VESS held a very informative talk last night at Chantilly’s. The title of the talk was “Plants mo Pipol blong Tafea Provins, Vanuatu”. The talk was given by Dr. Greg Plunkett, from the New York Botanical Gardens, along with Presely Dovo, a conservationist from the Vanuatu Department of Forests and Jean Pascal Wahe from the Tafea Kaljoral Senta. These institutions are collaborating in a current project in Tanna and Aneityum to document the plants of Tafea. The teams are collecting and documenting botanical specimens for the National Herbarium in Port Vila as well as to send to world experts botanists. They are also documenting the local names and uses of plants to preserve the knowledge into the future. Dr. Plunkett pointed out that the knowledge that was being collected is only general knowledge and this project is not asking people to reveal any family secrets about plants on their land. He said that in many cultures around the world traditional knowledge is being lost. When oral traditions are passed down and it only takes a break in that path of a couple of generations for that knowledge to be lost. The documenting of the knowledge is not meant to replace the oral tradition but is a safety net against the loss of the knowledge as well as proof that the traditions belong to the place where they were described.
Vanuatu is in the East Melanesian Islands Hotspot for Biodiversity and the plant biodiversity is particularly significant. Tafea province, along it only has 5 islands and the land mass is small hold about half of the different species of plants found in Vanuatu. Dr. Plunkett described the work they have being doing collecting plants specimens , with the help of the local villages, interviewing people about what they used the plants for and assisting the communities with conservation efforts to preserve their forests and thereby their source of clean water.