Knowledge Pack : Burkina Faso
This Knowledge Pack contains Indigenous Knowledge cases and other useful information related to Burkina Faso. The indigenous knowledge pack is a tool that provides users with quick access to synthesized information by country or selected thematic area.
Revival of a terracing and water harvesting practice in the Sahel
Summary: Early this century the Mossi put up lines of stones (bunds) on their cultivated land to build up terraces. Because of political instability this method was later abandoned. After a series of droughts in the 1970s, the bunds were revived. Pits that conserve water were added. They were filled with organic material to increase soil fertility. Other introduced systems were shunned. The stone bunds are built up over the years, reaching about one meter height, terracing the slopes with relatively little labor input during the slack, dry season. The semi-permeable bunds allow for a gradual seeping in of the water and prevent the run-off caused by the scarce but highly intensive rains, reducing the risk of crop failure and soil erosion. In the disastrous drought years of 1983 and 1984, crops grew on land with bunds, while adjoining fields grew nothing. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Burkina Faso to disseminate the technology throughout the country’s densely populated central plateau, where today 150 villages on the plateau now have stone lines. Sorghum yields on the plateau have risen by about 40 percent in fields with bunds up to 40%.
Lesson: Locally developed practices require an enabling political and economical environment. A participatory approach allows farmers the choice of technology.
Source: CIESIN, Warren, D. M., Rajasekaran, B. 1993, Putting local knowledge to good use, International Agricultural Development 13 (4): 8-10.
Soil Erosion Techniques
Summary: Mossi soil conservation practices include the application of farmyard manure, strip fallow, rotational fallow, building of micro-catchments, mulching and reforestation. These ecologically sound methods are particularly valuable when combined with building stone contour bunds for alleviating an imbalance in soil fertility (see also practice ID 86).
Lesson: Agricultural extension needs to build on these techniques when introducing new technologies or varieties.
Source: CIRAN, Basga E. DIALLA ( IK Monitor 2 (1))
1994 CIRAN ) ; and : Jean Yves MARCHAL (1986), "Vingt ans de lutte antiérosive au nord du Burkina Faso", Cahiers ORSTOM, Série Pédologie XXII (2) : 173-180.
Informal self-help structures perform a vital function in ensuring social cohesion within and among villages.
Summary: In practicing agriculture, the Bissas have harmoniously combined collective and individual tasks. There are two types of traditional self-help organizations: the Yawole or Susoaaga: "invitation to cultivation", existing within the Mossi tradition. The Yewole or Songtaab is an association among young Bissas practicing group agriculture for their in-laws or on their own plots. These traditional self-help structures are informal and seasonal. They contribute to social cohesion within and among villages.
Lesson: Self-help traditional structures based on local values (in terms of practices and technical knowledge), strengthen social cohesion and constitute a solid
Source: Basga E. DIALLA, Claude BATIONO, Maxime S. OUEDRAOGO, DMP / MOB, juin 1998 (document inédit), Ouagadougou , Burkina Faso ; and : Dr Bernard Lédéa OUEDRAOGO : "Association Internationale Six S", BP 100, Ouahigouya Tél :55-00-38 (BurkinaFaso)
Mossi farmers of Yatenga control soil erosion through contour bunds from stones.
Summary: The farmers construct an embankment made of stone along the contour. The purpose is to slow down the water runoff and thereby to allow a maximum of it to be absorbed in the soil, while draining off any excess. The more fertile soil accumulates behind the stonewalls, below the walls the soil degrades. As the slope gradually decreases between the walls, soil fertility can be distributed more evenly. This practice allows farmers to reclaim degraded land and to increase agricultural production. Contour bunds practice has been successfully transferred to other communities in Burkina Faso and some neighboring countries.
Lesson: Building contour bunds is a valuable technique for increasing water absorption in the soil and reducing run-off. Micro-changes of soil fertility require observation.
Source: CILSS, Thomas Toni DORO, 1991, Burkina Faso. Ferdinand Dabiré: "Revolutionary conservation: Villages successfully use stones against erosion ",West Africa , September, 11-17, 1989.
Crop rotation systems among the Nounis of Burkina Faso
Summary: The farmers construct an embankment made of stone along the contour. The purpose is to slow down the water runoff and thereby to allow a maximum of it to be absorbed in the soil, while leading away the excess amounts. More fertile soil accumulates behind the stonewalls, below the walls the soil degrades. As the sloe gradually decreases between the walls, soil fertility can be distributed more evenly with appropriate husbandry measures. This practice allows to reclaim degraded land, and to increase agricultural production. Contour bunds practice has been successfully transferred to other communities in Burkina Faso and some neighboring countries
Lesson: Nouni crop rotation systems help maintaining soil fertility and allow diversification of production on a small scale. However, a thorough study would be needed before changing some of its elements by introducing new crops, varieties or commercial seed.
Source: David K. PODA, « Mémoire de fin d'études en Agronomie», IDR, Université de Ouagadougou, June 1989, M4290
Mixed cropping, including varieties of different vegetation periods increases household food security.
Summary: In Aribinda and in most other areas of Burkina Faso with limited precipitation, farmers seek optimal crop yield by growing both long and short growth cycle crops on the same plot, such as millet and sorghum. This practice allows spreading risk over a large number of varieties and therefore increasing possibilities for success. Millet seeds of various cycles are mixed and sowed in the same plot, and harvesting is performed during the staggered ripening period. Combining growing cycles allows these farmers to insure a certain food security in reducing risks linked to fluctuation in water precipitation.
Lesson: This risk reduction strategy, while useful to ensure household food security, is incompatible with the planting of most commercial seeds and should be carefully re-assessed prior to introducing new varieties. : This risk reduction strategy, while useful to ensure household food security, is incompatible with the planting of most commercial seeds and should be carefully re-assessed prior to introducing new varieties.
Source: "L'ombre du mil : un système agropastoral sahélien en Aribinda ( Burkina Faso) ", Dominique
GUILLAUD, Editions de l'ORSTOM, Collection A travers Champs , Paris, 1993. Cycles
Mossi use their soil classification system to determine cropping patterns.
Summary: The Mossi's possess a soil classification system whose usefulness have been formally acknowledged. Mossi farmers identify various types of soil in in terms of texture, color, consistency, geographical location, fertility, and land drainage. This classification allows them to establish four main categories with a specific crop corresponding to each of them.
Lesson: Mossi soil classification allows a better understanding of options for the local farmers and of the local ecosystem.
Source: Basga E. DIALLA ( IK Monitor 1 (3) 1993 CIRAN ) ; and : Projet PATECORE, BP 271, Kongoussi, Tél. 45-71-43, Burkina Faso : «The Mossi indigenous soil classification in Burkina Faso».
External Link: CIRAN
Village based primary school and adult education campaign uses local language to facilitate access to literacy.
Summary: The local association Manegbzanga has launched an experimental program using Mooré language literacy as the basis for learning French in an adult literacy campaign. The instructional strategy was developed with the assistance of linguists from the University of Ouagadougou. It proceeds from the acquisition of reading, writing and arithmetic skills in Mooré to learning French. The program was very successful and was soon faced with increasing demand for enrollment from children as well as adolescents, who had missed primary schooling. Eventually the entire primary school curriculum was adopted. The program was implemented under the supervision of instructors,previously unemployed, with an average of nine years of schooling who were trained specially in the new methods. Tests administered in December 1996 demonstrated that pupils at the center were ahead of students at the area's formal primary school in French and mathematics, and had in addition, a good mastery of the written form of their mother tongue. The level of achievement of the girls in the group (who comprised a slight majority) was well above that of the boys.
Lesson: Apart from improving primary school leavers’ performance, using local language in an education program provides useful employment for teachers and new opportunities for girls.
Source: University of Florida , IK-Notes contact, email@example.com
The Renaissance of Pulaar Language in the Sahel
Summary: Since 1986 the organization "ARED" (Association for Research on Education) has dedicated itself to the publication of reading materials in the Pulaar language for learners in northwest Senegal. This is actually only one of a series of efforts, including another coordinated by APESS (Associa-tion Peulh pour l’Education et la Science) in Burkina Faso, that have been devoted in recent years to promoting the use of different regional variants of Fulfuldé, the language of the Peulh-an ethnic group of age-old tradition that is spread out from North Cameroon to the Atlantic Coast but rarely constitutes the majority in the regions it inhabits. The activities of ARED have been ener-getically supported by associations of Pulaar speakers who have emigrated to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Maghreb and Europe. This support has enabled ARED to produce a whole series of books and newspapers in Pulaar and to give a new impetus to literacy courses for adults. Achieving literacy in Pulaar has become a symbol of honor in village society in this part of Senegal, and literacy campaigns launched on this basis have greatly contributed to a cultural renewal throughout the region.
Lesson: Adult literacy increases when based on local languages and thus contributes to the cultural renewal of a minority ethnic group.
Source: University of Florida,
IK-Notes No. 13 (english)/ IK Notes No. 13 (french), (published October 1999)
Publishing in a local language provides access to information and improve literacy rates.
Summary: In the Gulmu region of Burkina Faso (located in the extreme east of the country bordering Benin), "Tin Tua", a local NGO established in 1985 by community members to resuscitate a generally unsuccessful adult literacy campaign, has created a network of literacy centers in the Gulmancéma language. The centers cover 31 villages of the region, all of which (with the exception of the dis-trict capital) lacked primary schools at the inception of the program. It now serves about 10,000 learners annually, of which 41% are women. Among other outcomes of the experiment, Tin Tua has launched a monthly Gulmancéma newspaper, "Labaali", which has 3,000 subscribers and em-ploys journalists equipped with motor scooters and tape recorders in all of the villages covered.
Lesson: The use of local language facilitates access to literacy for adults and increases their literacy rates
Source: University of Florida, IK-Notes
External Link: IK Notes No.5
Koran teaching as an alternative to formal education
Summary: Three West African communities - Kambguni in southeast Ghana, Menengou in northern Burkina Faso and Niagara in eastern Guinea - provide striking examples of a type of human resource devel-opment long present in the region but seldom officially recognized: the application of reading and technical competencies acquired through Islamic instruction to development functions at the local level. In all three cases, adults schooled in Koranic instruction have assumed key accounting func-tions in local businesses and community enterprises. In the Guinean and Burkina Faso cases, NGOs have joined the effort and helped develop accounting systems and agricultural extension materials using Arabic character transcription of local African languages.
Lesson: Building on traditional education systems opens literacy and eventually job opportunities for youths not attending formal schools
Source: University of Florida, IK-Notes
External Link: IK Notes No. 11
Small industry development for women
Summary: In 1990 in the Goughin district of Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, a group of women formed their own group "Song Taaba" to collect venture capital amounting to 150,000 CFA francs ($300) from their own members. They started processing shea butter, "soumbala", soap and peanut butter; marketing their own products; and keeping accounts and minutes by using their new skills. Literacy training had provided the institutional framework for an important women’s initiative, but it hadn’t given participants the skills required for management and development of a business ac-tivity of this sort. Lacking confidence in their own practical skills, the newly literate members chose the initial staff for the enterprise from women who had either attended primary school them-selves or who had daughters in primary or secondary school able to assist them in their work. This solution did not work well, however, and bit by bit the newly literate members took over the man-agement positions. The group obtained official cooperative status in 1992, and in 1995 marketed twelve tons of soumbala, among its other products. Song Taaba is currently in the process of estab-lishing a network of women’s groups across the central part of the country to collaborate in the promotion of each other’s products. At the same time, they have extended their literacy program to provide a greater number of their members with the skills they need to play an active role in the business.
Lesson: Business oriented women realize the value of literacy for better management.
Source: University of Florida, IK-Notes (to be published)
Treatment of Snake Bites with Herbs
Summary: As a treatment for snake bites, Mossi farmers recommend chewing two roots of Feretia apodanthera (finninga in the Mooré language), and swallowing the juice. According to the Mossi this practice is effective for viper and "naia" bites.
Lesson: Herbal treatment of certain snake bites is common among some Mossi communities.
Source: Henri Y. KABORE et Dieudonné NIKIEMA, INADES-Formation, ET. 48, janvier 1992, Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. "Les pratiques et savoirs paysans en matière de santé humaine dans le Département de Boussou ( Province du Yatenga)" ( Rapport d’étude), or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pharmacopeia used by Traditional Healers in Burkina Faso
Summary: Traditional healers maintain their own information on therapeutic drugs. Most commonly drugs are plant based, and various preparations are used. For instance, Piliostigma reticulatum is used to treat headaches, dental neuralgia, oral inflammation, and mumps. Masticating the leaves of P. reticulatum is indica ted for dizziness. It is also boiled with gueira and Securidaca leaves and used in the treatment of syphilis, chancre, bronchitis, malaria, and phagedaena. Prepared as a drink, the mixture is used for epileptic seizures. Non-coniferous twigs in a decoction are used to treat hemorrhoids and as a liniment applied to the chest for lung disease.
Lesson: Knowledge of various traditional pharmacopoeia systems can help modern medicine addressing local needs more effectively.
Source: Delphine OUEDRAOGO, Arbre et Développement, Direction de la Foresterie Villageoise et de l’Aménagement Forestier, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, AD n°24, 1e trimestre1999, 27-29 : " Piliostigma reticulatum ou le petit arbre qui guérit plaies et ulcères ", or contact: email@example.com
Locally generated pharmacies and health clinics supplement the public health services
Summary: A network of community-managed pharmacies was created to make available basic medical sup-plies, spearhead health education efforts and begin tracking information on disease incidence. The Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA) provided training for the new duties. The administrative council of the network organized the training cooperatively with the elected by representatives of each community participating. Indicators of health have taken a rapid turn for the better over the same period.
Lesson: Local ownership and control of health services increases their impact on public health.
Source: University of Florida, IK-Notes (to be published)
Mossi treatment of measles
Summary: Mossi farmers treat measles with a remedy obtained by soaking chicken droppings in water. This is then filtered and mixed with millet or sorghum flour and then taken internally.
Lesson: Through trial and error traditional medicine has established the effectiveness of certain treatments, as in the case of measles treatment using poultry manure. This treatment may require further research. Source: Henri Y. KABORE et Dieudonné NIKIEMA, INADES- Formation, ET. 48, janvier 1992, Ouagadougou, Burkina, « Les pratiques et savoirs paysans en matière de santé humaine dans le Département de Boussou (Province du Yatenga) » (Rapport d’étude).
Bellows as a means of communication.
Summary: Mossi blacksmiths use smithy bellows to produce sounds and rhythms that are in fact coded messages, and that only they can understand. Drums, however, are used traditionally to reach a more diverse and larger audience in the rural areas
Lesson: As traditional means of communication, bellows are used only within Mossi blacksmith casts, while drums reach larger audiences and can be used to convey messages during public awareness campaigns in rural areas
Source: Lidia CALDEROLI, Ethnographie 92, 1(1996) Printemps n°119 Titre : «Notes sur le langage des soufflets chez les forgerons Mõose (Wubr-tenga- Burkina Faso): une forme de communication de travail»; et Junzo KAWADA, Institut de Recherches sur les Langues et Cultures d’Asie et d’Afrique, Tokyo, Japon
Customary law and women’s access to land ownership
Summary: Customary law does not allow women access to land ownership. They are allowed to exploit land only temporarily on their husband’s behalf. While the terms of the formal law,"Reorganisation Agraire et Fonciere au Burkina Faso" gives access to land ownership to everyone, women continue to be discriminated against especially in rural areas by traditional law.
Lesson: Women who constitute more than half the population in many African countries and who perform most of the housework and farming should be allowed to enjoy land ownership by customary law.
Source: DAKIE, Arbre et Développement, Direction de la Foresterie Villageoise et de l’Aménagement Forestier, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, AD n°23, 4e trimestre, 1998
An original agro-forestry technique for soil improvement
Summary: For several decades, an eighty-year old Mossi farmer from Passoré has been using a natural reproduction method for the acacia albida tree. This farmer has succeeded in getting his plot «colonized» by acacia albida trees. To that effect, he uses a very simple method consisting of cutting the plants roots so they will propagate. These root-suckers grow and become adult trees within seven years. Then, the farmer cuts the lateral roots of those trees and other root-suckers appear.
Lesson: This agro-forestry technique is efficient, but the process is slow. It could be improved and disseminated with the assistance of development organizations.
Source: Dieudonné NIKIEMA, INADES-Formation, Envi. 3,1781(2),décembre 1995, (Rapport de recherche), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. "L’agroforesterie en milieu rural, le cas du plateau central du Burkina Faso" , (Rapport de recherche)
The Mossi farmers of Yatenga’s Zaï forestry technique for re-afforestation
Summary: The zai, a micro-catchment with a diameter of 20 to 30 cm and a depth of 15 to 20 cm, is dug with a daba primarily to increase water infiltration and to reduce erosion. The farmers maintain desirable woody plants that have grown naturally in the zaï. The zai are fertilized with animal dung. The seeds used are those that have been naturally pre-treated by passing through the intestinal tracts of animals. The zaï forestier technique addresses natural resource deterioration and desertification. This technique has proven successful in reclaiming degraded land and in regenerating forest resources.
Lesson: This practice shows how farmers develop innovative approaches to deal with soil degradation and deforestation. It could be used in agricultural extension and research activities.
Source: Dieudonné NIKIEMA, INADES-Formation, Envi. 3, 1781(2), décembre 1995, (Rapport de recherche), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. - CILSS : Reflets Sahéliens, n°19, août 1993.
Land allocation in Burkina Faso according to customary law
Summary: In rural communities of Burkina Faso land is allocated by traditional land chiefs (Tengsoaba, in Mossi language), on behalf of the ethnic group, the clan or the family. According to customary law, the traditional leader in charge of land allocation is the closest descendant of the first tenant of the land. For that reason he enjoys the status of intermediary between the livings, dead relatives, and invisible powers, co-owners of the lands. He allocates land to families, households and individuals, according to their needs. Every member of the group (who owns the land collectively) enjoys the right of permanent land use and exploitation, which is transmitted from father to son. Strangers integrated in the group are allocated land on a term basis; their rights are temporary and precarious. However, today, with demographic explosion and the fact that the land officially belongs to the state, customary law faces serious challenges.
Lesson: Demographic explosion has a serious impact on traditional land allocation practices. The fact that the land officially belongs to the state poses a serious challenge to customary law, making dialogue between formal and informal institutions necessary to find a acceptable solutions for the concerned communities
Source: Souleymane OUEDRAOGO, Inspecteur des Domaines, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, juin 1993, (IIMI): « Quel(s) régime(s) foncier(s)pour les aménagements hydro-agricoles »
Peul classification system of animal diseases
Summary: Animal healthcare is a major concern for pastoralists and agropastoralists of Burkina Faso, who use plant-based traditional remedies. Peul cattle farmers from Roantenga, Gemsgo and Guebadin, have developed a classification system that includes two groups of diseases, those with supernatural" causes, and those with physical and material causes. Five elements have been selected by them as a basis for the taxonomy of diseases: the physical location of disease on the animal’s body; the objective evidence or physical manifestation of disease; a clinical sign of disease that looks like a known object; the known cause of the disease; and a visible physical injury itself, such as a wound. This system allows the Peuls to perform diagnostic measures to determine an appropriate treatment.
Lesson: This Peul classification system of animal diseases can be useful to other communities for diagnosis and treatment purposes
Source: Dr Hamidou TAMBOURA et al.,
Burkina Faso Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge
(Centre Burkinabè de Recherche sur les Pratiques et Savoirs Paysans)
Dr Basga E. Dialla INNS, Director (Correspondent)
B.P. 5154, Ouagadougou 02, Burkina Faso
Tel: +226-360746 Fax: +226-315003
Community - Based Rural Development Project
The Community-Based Rural Development Project (Phase I), will initiate the process of improving revenues, and living conditions of rural populations in Burkina Faso, particularly that of food crop producers who account for seventy five percent of the rural poor. It will develop the capacity of rural inhabitants to manage sustainable, equitable, and productive development, and will also facilitate the emergence of rural municipalities. Project components will: 1) strengthen the technical, and organizational capacities of the rural population, through three sub-components, to: raise awareness for participation, and encouragement of village regrouping, through communication, promotion, and information activities; organize managerial, and technical skills through the provision of training to form village, and inter-village land management committees (CVGT/CIVGT); and, provide technical support to community organizations in pursuing annual investment plans; 2) establish a local investment fund for financing CVGT/CIVGTs subprojects, and, provide resources for provincial structural works; 3) build institutional capacity, by training local/provincial/regional/national institutions; 4) improve land tenure through a pilot operation; and, 5) support program coordination, administration, and monitoring/evaluation.
Full Report: PAD
Pilot Private Irrigation Development Project
National Agricultural Services Development Project
The Second National Agricultural Services Development Project aims to: (i) support long-term agricultural production; (ii) increase agricultural and livestock productivity and farmers' revenues; (iii) improve natural resource management and promote sustainable production systems; (iv) help the Government implement an improved animal health system, largely based on private veterinary services; and (v) promote and empower, on a pilot basis, representative farmers' organizations. The project includes the following five main components: 1) agricultural research; 2) agricultural extension (rainfed and irrigated crops, livestock, natural resource management); 3) animal health and pastoralist promotion; 4) pilot programs consisting of: (a) promotion of farmer organizations; and (b) a program for small rural infrastructures to study the processes and feasibility of financing village-level operations intended for communal usage; and 5) restructuring of agricultural services
Full Report: PID
Population and Aids Control Project
The overall objectives of the Population and AIDS control Project are to: a) enhance the onset of fertility decline by increasing the prevalence of modern methods of contraception; and b) slow the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections by promoting behavioral change and treating Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). To this end, the project will support policies and investments designed to support the implementation of the Government's population policy by improving quality of, and access to, family planning (FP) and maternal and child health care services nationwide; promoting information, education, and communication programs in the areas of population, FP and women's rights; and strengthening institutions in charge of implementing the national population policy and of planning, managing and evaluating FP programs. The project will also strengthen the national capacity to contain the spread of HIV, Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), STDs by strengthening the institution in charge of implementing the national AIDS program and the health system's capacity to deal with AIDS needs; promoting safer health practices and behavioral change through information, education, and communications campaigns; promoting the use of condoms; treating STDs; and strengthening clinical management and community care. Finally, the project will encourage private sector and non-governmental organizations participation in population, FP and HIV/AIDS/STD programs by establishing a fund to provide grant financing for projects in those areas.
Full Report: SAR
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Should you know of other indigenous knowledge practices that have helped or may help to improve Bank programs, please share them with us. We will enter your contribution into the IK-Database.
IK Contribution Format
Should you know of other indigenous knowledge practices that have helped or may help to improve Bank programs, please share them with us. We will enter your contribution into the IK-Database.
You could structure your contribution by using the following format:
1. Country:Where is the practice applied (country and location)?
In which sector is the practice applied (agriculture, health, social development etc.)?
What technology (e.g. soil erosion control, childcare, institutional development etc.)?
4. Bearers of Knowledge:
By whom is the practice applied (e.g. Washambaa, local healers, women's group of a given village etc.)?
5. Source: Where can we inquire further?
Primary provider information (probably yourself or your institution)
Secondary providers of information
Add references to literature, web sites, names of individuals or organizations that can corroborate the practice.
Include addresses of primary and secondary providers of information.
6. Descriptive headline of practice:
One to two lines capturing the main features of a practice.
Describe the main features of the practice and explain (not more than 200 words).
Answer three key questions related to efficacy and impact of the practice.
- Why it is important for the local community?
- Why might it be beneficial to other communities?
- Why should development organizations learn more about this practice?
9. Methods used to capture information:
How was the practice identified, recorded and documented?
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