Student - December 11, 2008

GATES FOUNDATION SAVES PROTA

The Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (Prota) biodiversity programme, which has its head office at Wageningen UR, will receive 2.08 million euros from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations for the next year and a half. This has saved the project whose future hung in the balance.

The programme will now also receive support from the Dutch ministry of agriculture (800 thousand euros), the International Tropical Timber Organisation (386 thousand euros) and the NWO foundation Wotro (100 thousand euros). The co-financing was dependent on the Gates Foundation’s commitment. ‘If we hadn’t got the Gates funding, the programme would have come to an end’, says director Dr. Jan Siemonsma.

Prota inventories and makes knowledge available on over seven thousand useful plants from tropical Africa, in books, CD-ROMs and databases. The plants are divided into sixteen use groups, and six volumes have already been completed. On 11 December Prota will present the two most recent publications on tropical timbers and medicinal plants.

The programme is now in its fifth year, and the work is carried out by three European and seven African knowledge institutes. In addition to the office in Wageningen, Prota also has an office in Nairobi.

‘Getting the Gates Foundation subsidy was not easy’, says Siemonsma. ‘The foundation is having liquidity problems because of the credit crisis. We put in a request for over six million euros, but this kept getting eaten away during recent months.’

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