" OptiRed "


(IDRC/enda-caribbean/Tramil project) (July 99)

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This two-part questionnaire has been prepared by enda-caribbean to collect baseline data on information and communication needs among organizations working in the medicinal plants area in the Caribbean. The survey forms part of a project receiving support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Our purpose is to gather data from you and other groups working in the area of medicinal plants. It will be used as background for the eventual determination of a strategy for establishing a network which will permit organizations within in the Caribbean to become familiar with one another, learn from one another and collaborate when appropriate.

This network will help organizations working in the area of medicinal plants to share information, techniques, methodologies, dissemination methods, advocacy approaches, and so on.

Participants in the network will be encouraged to help develop policies and procedures for the network, to develop information priorities for it, and, as users, advise on the appropriate content for it.

Part I, the Content Needs Questionnaire, is concerned with what we call "content": Information and communication devises that are available for users of the network. Ideally, the users or "owners" of the network should define what that information and communication should be. As potential participant in the network, you will want to decide on the types of information which are most important to you, and which you would like to see included in the network. You will want to be clear on what types of communication mechanisms you prefer now and in the future. You will also want to consider what information you, as an organization, can provide to the network for widespread sharing and dissemination.

The attached Content Needs Assessment is in a relatively open-ended format due to the great diversity of stakeholders and their interests in the medicinal plants community. It is probably not possible to predict all the information needs of a great range of different agencies and actors. It is important that your organization makes clear the specific types of information it requires or desires to accomplish its present and future work.

Part II, the Infrastructure and Communication Capacity Questionnaire aims to determine what types of concrete equipment and/or systems are valuable to you to permit Communication with your colleagues in other organizations, various officials in agencies, libraries and other institutions. This part of the survey aims to determine the different ways that you access information from distant locations, as well. This questionnaire covers electronic connectivity through telephone wires and satellite, but considers that this is part of the wider realm of communication - though admittedly an increasingly important part for some organizations.


Name of informant


Organization, institution or agency name

Division, department, or unit name, if applicable


Mailing Address

Telephones (          )

Fax (          )

Emails: <                    >, <                    >

Web page: http://www___________________________

Mandate of your organization/unit

Major activities of your organization/unit

Number of people working in your organization/unit:

working languages of your organization:
spanish - english - french - creol - others

Do you use translations programs? describe.


  1. We would like your opinion of the state of medicinal plants in your region. From your perspective as an organization, what are the main issues and threats facing the use and conservation of medicinal plants in your region? (YES or NO)
      YES NO
      Overharvesting of rare or endangered species
      Threats from factors such as deforestationB    
      Soil erosion
      Urban sprawl
      Changes in land tenure/land use regulations

    1. Faulty or unsafe use of medicinal plants in communities without access to information on traditional practice or knowledge governing the safe use of medicinal plants. YES NO

    2. Loss of traditional knowledge governing the safe use of medicinal plants. YES NO

    3. Ethical and equity problems over ownership, control, and use of community medicinal plant resources. YES NO

    4. Others issues?

  2. What are some of the positive gains or success stories in medicinal plants that your organization has been involved in?

    For example:

    1. Community workshops:
    YES NO
    On the dissemination of scientific findings concerned with the safety/efficacy of medicinal plants    
    In situ conservation and sustainability practices,    
    working toward community access to medicinal plants    
    working toward community control of medicinal plants resources    

  3. Liaison and information sharing with government officials for the integration of medicinal plant knowledge and practice into community health. YES NO

  4. Collaboration with researchers and other specialists in other institutions for mutual exchange of scientific findings, collaborative research or community outreach and development work. YES NO

  5. Advocacy for appropriate and equitable government regulations which protect the rights of community groups in terms of ownership, control or access to medicinal plant resources. YES NO

  6. What are some of the challenges and opportunities which your organization perceives in the medicinal plants area, now and in the future?
now future
  1. Relationships with community groups for the joint design of conservation and sustainability practices, shared knowledge being formed, but certain aspects may need strengthening.
  1. Improved understanding and flow of information/expertise between your organization and relevant government officials, towards a more supportive environment for:
  • one or more of medicinal plant research
  • development
  • community outreach
  • public dissemination
    1. Support for innovative research and development which will conserve and sustain medicinal plants, such as:
  • creation of medicinal gardens
  • use of marginal land
  • intermixing of plant breeds
  • other areas:

  • What types of information/knowledge are necessary for your organization to carry out its mandate and current activities? For each type of information/ knowledge listed, please describe the different sources, the relative importance of different sources, ease of access and types of problems.

    For example: Chemical data on medicinal plants.
    What is the source(s) of this data?
    Where is it obtained?
    Are there problems in obtaining it?

    What sources are used for this information?
    (priorities 1 to 12)
      priorities problems
    CD-Rom databases    
    distance databases    

    1. Methodologies for :
        main source where problems

    2. Access to, and/or the interpretation of pharmacological data, such as:
        main source where problems
      adverse affects      

    3. Access to knowledge and information on medicinal plants:
        main source where problems
      therapeutic use      
      conditions under which plants are being used      
      sustainable use      
      management strategies      

    4. Current and new methodologies for community-based activities.

    5. Public information and advocacy approaches.

  • For each of the information types you describe as being important to your mandate (question 4), how could your access to these sources be improved, in your view? Comment on the advisability or drawbacks of information, computer and telecommunication (ICT) technologies for this purpose. telephone
    electronic mailing lists
    electronic conferences
    Web site development
    on-line databases

  • Your most important partners in communication?
    (priorities 1 to 10)
        Indicate the usual mode(s) of communication with these groups
    General public    
    Community groups    
    Academic researchers    
    Other researchers    
    Government officials    
    Policy makers    
    International organizations    
    Donor agencies    

  • Can you share with us any concerns that you/your organization might have about sharing information and collaborating with other organizations?

  • Assuming a regional network on medicinal plants were to be established, on what themes and issues might your organization be able to offer support to the establishment and the sustainability of such a network? By support, we mean such processes as:
      YES NO
    1. Information preparation and provision, information sharing.
    Dissemination of pharmacological information on medicinal plants    
    to local health workers
    traditional healers associations, herbalists, etc.
    Interpretation/filtering and dissemination of scientific findings in forms that render them more useful to the community of users    
    1. Information sharing, research collaboration, joint advocacy on issue of common concern
    Collaboration/advocacy with other stakeholders and policy-makers on issues such as:    
    the regulations governing the use
    and commercialization of medicinal plants
    Community/indigenous rights of access to biological resources.    
    Issues of intellectual property    
    1. Coordination and/or screening of information on a particular topic. for ex: coordination of awareness raising activities on environmental issues of common concern to medicinal plants stakeholders.
    1. Other areas with potential for mutual sharing information:


    1. What are the usual modes of communication which your organization uses to communicate with other individuals, organizations or agencies outside your unit? Please indicate the importance of these various forms of communication by estimated frequency of use.
      Not available Used rarely Used sometimes Used often Almost all of the time
      Person to person          
      Courier service (like DHL)          
      Other means (please specify)          

    2. Provide comments on the advantages and drawbacks of each of the following communication mechanisms for your organization, if you use these mechanisms often:
        advantages drawbacks
      Person to person    

    3. Computer(s)

      1. Does your organization have computers? YES NO
        How many?
        What kind of computer do you use? MAC PC Others

      2. Are there plans to purchase more in the near future? YES NO

      3. Please describe your current and planned computer(s) according to the following list of variables:

        *Capacity of the central processing unit (CPU):
        current: 386,	486,		Pentium,		other
        planned: 386,	486,		Pentium,		other
        *Hard disk Memory
        current:	640K.,	1M.,		4M.,		8M.,		etc.
        planned:	640K.,	1M.,		4M.,		8M.,		etc.
        *Speed of the CPU
        current:	33MHz, 66MHz, 100MHz, 166MHz, 300MHz, more:
        planned:	33MHz, 66MHz, 100MHz, 166MHz, 300MHz, more:
      4. Main types of softwares used on the computer(s) Text processor Tables Databases Drawing softwares Picture/photos softwares Wed design Other:
      5. Is there a local area network (LAN) for your computers, if you have several? YES NO

        If so, is the LAN connected to an external line for the receipt of external communication (E-mail)? YES NO

      6. Is there technical support available within your organization for these computers? YES NO

        If not, where do you source your technical support for problems that arise?

    4. Please provide comments on the accessibility of your computer(s) to members of your organization.

      Is it necessary to allocate time blocks to staff? YES NO

      How many of your computers are equipped with modems?
      How many of your computers are equipped to access the Internet
      What type of software do you use for this purpose?
      Are there plans to buy (a) modem (s) YES NO
      If so, what is its (their) speed?

      Does your organization send and receive e.mail? YES NO

      If so, please answer the following information:

      How many e.mail accounts does your office have?
      Do staff members share accounts? YES NO
      What e.mail software do you use?
      What type of e.mail connection do you have? Internet Fidonet Other
      Do you know... YES NO
      If your Internet service is directly linked to the Internet?
      Or indirectly linked through a proxy server?

      Does your institution supply your Internet and e.mail connection (eg. university, college, government)? YES NO

      Or do you purchase Internet services from a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP)? YES NO

      If you purchase services directly from a commercial ISP and must pay costs, please comment on these costs:

        free /very cheap/cheap /regular/expensive/very expensive
      monthly costs  
      time of connection  
      local connection  

      What is the name of your commercial Internet Service Provider?

      Is it your e.mail and Internet connection reliable? YES NO

      Are there times when you cannot access? YES NO

      Or is there restricted access at certain times? YES NO

      Can you send and receive attachments by e.mail? YES NO

      Are there limitations on the size of attachments? YES NO

      How valuable is e.mail to your organization?

      (Give a score between zero to ten)

      Other comments about your e.mail system, today and in the future?

      How valuable is Internet to your organization?

      (Give a score between zero to ten)

      How many of your staff are familiar with the Internet, and use it for information retrieval?

      Approximately how much time per day does your organization dedicate to the Internet (person-hours used searching and retrieving information)?

      Other comments about the Internet and your organization, now and in the future?


    Thank-you for your time and effort in filling out this questionnaire!

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