Ethiopia seed bank’s novel approach to preserving diversity under threat

There is concern that the work of small farmers as custodians of diversity will be undone by the G8 New Alliance

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(theguardian) Inside the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity’s unassuming office complex in Addis Ababa, a series of vaults houses tens of thousands of seed samples tightly sealed into small envelopes and neatly catalogued in cold storage – a treasure trove of genetic diversity painstakingly assembled and set aside for future generations.

Founded in 1976, Ethiopia’s national seed bank is the oldest and largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also part of a pioneering experiment to link scientists with small-scale farmers to collectively revive and conserve traditional, indigenous seeds in the face of drought and other threats.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops worldwide was lost over the course of the 20th century.

Melaku Worede, the former head of the seed bank, says recurrent droughts have put the country’s agricultural diversity at risk, a problem compounded by farmers in some areas abandoning their local varieties for new, high-yield, commercial seeds. Read more on theguardian …

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