Botanical garden that protects tree species from extinction

Kitale Nature Conservancy. [File, Standard]

Along Sabwani River in Trans Nzoia county, is a leafy park, full of beautiful flowered plants with the fresh scents of nature.

Walking around the area, one experiences a breeze and natural sounds of blowing wind, chirping birds, buzzing insects and a smooth flow of water at the beautiful botanical garden.

Kitale Nature Conservancy is the garden. Locally, it is also referred to as Ndura Place, about six kilometres from Kitale town on the busy Kitale-Kapenguria highway.

Conservationist Ndura Koimburi established the botanical garden in 1993 and is now a centre of attraction to visitors.

While the conservancy sits on about a 200-acre farm filled with numerous indigenous tree species, a botanical garden on a two-acre piece of land within the park has become more appealing to researchers.

Agricultural activities and logging have been blamed for the decimation of some rare tree species, some of which are medicinal.

To curb the unprecedented loss of biodiversity, Koimburi, a nature enthusiast, saw the need to establish a garden to guard plants that are at risk of extinction.

He notes that botanical gardens devote resources to the study and conservation of plants and also make the diverse species known to the public.

According to Koimburi, gardens play a central role in meeting human needs and contributing to their well-being. He says most of the indigenous tree species in the conservancy have medicinal value.

Although he cannot recall the first seed he planted, the conservancy proprietor knows well that he has planted over 800 different species of medicinal plants collected from different ecological areas within the country.

Koimburi has travelled vastly to the semi-arid areas in northern Kenya and rainforest climatic zones including Kakamega forest to source assorted species endemic to those areas.

“If for example, a catastrophe hits Kakamega forest, we shall use this botanical garden to regenerate a dwindling stock of the plants. I will come in handy to assist,” revealed the conservationist.

In the garden, plants are selected and planted based on their uniqueness, the type of disease they cure, the genre and those that are exclusively found in specific parts of the country.

He revealed that most of the plant species were becoming extinct due to over-exploitation, hence the need to raise the garden.

“Our forefathers interacted and utilized species of trees. I am worried future generations may not be able to enjoy the services of some plants due to extinction,” he says as he appeals to everyone to plant trees within their localities. 

His objectives of establishing the botanical garden, he says, was to ensure indigenous plants are conserved and have a facility for future research on plants and treatment of different types of human chronic diseases.

The garden serves as a recreation center and other nature lovers.

“I urge medical researchers to visit the garden, establish temporary laboratories and carry out their research work on medicinal values of these plant species,” urged Koimburi.

One of the unique plant species found in his garden is the hyssop, which is used by some communities for ritual cleansing and has medicinal value.

“The hyssop is mentioned in the holy book.  God loved it so much. In Egypt, it was used in mock dramas of salvation when the children of Israel were instructed to mark their doors using this important plant,” he says.

He adds; “It was also used in Mount Calvary when Jesus said he was thirsty and he was given virgae with the same plant,” added Koimburi.

Other plants include those, which provide the African Viagra, which comes in more than five different species.

Miriam Akoth, a graduate in Environmental Sciences from a local university who conducted part of her research in the conservancy noted the garden played a big role in her final examinations.

Joel Kipsang, a resident of Kitale, points out the garden has been his place of leisure as he enjoys sampling plant species.

County government of Trans Nzoia CECM for Environment and Natural Resources Pepela Wanjala notes that the county has a framework of engaging such entrepreneurs who put nature first.

“As a county, we are pleased with such initiatives and will engage with more like-minded people to ensure that we preserve nature,” said Wanjala when contacted.