IITA Tree Heritage Park awarded Level II accreditation by ARBNET

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The IITA Tree Heritage Park (THP), located within the campus of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan and managed by its Forest Center, has been awarded a Level II Accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and The Morton Arboretum, for meeting identified standards of professional practices important for arboreta and botanic gardens.
The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program is the only global initiative to officially recognize arboreta at various development, capacity, and professionalism. The THP is also now recognized as an accredited arboretum in the Morton Register of Arboreta, a database of the world’s arboreta and gardens dedicated to woody plants. The THP is the 500th accredited arboretum in the world, but the first in Nigeria and one of the only 11 arboreta to achieve such a feat in Africa.
The 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 established in the early 1990s as an agroforestry arboretum incorporating food and forest crops, both native and non-native. With sponsorship from committed donors, this important conservation work involves the use of standard procedures for collecting propagation materials from forest patches in southern Nigeria, which 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.
The 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. Thus, the park hosts facilities for visiting tourists, schoolchildren and family groups, including an adventure playground, forest classroom, hide and boardwalk, barbecue pavilion, natural history museum, and campsite.
While commenting on the achievement, the IITA Forest Center Manager Adewale Awoyemi said: “Although the IITA Forest Center works locally to conserve threatened native trees in the THP, it is working more towards consolidating the adoption of global best practices, an opportunity this accreditation would afford. We will now be able to brainstorm with a pool of about 500 experts and/or institutions. This is by no means a small 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”.
Hilde Koper, IITA Deputy Director General for Corporate Services, added, “it is a great honor for the THP to be accredited and even feels more special for it to be the 500th accredited arboretum in the ArbNet network! This is a recognition of the hard work of the Forest Center staff (past and present), their conservation partners, volunteers, promoters, and donors near and far, regarding what has been done in the last 10 years. 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 and conserving indigenous trees for research, education, and awareness creation. From the management perspective, IITA is committed to protecting the Forest Center assets and has recently updated its Biodiversity Policy to promote biodiversity conservation, with a specific mention of the THP”.
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