Editorial: People, plants and ICTs

In the ACP-EU Update, Jan Siemonsma reports on the Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA), a project that brings African and European scientists together in a collaborative effort to document information on 7000 African plants. This projectis relevant because of the growing popularity of African herbal products among health-conscious customers in the US and Europe.

In Asia, as well as in many ACP countries, people continue to use indigenous plants as medicines either because modern synthetic drugs are too expensive or simply because these herbal remedies work. Therefore, these plant species need to be classified and information on their traditional uses recorded. From Ghana, George Owusu-Afriyie describes BGBASE, a database program that has been designed to manage information on botanical collections, and is helping in the conservation of medicinal plants in West Africa.

Many herbal remedies are sold as food supplements are not recognized by regulatory authorities as medicines or drugs and therefore urgently need to be properly analyzed. Robert Lancashire tells the story of the JCAMP-DX Data Viewer, a computer program developed at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica, that is being used by organic chemists worldwide to do just that.

Also in this issue, Simon T. Gichuki and Robert J. Hijmans report on a project in East Africa that collects germaplasm samples and local knowledge of sweet potato varieties using DIVA-GIS, a free geographic information system (GIS). Steve Hurt talks about his online business, selling South African herbs over the Internet. Finally, in the Q&A, Tony Cunningham explains how People and Plants International (PPI), a global network of ethnobiologists and ecologists, is working in partnership with communities in ACP countries to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of plants in areas of high biological diversity.

30 June 2005

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