Depending on your field of work, your interests, and perhaps your age, you may or may not have heard of Dr Melaku Worede. His work and legacy may not be quite as high-profile as that of African change-makers such as the late Professor Wangari Maathai, but his impact is of huge significance.
Dr Melaku grew up in Ethiopia, where his intrigue into the richness of his country’s landscape, diversity and farming life grew from passion to profession. He secured his PhD in Agronomy (Genetics and Breeding) at the University of Nebraska, USA, and then he returned to Ethiopia to take up a position in the Ministry of Agriculture. Some years later he set about on the stage of his career which has perhaps had the most significant impact on Ethiopia’s genetic legacy and food sovereignty. Inspired by the vast wealth of biodiversity in Ethiopia (which is celebrated as a ‘Vavilov centre’, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and a centre of origin of species), Melaku set about establishing the Plant Genetic Resource Center (PGRC) in Addis Ababa. This was the first gene bank in Africa; the first time that Africa was asserting its own rights to its genetic wealth.