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FAO Knowledge Management Work

The following are some of my major-impacting activities during 11 years with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as senior officer, industrial crops in Rome (retired April 2006).

Following retirement I have worked as a consultant for WHO on a monograph on the anti-malarial Artemisia annua and for FAO on bio-fuel species and their ecologies and industrial crops in general.

Knowledge management

This is one of my major contributions; delivering applicable plant knowledge to those in need. The major instrument used for this is the EcoPort protected knowledge commons. Another very popular site is Ecocrop;crop environmental requirements. Each is reverse-linked to the other where appropriate.


I began working with EcoPort’s data base predecessor in April 1998; introduced by the system’s creator Tonie Putter. Since then I have been a supervisor and the gatekeeper for plant records. It was re-launched in 2004 using open source software and techniques and now uses a combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL and mod_perl, a system commonly referred to as LAMP. The main front page sponsors are Nelson Mandela, Ed Wilson and FAO’s Director General Jacques Diouf.

The EcoPort splash page

The EcoPort splash page.

As all the information in EcoPort is assembled as the sum of the individual contributions of many authors, the data are collectively owned and maintained by a global community of scientists who share their expertise and experience. Individuals adopt entities (usually database records), in their specialties and enter state-of-knowledge information about them. Any one contributor, or reader, has access to the sum of all similar contributions and the sum of all information constitutes the EcoPort public “knowledge commons”.

The Founders of EcoPort share a belief in knowledge as a global public good, for reasons amply illustrated in the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me”.

FAO views the attainment of food security as a moral imperative – an outcome that is heavily dependent on harnessing knowledge more effectively. A central FAO strategy is to work through strategic alliances and towards this end FAO’s Office of the Director General signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EcoPort Foundation in August 2005.

It is EcoPort’s Mission and Pledge to:


Ecocrop matches plants to environment and concomitantly searches by plant uses and growth habit. At the moment there are over 2200 species in the database. It will shortly undergo a development phase to:

Work on Ecocrop is with the major inputs of Per Diemer, FAO consultant.

The Ecocrop home page

The Ecocrop home page

With Ecocrop you can presently:

Archive of Field Notes

Countries Worked In