THE HISTORY OF EGERTON UNIVERSITY BOTANIC GARDEN
The Egerton University Botanic Garden was established in the year 2002 when it was officially opened by H.E. Daniel T. Moi, the then president of the Republic of Kenya. This was an effort in recognation and support of the endevour made locally and all over the world on plant and environmental preservation and conservation as well as the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity including the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation for which Kenya is a signatory. The idea of university to establish this garden was conceived after realizing that the country was losing forest cover at an alarming rate down to 1.7% from 13% in the year 1963.This meant therefore loss of valuable species and their habitats.
The Egerton University Botanic Garden is located within Njoro Main Campus about one and a half kilometers from the university main gate. It stands at an elevation of about 2,127 meters above sea level and just about 1°37”south of Equator. It is on the eastern slopes of the Mau Complex draining into Lake Nakuru which is famous for the flamingoes. The climate here is favourable in terms of temperature, humidity, rainfall, where it is cool in most parts of the year. It is connected by a tarmac road to the rest of the university.
Reasons for establishing Egerton University Botanic Garden
In the 1990s decade there was a rampant forest destruction in the country mainly for settlement, logging, and charcoal burning. This was more destructive as people removed trees indiscriminately. On the other hand herbalists were harvesting plants selectively , a practice done since time immemorial. All this had resulted in some plants becoming rare and others threatened with extinction, especially those harvested using roots and stem barks. It was during this period that the university management conceived the idea of having a germ-plasm pool that would serve for the conservation and preservation of these species both in-situ and ex-situ.
This became a biodiversity centre that the university thought of using for the following activities:
Conservation: A wide collection of rare and threatened plant species are collected from different parts of the country in collaboration with other institutions and local communities. Over 400 different plant species consisting of medicinal, indigenous fruits, fibers, essential oils and gums or resins have been planted and is a continous practice. In the same garden there was a section which had been clear felled of exotic forest tree species including, Pinus patula, P. radiata and Cuppressus arizonica, C.lusitanica and a few Eucalyptus spp. Among these exotic species there were patches of indigenous species covering mainly the riparian zone of River Beeston, a tributary of R. Njoro. These indigenous plant species comprising of forbs, herbs, shrubs, grasses, trees, climbers , epiphytes and some parasitic plants were left to grow naturally culminating in a fast reforestation of the garden. More indigenous tree species have been added including some epiphytes such as orchids.
Teaching: Botanic garden is an open teaching resource for a wide range of courses in the university. It is open to other institutions and public in general. The university management thought of having a garden where lecturers could be conducting their practicals or collect plant specimens, instead of making long expensive trips to natural sources of these plants. These were becoming impractical due to increasing number of the university students and escalating fuel prices.
Research: As more faculties were established due to the rapid development of university education in Kenya, more students and lecturers enrolled for post graduate studies. The garden was to provide resources for research, including both abiotic and biotic components. Consequently, there are many students and staff working on natural products using botanic garden resources.
Aesthetic value:It was also realised that Egerton University community ( staff and students ) did not have a place where one would take a leisure walk, hold an open party, have a retreat or meditate as the university is about 25 kilometers from Nakuru Town. In order to achieve this some nature trails, flower museum, camping sites and recreation sites had to be established and botanic garden was the most ideal facility.
Institutions and organizations that assisted in the establishment of Egerton University Botanic Garden
The team working on establishment of Egerton University Botanic Garden consulted widely from individuals, institutions and organizations for resources and ideas. These institutions included:
-National Museums of Kenya (NMK)
-Bali Botanic Garden, Indonesia
-Pretoria National Botanic Garden, Pretoria, South Africa
-Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa
-Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
-Dow Gardens, Midland, Michigani, U.S.A.
-The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
-Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri, U.S.A.
-Kew Botanical Gardens, Kew, U.K.
-Najing Agricultural University, Najing, China.
-Kenya Forestry Service (KFS)
-Kenya Tea Foundation, Kericho
-Uniliver Tea Limited, Kericho
-Kenya Seed Company.
-Tiajin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), China.
Current status of the garden
By the year 2012 the following sites and structures were evident , as many more developments were being undertaken:
-The garden had been sub-divided into several sections that included; arboretum with introduced medicinal trees; flower garden with both exotic and indigenous herbs; arboretum with indigenous fruits trees and shrubs intermixed with medicinal trees; bamboo forest; indigenous vegetables; riparian zone enriched with indigenous trees, shrubs and herbs; tree nursery; office s and herbal medicine research center; reforestation research center; and in-situ forest.
In the in-situ forest there is a network of nature trails, picnic sites with some rest huts, some beautiful orchids introduced in some trees, a few wildlife including Colombus monkeys, velvet monkeys, porcupines, tortoise, dik diks, leopards, ant bear, a wide variety of birds and insects,
THE HERBAL MEDICINE AND RESEARCH CENTRE.
This is situated on the lower side of the garden within a serene surrounding of numerous assorted trees and ornamentals. This centre was officially launched by the Chinese Ambassador to Kenya on 22nd September, 2011. It consists of coordinator’s office, conference room, reception, treatment room, dispensing room, drugs store, herbarium, drying room and a kitchen.
In this centre both local and Chinese traditional doctors meet with botanic garden coordinator to share and document indigenous knowledge applied in herbal medicine. Some patients who volunteer for herbal medicine are treated here. It is emphasized that patients bring laboratory tests before they are attended to by Kenyan traditional doctors, but Chinese doctors follow Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnostic procedures for their treatment. The centre also works in collaboration with herbalists in the following pilot centers: Eldoret, Kakamega, Baringo, Mbeere, Ngorika, and Kajiado.
At present, over 200 patients are reported to have been treated at the center and more are continually treated at the pilot centers. Notable successful cases include, ulcers, arthritis, fibroids, malaria, typhoid, prostatic hyperplasia and low pressure.