Sacred Seeds leader Rafael Ocampo explains the motivations and methods...
Native Forest Foundation - Gampaha, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a country with a rich plant diversity of 4000 species, of which 800 are endemic to the country. Many of these species have unique medicinal and nutritional properties useful in solving acute health problems. They are connected with ethical, cultural, spiritual and social activities recognized from earliest days of human history. A long cultural heritage spanning more than 2500 years provides modern Sri Lanka with a strongly local ancient traditional agricultural knowledge system. This traditional knowledge of plants supported healthy rural communities under the precious guidance of traditional local healers and elders of these indigenous communities.
The childhoods of generations past were invariably filled with journeys through wild fruit tree forests that grew in abundance around communities. Madan, Himbutu, Masan, Kirilla, Embilla and Bovitiya are among over a hundred wild fruit varieties that were part and parcel of the process of discovering the world. Those flavors and those discoveries were unforgettable characteristics of our heritage. Unfortunately, we are seeing that children of future generations may be denied these simple childhood pleasures. Most children of today, especially those living in urban and semi urban areas, have never tasted those wild flavors. They cannot identify the trees or the fruits.
To address this, Native Forest Foundation of Gampaha, Sri Lanka is in the process of establishing an ethno-garden focusing on native edible wild fruit plants with over 150 species. Our aim is a real recovery and conservation of not just trees and the knowledge about them, but a way of life that gave unbound joy to children since ancient times.
Our garden further serves as a Rare Plant Resource Centre (RPRC) with documentation and transferring of indigenous knowledge fulfilling key academic and educational functions. The garden provides a venue where people can learn, exchange, and research with hands-on experience from local traditional bearers. These experts values propagate their plants amongst Sunday schools, getting the younger generation actively involved in regenerating their diminished natural experiences through cultural conservation.
Fifty percent of the project has already been completed by incorporating our traditional landscaping concepts and over sixty species have been collected from all parts of the country. In addition, over 70 species of threatened and rare native plants with medicinal values have also been conserved.