Knowledge for Development

S&T Organisations / Web resources

African rock fig: A fruit with historical significance and potential for the future

The Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project reports on yet another under-utilised edible plant species: the African rock fig (Ficus glumosa). This relatively small tree grows throughout much of tropical Africa in rocky or clay soil where it will produce edible, sweet figs during the months of January to June. The bark of the rock fig tree provides tannin and latex that have multiple uses, due to the medicinal and economic value of its parts. Its ability to resist droughts and grow in dry and rocky terrain makes the African rock fig tree a potentially rich source of food and income for rural communities.(Nourishing the Planet, 15/8/2011)


A Brief History of Fruit

The local histories website by Tim Lambert presents a brief overview of key fruit species from around the world.


Silvertorch: Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs and Seasonings of the Caribbean

This website is an online index and provides a list of important plants from the Caribbean, including their species names, health benefits, uses and history.


Plants of Southern Africa

There are more than 22,000 different species of seed plants indigenous to southern Africa. These are arranged into about 2,180 genera, which in turn form part of 227 families. Some of the more popular plants are described on this site.


African Food Staples

The website offers an alphabetic list of the 31 most common food staples, vegetables, herbs and spices in Africa. Under each product/staple is information concerning origin and use. Some historical information is also added under most of them.


Crops for the Future

The Crops for the Future website provides a range of information on publications, courses, projects and news relating to underutilised indigenous crops.


Caribbean Islands Overviews

Centres of Plant DiversityDepartment of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.An overview of the centres of plant diversity centred on the Caribbean Islands, with reference to Geology, Climate, Natural Vegetation: Flora, Useful plants, Factors causing loss of biodiversity, Conservation and Centres of Plant Diversity and Endemism


African Wild Harvest

The project started in 2002 following feedback from relief and development organisations to the Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) project indicated a need for reliable information on the role of wild food plants in nutrition in developing countries. The aim of AWH is to promote the sustainable use of traditional food plants for diet diversification and improved nutrition in Africa, thereby contributing to the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s call for a ‘Cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition’.


Horticulture Cultivars Performance Database (HORTIVAR)

Hortivar is FAO's database on performances of horticulture cultivars in relation to agro-ecological conditions, cultivation practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases and timing of the production. It covers six categories of horticultural crops: fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers, ornamentals, mushrooms, herbs and condiments.


A photo guide to West African plants

This interactive photographic guide helps users identify higher plants from West African ecosystems. It contains images of ferns and seed plants taken in the field. Browse through a taxonomic hierarchy and / or search according to selected characters observed on the plant of interest. The database currently contains 7686 photos and 1291 illustrated species. It contains photographs of plants from West Africa in a broad geographical sense, mainly from the savannah regions. It is possible to search for scientific or vernacular names via free text, browse through a taxonomic hierarchy starting with family names or select several morphological characters to access a result list of species with these characters. (Brunken, U., Schmidt, M., Dressler, S., Janssen, T., Thiombiano, A. & Zizka, G. 2008. West African plants - A Photo Guide. Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.)


Learn Grow: a database on 24 000 edible plants

Tasmanian agricultural scientist, Bruce French, has spent 30 years on a voluntary mission to document information on the food plants of the world, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. French has established a plain English database approaching 25 000 edible plants. The database contains descriptions, countries and climatic zones of the plants’ origins, photos and drawings of entire plants and edible parts, and cooking methods. The database includes nutritional information on each plant. The information in the food plants database can be reproduced in a number of formats including CD, DVD, books and PowerPoint presentations.


Technologies and practices for small agricultural producers (TECA)

TECA is a platform where small producers can find practical information – agricultural technologies and practices – to help them in the field. Using TECA, they can interact with people with similar interests and discuss sustainable solutions for their work in the online forums (‘Exchange Groups’). Users can find technologies and practices in crop production, forestry, livestock, fisheries, marketing and more. TECA technologies are tested and/or adopted by small producers, easy to replicate, expected to increase production in a sustainable way. Some of them can also help to adapt to climate change. For example, TECA's category for Climate change and disaster risk reduction features crop rotation techniques, hurricane-resistant poultry pen design, strip cropping and grass barriers practices. (Caribbean ComDev Platform, 2/8/2011)


Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA)

PROTA’s ( strategy is stipulated around the establishment, and management of its core product PROTA4U ( ), a dynamic and interactive web-based bilingual (EN and FR) system providing comprehensive information on 7,000 – 8000 useful plants of tropical Africa.To ensure that scientific information has the greatest impact on end-user, PROTA follows a fundamental three-step approach: Knowledge synthesis Synthesis of the dispersed world literature on plants and the publication of comprehensive information on each useful species. Stakeholder consultations to identify priority species, research and development needs, policy and conservation needs, and ready technologies for dissemination to farmers. Continuous updating and development of demand-driven bilingual products to suit PROTA’s target groups. Knowledge dissemination Continuous dissemination of PROTA products through PROTA4U, the handbook and CD-Rom series, key partners in Africa, agricultural extension systems, grassroots projects, targeted workshops and seminars, print media, radio and television. Knowledge utilization Proactive promotion of widespread and the best use of PROTA’s information by users - policy makers, intermediate development organizations and end-users - to influence policy, advance research, introduce ready technologies; develop value added products, for curricula development and teaching and to improve livelihoods.



If agricultural development is to be successful and biodiversity is to be conserved, then accurate knowledge of the identity, geographic distribution and uses of plants is essential. Unfortunately, such basic information is often only partially available for professional stakeholders, teachers, scientists and citizens, and often incomplete for ecosystems that possess the highest plant diversity, i.e. Mediterranean and tropical regions.Pl@ntNet will contribute to filling this void by: Developing cutting-edge transdisciplinary research at the frontier between integrative botany and computational sciences, based on the use of large datasets, knowledge of and expertise in plant morphology, anatomy, agronomy, genetics, taxonomy, ecology, biogeography and practical uses. Providing free, web-based and easy-access software tools and methods for plant identification and the aggregation, management, sharing and utilization of potentially all kinds of plant-related data. Promoting citizen science as a powerful means to enrich databases with new information on plants and to meet the need for capacity building in agronomy, botany and ecology.


Production and export of organic fruit and vegetables in Asia

This documents shows that trade regarding Worldwide Organic Agriculture is growing by presenting an overview and facts. Chapter 1 deals with the World Markets For Organic Fruit And Vegetables, Organic Markets in Europe and North America. It further describes Certified Organic Fruits And Vegetables In The Japanese Market. Chapter 2 is mainly about Standards and Regulations in several contexts worldwide. Differences and Similarities are discussed. Chapter 3 concentrates on Producing and Exporting Organic Horticultural Products in Asia while chapter 4 deals with Establishing an Organic Export Sector in which case studies of China and Thailand are presented. The roles of IFOAM and FAO with regard to supporting Asian Organic Agriculture are discussed as well. Chapter 5 is a concluding chapter and presents recommendations. Summaries of round table discussions are presented: (1) Strategies And Technology For Improving Production Of Organic Fruit And Vegetables In Asia; (2) Standards And Certification- How To Avoid That They Become A Barrier To Trade?; and, (3) How To Develop The Domestic Organic Market In Asian Countries? Read this document.


Resources to track botanical literature on the Web

The Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog posted a useful reminder to anyone looking online for scientific resources on ethnobotany and germplasm collection. The post has a link to a webpage maintained by the University of Kent listing a comprenhensive compilation of online databases, search engines, checklists, image galleries, etc., meant for students in ethnobotany. This page is an overview of where to find complete plant names, conservation status and uses, citations and references managers.For the germsplasm collector, also points to the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base and its page on 'Published sources of information on wild plant species' which is synthesis of new knowledge, procedures, best practices and references for collecting plant diversity. It explains how and where to check taxonomy/species name, digitized botanical literature and flora guides.(, 9/10/2012)


Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) - Baobab dried fruit pulp

On the website of the ACNFP one can find how an application from PhytoTrade Africa to approve baobab dried fruit pulp as a novel food ingredient was authorised in July 2008. The applicant proposes to market a baobab dried fruit pulp as a novel food ingredient for use in a range of food products namely smoothies, cereal bars and other similar food products. The applicant also intends to market a de-pectinated baobab fruit pulp as a novel food ingredient for use in other food products such as biscuits, confectionery, and other related food products. Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market, it must be rigorously assessed for safety. In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).


Southern Fruit Research Institute (SOFRI)

SOFRI’s research activities comprise selecting and multiplying fruit varieties which should be giving better yield, and quality for local consumption, export and processing; improving technology of fruit tree propagation, farming, as well as protection for high yield and quality fruit products; and, developing farmer-oriented handling, processing and marketing techniques for fruit products.