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Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union
Edited and compiled by Judith Cheney, Joaquin Navarrete Navarro and Peter Wyse Jackson for the European Botanic Gardens Consortium. (2000).

F. Capacity Building
Chapter contributed by Bert van den Wollenberg and Mike Maunder

The number of EU botanic gardens actively involved in botanical science, research, plant conservation and environmental education is still relatively small and their resources are not being used as effectively as they could be. With proper support and official endorsement, EU botanic gardens could contribute more effectively to conservation, education and the other topics considered in this Action Plan. Through building their capacity, strengthening their institutions and enhancing their professional skills, botanic gardens could be more focused and contribute more efficiently and effectively to plant conservation.

Not only should botanic gardens press for greater resources for this work in many fields, especially conservation, but they should also ensure that their existing resources are used efficiently and effectively, helping to justify greater support from governments and the public.

Build effective management of resources

To achieve the objectives in this Action Plan, EU botanic gardens need to carry out an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, and of the opportunities they have to be more effective in managing resources and gaining new support. On a European scale, the imbalances between the number and resources in northern Europe compared with some parts of the Mediterranen needs to be considered and addressed.

The incidence of botanic gardens in countries with high biodiversity, such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, is lower than in countries with less biodiversity, such as England and Germany. Even within countries, the distribution of botanic gardens does not reflect the biodiversity. For example, only 12 of the 68 botanic gardens in France are in the Mediterranean region. Spain has fewer botanic gardens, but their distribution is more closely correlated with its biodiversity.

To achieve Objective F1, EU botanic gardens should

  • ensure that each garden has a clearly defined and articulated development policy related to its mission and future activities
  • support or develop new botanic gardens for biodiversity conservation in regions with high biodiversity
  • analyse their available resources and future requirements needed to achieve their chosen mission
  • vigorously pursue new support to enable them to achieve their missions in conservation, botanical research, education and other fields, seeking support where appropriate from national and local government and administrations, private and corporate donors and the general public, to build their institutional capacity.
Improve and develop staff skills and training

To fulfil the objectives in this Action Plan, technical capacity of botanic gardens in plant science, horticulture, education, data management and communication needs to be improved. More theoretical and practical training is needed for staff, to ensure that they are well informed on current legislation, methodologies, technologies, techniques and scientific issues. Staff training courses and workshops should be set up through national networks, to share expertise and resources (see also Objective E4).

The value of existing skills and facilities in botanic gardens needs to be recognised, as well as their potential for training others. National and regional agencies need to be convinced that botanic gardens are key players in conservation and other disciplines, and ideal venues for professional and vocational training courses in conservation, horticulture and plant science (see also Objective D3).

Training for botanic garden staff is required on the implications and implementation of international legislation and instruments, such as the CBD and CITES. Such training can be facilitated by national network organisations or by the BGCIAABG European Botanic Gardens Consortium.

Whilst conservation biology is increasingly included in university courses, the practical aspects are not being sufficiently developed within the botanic garden community. Some gardens lack the necessary technical and staffing resources, facilities, finding and links with local, national and international conservation policies to takg part in Conservation programmes.

To achieve Objective F2, EU botanic gardens should:

  • develop and offer training courses in conservation biology; management of botanic gardens, information technology, environmental education (see Case Study 25) and horticulture
  • improve training in horticultural skills and raise the standard and status of horticulture as a profession, to broaden the skills base in EU botanic gardens
  • establish professional standards for management of plant data and threatened species through the production of technical manuals, and staff training.
Build and implement a policy on collaboration to assist BG capacity

A large proportion of the worlds botanic gardens are in Europe, representing a massive capital and personnel investment. They have an established role in developing collaborative projects with overseas partners, which should be seen as complementary to their responsibilities within the European Union. In this way they can achieve more than by working alone (see also chapter E>. There is scope for collaborative projects involving research and training. See Case Study 26. To achieve Objective F3, EU botanic gardens should:
  • further develop the BGCI and IABG advisory group, to provide an interface between national networks and international and European legal frameworks, ensuring the supply of information to botanic gardens and full representation of their interests in the appropriate international forum
  • support the development of collaborative partnerships with botanic gardens and other institutions and organisations elsewhere in the world, with the primary purpose of assisting the development and strengthening of such institutions and raising their capacity in many areas, such as botanical research, biodiversity conservation and environmental education
  • assess their potential contribution to conserving threatened species in Europe, and undertake a gap analysis to identify technologies and skills required
  • establish regional and national, professional standards in documentation and cultivation of threatened plants.
  • seek to be involved in collaborative activities and training to facilitate the development of international projects, through BGCI, IABG and other appropriate organisations
  • where appropriate, be active in collaborative programmes with other like-minded organisations and institutions in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union, to assist in building their capacity to adjust to changing economic, social and environmental conditions in these countries (see Case study 27).
CASE STUDY 25 Professional training courses at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
With BGCI, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, organises international diploma courses in Botanic Garden Management and Botanic Garden Education. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, also offers courses in Plant Conservation Techniques and Herbarium Techniques; and post-graduate courses in association with the universities of Reading and Birmingham.
In collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is undertaking a 3-year programme of Plant Conservation Techniques courses for East Africa.

CASE STUDY 26 International training courses run for botanic gardens by BGCI
BGCI runs training courses worldwide with in-country partners. For example, BGCI has run a Botanic Garden Management course in Siberia, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Ireland; and Biodiversity Conservation Training courses in Uganda and Russia. BGCI has organised workshops on Environmental Education in many countries, e.g. Russia, India, China, Cuba, Morocco, Colombia, Poland, Italy and South Africa.

CASE STUDY 27 BGCI information systems in botanic gardens of the former Soviet Union
In 1999, a workshop was held at Moscow Main Botanic Garden to consider the development of Information Management Strategies for botanic gardens in the former Soviet Union. The objective was to consider models for the implementation of appropriate information management systems and protocols in botanic gardens in the region.
The workshop marked the completion of a 3-year project, supported by the UK Government Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, on the development of information management systems of biodiversity collections in the former Soviet Union. BGCIs computer software program for collection management, BG-RECORDER, was distributed in Russian to 75 botanic gardens, and more than 60 staff were trained in its use.