Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt, 2010

Ethiopian Laureate Melaku Worede, renowned conservationist and agronomist, dies at 87

News 01.08.2023

Ethiopian conservationist, agronomist and Right Livelihood Laureate Melaku Worede, who established one of the world’s premier genetic conservation systems, passed away on Monday, July 31 at the age of 87.

“Worede’s dedication and pioneering efforts in farming-based native seed conservation have not only enhanced yields but also served as a testament to the power of sustainability,” said Ole von Uexkull, Right Livelihood’s Executive Director. “His legacy extends beyond borders, inspiring a global community to cherish and preserve our planet’s biodiversity.”

In 1989, Worede was honoured with the Right Livelihood Award for collecting and safely storing a considerable amount of Ethiopia’s genetic wealth.

His endeavours led to the establishment of Africa’s finest facility and one of the world’s top genetic conservation systems. Using exclusively Ethiopian staff, Worede also cultivated a new generation of plant breeders and geneticists.

During his career as a conservationist and agronomist, Worede held many distinguished titles. He served as Chair of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Plant Genetic Resources and as a Board member of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute and the Rural Advancement Foundation International.

In retirement, Worede expanded his work beyond Ethiopia. He was active in training several gene bank curators and young scientists across Asia and Africa in farming-based native seed (landrace) conservation.

Worede received the Right Livelihood Award in 1989 “for preserving Ethiopia’s genetic wealth by building one of the finest seed conservation centres in the world.”

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