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Munda Wanga Trust Botanical Gardens

Munda Wanga means ‘My Garden’ in Nyanja, one of the Zambian languages.

Munda Wanga Trust
The Munda Wanga Trust, an independent not-for-profit Zambian Trust, operates Munda Wanga Environmental Park on behalf of the Government of Zambia. The Environmental Park consists of the Botanical Gardens and a Wildlife Park (a former zoo), and forms an important educational and recreational resource for Zambia. The Wildlife Park is being redeveloped to meet international standards of living conditions and animal welfare.

Munda Wanga Botanical Gardens, Zambia’s only botanical garden, is located 15 km south of the capital, Lusaka. Originally established by Ralph Sander in 1950 as a private garden, it has undergone many different phases. The latest chapter in its history started in December 1998, when the current management team took control after years of instability and a lack of resources. At the time, the 5-ha garden was derelict: bougainvilleas swamped trees, Queen Palms grew wherever their seeds fell, lawns were neglected and bare, water features lay empty. Nevertheless, it was still possible to get an idea of the former glory of the garden.

Munda Wanga Botanical Gardens is largely exotic, with perhaps only 10–20% indigenous species. The past three years have been devoted to strengthening capacity, establishing facilities to support the work in the future, and re-establishing horticultural control. This has included the construction of shade houses and propagation areas, staff training, restoration of irrigation systems, and the development of income-generating facilities, for example, the Terrace Café and Bar, Plant Sales, and Function Hire.

Although Munda Wanga is owned by the State, Munda Wanga Trust receives no financial support from the Government. The support for the redevelopment of the Botanical Gardens has largely come from the British and Dutch Governments (through their diplomatic missions); significant gifts and donations have come from a wide range of organisations, for example, Lasher Tools and the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa.

Education
One of the greatest threats to our environment is a lack of awareness and knowledge. Zambia has a very urbanised population, which leaves large tracts of land with very low population densities and some of the best national parks in Africa. Few Zambians, however, will ever get the chance to visit the national parks or have the opportunity to learn about their natural heritage. The Munda Wanga Trust aims to change this state of affairs by developing a holistic environmental education and interpretation service. By utilising the Botanical Gardens and the Wildlife Park, we are able to provide an accessible outdoor classroom dedicated to raising awareness and stimulating interest. We also plan to add a Cultural Centre to Munda Wanga to illustrate the interactions and interdependence between society and the environment.

Botanical Collections
The work of the last three years has strengthened the garden and enables us to start establishing new botanical collections. No plant collections survived the difficult period in Munda Wanga’s history, and all that remained was a disorderly collection of exotic plants—mainly common street trees and garden shrubs. This gave us the opportunity to redirect the garden towards a more indigenous and Zambian future.

People and Plants Garden
One of the main principles of the new collections policy is to highlight and promote appreciation for the inextricable links between society and the environment. With this in mind, a significant new collection is the People and Plants Garden. Both Zambian and non-Zambian plants will be displayed to demonstrate and highlight the numerous interactions between society and the environment.

Succulent Garden
The new botanical collection that has made the most progress is the Succulent Garden. The collection is located in an area of the garden with ideal conditions for succulents, but where pines, Acrocarpus, and Queen Palms had been allowed to germinate and grow unhindered. After these weed trees were removed, regionally indigenous succulent species, particularly Aloe and Euphorbia, were planted. The exotic succulents (Opuntia, Agave, cacti) that were dominant in the garden three years ago, have now been restricted to form a small sub-collection within the Succulent Garden.

The National Botanical Garden (Harare), Ewenrigg Botanical Garden (Zimbabwe), and the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden (South Africa) donated many of the new plants that form this collection; additional specimens were obtained on plant collecting trips within Zambia.

Cycad Garden
After a generous donation of cycads from Kirstenbosch, and also with the support of the British Government, we were able to establish a Cycad Garden. Munda Wanga now has 15 species of cycad, predominantly Encephalartos spp., in two garden sections—the Cycad Garden and the Living Fossil Garden, where the cycads are joined by a Ginkgo biloba and a collection of petrified wood.

Other Collections
We also have some smaller collections in the early stages of development, including epiphytic Zambian orchids, herbs, and two small geographic collections. We hope to establish additional collections later this year, for example, a collection of plants that are found around the many waterfalls in Zambia.

Threatened Plants Programme
Munda Wanga Trust will also start a Threatened Plants Programme (TPP) later this year. The project will be established on an adjacent 12-ha plot of derelict land, called Simuyaka. Along with providing the space to develop a TPP, this plot will also provide us with the opportunity to develop a completely indigenous collection of plants and extend the recreational facilities of Munda Wanga by adding nature trails.

This new aspect of the work at Munda Wanga will be carried out in association with several other Zambian organisations interested in plant conservation and with the support of donor funding. Other interested organisations or individuals are welcome to get involved in Munda Wanga; our contact details are given below.

The Future
We hope that 2002 will be another remarkable year for Munda Wanga. Since our first year of operation in 1999, our visitor numbers have grown from under 20,000 to an anticipated 60,000 this year. This is important as it means that we are getting closer to becoming a self-supporting and viable institution. Half of our visitors are children, many of who come as organised groups to benefit from the new education programme.

Another significant change planned for this year is the replacement of the current Botanical Manager with a Zambian botanist. A UK charity, Voluntary Services Overseas, provided the Munda Wanga Trust with a Botanical Manager to establish the redevelopment of the Gardens, with the hope of thereafter attracting suitable Zambian botanists. This has largely been achieved; however, funds to support this change in management are still being sought, but it is hoped that an external donor will shortly be found.

With the Gardens in a prime state for new collections to be established and the new threatened plants programme starting, the new Botanical Manager will no doubt be very busy for a long time.

—by Douglas Gibbs

SABONET News 7.2: 124

 

SABONET.
Southern African Botanical Diversity Network.