'Traditional knowledge' centre set up near Florence
Farming, building, cloth-making at UNESCO-sponsored institute12 May, 18:09
The International Traditional Knowledge Institute (ITKI) at Bagno a Ripoli east of the Tuscan capital is the brainchild of Pietro Laureano, a consultant for the United Nations heritage organisation UNESCO.
Unveiling the centre Wednesday, Laureano said it aimed to help UNESCO "draw up a list of the traditional knowledge to safeguard".
Laureano, an anthropologist and architect who has worked on traditional ways of collecting and using water at Sahara oases, Ethiopia and Babylon, said age-old techniques should be preserved and could "provide lessons for today".
As well as water management, he cited terrace farming and other environmentally friendly methods that were "ever more relevant in an age of global warming".
"There are tens of millions of traditional techniques across the planet whose variety corresponds to environmental and cultural differences".
"The data bank we plan to set up will be put at the disposal of all the public administrations in the world".
One of ITKI's first projects is to restore a disused textile workshop on the banks of Arno River in Florence, dating back to the 13th century.
Its energy saving looms could be replicated in other countries, Laureano said.
As well as collating traditional know-how that still has value in protecting the environment, ITKI will also safeguard song, folklore and other aspects of indigenous culture that might have practical as well as cultural significance.
"This would also be a way of making sure that multinationals don't slap a patent on them," he said.
On a video uplink from Paris, UNESCO Deputy Director-General Francesco Bandarini said: "The birth of ITKI is good news for Florence, and good news for UNESCO too".
UNESCO and a number of local foundations are providing seed money for the institute.