Ethiopia has long been recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, one of the eight centres of global crop diversity. Barley, coffee, sorghum and some wild types of wheat all originated in these fertile lands. Recognizing the importance of utilizing this diversity to guarantee global food security, the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are holding a seminar at the ILRI Addis Ababa campus on 23 Feb 2016 at 6 pm local time.
Participants at the seminar — Celebrating biodiversity in Ethiopia: a major centre of crop diversity — will hear four Ethiopian and international experts outline the enormous potential of Ethiopia’s biodiversity and the importance of conserving global biodiversity. The speakers — Gemedo Dalle, director general of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute; Marie Haga, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust; Gebisa Ejeta, genetics professor at Purdue University and World Food Prize laureate; and Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI—will discuss a range of issues, including biodiversity in Ethiopia, global efforts to conserve biodiversity, the contributions of Ethiopia to crop diversity and the contribution of ILRI to the global efforts to conserve biodiversity.
With the world population expected to reach 10 billion in the next 35 years and the effects of global warming becoming ever more apparent, protecting crop diversity has never been more critical. Throughout history, farmers have discovered and inspired indigenous solutions to challenges facing food crops, while wild crops have adapted to changing environments. It is diversity that allows farmers to feed the world. But this diversity is endangered, and once gone, it’s gone forever.
The loss of biodiversity is considered one of today’s most serious environmental concerns. If current trends persist, as many as half of all plant species could face extinction. There are hundreds of thousands of cultivated crop varieties. Together, we need to protect this diversity, as any one of these varieties may contain the traits necessary to fight a new disease, drought, salinity or flooding. Moreover, crop biodiversity is crucial to agricultural productivity and in turn to economic growth. Growth in agriculture, although beneficial for the wider economy, benefits the poor most.
On 22 and 23 Feb 2016, the Global Crop Diversity Trust held its executive board meeting in Addis Ababa. Taking advantage of this, the three institutions aim to raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity conservation, particularly in key centres of origin like Ethiopia, and the work of the Crop Trust in conserving global crop diversity. The meeting will be attended by high-level national, United Nations and Africa Union officials, including Shakeel Bhatti, secretary of the governing body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and Wayne Powell, CGIAR chief science officer.