In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi African and European researchers have launched an ambitious international `information mobilisation`-project to disclose the existing knowledge of useful plants of Tropical Africa. The PROTA Project (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) has been prepared by Wageningen University (the Netherlands), Agropolis in Montpellier (France), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (United Kingdom) and six African institutes: Makerere University (Uganda), FORIG (Ghana), NHBGM (Malawi), PBZT (Madagascar), CENAREST (Gabon), and CNSF (Burkina Faso).
In ten years time (2003-2012) the researchers will survey and critically review the existing knowledge on an estimated 7000 useful plant species, and compile this information in a database that will be the source for an internet site, CD-ROMs and a 16-volume handbook. A unique feature of the project is that it will also handle less-accessible ‘grey’ literature and will make the reviews widely available for users in education, research and extension. The project focuses on promoting plant resources as a basis for sustainable land-use, and is committed to the conservation of biodiversity and the rural development of tropical Africa. More than 50% of the African population lives beneath the poverty line, with a great majority in rural areas. In total the project will cost about 16 million Euro, about 1,6 million per year. The funding for the first year is almost ensured with contributions of the European Commission, Wageningen University and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
PROTA will be coordinated by a Network Office Africa, located at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi (Kenya), and a Network Office Europe at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). The six Regional Offices are hosted by institutes all over tropical Africa. At the First PROTA International Workshop, that was held in Kenya last week, dr. Shafqat Kakakhel, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), welcomed the initiative. “Africa holds more than 25% of the worlds biodiversity. It is a tragic paradox that marginal agriculture forms the greatest threat to biodiversity, while diversity could be on the basis of sustainable development. The diversity of the crops of today is at the basis of the food security of tomorrow”, said Kakakhel.
Dr. Jan Siemonsma | alfa
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