Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development - Who we are
Biovision Foundation is a Swiss non-profit organization with a global mission to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of rural people in Africa while maintaining the natural resources and diversity that sustains life. Our chairman is Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren, one of the world's leading researchers in biological pest control. He has been living and researching in Africa for over 20 years. In 1995 he won the World Food Prize, the first Swiss to receive this honour. From 1994 until 2005 he has been the CEO and Director of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya. In May 2005 Dr. Herren officially took over presidency of ther internationally active Millenium Institute in Washington DC. This institute supports the governments of developing countries by providing resources for sustainable development.

While icipe plays a major role in the control of pests, parasites and disease vectors in developing countries. Biovision Foundation functions as an intermediary between research institutes and local users in order to ensure that benefits of science reach the people who need them most.

What is Infonet-Biovision? is an independent project of Biovision Foundation Switzerland. Infonet-Biovision is an Internet information tool offering trainers, extension workers and farmers a quick access to up-to-date and locally relevant information in order to optimise their livelihoods in a safe, effective, and ecologically sound way.
The information presented is specifically relevant for Africa and its inhabitants, many examples, case studies are from Kenya or East African countries, but are valid for other tropical countries as well.

We provide a relevant range of different topics which contribute to a sustainable livelihood, namely on agriculture, livestock and health promotion and environmentally safe technologies. We believe that through this holistic approach we have the greatest potential/outreach/impact to improve the rural populations life and generate income while at the same time protecting the environment and the natural resources.

Infonet-Biovision's aim is to contribute to poverty reduction and environmental protection by disseminating appropriate and locally adapted methods for crop and livestock production and for human and environmental health.

If thank you would print out the current content which is available on infonet today; you would get 3,000 pages A4 filled with most recent, scientifcally proven, illustrated and easy-to-understand information about ecological and sustainable methods and applications, for prevention and control of pests and parasite infestations of plants, humans and animals; adjusted on East African conditions.

And this is just the beginning!

Project Team and Management of Infonet-Biovision

Scientific Advisors
The project team works closely with scientific experts from ICIPE, FIBL and others. The scientific advisory board contains experts from Human-, Animal- and Environmental Health.
  • Dr. Ana Milena Varela, Entomologist, E-mail: [email protected]
  • Dr. A.A. Seif, Plant Pathologist, icipe Kenya,, E-mail: [email protected]
  • Dr. Eric Wyss, Organic Plant Protection / Pests and Beneficial Insects Specialist, FIBL Frick,
  • Dr. Hanspeter Liniger, NRM /Soil & Water Management, CDE/WOCAT Bern,
  • Prof. Peter Lüthy, Malaria Specialist, Institute for Microbiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
  • Prof. John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton, Applied Innovative Digital Technologies Research Group
  • Marc Steinlin, Knowledge management specialist, Cape Town
Specific Objectives
  • Priorise, compile, tailor and disseminate user relevant content through direct contact and feedback from farmer groups and other users (i.e. according to baseline studies, usability studies, evaluations and feedback mechanisms)
  • Revise and update content with local relevant information and knowledge through a network of local and international partner organisations, experts and scientists
  • Increase dissemination and awareness about Infonet-Biovision as an internet-based electronic information platform and its content through different paths (i.e. through collaboration with partners/extension network/offline version/awareness campaigns)
  • Integrate an active feedback system by expanding and adapting content and services according to the needs in the field, thus empowering farmers and rural communities in handling their own sustainable development activities
Main Topics and Content:
a) Sustainable agriculture and organic crop husbandry for food security
b) Effective ecological prevention and management of plant-, human- and animal targeting pests and diseases
c) Simple and environmentally safe technologies and approaches to improve rural livelihoods and generate income while at the same time protecting the environment and the natural resources - to preserve and sustain the quality of our air, water, food and land for current and future generation
Unique Features
  • Covers a relevant range of local species, varieties and topics for East-African users (plants, health, livestock, agriculture, ecology, environment, income generation)
  • Contains solely/exclusively information on sustainable, ecologically sound[1] and environmentally friendly methods
  • Content is understandable for practitioners, with rich illustrations and applicable descriptions
  • Free Internet access (no subscription) for basic information - different membership schemes for partnerships and donors will be developed
  • Reviewed content, quality control and scientifically secured information is provided through a network of partner organizations as well as local and international experts
  • Available on CD-ROM or USB Memory flash stick, for computers without internet access
[1] Ecologically sound means measures that promote sustainable production of food, feed and fibre. These measures will improve soil fertility over time, and pay attention to the multifunctionality of agriculture and assure the provision of ecosystem services.
How do I order the CD / (infonet-offline Version)?
The infonet-CD is useful if you do not have internet access but have access to a computer to read the infonet-CD.

Contact for ordering the infonet-CD (offline version): Farmers interested to receive the CD only need to send airtime worth KSH 200 to our partner organisation 'The Orgainc Farmer' in Kenya, to the phone number 0717 444 405.
After sending this airtime, please send an SMS detailing your full name and correct address. The CD shall be sent to you by registered mail. Pls note that the CD is only produced once a year and does therefore not contain the latest and updated contents, the most updated version of infonet is only accessible through the internet.

In East Africa agriculture is the main source of income for over 70% of the rural population (in Kenya about 20 million people) and represents 25% of the region's gross domestic product (GDP). Most of the farming is small-scale or subsistence. Crop pests (insects, weeds, plant diseases, rodents etc.) represent a considerable limiting factor in the production of local food crops and are a major cause of agricultural under-production, malnutrition and poverty. At the same time the workforce is plagued by the major health problems that arise from numerous diseases caused by parasitic infections in humans (HIV/Aids, malaria) and productive livestock (tsetse-born trypanosomiasis, tick-born East Coast fever). Despite agriculture's significance, the rural population in Africa often lack access to extension services, productivity augmenting techniques and know-how. In particular, up-to-date information on affordable, effective and ecological methods for the sustainable management of plant-, human- and animal- targeting pests and disease vectors, for adequate nutrition, as well as methods to maintain a healthy and productive environment lay dormant in academic journals and research institutes, beyond the reach of farmers and rural communities that need them the most.

The idea of Infonet-Biovision
To actively support dissemination initiatives at the ICIPE and other organisations in the area of agriculture and health, BioVision provided the initial finances in order to begin preliminary work on an Internet platform whose purpose was to act as a tool for information sharing and dissemination of knowledge and experience gained in various pilot projects. Later the Liechtenstein Development Service provided funding to proceed the work for Phase I (2005-2007) of implementation.

The design of Infonet-BioVision incorporates a bottom-up approach in the sense that the topics, content and structure of the platform was defined in consultation with local farmer groups and communities. Infonet-BioVision also encourages user's feedback on experiences and on the situation on-the-ground which eventually is lead back to the board of advisory scientists so that the information presented can be continuously adapted and expanded. This two-way flow of information is an integral aspect of ensuring the applicability, relevancy and usefulness of the platform.

Information dissemination and awareness
For effective outreach, Infonet-Biovision aims to collaborate with research institutions such as ICIPE's Technology Transfer Unit as well as other training and extension networks in the field of sustainable agriculture, environment, lifestock and public health.

We aim to collaborate with organisations which have experience in awareness rising and sensitation for farmers and rural communities in East Africa. In addition, such collaborators ought to be receptive in in using new information and communication technologies to disseminate the necessary information to farmers and rural communities. We are aware that access to computer, literacy, language and cultural differences are major limitations in reaching the defined target groups. Therefore, we endeavour to collaborate with organisations that will translate relevant information into local languages for an effective transfer of information. We are also aware that the internet can only become an established medium for the transfer of knowledge if it is used by existing institutions and access points and if it supports their work.

Infonet-BioVision has the potential to increase the impact of existing training and extension programs from GO's and NGO's as it can be easily combined with various existing local approaches.
To ensure that the information reaches the end-users directly, a wide range of media such as posters, brochures, local radio, marketplace and other "low-tech" media are used.

The sustainability of the platform largely depends on the ability to bring the information to the farmers and to ensure the relevancy of the information provided. The project is characterised by a participatory approach involving farmer groups, local collaborating partners and communities.

Concept Design
The core concept of Infonet-Biovision is the database with its processed information and pre-defined structure which facilitates the rapid and easy incorporation of new data. As the needs of users with varying levels of knowledge and experience ought to be catered for, the platform around the database is conceived in such a way that the users can access its content through different entry points. These include databases on sustainable pest and crop management, animal, human and environment as well as training modules in these areas. Furthermore, it will be possible for the users to send feedback information to the project team-members regarding their experiences.

The platform provides comprehensible content with up-to-date information on preventive and curative control of plant-, human- and animal- targeting pests and disease vectors and on sustainable agriculture and environmental health. Where available, effective traditional management methods will also be incorporated. With the use of photos, images, illustrations and clear advice, we provide practical tools for the correct identification and recognition of pests, disease vectors and parasites and their damaging symptoms. Such information is also useful to non-experts. All information can be compiled, saved and printed in tailor-made training material by users. In all categories, external web-links lead to related web-sites with additional information.

Preventive and curative measures in Organic Farming and Human Health
Methods shown at the bottom have a long-term effect, while methods shown at the top have a short-term effect. In organic farming systems, methods with a long-term effect are the basis of crop production and animal husbandry and should be used with preference. On the other hand methods with a short-term effect should be used in emergencies only. In human health, preventive measures reduce peoples' dependency on medicine and drugs. They include the provision of safe water supply, sanitation, the promotion of safe food supply, proper nutrition as well as other environmental control measures.
© M. Hunziker/BioVision

In the plant health part the database contains biological and ecological background information, scientific and local names, images and photographs used for the identification of pests and diseases. The description on the prevention and cultural measures which have long term effects is also provided. This is then followed by direct control measures such as Bio-control Agents and Bio-Insecticides which have short-term effects. The data on preventive control measures is the core part of the information we provide.

In organic farming systems, methods with long-term effects are the basis of crop production and animal husbandry, and should be used with preference. On the other hand, methods with short-term effects should be used in emergencies only. Infonet-Biovision has extended this approach to human health systems. This is because the advance in the development of vaccines and chemotherapeutic agents has brought many diseases under control. However, there are still many communicable diseases for which environmental control measures are indispensable, especially in the field of water supply and sanitation. Such diseases include cholera, diarrhoeal diseases, leishmaniasis, malaria and schistosomiasis. In all these instances, the environmental measures, either as an integral part of primary health care or undertaken outside the health sector, form an indispensable component of overall disease control strategies together with education on health and hygiene. In some cases they are the only component.

© Prof. Peter Lüthy and Biovision

Quality Management
Many organisations in tropical countries, probably most of them NGOs, are engaged in training activities on sustainable agriculture or related topics. The idea which led to the development of infonet-biovision was to facilitate dissemination by making suitable material and approaches available over an internet platform. Already existing material was to be collected, screened and condensed into comprehensive information items, which could be made easily accessible. In order to guarantee the optimum implementation of the project, various experts are involved in the project. We have built up a team of international and local experts involved in the early conceptual and content development phases and in the monitoring and evaluation phases. The scientific advisors are specialised in particular fields for the review of all information provided on the platform. From the contributing partners, several were selected for active collaboration in the development and review of the contents. The development of this platform was a much bigger, longer and more exhaustive process than expected. The result is supposed to be a start of a continuing process. Infonet-Biovision shall be a living information platform, modified and further developed by those who use it.

The source of information is derived from Biovision projects, research institutions, project reports, books, publications, web-sites and partner organisations in East Africa as well as from local farmers' groups and communities and extension workers feedback.
Technical Information
The database interface and the user interface are based on the same technical principles.

Infonet Biovision is a Web application. The content is stored in a database and viewed and modified via Browser. The following browsers are supported:
  • Internet Explorer (tested from version 6.0 - 9.0)
  • Firefox from version 1.0
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Netscape from version 6.0

The application is compatible with Windows (tested), Macintosh and Linux.

The client is implemented in Html and Javascript.

Javaservlets are used to generate the client code. Java version 1.5 and a Servlet container are necessary. For the servlet container we recommend Tomcat or Resin. Java 1.5 is working on different OS including Windows, MacOSX 10.4 and Linux.

A relational database is used as a backend. At the moment we have Mysql version 4.1.14 implemented. Mysql runs on different platforms including Windows, MacOSX and different Unix-Versions. It should be possible to use other relational databases with acceptable change effort.

Copyright and Content Licensing of website
Text, illustrations and photos, elaborated within the Infonet-Biovision framework (marked with ©Biovision or ©icipe below the text or image) are provided freely to Infonet-users under the condition that the source and author is provided and only for non-commercial uses. It is published under Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike license.

If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.

Exceptions from Creative Commons:
  • Exceptions include trademarks, logos and other identifying marks. Trademarks, logos and other identifying remarks may not be reused or redistributed with prior written consent from Infonet-Biovision.

  • Publications, images and graphics that are provided by third-party publishers and partner organisations (marked with ©Author other than Biovision or icipe below the text or image) are not available under Creative Commons.

  • In some cases, third-party content will contain the 'All Rights Reserved' copyright notice. Any content so designated is explicitly excepted from Creative Commons, you must contact the copyright holder before using the content/photograph. But users should check with Infonet-Biovision before redistributing third-party content found on a Infonet-BioVision site.

  • Other parts of the site may also include third party content that is licensed on different terms. Where that use is not a fair use, the different license terms of that content are either indicated or the content is acknowledged to be 'Used with permission'.

Biovision Foundation is attempting to offer information of sound quality to the users of the online plattform and information service, Infonet-Biovision. Due to the fact that ecological approaches cannot be standardized because of the diversity of local factors influencing its performance, BioVision does not assume any responsibility for damages which may arise from the use of the information presented in Infonet-Biovision. This covers any direct, indirect or consequential damages.

Biovision Foundation encourages the users to test the information presented first on a small scale within their location with the aim to study the performance of the presented information under local condition and to adapt it, if necessary. This local validation should be conducted in cooperation with competent local partners.

Note: Hyperlinks to other Internet sites do not imply any official endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at these locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. The sole purpose of links to other sites is to indicate further information available on related topics.
Applicable Law
This site is founded and hosted by Biovision Foundation in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland. This site, its contents, and any disputes arising therefrom shall be construed and interpreted exclusively under the laws of the canton of Zürich and applicable Swiss federal laws.