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Indigenous Plant Use Forum

 IPUF was developed after a workshop funded by FRD in early 1992. This workshop, attended by 40 people from South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, provided the impetus for drafting a document which formed the basis of a national indigenous plant use program in South Africa.    -ABC .  

The Indigenous Plant Use Forum (IPUF) is a networking program supported by the South African Foundation for Research Development (FRD) and launched in 1993. Its aim is to promote the cultural, socio-economic and scientific benefits to be derived by people from the sustainable use of the southern African flora. For this purpose, its objectives are:  

  • To achieve, through the participation of resource users, resource managers and researchers, the conservation and sustainable use of wild plant resources; 
  • To identify useful plants with market potential, select priority species and end products and develop new crops from these species; 
  • To work towards obtaining sustainable utilization while maximizing the conservation of genetic and biotic diversity; 
  • To collect plant use data for South Africa and publish an encyclopedia; 
  • To facilitate interaction and partnerships between all parties active or interested in the program. 

  Other activities of the IPUF include the organization of regional workshops and national fora and the publication of a quarterly newsletter (see page 15) and a directory, the Survey of Research Expertise in Indigenous Plant Use: Sub-Saharan Africa (January 1994) which indexes information on 109 institutions and 313 scientists from 22 countries. This information includes the disciplines in which indigenous plant use research is undertaken, the specific courses available, the institutions with herbaria and seed banks. A more detailed survey of South African expertise is currently underway. The FRD, as a funding agency, is also supporting a research program aimed at capacity building within the network of South African academic institutions.  

  ‘The current use of indigenous plants in South Africa by the craft, horticultural, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries, as well as by traditional healers and their clientele, is enormous. The pressures of a burgeoning population, increasing urbanization and industrialization and the resulting cultural changes are taking their toll on plant resources.    

 In many cases, this pressure is unsustainable: the list of endangered plants is growing and cases of extinction in the wild have already been recorded. The need for a coordinated networking programme to focus on sustainable use, rural development and new natural products discovery based on partnerships between resource users, researchers and resource managers has been identified. The Indigenous Plant Use Forum has been initiated to focus attention on these problems and possible solutions.’  

From: a pamphlet distributed by the Indigenous Plant Use Forum.  


  • Jenny Hale, Environmental Programmes Coordinator,  The Foundation for Research Development,  PO Box 2600,  Pretoria 0001, South Africa;  Tel. +27.12.8414846,  Fax +27.12.8413791


Grupo Etnobotanico Latinoamericano

GELA has been going strong since 1986, thanks to the efforts of Javier Caballero, Sonia Lagos Witte, Olga Lucia Sanabria and the network of country representatives. It provides a good model for organizations in other regions that seek to promote exchange between ethnobotanists.     -GJM 

A drawing of a tree tomatoes taken from the pages of Etnobotánica
The Grupo Etnobotánico Latinoamericano (GELA) was founded in 1986 in Colombia during the 4th Latin American Congress of Botany.  This professional society is closely affiliated to the Asociación Latinoamericana de Botanica (ALB).  The goal of GELA is to promote communication between researchers who focus on ethnobotany within the Latin America and the Caribbean.  Its activities are coordinated by an international board of four members, supported by a network of representatives in 16 countries of the region. In 1988, GELA produced a directory of ethnobotanists who teach or carry out research in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A second edition is being prepared, and will include over 250 entries. Future activities of GELA will include seminars and training courses in ethnobotany.  

  Etnobotánica is the Spanish-language newsletter of GELA. The first issue appeared in March 1993 and additional numbers are published on an occasional basis. Among the sections of the newsletter, Noticias gives information on networks, programs, databases and events of interest to ethnobotanists; Nuevas Publicaciones includes reviews of new books and periodicals as well as theses and other publications of limited distribution; Investigaciones Etnobotánicas explores research projects in Latin America which are of general interest to GELA members; Plantas Promisorias presents synopses about economically promising species used by local people; and Perfiles contains profiles of famous ethnobotanists.  

  ‘Native of the Andes, this species is found in home gardens from  northern Argentina to southeast Mexico and the Caribbean. It is cultivated for its edible fruits. Propagated by seed, stems and roots, it produces fruit after 8 - 10 years. It needs well-drained, fertile soils and a warm humid climate, between 15 - 20 degrees centigrade ... Individual trees give approximately 20 kg of fruit per year and commercial production reaches 15-17 tons/ha.’   

From: Reyes Chilpa, R. and O.L. Sanabria. 1993. El Tomate de Arbol, Cyphomandra betacea (Solanaceae). Etnobotánica 2:6.      


  • Javier Caballero, Jardín Botánico,  Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 70-614, México,  D.F. 04510, Mexico;  Fax +52.5.6229046 or 6162326,  e-mail jcnieto@servidor.unam.mx 
  • Sonia Lagos-White, TRAMIL,  Apartado Postal 64, Managua, Nicaragua;  Fax +505.2.652363,  e-mail tramilca@nicarao.apc.org  
  • Olga Lucia Sanabría,  Universidad del Cauca,  Apartado Aereo 304,  Popayán, Cauca, Colombia;  e-mail jcasilim@unicauca.edu.co    


Arid Lands Information Network

 Baobab is both a beautiful tree and an appropriate name for the fine journal produced by ALIN, which is loaded with hands-on information about arid lands agriculture, water management and other practical concerns. A special technical section focuses on activities such as cheese-making and food drying. Sidy Lamine Dramé contributes cartoons which show ‘how complicated development really is’.     -GJM .  

A Baobab cartoon  by Sidy Lamine Drame  (click for enlarged picture)
The Arid Lands Information Network (Reseau d’Information des Terres Arides) is an NGO originally set up as a project by OXFAM in 1988. Its secretariat is now based in Dakar, Senegal.  The Network links more than 1000 people who are working in arid or semi-arid Africa on development issues.  ALIN is committed to ensuring that the experience and knowledge of grassroots development workers are valued by managers of development organizations.  The Network organizes project exchange visits, workshops and seminars.

  It also produces the journal Baobab, which contains articles on community development, based on grassroots experiences, provides practical advice and acts as a forum for the presentation and exchange of ideas.  Published three times a year, Baobab is available to members of ALIN, or through ALIN c/o Oxfam.  Specific topics include food processing and food security, soil and water conservation, pest control, forestry and approaches to community development. A directory of members is also produced each year to enable project workers to network independently.    

’The baobab  is ... a tree  which is familiar to most of us in both East  and West Africa.  Provider of food, shade, fuel, medicine and meeting places,  it is also the tree which you will recognise as the symbol of your network.’   . 

    ‘The Wakambaa people know their environment well. This has resulted in the development of a rich folk medicine which has been passed down to each generation. As a consequence, witch doctors and traditional healers are a common element of Akambaa society.   

    There are two categories of traditional healers: those who believe psychic powers to be the source of illness, and the herbalists, who believe in natural causes of disease. This creates a combination of specialities. The psychics use divination to identify diseases, while the herbalists treat the physical aspect of diseases.’ 

     From: Njeru, F. 1994. Traditional healers of Ukambani.    Baobab 14:13. 


  • Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN),  C.P.3, Dakar-Fann, Senegal;  Tel. +221.251808,  Fax +221.254521 
  • ALIN, c/o OXFAM,  274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ, UK;  Tel. +44.1865.311311,  Fax +44.1865.312600,  Telex 86310 OXFAM   
The baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L., Bombacaceae) may live for up to  2000 years. A native of tropical Africa, it is also planted in the Caribbean and other regions. 


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