In his address to the newly appointed NBI Board, Minister Valli Moosa encouraged the NBI Board to focus on its contribution towards biodiversity, research, education and tourism in line with government priorities. This is the first annual report after the Minister appointed the new NBI Board. This report focuses on both the achievements of the NBI and some challenges that remain to be addressed.
The National Botanical Institute has once again concluded a year marked by success and delivery. The excellent record of achievement has been recognised by the recent intensive international independent review group, which concluded:
"The National Botanical Institute has achieved its key objective of becoming a leader among the botanical gardens of the world by the year 2000. This has been accomplished by meeting the highest international standards in terms of research and visitor services while also continually seeking to enhance the Institute's national and local relevance. The NBI continues to strive to be a leading institution for plant research and to be a better servant for the people of South Africa".
The Board of the National Botanical Institute congratulates the staff and management team on its success under increasingly difficult financial constraints. The rapid growth of the Institute's income generating capacity, at Kirstenbosch and several of the smaller gardens, demonstrates the wisdom of investing in service facilities such as gift shops, restaurants, conference centres, plant, art and sculpture sales, and the affordable, but realistic pricing of visitor, education and research services.
Kirstenbosch and the other gardens occupy an increasingly significant niche in the tourism industry. For the first time in its history, the National Botanical Institute was represented at the annual Indaba Travel trade Show in Durban. This has set the pace for the integration of our gardens into the overall South African tourism food chain.
The growth in community outreach programmes, demonstrated by the Edith Stephens and Joe Slovo projects in Cape Town and the Banareng project in Pretoria, reflects the Institute's commitment to participation by all South Africans in the joy and value of our floral heritage. The continued success of SABONET extends this vision throughout the sub-continent.
A strong, peer-reviewed science programme is fundamental to any botanical garden's agenda. NBI, through its research teams in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, operating throughout South Africa, have once again brought great credit to the country. The publication of Cape Plants, a conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa by Peter Goldblatt and John Manning, is a major milestone in documenting the origin and unique diversity of this country's flora, while studies on the impact of climate change, land use and threatened plants demonstrate the vulnerability of our floral heritage to human pressures.
As a custodian of plant species in South Africa, the NBI faces daunting challenges that will require more commitment from both the national government and the other stakeholders. Transformation of the NBI in terms of staff equity across all levels of management requires further attention and commitment by all staff. Consequently, early investment in staff training, and in career planning, has been reflected in significant advance in the Institute's transformation process. Much more needs to be done, but a meaningful course has been set.
Commercialisation of horticultural research products and benefit sharing continues to receive priority by both the NBI and government.
The spatial location of botanical gardens continues to provide a challenge in terms of access by the broader South African community. The NBI, together with business sponsors, provided some temporary relief in this respect. However, the NBI, together with other stakeholders, will have to find a long-term solution to ensure that all South Africans, irrespective of race and gender, enjoy the beautiful plants in our national gardens. The development of other gardens to the same standard of facilities and service as Kirstenborsch remains a short term goal.
A major highlight of the year was the donation by Mr Leslie Hill of a R1 500 000 molecular systematics laboratory to the Kirstenbosch Research Centre. This facility places NBI on a par with other world leaders in the plant sciences, and recognises the global importance of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This is a research resource centre that will be made accessible for the training of our future botanists and will be accessible to all higher education institutions.
A similar gesture of public commitment to the NBI has been the R2 000 000 donation by the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa to establishing a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility for the living collections nursery at Kirstenbosch. These new greenhouses replace an inefficient mix of dilapidated buildings dating back to the 1920s.
I find it invaluable to have as my co-members of the NBI Board strong representatives from a cross section of the South African community. Their collective commitment and individual input has once again contributed to the outstanding performance of the NBI. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to all Board members and NBI staff for their unwavering support. I am truly honoured to be part of such a team. Let us continue to be of service to our community. "Batho pele".
Chairman of the Board