There is an urgent need to conserve medicinal plants by establishing botanical gardens across the country. This will save some medicinal plant species from extinction and ensure availability of raw materials to produce efficient medicines, researchers say. A botanical garden is a space dedicated to the collection, cultivation, preservation and display of a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names for scientific management. Emmanuel Munyaneza, a conservation and biodiversity researcher, says that in order to conserve genetic resources and related knowledge, there is need to create botanical gardens. Genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity. Genetic resources are used for research or product development that finally deliver commercial products, especially those that are processed in industries. “The plants are recognised as one of the world’s most important genetic resources. However, technological advancement has accelerated deforestation leading to plant loss diversity. “Human activity pressure is leading to loss of a number of plant species from their natural habitat. There are some plants going extinct, meaning raw materials for pharmaceutical products are disappearing. We need botanical gardens to protect and conserve such species,” he says. He adds that botanical gardens will serve establishments where plants are grown for scientific study, and centres for rescue of endemic species and other valuable genetic resources. “We are seeking drugs that have efficacy. There is currently huge demand for medicinal herbs. Edible and medicinal plants need to be conserved,” he says. The request is in line with Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a multilateral treaty to ensure conservation of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. It is also in line with Nagoya Protocol, which covers traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources that are covered by the CBD and the benefits arising from its utilization. In 2017, Rwanda started a journey to establish legal institutional frameworks to aid in effective implementation of the protocol. In order to conserve the genetic resources, Rwandan citizens with traditional knowledge related to the resources are also requesting government to allocate land for planting and conserving the endemic medicinal plants species. Use of medicinal plants Dr Raymond Muganga, a pharmaceutical expert and lecturer at University of Rwanda, College of Medicine, says that urbanisation is leading to loss of medicinal plants yet they can be used to produce drugs. So far, he says, in partnership with Rwanda Environment Management Authority under UNDP-GEF project, researchers are in trials to produce drugs from four genetic resources. Marie Laetitia, Director of Research and Environmental Planning at Rwanda Environment Management Authority, says that as part of promoting locally produced drugs, medicinal plants as genetic resources should be valorised. “Developed countries generate pharmaceutical products from herbs, especially from Africa. Developing countries should benefit and share from this research. Traditional healers who have knowledge about genetic resources should benefit,” she says. She also says there is need for research on valorising genetic resources in Rwanda.