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Have you ever wondered if networking is worthwhile? At times, it seems that we face a choice between focusing inwards on our fieldwork and community projects or looking outwards for inspiration and recognition. Why dedicate so much energy to communicating and exchanging experiences? From raising funds to raising awareness, there are many reasons to keep in touch. Consider the following perspectives from scientists and policy-makers.     -GJM

Connecting with Indigenous Organizations

    ‘Regional resource management must be a cooperative effort from the outset. It is not solely a matter of “incorporating local people into program design.” ... Externally designed programs are often seen as imposed and are questioned from a political rather than technical standpoint. Land rights, not use, are still the major concern, and projects that do not address this problem are rejected. The challenge is to shift from a reactive to a proactive response.  

  •  What are needed are effective means for full local participation of representative indigenous organizations in the planning, implementation and evaluation of sustainable projects that affect indigenous people or that take place in their territory. These means must take account of local people’s broad political and historical concerns. In pursuit of global environmentalism, developers and conservation planners have designed land use programs for Indian lands without consulting their Indian “beneficiaries”.  To remedy this situation, it is recommended that conservation and development institutions: 
  • Clearly define local participation and community involvement; 
  • Clearly define “sustainable”  — what is to be sustained? 
  • Provide long lead-in times for designing projects — allow people to work at their own pace to discuss and evaluate long-term and short-term consequences; 
  • Seek means to work with local organizations so that their programs are the sources which “award” prestige to their communities or leaders — acknowledge and reward local efforts from within rather than from the outside; 
  • Integrate indigenous traditional knowledge with new technologies in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of projects; 
  • Understand indigenous people’s  ethnoecological traditions and how they vary or concur with Western ecological models; 
  • Reach a common understanding of conservation and development. Indigenous concepts of conservation and development are not the same as Western accepted concepts; and, 
  • Develop appropriate training and methods to incorporate local use and knowledge into management plans.’ 

From: MacDonald Jr., T., D. Irvine and L. E. Aranda. 1993. The Quichua of Eastern Ecuador. Pages 11-29 in Shelton H. Davis, editor, Indigenous Views of Land and the Environment. World Bank Discussion Papers 188. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. A background paper for the World Bank’s 1992 report on development and environment, this discussion paper presents an overview by anthropologist Shelton Davis, and case studies on the Samburu and Maasai of Kenya, Quichua of Ecuador and Tribal Filipinos of the Philippines.  


  • Distribution Unit, Office of the Publisher, Department F, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA; Fax +1.202.4776391.  


Strengthening Scientific Networks

  ‘Development agencies should use their financial and institutional resources to establish and encourage networks that foster communication among scientists working with biological diversity in developing countries.  

  The effectiveness of all scientists depends in large part on their access to professional colleagues and to information in their field. Those who study biological diversity in developing nations face special difficulties. Traditional sources of scientific information -libraries, museums, universities - often lack the resources to maintain up-to-date collections and to disseminate the findings of their own researchers. The cost and inconvenience of travel to scientific meetings and conferences can be prohibitive; modern communication technologies are often unavailable. As the need for scientific information on biological diversity grows, and as the volume and quality of information increase, scientific networks must keep pace. These networks should serve to improve communication among scientists in developing countries, between scientists in different countries, and between scientists in the developing and the developed world.  

  Support for scientific networks begins at the field research level, with increased financial support for operations and data analysis. The development of methods for reporting data and managing information, particularly computerized inventory data, has been discussed ... Scientific networks will play a leading role in refining these methods, coordinating research efforts, and improving the channels of communication from the field to the international level. Development agencies can best support this work by backing existing networks, such as the Latin American Plant Sciences Network and the Association pour l’Etude Taxonomique de la Flore d’Afrique Tropicale, and by promoting the establishment of similar networks in regions where they currently do not exist.  

  A number of steps that development agencies can take to improve communication among scientists in developing countries would directly promote the formation and strengthening of networks:  

  • Improve access to bibliographic resources and other databases by providing scientific and educational institutions with funds for journal subscriptions and book purchases. 
  • Support the publication of findings in international journals and local publications, especially those in vernacular languages (a considerable amount of data on the floras of many countries has gone unpublished for lack of funds). 
  • Require that proposals for agency-sponsored research in developing countries include funds in their budgets for the publication of results in a form accessible to scientists in the countries themselves. 
  • Support the publication of newsletters.
  • Finance the compilation of a worldwide directory of individuals working in the area of local knowledge systems, and support the preparation and publication of annotated bibliographies on selected topics related to local knowledge. 
  • Sponsor local, national, and regional workshops and conferences on biological diversity, and provide increased funding for scientists to attend international conferences.’ 

From: National Academy Press. 1992. Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. A synopsis of conservation priorities, divided into chapters on biodiversity and development, biological aspects of conservation, and the socioeconomic and cultural context of biodiversity research.  


  • Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Publications and Information Services (FO-2060Z), Office of International Affairs, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20418, USA.  


Establishing Global Biodiversity Information Networks


  • Help institutions disseminate the information needed to conserve biodiversity and mobilize its benefits.  

Action 77: 

  • An international information network can support national information programs by enabling a country to readily obtain data on biodiversity in adjacent countries, making possible the aggregation of data to reveal global trends, and providing channels for exchanging technical assistance and training among countries.  
  •   Although an effective network does not need a single “center,” several international institutions already play important roles in biodiversity information exchange. The FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources plans to publish a periodic status report on crop-genetic diversity, an effort deserving increased international financial support. The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) maintains a database of crop-genetic resources collections worldwide. And the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) serves as a clearinghouse for information on biodiversity. Along with other services, WCMC publishes Red Data Lists of threatened species and reports on the status of specific ecosystems (coral reefs, wetlands, etc.) and taxonomic groups. WCMC’s role as an international biodiversity information center will expand as it begins publication of the biennial Global Biodiversity Status Report, the first volume of which is a companion to the Global Biodiversity Strategy. This new report will be a compilation of indicators of the status and trends of biodiversity, biodiversity management and use, and the legal, financial, and institutional bases for conservation.  

    (click for enlarged picture)

      As important as these ongoing international information programs are, they are not enough. The single most important need for strengthening the international data network is to build national data-management capacity. But several steps must also be taken to facilitate the international exchange of data. First, a network linking national and international information and monitoring centers needs uniform computer protocols and definitions of data fields.

    A central coordinating body comprised of representatives of participating national and international data centers and agencies is needed to prepare these shared guidelines and to facilitate information exchange. Such an International Forum for Biodiversity Data could be organized under the umbrella of the proposed International Panel on Biodiversity Conservation or by a consortium of the major international biodiversity information centers ... After initial meetings to develop guidelines and help set priorities for action, the Forum would meet when computer technologies or information needs change ...  

      Within the international network, a central directory of who holds what information on biodiversity should be established by WCMC or FAO. To the extent practicable, all the data available through the network should be in the public domain and exempt from copyright restrictions when used for conservation, education, and research. Members of the network should exchange data without charge. Network data should be sold or used for commercial purposes only with the permission of the copyright holder (the original source) which could involve payment of a fee.  

Action 78:  

  • Provide all citizens with legal and institutional guarantees of access to information on development projects and other activities with potential impacts on biodiversity.  

      Information on biodiversity encompasses not only species distributions and potential economic uses, but also information on threats to diversity. Often, local communities receive no information until the officials or tractors arrive to build a dam, cut a forest, or settle a group of migrants. But with good information and advance warning of radical and imminent alterations in their local ecosystems, local communities can form the front line of resistance to ecologically and socially destructive development projects.  

      Such information should be freely accessible, and access should be guaranteed by law. Freedom of information should be a condition for funding by international development aid agencies. Key documents should be translated into local languages, and government agencies and project proponents should inform affected communities about both the process of project planning and the project’s potential. Currently, the Bank Information Center (BIC), a non-governmental organization in Washington, D.C., helps notify local groups of planned World Bank-funded projects around the world, but providing such information routinely should be the duty and responsibility of both governments and donor agencies.’   

    From: WRI, IUCN and UNEP. 1992. Global Biodiversity Strategy: Guidelines for Action to Save, Study and Use Earth’s Biotic Wealth Sustainably and Equitably. WRI, Washington, DC; IUCN, Gland, Switzerland; UNEP, New York. A standard reference, with contributions from more than 500 individuals, on conserving the world’s biological diversity through political, scientific, economic, social and other actions.


  • World Resources Institute, 1709 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA;   Tel. +1.202.6386300, Fax +1.202.6380036.  


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