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Project information

Saving Ethiopia’s precious indigenous plants

One in five plants face extinction. Kew is saving plants by preserving their seeds in the Millennium Seed Bank: the world's greatest ex situ conservation programme. Ethiopia has an exceptionally diverse flora and is home to the genetic origin of coffee and wild relatives of wheat, barley and beans.

January 2017 - December 2021

Charity information: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew logo
  • Need


    An unsustainable growth in the Earth’s population puts pressure on food, medicine, habitats and biodiversity already being challenged by rapidly changing climate. There is no technological reason why any plant species should become extinct. Ethiopia has wide native plant diversity that is increasingly threatened. Through technical training, joint research, fieldwork and seed bank equipment with our local partner, we can ensure the conservation of 250 native species not currently held by the MSB.


    Seed banking is an increasingly essential and effective technology to protect plant biodiversity and prevent species extinctions. Whilst in situ conservation measures remain critically important, enforcement of ‘protected’ status is often inadequate. The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership conserves seeds that are viable for many generations; the seeds, and the knowledge on how to germinate them, provide a vital and impactful means to protecting plant diversity.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Identify plant species which are new to science


    » Check and digitise herbarium specimens: these are an important resource containing vital information on distribution/location of target species

    What success will look like

    Have collected and correctly identified seed species using herbarium specimens

    Aim 2

    Cross-reference collected species with existing ones


    » Compile a target species list and collecting plan using existing resources such as “Red List of Endemic Trees and Shrubs of Ethiopia and Eritrea”

    What success will look like

    Completion of a list of species collected and banked

    Aim 3

    Complete a floral guide of Ethiopia


    » Produce illustrated collecting guides, which are vital instruments to make future fieldwork as effective as possible

    What success will look like

    Publication of a complete collecting guide of the flowering plants of Ethiopia for future reference

    Aim 4

    Secure additional seed collections with local partners


    » Annual fieldwork in Ethiopia to secure 100 collections and 50 ‘new’ species; additional accessions are valuable to bank broader genetic diversity

    What success will look like

    Successful accession of 250 ‘new’ species over the five years of the project

  • Impact


    Kew staff will support our Ethiopian partners to build their capacity to target specific plant species, prepare and execute field trips and deliver training in the field. We will also offer training in developing robust data management and data sharing procedures to ensure that annual plans are delivered. An annual report will be compiled detailing milestones reached during the year and progress towards the target of 250 new species safeguarded.


    Projects involving nature are never guaranteed success: for instance, the rapidly changing climate may mean that seed collections cannot happen at expected times. Such risks will be mitigated by partners’ staff making regular monitoring trips to observe target species and populations to ascertain the most successful time to conduct fieldwork to identify and collect the target species.


    As with Kew’s other scientific research, information is updated regularly on our website ( through articles and blogs, as well as on social media, via our email newsletter and in Kew Magazine.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £252,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £21,000 Travel To enable partners to visit Kew and Kew scientists to work with partners in Ethiopia
      £59,000 Equipment Laboratory and field equipment at Kew and in Ethiopia
      £56,000 Seed collecting / training Seed collecting and training in Ethiopia
      £57,000 Ethiopian partner staff costs Ethiopian partner staff costs for working on this project
      £27,000 Kew staff costs Kew scientists' costs for working on this project
      £32,000 Project management and support Oversight by Kew Foundation and support from other Kew departments

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Kirby Laing Foundation £125,000 Conditional
  • Background


    Although a major player in Africa, Ethiopia remains an extremely poor country, and is frequently affected by devastating droughts, causing extreme food shortages. Ethiopia’s economy is dependent on plant crops, particularly coffee, which is vulnerable to climate change. Ethiopia has a large number of species listed as critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable to global extinction. The MSB is located at Kew’s site at Wakehurst, West Sussex.


    Current and future generations of Ethiopians will benefit through improved knowledge of their indigenous flowering plants, the preservation of diverse and important species through the MSBP and the identification of key wild crop relatives. Local partners will have improved skills and experience and, more broadly, the scientific and conservation community will benefit through the knowledge and techniques acquired on this project.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Since 2000, the MSB has led a global partnership of organisations extending to over 90 countries. The Partnership has collected 17% of the world’s flora, and is aiming for 25% by 2020. The MSB’s mission goes beyond serving as a mere repository of seeds, with many thousands of its collections, backed up my meticulously researched germination protocols, being made available to support species reintroductions, habitat restoration and research in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and medicine.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Tim Pearce

    As Kew's Conservation Partnership Co-ordinator (Africa) , Tim will lead this work for Kew.

    Dr Colin Clubbe

    As Kew's Head of Science: Conservation, Colin has overall responsibility for all of Kew's conservation projects.

    Dr Iain Darbyshire

    As Kew's Research Leader for Identification and Naming, Iain will supervise the visits by our Ethiopian partners and help identify species collected