KMIS lecture: Ethiopia and the tree against hunger

Join this lecture about the Ethiopian banana and how it could be key for improving future food security.

Plants on hillside


2 November 2020


6pm (lecture lasts one hour)


Online event



Pre-booking essential

Tickets do not include entry to the Gardens

In highland Ethiopia, a giant banana relative provides the staple food for 20 million people.

Its versatility and resilience, in a country more commonly known for food insecurity, has earned it the title ‘the tree against hunger’. But outside of Ethiopia, this remarkable plant is barely known.

Tropical Crop Ecologist at Kew, James Borrell, will discuss Kew’s recent research efforts, together with leading Ethiopian scientists, to map the diversity and distribution of this often overlooked crop, the Ethiopian banana (Ensete).

Growing to 10 metres tall and a metre across, just 60 plants can support a family for a year. With Ethiopia already warming by 1.6 degrees, it is believed Ensete 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 use 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?

Kew Mutual Improvement Society

This talk is part of the Kew Mutual Improvement Society lecture series which has been running since 1871.

We curate and present a varied programme of public lectures, with no limits to the discussion topics within the realms of botany, conservation and horticulture – all for a remarkably low-cost ticket.

Find out more about the Kew Mutual Improvement Society