Feel good about your contribution to conservation 

The Botanical Society of South Africa has a long history in supporting the conservation of our natural plant heritage and engaging our members and the broader public in the work that we do. Over the last few years we have worked hard to establish a clear strategic direction. This has allowed us to identify key areas that we are focusing our plant conservation work on.

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Our focus areas  

 

Saving important plant areas and threatened species

 

Through citizen science, we help to map plants and use the information collected to determine important plant conservation areas. These are used to inform land management to protect areas and species under threat.

This is a team effort and we achieve this through our members and other plant-loving individuals and groups. Together we are involved in the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowes (CREW) programme.

In fact, BotSoc and SANBI worked together to establish CREW in 2003. In the last year exciting steps have been taken by BotSoc and the CREW team on a national level to work even closer across the regions and with the BotSoc Branches. The results speak for themselves: BotSoc members are serving as citizen scientists and are contributing to plant conservation more than ever before. In March 2020, just over 10% of CREW volunteers were BotSoc members. By March 2022, that had increased to 30% (242 of the 792 CREW volunteers are BotSoc members).

Growth areas requiring funding:

1. Increasing the participation of BotSoc members as citizen scientists through Bioblitzing, the City Nature Challenge, iNaturalist and the CREW programme.

2. Increasing resources to support Branch participation in Integrated Plant Conservation Planning and Action, including capacity building.

 

Responding to the plant-poaching crisis

 

The rate of the illegal trade in succulents has skyrocketed. Illegal poaching has even expanded to include geophytes. Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the high rate of unemployment in the Namaqualand and broader region has led to more people turning to harvesting and selling these plants.

BotSoc is in a unique position to assist. We provide emergency material and volunteer support to the national botanical gardens, who are swamped with more than 200 000 poached succulents, some now extinct in the wild. We have also brought growers, conservation officials, SANBI and peer NGOs together to kickstart collaboration through a workshop hosted in 2021 in Calitzdorp at the Vetplantfees.

BotSoc is a member of the steering committee that is developing the National Response Strategy to Address the Illegal Trade in South African Succulent Flora. Through this committee, a guiding document has been created, which coordinates the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), SANBI, provincial conservation, law enforcement, conservation NGOs and other partners’ actions in this space.

In parallel, BotSoc has supported SANBI national botanical gardens working at the coalface of illegal poaching in a very practical sense. These gardens are overrun by confiscated plant material, with hundreds of thousands of plants received each year. BotSoc and national botanical gardens have worked together to maintain these collections with BotSoc volunteer support and much-needed materials donated by BotSoc.

Poaching of our indigenous flora is not limited to succulents. For many years, BotSoc has been committed to contributing to cycad protection through various projects. Most recently we were involved in cycad microdot tracking.

The poaching of bulbs is at catastrophic levels and needs an urgent response. BotSoc is in an opportune position to serve as a partner to both government and other like-minded organisations, to put in place mitigation measures and response projects to address this very serious threat.

Growth areas requiring funding:

  1. Additional skilled capacity to curate conservation-grade succulent collections to support in-situ collections and ecological restoration efforts
  2. Material, equipment and infrastructure to maintain collections.

 

Stewardship through partnerships Grasslands

 

Biodiversity stewardship (BDS) in South Africa strives for all land with high biodiversity value outside of formally protected areas to have secure legal protection through conservation-stewardship agreements and be linked to a network of other conservation areas in the landscape. This is based on strong partnerships between conservation agencies and landowners that result in good biodiversity management practice and benefits for landowners.

BotSoc, working with a suite of other organisations and government agencies, offers site assessments, pre-declaration and planning support and post declaration land management support.

In parallel with BotSoc’s Stewardship Programme, Isabel Johnson, our local stewardship botanist, works with the BotSoc Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) Inland Branch on a mentoring programme for the KZN National Botanical Garden staff. Experienced local botanists organise collecting trips with the staff to find propagation material of threatened plants on stewardship sites and other important sites for the NBG’s ex-situ plant collections.

Excess seed is sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew Millennium Seed Bank for seed storage under specialised cryogenic conditions for long-term conservation purposes. This is important work to ensure scientific botanical collections are kept safe both locally and globally.

Growth areas requiring funding:

  1. Involving young graduates in stewardship initiatives to gain exposure to the current specialist, Isabel Johnson as a mentor. This will help secure important botanical sites for plant conservation and transfer decades of in-field botanical specialist skills.
  2. Specialist expertise in field assessment and species propagation to support ecological restoration.

 

Growing capacity and awareness

 

BotSoc supports skill development, knowledge sharing and dialogue to ensure that there is a growing understanding and knowledge base to support plant conservation. We work with the public, gardeners, amateur and professional botanists and ecologists and the conservation community at large.

We help our members to be upskilled on vital matters, such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). This allows them to play a more meaningful and participatory role in land development to protect plants and biomes through sound development plans. As with our other projects, this is done with our partners, including municipalities, the private sector and other organisations. The aim is to capacitate our Branch members to act locally for national and global impact.

We use many platforms to grow awareness and share knowledge and experience. Our monthly plant conservation webinars include distinguished speakers who are accessible to the public via this forum. BotSoc has an important role to play in creating opportunities to talk about how the social, economic and environmental aspects of our lives interface and influence each other. For us, of course the focus is especially on our natural environmental which sustains us.

Growth areas requiring funding:

  1. Identifying, developing and facilitating key training courses for grassroots level plant conservation action, such as iNaturalist citizen science training 
  2. Expanding our EIA training
  3. Alien invasive species identification and control, including a focus on biological control
  4. In-field botanical training on citizen science work and plant identification on targeted sites
  5. Botanical and interpretive signage for specific protected areas to raise awareness and share information.

 

Creating opportunities for our youth

 

BotSoc has committed to fund the employment of 43 youths across the country to work in the SANBI national botanical gardens to maintain and develop the gardens through our Iziqalo Project. This work experience offers these young participants exposure to working in plant conservation. 2021 was the first year that BotSoc supported this project which also helped gardens to make up the backlog in garden maintenance after the lockdown period. It is set to continue annually with external funding of R1.6 million per year.

BotSoc Branches have also started a mentorship programme to support the personal development of these young people. This pilot project is driven within the BotSoc Kirstenbosch Branch. Working with a wonderful partner, Routes 2 Resilience, a job readiness and an additional training programme complimenting the mentorship and experiential learning was initiated. This project is currently unfunded.

 

This programme offers participants:

  • Life skills and emotional intelligence development opportunities
  • Introduction to complex systems thinking approaches
  • Communication and networking skills
  • Introduction to social entrepreneurship and
  • An understanding of sustainability and biodiversity conservation concepts.

BotSoc is now working towards expanding this model to help youths improve their job readiness once they have some experience in working with plants in order to ensure continuity in their green careers.

Growth areas requiring funding:

  1. Key plant conservation training interventions (lectures, field days, etc.)
  2. Expansion of the Iziqalo project
  3. Children’s plant awareness and education
  4. In-field engagements and training programmes on ecology, plant identification and conservation in practice for students.

 

Supporting botanical gardens and collections

 

The main focus of BotSoc’s collaboration with SANBI has always been to support the national botanical gardens. A process is now underway to identify key projects across the 11 gardens that our two organisations will develop over the medium to long term. Please watch this space to hear more about how BotSoc aims to do this.

It is important to note that botanical gardens are not parks, but scientific living plant collections that require significant effort to develop and maintain. In order to support knowledge transfer, increased awareness, research and enjoyment of these collections, SANBI has relied on BotSoc’s support since 1913.

It’s exciting – and daunting – to see how we proceed together to achieve this in our new reality with our changing environmental and economic climate.

‘BotSoc is a boots-on-the-ground organisation. Through our members, our branches and our national team, we know, grow, protect and enjoy our indigenous plants. In the face of incredible threats, we work to make a difference for our threatened biomes and plants. But this is a partnership – and as a donor, you are the most important partner of all.”’

– Antonia de Barros, General Manager

Join us to know, grow, protect and enjoy South Africa’s indigenous plants

The support of generous donors helps us achieve these crucial conservation objectives.

Donate today to be part of the difference you want to see!

 

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+27 (0) 21 797 2090

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