With an estimated 14,000 species of plant, and over 80% of these being endemic (found nowhere else on the planet) Madagascar is one of just 17 so-called 'megadiverse' countries. This extraordinary richness of plants helps to make up a wide variety of beautiful landscapes, many of them sadly at increasing risk from logging, mining, fires, shifting agriculture and other man-made threats. As natural habitat shrinks, there is a real danger that many species will be lost forever. Estimates suggest half of the island's endemic species are at risk of extinction.
Wild plants in Madagascar are also a lifeline for local communities, who rely on them for food, timber, fuel and medicine among other uses. Safeguarding plants is therefore good for people and planet alike.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has a permanent research base in the capital, Antananarivo, and four field offices, staffed by a local team of botanists and conservationists. They help rural communities to manage protected areas and preserve the full diversity of plant life which underpins their livelihoods. One way of doing this is to build up seed collections for storage at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, where they will remain viable for many decades to come.
Thanks to support from players of People's Postcode Lottery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has been able to extend its seed collections in Madagascar. This has also allowed the training and mobilising of large numbers of volunteer collectors.
Dr Hélène Ralimanana, Team Manager at the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre, said, "The project has been a great opportunity both for Kew to learn about the different ways in which people use plants, and for our team to pass on vital knowledge of how to germinate seedlings, which will help to take the pressure off over-harvested wild populations."
Over 300 community collectors have so far been trained, contributing new collections of over 800 plant species.
Kew has received over £1.5 Million in funding from players since 2013. The latest award of £400,000 in 2018 will support seed conservation here in the UK and also kick-start several new collecting programmes in Africa.