Guinea Yams of Ethiopia
Providing a scientific basis for guinea yam conservation in Ethiopia through generating understanding of their diversity, domestication and ethnobotany.
This project aims to document the ethnobotany and use, modes of domestication and patterns of variation in the guinea yam complex in South-West Ethiopia and to use this information to conserve this important crop plant. The complex is traditionally thought to comprise five species, the major cultigens Dioscorea rotundata Poir. and D. cayenensis Lam., the small-scale crop D. abyssinica Hochst. ex Kunth and the “wild” species D. praehensilis Benth. and D. sagittifolia Pax, although they may form a single species in which variation has been influenced by the process of ennoblement. Guinea yams as a whole feed millions in Africa as primary and secondary carbohydrate sources and famine foods. The truly wild progenitors of the complex remain unknown: discovering them is a long-term goal of the project leader. Much research has been done on the guinea yam complex in the “yam zone” of West Africa, especially in breeding and pathology, but very little elsewhere in the continent. This is surprising, given that the spectrum of cultivated to wild plants in Ethiopia appears much closer to the origins of guinea yam domestication than that which now exists in West Africa. The cultivation and ethnobotany of the guinea yams in SW Ethiopia were described in an earlier paper. This was built upon in the PhD programme of Dr. Wendawek Abebe, in which a broader range of Ethiopian cultivars was studied morphologically and the results compared with patterns of AFLP and microsatellite variation. His PhD thesis was completed in 2008, but the project is moving forward understanding of the diversity and conservation of Ethiopian guinea yams through the work of a second student, Kidist Kibret.
Project Partners and Collaborators
Addis Ababa University/Sebsebe Demissew & Kidist Kibret (the latter also partly based at Nottingham University, UK).
Dilla University/Wendawek Abebe
University of Oslo/Inger Nordal