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Kew training in Ethiopia

Mekbib Fekadu
11 November 2013
Mekbib Fekadu, a botanist at the National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, tells us what it's like to take part in a Kew Seed Conservation Training course.

The course

I recently attended the two-week Kew Seed Conservation Training course held from 7 to 18 October here in Ethiopia. The course was organized by the team of experts from the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, Kew, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity (EIB) and Wondo Genet College of Forestry. The course was attended by 15 participants all of whom work either on seed conservation or areas related to biodiversity conservation and who came from a variety of different institutions (ten from the EIB, two from the tree Seed Centre at the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture, two from Wondo Genet College of Forestry and myself from the Addis Ababa University Herbarium).

Tim Pearce explaining field seed collection methods and procedures to the trainees at Shashemene Botanic Garden. (Photo: Mekbib Fekadu)
Tim Pearce explaining field seed collection methods and procedures to the trainees at Shashemene Botanic Garden. (Photo: Mekbib Fekadu)

The training

The training was fascinating and combined theory with practice. It covered all the necessary topics important for proper long-term seed conservation - starting from the planning of seed collection through to the point where seeds are stored in cold rooms and prepared for distribution for end users. The various things required for field seed collection were dealt with, and a practical field expedition was carried out to Shashemene Botanic Garden and Wondo Genet Arboretum. Here field seed collection methods and procedures were discussed and, as a group, we collected sample seeds from Vicia sativum L. with voucher herbarium specimens also being collected for reference.

In the classroom

In the Wondo Genet College of Forestry laboratory we carried out moisture content measurement, desiccation tolerance testing and orthodox/recalcitrant seed testing. The germination and viability test and cut test and seed cleaning and counting were done in the laboratories at EIB in Addis Ababa.

Problems and plans

In addition some of the problems encountered in the Ethiopian Gene Bank were discussed. For example, the seed germination incubators and the seed cleaning aspiractor machine were fixed by Rachael. Additionally, a number of technical problems associated with failed components in the dry room were raised and the case transferred to the expert at Kew who I hope will be able to repair it. At the end of the training, we formed groups and discussed the activities we had been involved in and the problems which hamper us carrying out our activities. Finally we prepared our action plans, presented them to the group and commented on each others' plans.

A personal view

I was delighted to have taken part in this course. It helped me to understand more about seed physiology and management in a relatively short time. The knowledge and skills I gained will be a great help for my future and inform my research to integrate our seed conservation activities and work here at the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity with the work and activities of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.

This is the first time this kind of training has taken place in Ethiopia but it didn't seem like it, as the course was so well-organized and managed and gave the trainees a good in-depth knowledge incorporating relevant and timely examples from new and different perspectives.

I believe this is a very good start and has to continue in the future on a regular basis in order to produce many more skilful conservationists and natural resource scientists in my country and beyond. Who knows - if it continues like this with such strength and commitment one day it could be one of the leading international training courses which could invite participants from other parts of the world and help us all to work together and share experiences of seed conservation from all over the world.

- Mekbib -

Mekbib Fekadu
Department of Plant Biology and Biodiversity Management
College of Natural Sciences, Addis Ababa University 

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