IPOGEA Research Centre on Local and Traditional Knowledge

International Centre for Traditional Knowledge against desertification and for a sustainable future in the Euro-Mediterranean

 Traditional Knowledge constitutes the ancient knowledge of humanity, the deepest layer on which our science and culture have developed, the local solutions that have allowed the creation and management of ecosystems and cultural landscapes on the entire surface of the planet. It enables the development of solutions with a low energy and resource use, that are able to adapt to environmental variability and to react to emergencies and catastrophes in flexible and multifunctional ways. Today, while entire planet systems risk ecological collapse, Traditional Knowledge shows how to interact with the environment enhancing its resource potential without exhausting it. 

It is the bearer of quality and techniques, widespread on a territorial scale, that have originated from the use of the materials and objects of everyday life. It consists of fragile elements that are subject to the attack of  today’s transformations, but it also constitutes a still widely adopted system of strong and brilliant devices for energy production and resource recycling,  microclimate control and for the management of the earth’s soil.

The interest in Traditional Knowledge has been expressed by the United Nations and by other International Organisms during all the main conferences on sustainable development. Making an inventory and organizing the protection and dissemination of this knowledge has emerged as a necessity.

Concerning the activities of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Italy has received the mandate of organizing the Italian Centre for Local and Traditional Knowledge that has the following duties:

  1. to make an inventory of Traditional Knowledge and of its innovative use in case studies on specific countries
  2. study the possibilities for dissemination of Traditional Knowledge
  3. study the parameters and the indicators for Traditional Knowledge loss and elaborate methods to combat such loss
  4. select the successful practices  and create a system of incentives for the implementation and dissemination of Traditional Knowledge and innovative technology deriving from traditional know-how
  5. consider the methods for the protection of Traditional Knowledge rights that can be implemented by persons, communities, disseminators and traditional technique innovators
  6. discuss the promotion of traditional techniques through each Country’s Focal Points and provide a guideline for the adoption of a national safeguard and of dissemination strategies

The Italian Ministry of Environment, the UNCCD, UNESCO and the Region of Tuscany have arranged an agreement for the creation of the International Centre for Traditional Knowledge. It will be located in a prestigious Renaissance villa in Florence and, managed by IPOGEA, it will start the activity of the Traditional Knowledge World Bank. Important aspects of this project are already being implemented: specifically, the phases relative to the data base and network organization and the study of the traditional techniques in specific areas.


Thanks to UNESCO’s contribution a prototype system, was developed and presented during the UNCCD Nairobi Conference in October 2005.

It is possible to consult a dynamic questionnaire based on the Iconographic classification System of Traditional and Innovative Techniques (SITTI) and  constitutes a guideline for the recognition and notification of new knowledge.

The information (texts, graphics, photographs) is placed, through geo-reference, in a Geographical World Map System.

Thanks to its study and classification activities, the Traditional Knowledge World Bank protects the rights of local communities who hold knowledge.

It fosters the recognition of communities’ property rights and it protects them juridically at an International level.

The Traditional Knowledge World Bank is not only a data base but also an economic actor. Companies that reintroduce traditional techniques in innovative ways or who look for appropriate solutions will be selected.

The TKWB connects the demand for particular techniques for intervention on valuable sites, urban ecosystems and protected areas with the companies who work in these sectors.  Valuable sites gain international recognition by adopting the protocols for the use of the appropriate techniques.

Companies that are certified by the TKWB provide the technologies.

A long-term protection of the sites is consequently guaranteed since it will not be possible to insert destructive processes, technologies or materials. Therefore, a network of companies oriented towards sustainability will be implemented.

For companies, old city centres, and parks to seize this challenge means confronting processes, cognitions and capabilities that will be increasingly requested at an international level, anticipating necessary solutions for sustainable development and gaining attractiveness for cultural tourism and a useful image for the international success of its products.