By Fanuel Lakew
The Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute said that the unavailability of sufficient gene banks and lack of technological support are among the challenges to collect and conserve microbes and animal species in a safe places.
During a seminar themed: 'Biodiversity in Ethiopia: A Major Centre of Crop Diversity' organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held here recently, Institute Characterization and Evaluation Team Leader Dr. Elleni Shiferaw said that to redress the challenges, the capacity of gene banks need to be expanded with modern technology that could conserve the species of plant, animal and mainly microbes.
Dr. Elleni also said that there are various direct and indirect threats that biodiversity of the country continues to face such as habitat conversion, unsuitable utilization, invasive species, climate change, genetic erosion in cultivated crops and pollution.
Thus, the government has designed crucial institutional and legal frameworks which govern conservation, suitable use and access to genetic resources and fair and equitable sharing of benefit.
The institute, so far, has collected and conserved more than 80,000 accessions of cultivated crops, forage and forest species in its gene bank. About 160, 000 accessions of various crop species have been distributed to users for the purpose of crop improvement and researches.
Moreover, farm conservation sites and community seed banks have been established to conserve seed of the most adapted local varieties in identified states and create access to various seeds for farmers.
Prof. Gebissa Ejeta, a Recipient of the World Food Prize in 2009, on his part noted that to sustain the effort in collecting and conserving biodiversity, the country should build institutional capacity in the area and give further attention and strengthen global cooperation. Prof. Gebissa ascribed that Ethiopia is one of the best countries in having good gene banks in Africa and contributing to conserve biodiversity.
The current and previous governments of Ethiopia have given due attention and allocated much amount of money from their budget to agriculture sector so it made Ethiopia unique as compared with African countries. Thus, to strengthen the ongoing effort, the biodiversity sector need to have skilled man power and viable policies and smart institutions with up-to-date technologies, Prof. Gabissa added.
Ethiopia has immense biological resources attributed to its geographical position, variation in attitude, rainfall pattern and soil variability. The flora of the country is very heterogeneous with about 12 per cent endemic species.
Ethiopia has become a center for the Middle Eastern founder crops including barley, and peas, among others as it is situated in an area where its environments favour genetic desertification.