by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Robust measures including research, capacity development and adoption of modern technologies are key to enhancing protection of Africa's vast botanical wealth, scientists have said.
Scientists and policymakers who attended a conference in Nairobi on Monday were emphatic that improved conservation of Africa's genetic resources underpins the continent's growth and prosperity.
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Arts, Hassan Wario opened the 21st edition of the Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa (AEFTA) conference and urged African governments to prioritize conservation of plant species that are currently grappling with myriad threats.
"We need to strengthen our internal capacity to conserve wild flora that is a source of food, fiber and energy for local communities," Wario said.
More than 500 scientists, policy makers and researchers are attending the five-day conference to discuss new interventions that may enhance protection of Africa's genetic resources from man-made and climate-related threats.
The National Museums of Kenya, University of Nairobi and Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) are co-hosting the event.
Wario noted that improved conservation of Africa's tropical flora is in line with the UN 2030 goals and the continent's agenda on socio-economic and ecological renewal.
"Conservation of genetic resources will have a bearing on sustainable development goals (SDGs) on poverty alleviation, food, energy and water security," said Wario.
He added that Kenya aims to become a hub for research and training on sustainable conservation of wild flora.
Africa's vast botanical wealth is facing threats linked to climate change, rapid urbanization, population growth, pollution and invasive species.
Director General of National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Mzalendo Kibunjia said that investments in research, training and public awareness are key to promote sustainable management of Africa's tropical flora.
"Plant diversity in Africa is shrinking because of unsustainable exploitation and climate-related stresses hence the need to embark on research that can offer solution to this challenge," Kibunjia said.
He urged African governments and their multilateral partners to act on illegal trade in endangered plant species that has escalated against a backdrop of weak surveillance.