Target 14: Education & awareness


The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes

Contributors: C. Brown, M. Cocks, A. Hitchcock & D. Raimondo


South Africa has a long history of running public awareness programmes for plant diversity and conservation, such as through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) linked to the ten botanical gardens across the country. SANBI has a strong synergistic association with the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc), and both run public awareness programmes such as the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW).

The formal education system in South Africa includes sections on biodiversity in the high school curriculum, and specifically deals with plant diversity and human influences on ecosystems. Beyond high school, many tertiary institutions have courses focusing on plant diversity and conservation, ranging from being strictly botany focused to courses in nature conservation/management.

Apart from the formal education curriculum, South Africa has set aside several days each year to commemorate issues relevant to this target, such as Arbor Day, and commemorate pertinent international days, such as International Biodiversity Day, World Environment Day etc. There are also many initiatives that bring together government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in achieving public awareness and action towards plant conservation.


Although issues of plant diversity and conservation are included in the school curriculum, the majority of schools are not equipped with either the teachers or facilities to effectively achieve the goals of the curriculum. Furthermore, analysis of the examinations done at the end of high school (National Senior Certificate) show that students fare particularly poorly in environmental studies (National Senior Certificate 2013: Diagnostic report, Department of Basic Education).

Target 14 outcomes for 2020

14.1.   Plant conservation included in the life science curriculum across South Africa.

Education: plant conservation needs to be incorporated into the school curriculum at provincial level to ensure that the curriculum is relevant to local language(s)/culture(s) and biome(s). A blanket curriculum intervention for South Africa will lose an enormous opportunity to engage at a local level. Currently plant conservation is poorly supported mainly due to lack of locally relevant material available to educators. One way to gain support and understanding is to introduce the concept of bio-cultural diversity at schools. The Grade 10 Life Science curriculum provides a perfect platform for this. An excellent pilot of such an intervention is the Inkcubeko Nendalo Bio-Cultural Diversity Conservation Programme, run by Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape. This programme gets learners interested in plant diversity and conservation by studying how plants form an integral part of their culture. These types of education interventions need to be replicated in other provinces.

14.2.   Plant conservation awareness expanded by exposure to botanical gardens and by involving the public in citizen science projects.

Creating awareness by involving the public in citizen science projects: engaging the public in monitoring plant diversity helps raise awareness of plant conservation issues and a sense of community responsibility for caring for the environment. Examples of popular and ever-growing citizen-science interventions include the CREW programme and the iSpot virtual museum. CREW involves volunteers from the public, mostly from rural areas, in the monitoring and conservation of rare and threatened plants,, while iSpot is an exciting and interesting website that allows anyone with an interest in nature to share their observations and passion with a network of like-minded enthusiasts by posting digital photographs of plants observations online. This makes it a virtual museum of plant information. In addition to being a virtual museum, it is a social hub for nature enthusiasts and an increasingly valuable database on species occurrences, see

14.3.   Plant conservation promoted in relevant media.

Media: currently there is very little-media coverage for plant conservation and better coverage on social media platforms is required. Key persons from within the Plant Conservation Network need to be identified as designated ‘Talking Heads’ and to foster relationships with media outlets. Members of the Plant Conservation Network active on Social Media platforms such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc. need to promote plant conservation information on their platforms.

Target 14: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes
Outcomes Activities Responsible stakeholders Timeframe
14.1. Plant conservation included in the life science curriculum across South Africa. 14.1.1. Educational materials developed for teaching Grade 10s relevant to each of South Africa’s nine provinces. A curriculum-aligned module designed and trialled with a pilot school in each province. 14.1.1. Education consultant (funded by BotSoc). 14.1.1. 2015–2020
14.1.2. The network of botanists involved in this strategy assisting in the development of appropriate educational material. 14.1.2. Education consultant (funded by BotSoc). 14.1.2. 2015–2016
14.1.3. SANBI National Botanical Gardens are outdoor classrooms for learners, with curriculum-linked educational activities being offered. 14.1.3. SANBI education department developing resources in collaboration with garden’s horticulturists. 14.1.3. 2015–2020
14.1.4. Groups of botanists taking school learners on field excursions, especially on days such as Arbor Day. 14.1.4. Volunteers from across the country involved in the CREW programme. 14.1.4. 2015–2020
14.2. Plant conservation awareness expanded by exposure to botanical gardens and by involving the public in citizen science projects. 14.2.1. Plant conservation promoted in SANBI National Botanical Gardens through labelled and interpreted living plant displays, talks and demonstration gardens to educate and create awareness about the importance of plant diversity and conservation. 14.2.1. SANBI Gardens & Education. 14.2.1. 2015–2020
14.2.2. The number of individuals able to participate in iSpot expanded by developing apps compatible with android cell phones. 14.2.2. Open University from the United Kingdom responsible for the development of iSpot. 14.2.2. 2015
14.2.3. Educational activity developed for learning about plants using the iSpot website, ensuring this activity is available as part of the iSpot website and being used in schools. 14.2.3. iSpot team SANBI and education consultant. 14.2.3. 2017
14.2.4. The number of volunteers involved in the CREW programme expanded to ensure that CREW works in all areas where threatened plants are concentrated. 14.2.4. CREW programme implemented by SANBI and BotSoc.
14.3. Plant conservation is promoted in relevant media. 14.3.1. Newspaper, magazine articles, and popular books on plant conservation produced. 14.3.1. Plant Conservation Network. 14.3.1. 2015–2020
14.3.2. Plant conservation stories, especially those linked to the 16 targets of this strategy, are featured on television and social media platforms. 14.3.2. Plant Conservation Network, SANBI Marketing and BotSoc. 14.3.2. 2015–2020