Economic Botany

» read about the Indigenous Plant Products project

While Namibia has an outstanding track record in supporting and developing the agricultural sector as well as tourism and wildlife values in communal areas, veld products (primarily plant resources) have not really received the same attention. This is surprising given that they provide a source of income to many Namibians who carve, weave or sell plant resources or use plants to provide household energy (fuelwood), low cost housing, utensils, herbal medicines and food resources.

Botanical research conducted at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) has contributed significantly to our understanding of Namibia's flora, particularly through the inventory and ongoing Flora of Namibia project. The development of databases has enabled the capture and facilitated access to a host of botanical data, including aspects like common names and uses. Initiatives are currently being planned to integrate these databases into a "Useful Plants database", facilitating access to data on all aspects of Namibian plants. The "Inventory and review of ethnobotanical research in Namibia" (Craven and Sullivan, 2002) has revealed that considerably more research has been conducted and information documented than previously thought. The logical progression would now be to translate this wealth of information into initiatives that will promote the sustainable development of botanical products, while striving to create alternate incomes for rural communities in Namibia.

As the leading national institute dealing with Namibia's botanical diversity and plant resources, with a mandate to promote the sustainable development of Namibia's indigenous flora, the NBRI is in a pivotal position to develop an "Economic Botany Programme". The NBRI fully recognises the link between the use of semi-domesticated, managed and wild plant resources and the current policy of "Farming Systems Development" within the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development and we also subscribe to a long-term strategic research agenda to integrate natural resource management and sustainable agricultural production.

The long-term goal of the Economic Botany Programme is to implement effective management systems (local, national and international) to ensure the development and sustainable utilisation of Namibian plant products.

The Economic Botany Programme's main objective is to improve the exploitation of indigenous plant resources and the socio-economic role of plants harvested by local communities to benefit the rural poor. In order to achieve this objective, institutional linkages and partnerships will be developed as a key part of the promotion and sustainable development processes.

The main beneficiaries of the programme will be the smallholder communal farmers and residents throughout the regions of Namibia.

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Mr Steve Carr

202 2012