Yesterday’s post about Google and Yahoo Groups reminded me that I had planned to mention PestNet in this forum at some stage. “PestNet is an email network that helps people in the Pacific and South East Asia obtain rapid advice and information on plant protection, including quarantine.” The way it works is that you just send in your query by email, preferably with some photos attached, and, after moderation by dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers, your question is posted to all PestNet members (via a Yahoo Group). You can ask for help in identifying a pest or symptoms, or for advice on how to deal with a particular problem, anything to do with plant protection (which is interpreted pretty broadly). If anyone has an answer – and there are hundreds of PestNet members, so the chances are good that someone somewhere will know something that will be of help – they write back, and you’re hopefully on your way to a solution. I believe there is a similar service, which is completely free by the way, for the Caribbean and plans for something in Africa. I think it’s a really wonderful way of sharing knowledge in a very focused way. I wonder if something similar would be useful in plant genetic resources?

Coconut information exchange

Google Groups and Yahoo Groups are really useful tools for networking and exchanging information on specific topics. There’s a Google Group on coconut which is really active and lively, and definitely worth keeping an eye on – and indeed joining – if you’re into things Cocos. All the more so as there’s a new addition to the information available, in the form of what promises to be a regular update from COGENT, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, on its poverty reduction activities. You can see the first newsletter here. Among various Yahoo Groups on coconut subjects there is the “People and Coconuts” group, which is described as being for people with “interesting coconut conundrums requiring answers.”

Syrian agricultural stats

You may remember a post some time back on an atlas of agriculture in Bhutan. Now here’s an on-line database of governorate-level agricultural statistics for Syria. Maybe not as nice as an atlas, but still pretty useful for planning agricultural biodiversity conservation. Especially as there is time-series data going back to 1985, which could be used to identify areas of genetic erosion through the (admittedly imperfect) proxy of decreasing total acreage. But when will agricultural statisticians and census-takers start collecting data on numbers of varieties, at least of staple crops?

Visualizing data

Stop press: Google bought Gapminder yesterday. Thanks Patchwork Planet. Still no sign of any good Ag data though.

Google has started hosting Gapminder, a wonderful tool for visualizing development data developed by a Swedish NGO. Here’s an example of what you can do with it. Worth playing around with. But to see a master at work, check this out. There are only a few variables at the moment, but wouldn’t it be great if one day the data in FAOSTAT were to be added? Anyone want to volunteer to do the mash-up?

Drum Beat on IK

The Drum Beat is “a weekly electronic publication exploring initiatives, ideas and trends in communication for development.” This week’s edition focuses on indigenous knowledge and has lots of good stuff, including for example information on an online database of Tibetan folk medicines.