Agriculture / Animal Feeding / Biodiversity / Ethiopia / Film and video / Forages / Genebank / Seeds

ILRI Genebank preserves forages to help farmers produce more food

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Alexandra Jorge, who has taken over from Jean Hanson as manager of ILRI’s Genebank, reflects on ILRI’s forage research and the importance of the forage seeds genebank hosted at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

‘I joined ILRI in Ethiopia in 2003 as postdoctoral student working on the characterization of forages and tissue culture of legume forages. Four years later, I moved to Bioversity International, one of 15 centres belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) but remained hosted at ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus. While at Bioversity International, I established a website that provided information on how to manage a crop and forages genebank under the supervision of Jean Hanson, who was leading the ILRI forage diversity team at the time. About a year ago, I became manager of the ILRI Forage Genebank.

‘Looking back at the past10 years, I feel that Jean Hanson left a huge legacy: a great and well-established genebank with a great team of people to run it. In addition, we also have several well-established field sites in Ethiopia that help to regenerate our forage seeds. And our key research laboratories have also been upgraded. Now our main objective is to see how our forage collection can help poor farmers to perform well and produce more.

‘We are all moving towards collaborative work, which includes sharing our experiences with research centres and partners as we seek to apply our knowledge and learn from others.

‘Some of the challenges we face in forages research include those resulting from climate change and competition for land between food crops and forages. Emerging diseases are also affecting some of our important forage crops. However, the fact that the world is realizing the importance of genebanks in preserving the diversity of our crops and how this diversity plays a role in improving global crop production is an incentive to support projects like this. This is especially critical because the world’s population is increasing, rapidly leading to rising demands for more food.’

Watch the 4-minute interview with Alexandra Jorge.


On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

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