Seeds of Survival
By David Kattenburg
Ethiopia is renowned for the diversity of its seeds. A dozen of the world’s staple crops have either originated or diversified in this Horn of Africa nation, thanks to the skills of farmers – many of them women.
Unlike corporate seed developers, for whom high yield is the ultimate trait, Ethiopian farmers select for a wide range of crop characteristics, including resistance to drought and pests.
On a trip to Ethiopia in November 2009, I visited one of the world’s great champions of farmers rights. Melaku Worede was born in Ethiopia in 1936. After obtaining a PhD in plant genetics and breeding from the University of Nebraska, USA, Melaku helped found the Plant Genetic Resources Centre, in Addis Ababa. He served as the Center’s director until 1993, and then joined the Seeds of Survival Programme, which he had founded with the support of a consortium of Canadian NGOs led by the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada – USC. Melaku Worede was the 1989 winner of the Right Livelihood Award – the so-called “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
Click the play button on the above image to hear Melaku Worede.