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From the cover of the People and Plants Brochure

About Us

What Are Our Aims?

The People and Plants Initiative aims to contribute to equitable use of plant resources and continuity of local ecological knowledge in developing countries. We support ethnobotanists who work with local communities to: 

  • study and record local knowledge of plant resources, and return results for the benefit of communities 
  • resolve contradictions between the conservation and over-exploitation of plant resources 
  • promote sustainable methods of using wild plants
  • enhance the value of plant resources to local people, for subsistence and commercial ends
The People and Plants Initiative collaborates with a wide range of local, national and international institutions.

The People And Plants Partnership

  • WWF:  The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), founded in 1961, is the world's largest private nature conservation organization. It consists of 29 national organizations and associates, and works in more than 100 countries. The coordinating headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland. The WWF mission is to conserve biodiversity, to ensure that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and to promote actions to reduce pollution and wasteful consumption. 
  • UNESCO:  UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate spanning the fields of science (including social sciences), education, culture and communication. UNESCO has over 40 years of experience in testing interdisciplinary approaches to solving environment and development problems, in programmes such as that on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). An international network of biosphere reserves provides sites for conservation of biological diversity, long term ecological research, and testing and demonstrating approaches to the sustainable use of natural resources. 
  • Kew:  The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has 150 professional staff and associated researchers and works with partners in over 42 countries. Research focuses on taxonomy, preparation of floras, economic botany, plant biochemistry, seed conservation, micropropagation and the dissemination of plant information. The Royal Botanic Gardens has one of the largest herbaria in the world, and an excellent botanic library. 

How Do We Work?

Field programmes are based in eastern and southern Africa, the Hindu Kush Himalayas, South East Asia and the South Pacific, linked with local WWF and UNESCO offices.  A regional coordinator, reporting to WWF or UNESCO, oversees each programme.  Regional programmes include a mix of participatory planning, workshops, exchanges, small grants, awards and courses designed to meet local priorities in conservation and development. 


  • WWF:  Alan Hamilton, Plants Conservation Officer WWF International, WWF UK, Panda House, Weyside Park, Godalming, Surrey, GU71QJ, UK.
  • UNESCO:  Malcolm Hadley, Division of Ecological Sciences, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris CEDEX 07 SP, FRANCE.  Tel. +33.1.45684035, Fax +33.1.45685804, e-mail m.hadley@unesco.org  
  • Kew:  Hew Prendergast, Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE, UK.  Tel. +44.181.3325706, Fax +44.181.3325768, e-mail h.prendergast@rbgkew.org.uk 

Activities -- Past And Present   

The People and Plants initiative has supported:  

  • Assessments of the use of plant resources by local communities at national parks in Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable, Rwenzori Mountains), Pakistan (Ayubia) and Nepal (Shey Phoksundo) as a basis for agreements on park use (including the demarcation and management of multiple-use zones in the Ugandan cases)
  • Developmental activities (including in primary health-care in Nepal and Uganda), 
  • Courses in ethnobotany (Kenya, Pakistan, South East Asia, Uganda)
  • Evaluation of the current role of ethnobotany in formal and informal education in six Central American states, and promotion of its further development
  • Exchange visits for people working on common themes and problems in different countries: woodcarving researchers (Kenya and Zimbabwe); forest ecologists (Kenya and Uganda), community conservationists (Malaysia and Indonesia)
  • Assessments with communities of their knowledge of the values and management of plants at Kinabalu National Park (Malaysia), coastal Kaya forests and Loita Forest (Kenya), Sierra Norte (Mexico) and Beni Biosphere Reserve (Bolivia)
  • Preparation of educational materials, including manuals on techniques in ethnobotany and related subjects, working papers, discussion papers on biodiversity prospecting and a handbook of ethnobotanical information; with distribution to over 3500 people, especially in developing countries
  • Production of local plant handbooks at Kinabalu Park (Malaysia) and various communities in the South Pacific (Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands)
  • Projects on ecotourism and ethnobotany (Fiji and Malaysia)
  • Regional and international workshops on field methods in ethnobotany (Mexico), conservation of medicinal plants (Dominican Republic), joint forest management (India), the cultural context of ethnobotany (Thailand, China) and quantitative methods in ethnobotany (Kenya)
  • Socio-economic and ecological surveys of trade in wood carvings (Kenya), palms (Uganda), medicinal bark (Cameroon, Zimbabwe), dye plants (Zimbabwe) and craft materials (Zimbabwe)
  • Theatre performances by travelling groups to raise awareness and incite discussion about resource use conflicts in Kenya and Uganda
  • Training of postgraduates, including 12 in Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda, and 1 in Malaysia
  • Training workshops and a small grant programme in six Himalayan countries, in association with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
  • Studies of the use of plant resources by women for food, fuel and medicine in Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda
  • Numerous workshops and exchanges for communities, attended overall by hundreds of local people as well as conservation managers, development workers and students, to discuss botanical issues of local interest or concern

Who Backs Us?    

 External financial support has been received from:   

  • Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
  • Darwin Initiative (UK)
  • Department for International Development, UK (DFID)
  • European Union (EU)
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • National Lottery Charities Board, UK (NLCB)
  • Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
  • Tropical Forest Program, USDA

Some activities have been carried out with joint funding from:  

  • Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN)
  • Biodiversity Support Program (BSP)
  • International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) 
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People and Plants Online website manager: Gary J. Martin,B.P. 262, 40008 Marrakech-Medina, Marrakech, Morocco;
Fax +212.4.329544, e-mail
Website design & maintenance by
RAM Production Sdn. Bhd.
People and Plants Online WWF, UNESCO and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Links to other websites cited in People and Plants Online do not imply endorsement of these sites or their content
by the People and Plants Initiative or its sponsoring institutions