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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA)

Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA) is an international documentation programme aimed at improving access to interdisciplinary data on approximately 7,000 useful plants of tropical Africa. Kew has been a collaborating partner in PROTA since its inception in 2000.

By delivering botanical information to a wide audience. PROTA is working towards securing sustainable plant resources for people throughout tropical Africa. Photo credit: R.R. Schippers.


PROTA began in 2000 as an initiative of Wageningen University, following on from PROSEA (Plant Resources of South-East Asia). It is an international programme which is primarily concerned with realising the potential for plants to contribute to poverty alleviation. To achieve this aim it synthesizes widely scattered information on useful plants of tropical Africa, and disseminates the information in a number of ways, including low-cost handbooks, CD-Roms, and as an interactive web database (PROTA4U).

Central to its work is the production of an illustrated series of handbooks containing “species review articles” on approximately 7,000 plant species used in tropical Africa. The bilingual (English and French) review articles provide condensed details on plant name, description, distribution, uses, production and trade, cultivation, harvesting, processing, conservation, and main reference sources. The target audience includes policy makers, extension workers, researchers, private enterprises, local communities and individual farmers.

To date, review articles on about 1,200 species have been completed, and 6 volumes (handbooks) and accompanying CDs published, covering the following commodity groups: Cereals and Pulses, Vegetables, Dyes and Tannins, Timbers (Part 1), Medicinal Plants (Part 1) and Vegetable Oils. All completed articles are also available online through PROTA4U. Besides the completed review articles, PROTA4U also provides “starter kits” – essentially “yet to be validated” basic information and reference sources for c. 7,700 species

A number of “Special Products” are derived from the completed handbooks, with recommendations on (for example) research and development gaps, conservation needs, and policy measures required for each commodity group or promising species. In addition, PROTA has supported a number of community level projects to enhance knowledge utilisation in each country of the African PROTA network.

Kew has been a collaborating partner in PROTA since its inception in 2000. Until 2009, co-funding from PROTA helped support the UK Country Office, based at Kew, and a Country Officer (now on sabbatical) whose tasks included populating PROTA’s bibliographic databases with reference citations and abstracts, and sourcing species images, drawing upon the collections and expertise at Kew and other UK institutions, editing reports and compiling several review articles for the handbooks. Kew staff continue to make significant contributions (e.g. to the Timbers and Medicinal Plants volumes), as associate editors and as contributing authors. Kew is represented on the Board of Trustees of PROTA by Professor Monique Simmonds, deputising for The Director.

Project partners and collaborators

Burkina Faso

Centre National de Semences Forestières (CNSF)


Agropolis International (AGROPOLIS)


Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CENAREST)


Forestry Institute of Ghana (FORIG)


Prosea Association (PROSEA)


World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)


Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (PBZT)


National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi (NHBG)


Association of African Medicinal Plants and Standards (AAMPS)

South Africa

Information Training and Outreach for Africa (ITOCA)


Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Wageningen University and Research Centre (WageningenUR


Makarere University (MU)

United States

Icon Group International (ICON)
The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library, Cornell University (TEEAL)

Project team

Jodrell Laboratory

Steve Davis, Olwen Grace (currently on sabbatical), Monique Simmonds

Project Leader: