Sciences au Sud issues
In December 2004, scientists left terra firma for a 3-4 month campaign in the Pacific to study one of its most remote islands, the coral atoll Clipperton. This expedition, led by Jean-Louis Etienne, involved a dozen IRD researchers. The first results are highlighted here.
Reducing the gulf in agriculture
The global-scale gulf in agriculture is manifest at many levels : between countries of the South and industrialized ones of the Northern Hemisphere, between emerging and less advanced countries, between the large industrial and commercial agriculture and food firms and small family concerns. CIRAD researchers, in discussions held at the Dakar Agriculture Forum in February 2005, tackled the question of what kind of prospects «modernization » offers for helping to reduce this gap. They concluded that the only way of reforming agricultural policy today is to implement a full set of essential measures and that debate must develop on what is called the «modernization » of the private farming sector. The private sector itself, through its organizations, will have to take up this issue. The question will undoubtedly involve solving divisions between the large-scale concerns and small-scale producers, who often do not associate themselves with the idea of the private sector. North-South research will moreover have to be more proactive in response to public policy innovation, in particular by means of sustained supportive partnership schemes, extended to less advanced countries.
Plants and local knowledge in Guiana : Green heritage
IRD researchers have been studying plants and their uses in Guiana for 30 years. They are participating in a local-level scheme to bring out the value of these plants and their properties. The different communities can thus contribute to conserving the associated knowledge and re-appropriate their cultural heritage, by manifesting the wealth of the body of knowledge and know-how at their disposal. The researchers therefore focused on studying traditional remedies used by three ethnic groups of Guiana at a time when the economic issues associated with biodiversity were not yet on the agenda: the Creoles and the Amerindian peoples Wayãpi and Palikur. These surveys have led to the discovery of new therapeutic compounds. They are continuing, with the dual aim of isolating the main active components of traditional remedies and of determining whether or not their use should be recommended, in a region where up to 70 % of the population practise self-treatment. The plants from the Guianan forest are also used for food, household and craft materials (for wickerwork and so on). Enhancing the potential benefits of local knowledge, by means of cooperative community projects, for instance, in which the local people are closely involved, thus contributes to the continuing survival of these bodies of knowledge and techniques.