Enset Is Resilient Crop to Ensure Food Security, Combat Climate Change Impact: Borrell & Richards

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Plant diversity and conservation researchers stressed the paramount importance of Enset’s resilience to ensure Ethiopia’s food security and combat future climate impact challenges.

Enset, which is also known as Ethiopian banana or false banana has remarkable versatility, drought resistance, and disease tolerance.

It is a staple source of nutrition for more than 20 million people in Ethiopia.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, Research Leader in Trait Diversity and Function at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew James Borrell said that Ethiopia is one of the most remarkable countries for its agro biodiversity and crop diversity as well as linguistic and cultural diversity.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, has been working for more than 40 years researching enset crop, particularly in the aspects of drought and climate resilience, he said, and added ‘Enset is globally unique; Ethiopia should be so proud of this remarkable crop that was domesticated in the country,’ he added.

‘Enset is very unus
ual and you can harvest it at any time of the year. You can store and you can buffer seasonal food security. So, (if) we particularly think under climate change, enset has a very important role to play. But, perhaps, historically it has been a little bit under researched. And we feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work together with many organizations in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Gulele Botanical Garden to work together to understand the unique crop,’ the researcher explained.

According to him, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew has been undertaking researches over the past eight years to map the distribution of enset and its drought resilience.

‘We are also sequencing many hundreds of varieties of enset with AAU to understand diversity within that amusing diversity of more than 1,500 different types of enset plant. Within this diversity are varieties that will be tolerant of future climate change. We are working to try and describe that diversity… so t
hat Ethiopia can meet the challenges of climate change,’ Borrell noted.

Sophie Richards, who specialized in conservation, biodiversity analysis, GIS, and extinction risk at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, said on her part that Ethiopia is endowed with crop diversity and different types of enset.

Stating that both researchers have visited 300 farms and spoke with farmers; she pointed out the invaluable role played by Ethiopian farmers in agro biodiversity conservation.

‘Many of the small holder farmers in Ethiopia have been providing an incredible service by maintaining high diversity enset on their farms without reward, without benefit and it is a huge service for the country to adapt climate change in the future and provide resilience and food security,’ she elaborated.

Researchers anticipate that with a high yield and resilience to long periods of drought, enset could be a climate-smart crop for the future.

‘One project we are working on at the moment is to help smallholder farmers conserve this diversi
ty. So we have been working with them to understand which of the enset landraces are rare and help them improve their rarity status; so they can continue to maintain for long-term and they can pass on more diverse enset to the next generation,’ she emphasized.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency