Descriptors for Farmer’s knowledge of plants

The list of Descriptors for Farmer’s knowledge of plants, is a first attempt to combine a documentation system traditionally used in controlled environments (genebanks, breeding institutes) with an approach that involves people and their knowledge ‘in the field’. We hope that this list, which is the result of many years of review of fieldwork by scientists and field practitioners, will become an important tool for integrating scientific and traditional knowledge. The list is primarily targeted at the plant genetic resources community, to increase the range of knowledge recorded during plant collection, its widespread use by others, including communities and organizations, is encouraged. It is intended to be user-friendly and practical, whilst balancing inclusiveness and concision.

This list of descriptors has been developed by Bioversity International following advice from international experts, to provide a standard format for the gathering, storage, retrieval and exchange of farmers’ knowledge of plants. The list aims to capture key characteristics, uses and values of cultivated and wild plants as described by farmers and other people in farming communities. Many of these descriptors are not included in conventional descriptor lists. Wild and weedy plants are also covered by this list since they often play a significant role in farming communities, being useful from a socio-economic and ecological standpoint.

The content, coding and format of this list represent an important starting point in developing a standardized recording system and can evolve and improve. Future refinements, based on feedback received from farmers and users, will ideally evolve towards a unified and harmonized international system for documenting farmers’ knowledge of plants.

The descriptors listed herein are expected to be compatible with other scientifically validated Bioversity crop descriptor lists.

Bioversity recommends that scientists using this descriptor list also consult relevant code of ethics, such as the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) Code of Ethics  on intellectual property and that it should be respected by the researcher and discussed with the people and communities participating in the research. The following statement should be taken into consideration when discussing this approach with local communities:

The people or communities participating in this research declare their willingness to share their knowledge provided that they are recognized as the source of the information and that this knowledge remains freely available for their use.

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Any suggestions for improvement of this document will be highly appreciated by Bioversity International and should be addressed to Adriana Alercia on  (