The mission of the Meise Botanic Garden is to build a sustainable future through discovery, research and conservation of plants. This is reflected in its current research, collections and dissemination activities. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of our focus areas. From 2004 onwards the Meise Botanic Garden has successfully initiated projects renewing infrastructure in the DRC. It successfully rehabilitated the Botanical Garden in Kisantu (Central Congo), the herbarium of the University of Kisangani, the Botanical Garden of the University of Kisangani, the Herbarium of the INERA-Yangambi and the coffee gene bank of the INERA-Yangambi. Furthermore, the Meise Botanic Garden directs landscaping projects in the Virunga Park.
The Meise Botanic Garden is a partner in big projects like FORETS and YPS. Moreover, it is involved with different research projects around biodiversity, climate and the carbon cycle in the Congo basin and more specifically in the region of Yangambi (see below). For al these projects, Meise Botanic Garden collaborates intensively with local partners, giving education and trainings, which contributes to capacity building in DR Congo. Meise Botanic Garden therefore has a partnership with different Congolese institutions and governments: the Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique (Ministry of Agriculture), University Kisangany (Ministry of Education) and Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (Ministry of Environment)
Piet is, since 25, years studying the diversity of wild coffee species in Central and West Africa. As a result of this study he was describing several new coffee species and contributing to several other publication on Coffea. Since 2009 he is involved in several projects in the DR Congo (Rehabilitation and digitization of herbaria, rehabilitation of the Botanic Garden Kisantu & the coffee collection in Yangambi, training of local herbarium technicians and botanist). Since 2016 he is director of collections in Meise Botanic Garden.
Filip is a plant ecologist with a research focus on evolution and ecology from a plant trait perspective. His research includes studying evolution of seed traits and other plant traits across angiosperms using comparative methods. In other projects, plant traits are being studied at the population level using molecular and quantitative genetic methods. Since 2016 Filip has been involved in studying diversity of Coffea canephora in the DRC and has undertaken several field missions. From 2019 onwards Filip is also the scientific manager of the seedbank at Meise Botanic Garden.
As an evolutionary botanist, Steven Janssens has a broad interest in the ecology, evolution and conservation of plants. Since 2013, Steven Janssens works as senior researcher in Meise Botanic Garden where he focuses on unravelling evolutionary patterns and speciation mechanisms within flowering plants using a subset of different scientific disciplines ranging from biogeography, diversification analyses, population genetics, phylogenetics, species distribution modelling and bioinformatics. Although he works on a broad range of angiosperm lineages, he is mostly interested in bananas (Musaceae), coffee (Rubiaceae) and wild beans (Fabaceae). His research aims to assess fundamental research questions about the origin and evolution of crops and their close relatives in order to provide valuable insights that can be used at the level of applied research such as crop breeding activities or the selection of disease resistant or drought tolerant species.
Robrecht has a degree in bioscience engineering from KULeuven and is currently a Phd researcher for the Coffeebridge project. He will characterize the Robusta coffee genetic resources in the Congo Basin (DRC), focussing on geno- and pheno-typification as well as the quality of the coffee genetic lines in the Yangambi collection. His passion for coffee started in Peru when he was investigating cocoa beans for his master thesis and he discovered the world of coffee processing and quality. His previous work experience was as a food technologist in a research and development laboratory in Leuven. He is a coffee hobbyist and enthusiast who now gets to pour all his energy and drive into this coffee research program. He is looking forward to discussing, collaborating and exploring the potential of the Robusta genetic resources in the Congo Basin.
Administrative Project Manager
Nele is a bioscience engineer from the KU Leuven, with a focus on tropical agriculture. Her interest lies in the interface between agronomy, ecology and socio-economy and this was reflected in her master thesis, which focussed on natural pollination of crop wild relatives of vanilla in an agroforestry system in Southwest Costa Rica. She now helps managing several coffee projects in the Meise Botanic Garden.