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22 September 2019
PLATFORM2013: Flora of Ethiopia by University of Addis Ababa Print
Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:48

University of Addis Ababa’s article in PLATFORM2013 features a research project that documents the wealth of local plant diversity in Ethiopia, providing evidence that has already positively impacted on policy decisions. Further mutually beneficial opportunities to link these research results with policy-makers have been identified.

Researcher: Prof. Sebsebe Demissew | Leader of Ethiopian Flora Project | University of Addis Ababa | Addis Ababa.

[Portrait: Prof. Sebsebe Demissew]

Research in contextAs part of its mission and strategic objectives, Addis Ababa University is committed to: developing teaching and research programmes relevant to Ethiopia’s sustainable development; preserving and enriching Ethiopia’s natural and cultural heritage; enhancing the quality and value of the Ethiopian perspective in the local and international research agenda; and drawing on more diverse and extensive Ethiopian resources in order to make effective and enriched contributions to national efforts to answer pressing problems and challenges facing the country,” said President of Addis Ababa University Dr Admasu Tsegaye when discussing Research Uptake at the university.

The Ethiopian Flora project has contributed to strengthening human skills capacity in teaching and research in various fields of botany in the country and surrounding regions, and, in particular, at Addis Ababa University. This project has focused on documenting scientific knowledge of Ethiopia’s plant resources, contributing to Ethiopia’s international commitment to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Targets 2011–2020.”

Background
The Ethiopian Flora project was initiated as a collaborative project between Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and Uppsala University, Sweden with financial support from SAREC-Sida (Swedish Agency for Research and Cooperation with Developing Countries) facilitated by the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission (now the Ministry of Science and Technology). The objectives of the research were: to write up and publish a Flora of Ethiopia; to build up a National Herbarium; and, through training, to promote scientific activities in taxonomic botany, economic botany, forestry, plant ecology and plant physiology.

Achievements
The project started in 1980 and was completed in 2010, and all three objectives set out during the initiation of the project were achieved. Eight volumes of Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea were published. These publications documented 6 000 plant species (both wild and domesticated) from 258 plant families.

The publications include taxonomic keys for identification of plant families, genera and species, and a description, ecology and distribution for each species. This local plant diversity, together with an incredible diversity of birdlife (over 861 species) and mammals (about 277 species) makes Ethiopia one of the 25 Mega Biodiversity countries in the world. Notably, Ethiopia harbours two of the world’s Top 34 Biodiversity Hotspots – Eastern Afromontane and the Horn of Africa.

The documentation of this flora contributed to the recent establishment of two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, in the Yayu district and Kefa province in Southwest Ethiopia, respectively. The collection in the National Herbarium of Ethiopia grew from 16 000 specimens to 80 000. Furthermore, 11 PhD candidates were trained in various fields of botany, which has had a multiplier effect, as these graduates are now the trainers of a new generation of botanists in the country.

Potential for policy
This research is beneficial to policy-makers in the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Water and Energy, the Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection; and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. For example, through agricultural policy, information compiled on eragrostis tef – known locally in Amharic as Teff – could be helpful to address food security issues in Ethiopia. Teff is a tiny harvested grain, which can made into porridge or injera, the region’s traditional pancake-like flatbread. The crop is a dependable staple, suited to semi-nomadic life in areas of Ethiopia: a typical field can be sowed from just one handful of seeds, it cooks quickly, using less fuel than other foods, and it does well in both drought and wet conditions. Teff is the most commonly cultivated of 44 species of genus eragrostis in the poaceae grass family. If there is ever a need to improve the quality of this species through hybridisation, the Ethiopian Flora publications provide the full list of related wild species with which this could be done.

The research identified unique species in each of the vegetation types. This information is a valuable tool for policy-makers in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to look at sites not yet included in protected areas to be identified and promoted as such. Identification of unique flora areas creates opportunity to tap into the growing global eco-tourism market. This could benefit the Ethiopian tourism industry, while potentially providing opportunities for job creation, employment and economic growth in Ethiopia. Most of the pre-mentioned ministries could use the results of the Ethiopian Flora project for the identification of ecosystem services and their inherent possibilities, including: provisioning, such as the production of food; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits. This research could also be used for planning of watershed management and rehabilitation, particularly in degraded areas.

The Flora of Ethiopia project leader is currently serving as a member of the International Multilateral Expert Panel (MEP) within the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that, among other issues, deals with the knowledge–policy interface. Experience gained from this service will be used to link and promote research results (knowledge) in general – and this research in particular – with appropriate policy-makers.

Direct beneficiaries
The direct beneficiaries of this research work are the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity (EIB), previously known as the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation (IBC), and all higher learning institutions. EIB used the Ethiopian Flora research results to develop part of the National Biodiversity Action Plan (2005) dealing with plant resources. EIB is still using these results to fulfill its international obligation to the internationally agreed Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). All higher learning institutions are able to use the published volumes for teaching and research on conserva- tion, ecology, ethnobotany, taxonomy, wildlife, etc. Other governmental and non-governmental institutions use the Ethiopian Flora volumes as a tool for identification of the Ethiopian plants.

Life of the project
With international collaboration between 90 botanists from over 17 countries in Africa, Europe, USA and Australia, the Ethiopian Flora project has achieved all its objectives. It is one of the few countries in Africa that has completed the documentation of flora in their country, has done so with the full participation and engagement of local expertise, and has published the resulting volumes in their own country.

 

[* See ‘Flora of Ethiopia’ volume details at end of article.]

Join the Research Uptake Conversation

If this piece of evidence-based development research from SSA is of use to you, please continue the Research Uptake Conversation by contacting the University of Addis Ababa.

Website: www.aau.edu.et

DRUSSA Research Uptake Leader at University of Addis Ababa
Dr Hirut Woldemariam
Associate Professor in Linguistics; Vice President for External Relations
Partnership and Strategic Planning
hirutw@hotmail.com

DRUSSA Research Uptake Champion at University of Addis Ababa
Prof. Teketel Yohannes
Director for Research
teketely@yahoo.com

Researcher and article writer
Prof. Sebsebe Demissew
Leader of Ethiopian Flora project (1996–2010)
s_demissew@yahoo.com
sebsebe.demissew@aau.edu.et

PLATFORM2013 in digital
Read this article on pages 36 and 37 of PLATFORM2013 – a print and digital publication from the DRUSSA Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA] – aimed at accessibly communicating evidence-based development research with the goal of deepening its reach and impact in the region. 

Follow the PLATFORM2013 blog campaign daily until 16 January 2014. You’ll find the blog schedule on PLATFORM2013 articles from the DRUSSA Universities here

Twitter @DRUSSAfrica #PLATFORM2013 #ResearchUptake 

‘Flora of Ethiopia’ volume details

Figure 1.Published volumes the Floras of Ethiopia.Upper row: Volume 1, Volumes 2(1), (2(2), 3, 4 (1). Lower row: Volumes 4(2), 5, 6,7  and 8.

...Back

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