21st AETFAT Conference Held in Nairobi

Date and time: 
Mon, 05/22/2017 - 00:41

Third AETFAT Conference held in Nairobi (15-19th May 2017) explored Kenya’s Rift Valley to observe the different plant species in the country. Conference attendees visited Hell’s Gate National park, Olorgosailie Prehistoric site and Brakenhurst Botanical Museum.

 

AETFAT congress kicked off on 15th May with a record attendance of over 300 delegates. Botanists from around the world working on African plants got a chance to interact and share ideas on how to advance their research work.  The congress this year is hosted jointly by the National Museums of Kenya and the University of Nairobi, at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

Held every three years, the congress has notably grown to involve younger scientists in the botanist circles and also advancing technology for more in depth research on plant tissues. The theme of this year’s AETFAT congress is ‘Systematics, Biogeography and Conservation of African plants and fungi’. Various Botanists get to showcase their work in the plants field and get input from other scientists on how to advance their research either by recommendations, funding opportunities or collaborating on research.

The most remarkable observation of this year’s conference was the high participation of young scientists. University of Nairobi sponsored 8 students from Post Graduate to Undergraduate to attend the conference which was progressive and essential in the nurturing of the next generation of botanists. Sentiments echoed by Prof. Sebsebe Demissew from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. He called for a plan on how the current botanists can be replaced by the next generation of botanists by collaborating and mentoring of younger scientists.

Throughout the week Botanists have shared their research work and findings in different breakout sessions. This year Mycology study of fungi was given a larger platform and more presentations on works around fungi were on display from around continent. That is what I found very interesting in the congress. Studies of Fungi and lichen in the continent are growing with interest among botanic circles and more information is available about fungi species and their uses. There was a mention of a virtual museum. Dr. Marieka Gryzenhout from South Africa talked about a database for the mushrooms in South Africa- MushroomMAP. Where geo tagged photos could be posted and hence identified. This enhanced citizen scientists to participate in biodiversity projects, a model that could spur interest in botany among ordinary people if replicated in Kenya.

 The delegates were treated to a mid week congress tour to Kenya’s Rift Valley to observe the different plant species in the country. The three groups explored Hell’s Gate National park, Olorgosailie Prehistoric site and Brakenhurst Botanical Museum. The tours provided the delegates with a practical understanding of the vegetation of Kenya’s rift as well as plant animal interaction adding on community involvement and increasing development in the region.

Being the first time being Hosted in Kenya,  the AETFAT congress directly supports the nation’s economy through conferencing and marketing of the attractions on offer for general tourism. The studies that have been show cased during the congress will provide reference information that is of relevance to the three national pillars on which Kenya’s vision 2030 is anchored.  It will also directly contribute to Kenya’s obligation towards the UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda that calls on member states to adopt a set of goals (the Sustainable Development Goals) on the principles agreed upon under the resolution popularly known as “The Future We Want”.

 “This is the first time the congress is going to be held in Kenya and we are very enthusiastic as taxonomists in the country for we are eager to get our plants documented and presented and this is our time to showcase the Kenyan plants.” Dr. Catherine Lukhoba, University of Nairobi:

AETFAT has contributed to biodiversity research, environmental protection and socio-economic development of Africa. The future of the association relies on its ability to be relevant in prevailing and ever-changing conditions. The findings of research in botany should include impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services and threats to them. Moreover they should be tailored to achieving national and global goals such as the CBD goals and the Sustainable Development goals. This way the research work can have more bargaining power in influencing policy for conservation in the world.  

The next AETFAT conference will be held in 2020 in Zambia.

 

This article was written by: Michael Musyoka (a final year student at the School of Biological Sciences)

Expiry Date: 
Wed, 05/22/2019 - 00:41
Contact Person: 

Michael Musyoka, Student at School of Biological Science

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