14 December 2020
Free for RGS-IBG Fellows and members
Ethiopia is the world’s largest historical recipient of targeted food aid, and the second most populous country in Africa where a quarter live below the national poverty line. Yet despite significant development challenges, Ethiopia remains exceptionally botanically rich, being the only sub-Saharan centre of plant domestication and the origin for numerous important crops, such as coffee and tea.
One particularly unusual food plant is enset, a giant banana relative, which provides the staple food for 20 million people but is virtually unknown outside of the Ethiopian Highlands. Its versatility and resilience, in a country more commonly known for food insecurity, has earned it the title of ‘the Tree Against Hunger’.
Dr Borrell will describe Kew’s recent research efforts, together with leading Ethiopian scientists, to map the diversity and distribution of this often-overlooked crop. Growing to 10 meters tall and a meter across, just 60 plants can support a family for a year. With Ethiopia already warming by 1.6 degrees, we believe enset has a vital role to play in securing Ethiopia’s food security.
The Ethiopian banana is not alone. Around the world, more than 30,000 plant species have documented uses, yet day to day we exploit just a handful of these. What does this simplification of our domesticated flora mean for humanity, faced with impending climatic and environmental challenges over the coming century? What will we be eating a century from now?
James Borrell is a conservation scientist. He has been involved with a variety of research expeditions, from the Peruvian Amazon to the Dhofar Mountains and more. James is an accomplished public speaker and writer having spoken at TEDx and been published in The Biologist and The Guardian. He is also a keen advocate of ‘Citizen Science‘ and founder of Discover Conservation believing that science and adventure go hand in hand.
This event has been organised by the Chester and North Wales regional committee.
Featured image: Mulugeta Wolde @onestopproductions/Unsplash
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