25, 2022


The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), who have a long-standing symbiotic relationship, are currently in talks to determine how the organisations will work together in future. As part of these talks, they are discussing possible changes to the current BotSoc members’ free access to SANBI National Botanical Gardens. This is in response to the many external factors affecting most organisations globally. Free garden access to BotSoc members has been a benefit as a result of an agreement reviewed every few years between the two organisations.

BotSoc is a civil society organisation made up of plant-loving members. These members have access to a number of benefits, such as the quarterly environmental journal, Veld & Flora, monthly conservation webinars, receiving regular conservation and other news, participating in events hosted by BotSoc branches, volunteer opportunities at botanical gardens, participation as citizen scientists through various programmes and connecting to a community of people who care about the plant world. Even though BotSoc and SANBI are two separate organisations, members of BotSoc have also for many years enjoyed the privilege of free regional or national access (depending on the membership category) to National Botanical Gardens 365 days a year.

SANBI, founded and partly funded by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, is tasked with managing South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens. The two organisations have worked together over the past 108 years (under different organisation names) – with BotSoc members and active volunteers providing assistance to gardens as part of the reciprocal relationship. While volunteer programmes are now gaining momentum, they have in recent years been less active than in the past.


Talks are still underway

According to Bongani Mnisi, Chair of BotSoc, while no firm decisions have yet been taken, talks are underway to review this collaboration.

“These discussions have to date included looking at revising the access that BotSoc members have to National Botanical Gardens. It’s still too early to say what structure the new collaboration agreement will take. It might mean adjusted rates for BotSoc members into gardens, percentage discounts or completely different benefits to members pertaining to gardens. We’ll keep our members informed as soon as our talks have concluded.”

Current memberships will be honoured with the benefits as they stand now.

Bongani adds, “Our two organisations have a relationship steeped in history since 1913. Therefore it’s only right that we engage on these matters continuously, as a great deal has changed since our inception. These talks provide us an exciting opportunity to find new connection points with SANBI, and new ways to work together, for the benefit of our members. Should access to gardens no longer be available to BotSoc members, then this will be phased out over time, likely over a few years.”

BotSoc is now using this opportunity to refine and improve its benefits for members by connecting with other organisations internationally to learn from best practices.


A three-year
transformation process

BotSoc has already undergone a significant transformation process over the last three years, introducing an online signup and renewal platform, developing an e-version of their Veld & Flora magazine, introducing an exciting series of online webinars and much more. BotSoc views this phase in its lifespan as an opportunity to reimagine how it will engage and expand its diverse membership base through impactful work in a very different South African society since its inception in 1913.

Bongani says,

“BotSoc is the only plant-focused civil society organisation in South Africa with the longevity and commitment of members, working together with government, to celebrate and conserve our plant heritage.”

BotSoc will continue to build on this relationship with members, current and potential as well as with partner organisations, and will keep everyone abreast of outcomes and cooperation opportunities as soon as the talks have concluded. This is anticipated to be by the end of May 2022. Once decisions are finalised, a rollout plan will be shared.

He said the BotSoc community is a group of people who care deeply about South Africa’s indigenous plants. “Many of our branches are not based close to National Botanical Gardens, like the West Coast, KZN Coastal, Garden Route, Algoa branches, any many more. We trust that our BotSoc community is involved in BotSoc because we provide a powerful connection to our phenomenal plant world. We aim to continue to make plant conservation a reality with our loyal members and new members to know, grow, protect and enjoy our wonderful indigenous plants. The work we are doing collectively as BotSoc doesn’t change, and neither does our inspiration to leave a lasting legacy for future generations that depend on a thriving plant world.” 




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