Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology
Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool
Established by an Act of Parliament in 1986, the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), is a parastatal organization under the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology. COSTECH deals with the coordination and promotion of technology development and scientific research. The commission is the chief advisor to the government on issues relating to science and technology and their application to socio-economic development. Although Tanzania is home to rich biodiversity, it lacks a unified system of easily accessible biodiversity data for stakeholders in ecosystem conservation planning and development.
Key Objectives and Activities
COSTECH began working on improving accessible biodiversity information with previous support from JRS, by producing the online Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool (BIMT). This database currently only includes plant information, so this project will strengthen the BIMT, and also expand it by acquiring additional data on amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, and other invertebrates. Images and news display functions will be added to the existing plant database software, along with 21,000 new botanical records. Awareness of the BIMT will be raised through collaborations, workshops, and papers. Capacity building of participating institutions in database usage and management will be enhanced, through staff being trained on database operation.
The project will produce three reports for the general public through the internet and publications, with information on the findings of plant species diversity, Red List assessments, and identification of the causes of biodiversity losses in the country, with specific products being tailored to the key audiences. Workshops and trainings will also be produced. The project plans to increase the number of database records by at least 27%, approximately 40% of these in animal groups not currently present, which will greatly enhance the usefulness of the database for biodiversity research and conservation planning.
The database will provide information useful for habitat restoration, preparing field guides, and conducting biodiversity and conservation assessments. This will be helpful in determining how much biodiversity we are losing, and how and where we can best conserve it. Promotion for the use of BIMT through publications, workshops, and websites, will raise awareness about biodiversity loss and force stakeholders to take action against the causes of it. It may kindle the interests of young scholars to enjoy and study biodiversity, because the current lack of such interest poses major problems, especially in developing countries.
Last Updated: February 28th, 2017
Primary Software Platforms
- Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System (BRAHMS) developed by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford.
Results to Date
- Completed a field collection trip to Same District, in the Kilimanjaro Region, to improve baseline knowledge of plants in this understudied region.
- Mobilized more than 160,000 occurrence records of birds, 2,000 records of reptiles, and 1,000 records of amphibians.
- Formatted, cleaned and updated more than 50,000 plant occurrence records, already exceeding the amount proposed for the project.
- Produced maps of plant richness and collection densities, which will be uploaded to the project website.
- Developed and improved checklists of mammals, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes. Currently work is proceeding to make the lists user-friendly on the BIMT website. For example, users will be able to call a checklist of all endemic species or those listed by the IUCN as Critical Endangered. Checklists are annotated with scientific names, common names in English and some in Swahili, IUCN Categories, Habitat, Endemism, rarity and nature of occurrence (native or exotic).
The project has resulted in rapid growth of the Tanzania BIMT, quickly exceeding proposed goals for uploads and processing of data. Along they way, they have ably navigated challenges endemic to managing a big data set with a wide taxonomic scope, such as setting project standards for determining accepted names of species, and increasing capacity of the data management workforce and infrastructure. Now equipped with a robust and extensive biodiversity database, the team will be able to make a compelling case for the value of the BIMT, facilitating their goals of building institutional partnerships and expanding outreach and awareness among non-scientists, which, in turn, will help sustain the demand for the data.
Project Director Biography
Dr. William Joseph Kindeketa has been a Biodiversity Research Officer at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) since 2009. His responsibilities are to develop mechanisms of mobilizing, storing, and disseminating biodiversity information for conservation and socio-economic development. At COSTECH, he manages the Biodiversity Information Management Tool (BIMT). Before joining COSTECH, he worked for the Tanzania Botanical Research and Conservation Programme as GIS Specialist and Projects Manager, during which time he visited various world herbaria to digitize plant records for conservation assessments and climate change projections in East Africa. From 2001 to 2013, he was a board member of the MPINGO Conservation and Development Initiatives until he resigned to devote attention to his Ph.D. program and administration of BIMT. Because all of his duties at COSTECH relate to biodiversity, he will spend about 80% of his time on the proposed project with other COSTECH staff, including the Information Communication Officer.
Notes from JRS
JRS took a risk in 2011 to fund the National Land Use Planning Commission in Tanzania that offered to host Dr. Kindeketa’s efforts to develop a data portal for Tanzanian plant conservation. Though the going wasn’t always easy, the project team in Tanzania with dedicated and kind support from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Oxford University, succeeded to develop the portal, build the essential infrastructure, and mobilize new data from collections and the field. In this new phase of work, JRS affirms our commitment to building biodiversity data capacity in East Africa by support to transfer the project to COSTECH. COSTECH is the logical institutional home for the Biodiversity Information Management Tool as the host of the Tanzania node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (TanBIF). We are hopeful that our support within COSTECH will also generate interest in and renewed activity at TanBIF as well.