Brussels, 04 Oct 2002
An ambitious new project has been launched by African and European researchers to review and document existing knowledge on around 7,000 species of tropical plants.
The PROTA project (plant resources of tropical Africa), involving researchers from the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, will result in a compilation of its findings on useful species in a database that will be the source for an Internet site, CD ROMs and a 16 volume handbook.
Spices, vegetables, stimulants, dyes and medicines are just some of a wide range of commodity groups present among Africa's plant life. The project is jointly funded by the European Commission's Development DG, Wageningen University and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It aims to emulate the success of PROSEA, a project that applied the same research concept to South-East Asian plant species. Started in 1985, PROSEA will be completed in 2003 and has already received wide acclaim from the international scientific community.
Shafqat Kakakhel, deputy executive Director of the United Nations environment programme, welcomed the initiative. 'Africa holds more than 25 per cent of the world's biodiversity. The diversity of the crops today is at the basis of the food security of tomorrow.'
The challenges facing the project are great. PROTA will cover 47 countries and an even higher number of languages. But Dr. Jan Siemonsma, head of the PROSEA publication office feels that the experience gained in South-East Asia will stand them in good stead, and he identifies an even greater challenge. 'The present famine [in Africa] has to be relieved immediately and by concerted international action, but in the longer term famine has to be avoided. May PROTA make its contribution to this long-term perspective.'
For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.prota.org