The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Programme and The Morton Arboretum have been awarded the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Tree Heritage Park (THP) located within its campus in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and managed by the Forest Centre, a Level II accreditation.
The award recognizes THP for meeting identified standards of professional practices deemed essential for arboreta and botanic gardens.
The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Programme is the only global initiative to officially recognize botanical gardens at various development, capacity, and professional levels. THP is also recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants.
Though it is the 500th accredited arboretum globally, THP is the first in Nigeria and one of the only 11 arboreta to achieve this feat in Africa.
THP was restored in 2015 for ex-situ conservation of rare and threatened native trees, such as Cola nigerica, Entandrophragma cylindricum, Mansonia altissima, and Terminalia ivorensis. It was initially established in the early 1990s as an agroforestry arboretum incorporating both native and non-native food and forest crops.
With sponsorship from committed donors, this critical conservation work involves using standard procedures for collecting propagation materials from forest patches in southern Nigeria.
These are later subjected to different experimental trials within the IITA Botanical Nursery to determine the best techniques for propagation before planting out in the THP.
THP now covers about 10 ha, supporting over 100 species of native trees, half of which are considered rare, endemic, or threatened. In addition to serving as a repository of genetic resources, the THP provides opportunities for promoting environmental education.
The park has facilities for hosting visiting tourists, schoolchildren, and family groups, including an adventure playground, forest classroom, hide and boardwalk, barbecue pavilion, natural history museum, and campsite.
IITA Forest Centre Manager Adewale Awoyemi, commented on the achievement: “Although the IITA Forest Centre works locally to conserve threatened native trees in the THP, it is more consolidating to adopt global best practices—an opportunity this accreditation would afford. We will now be able to brainstorm with a pool of about 500 experts and institutions.”
Awoyemi noted that this distinction is a significant feat for the THP and biodiversity of the West African sub-region. “I am particularly keen on harnessing this synergy to raise greater awareness and funding opportunities for the conservation of threatened and rare West African trees and promote capacity building among Forest Center staff,” he continued.
IITA Deputy Director-General for Corporate Services, Hilde Koper, lauded past and current Forest Center staff for their effort over the last decade in collaboration with their conservation partners, volunteers, promoters, and donors near and far.
“It is a great honour for the THP to be accredited and even feels more special for it to be the 500th accredited arboretum in the ArbNet Network. I feel immensely proud of our staff and supporters to have reached this, and I hope this will inspire others to see the value of growing indigenous trees for research, education, and awareness creation”, she said.