Environmental finance Enables Africa’s largest gene bank to conserve biodiversity and ensure food security

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with GEF CEO and Chairperson Dr. Naoko Ishii flanked by farmers who have benefited from the gene bank
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with GEF CEO and Chairperson Dr. Naoko Ishii flanked by farmers who have benefited from the gene bank

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark and Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO and Chairperson Ms. Naoko Ishii, made a joint site visit to Africa’s largest and oldest gene bank, on the sidelines of the Third Financing for Development Conference taking place in Addis Ababa from 13-16 July 2015.

The gene bank, housed at the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI), was established almost forty years ago and is at the forefront of Ethiopia’s battle with climate change and ensuring food security while safekeeping the country’s agricultural diversity.


  • In June 2015 GEF approved 27.3million USD for Ethiopia for the implementation of three programmes by UNDP on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and land degradation.
  • A further 4.1million was released also in the same month for the rural energy initiative which will start in July 2015 while an additional 3.3million USD is expected to be approved by the GEF to mainstream incentive for biodiversity conservation.

“We need to make smart decisions and leverage environmental finance to catalyse and deliver multiple economic, social and environmental benefits. Investing in the wellbeing of our planet and halting climate change should not be seen as a ‘cost’, but as a worthwhile investment," Helen Clark said during the visit.

Over 152,000 farming households have recently benefited, when thanks to the gene bank, red and white teff seeds were re-introduced to fields in central Ethiopia after having been lost to the farmers in the area for about 28 years.

UNDP and GEF have been jointly supporting the EBI since 1994 when the institute was helped to successfully place the Ethiopian farmer at the centre of conservation of varieties crops through the set-up of 12 community gene banks and crop conservator associations in Ethiopia’s six major agro-ecosystems.

“The needs for development will always outstrip the resources available, so we have to find the opportunities to catalyze change and snowball into impacts far in the future,” Dr Naoko Ishii said. “When we don’t protect our natural capital we often are eating into the resources of the poor and vulnerable in society.”

In 2011, UNDP and GEF launched a five year programme to enhance the mainstreaming of agro-biodiversity conservation into the agricultural production systems of Ethiopia. Through the project support Ethiopia has managed to establish four on site gene banks at the community level for conservation of four indigenous and economically important crops for the country including tef, coffee, durum wheat and enset. Through the support of UNDP and GEF Ethiopia has also revised its existing biodiversity policy and marketing strategy, which is expected to enhance the effective conservation and utilisation of Ethiopia’s genetic resources.

In September 2015 UNDP will host in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the launch event for a new GEF innovative USD 106.5 million pilot programme that seeks to foster sustainability of natural resources and food security in Sub-Sahara Africa. Twelve countries, (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Uganda) will benefit from this intervention that will help harness local knowledge and practices of small holder farmers, accounting for nearly 80 percent of agricultural production in Sub-Sahara Africa, and complement it successfully with innovative modern practices. Ethiopia is expected to receive around USD 11 million from this project.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Ethiopia 
Go to UNDP Global