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Capacity Building

CAPACITY BUILDING FOR PLANT CONSERVATION IN TROPICAL COUNTRIES


Background, Approach, Longer-Term Impacts
Training
Institutional Capacity Building


Tropical countries are home to the world's richest but least well documented biodiversity. Yet these countries are at greatest risk of losing this heritage and lack the scientific and technical expertise for soundly-based conservation and natural resource management. The Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) is dedicated to helping people in tropical countries develop the capabilities to understand, preserve, and sustainably manage their biological resources for their own benefit. In fulfilling our mission — to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life — we make long-term commitments to the countries where we work, establishing in-country partnerships that build capacity through comprehensive programs of botanical research, training, and conservation.

Shuar students in an MBG dendrology course in Wisui forest, Morona-Santiago province, Ecuador
Shuar students in an MBG
dendrology course in Wisui
Forest, Morona-Santiago
province, Ecuador
A new species in the genus Acranthera, which 
had not been known to occur in Vietnam until discovery of this species
A new species in the genus
Acranthera, which had not been
known to occur in Vietnam until
discovery of this species
MBG field assistant Antonio Peña demonstrating how to climb a tree to collect specimens
MBG field assistant Antonio
Peña demonstrating how to
climb a tree to collect
specimens, central Peru

Background

For more than 50 years, MBG has shared and developed expertise and practical skills in the study, understanding, and conservation of plants in tropical countries. As we began our work in each country, we initially conducted an intensive period of botanical collecting and ecological data-gathering and within this context provided field training in biology and ecological processes for project assistants. This field-centered approach remains a hallmark of our training programs. Since this early period, we have also helped to build the infrastructure of research and conservation institutions in these countries, and we have provided professional development opportunities for biologists working in these institutions. Over time, we have developed a more structured training program. A major goal is to build a cadre of well-trained, committed biologists and conservationists with the educational background, professional expertise, skills, and hands-on experience to carry out effective research and conservation. Equally important is our goal of creating programs of community environmental education and sustainable activities to help local communities in areas where we work assume responsibility for sound management of their natural resources. MBG's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development (CCSD) has formalized these various kinds of training in a coherent, multi-tiered program. CCSD is further contributing to building a solid, sustainable base of local capacity for biodiversity conservation and the improved well-being of citizens in tropical countries.

Rangers from Bach Ma National Park, central Vietnam, participate in an MBG training course
Rangers from Bach Ma National Park,
central Vietnam, participating in an
MBG training course
Training for villagers living around Mahabo Forest, Madagascar, in activities that provide economic alternatives to exploiting forest resources
Training for villagers living around Mahabo
Forest, Madagascar, in activities that
provide economic alternatives to exploiting
forest resources

In-country planning and implementation, at national, regional, and local levels — hence in-country scientific and technical expertise and local understanding of and engagement in key issues — are essential if conservation and sustainable development are to be effective and enduring. To achieve this aspiration, CCSD is committed to strengthening in-country capabilities. We have developed an integrated approach to capacity building that encompasses institutional, human, and social capacity building. Working closely with research and conservation institutions in tropical countries, MBG-CCSD programs combine scientific research with training and community work in the same geographical area, so that the scientific information gathered may be directly applied by local people and national organizations to local environmental planning and improved livelihoods.

We concentrate these programs in selected areas that are predicted to be rich in biodiversity yet are poorly inventoried. Our work focuses on the understanding and conservation of plants, which provide the basic structure of ecosystems and are of intrinsic value to humans. CCSD is also committed to developing strong collaborations with in-country institutions, since such partnerships are critical to shaping capacity building programs to meet the needs of individual countries. Although political regimes change with time, governmental organizations and academic institutions have the permanence to secure the continuity of institutional and human capacity building.

The greatest challenge in training is to find appropriate in-country employment that enables graduates to address the rapid environmental changes occurring in their countries. Without adequate employment, resources, and connections, there is a significant risk that trainees will seek employment in other fields or in another country, defeating the purpose of the training program. CCSD maximizes the impact of its training programs over the longer term by linking graduates to potential employers.

If former trainees are to become successful conservation leaders and decisionmakers, it is also critical to help them avoid isolation. MBG-CCSD training programs help graduates network, inside and outside their country, to sustain their connection to the scientific and conservation communities and to stimulate cooperation and exchange of information. We help former trainees, as well as other in-country scientists and in-country institutions, establish effective links to potential collaborators in conservation and to donor organizations in external countries. Our goal is to develop a community of skilled, committed botanists and conservationists in tropical countries who are well equipped to inform decision making for biodiversity conservation and contribute to developing the capacity of future generations of biologists.

Learn more about our training programs

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Director, CCSD, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166 Phone: (314) 577-0871 CCSD@mobot.org © 2014