Celebrating Africa

Well, while we can all agree that living conditions in many places in Africa may not be up to the standard of the current President of the USA, that hasn’t stopped the continent producing some very remarkable women and men. I’ll just mention two from our field who have been in the news lately, one for a happy reason and one for a sad.

On the happy side, Dr Segent Kelemu, director general of ICIPE, was just featured by Bill Gates in the recent issue of Time magazine which he guest-edited:

Kelemu, 60, grew up in a small Ethiopian village with only one dress and no shoes to wear. She rebelled against the constraints placed on her as a girl. (They cracked.) Along the way, she has fostered a faith that each problem possesses a solution. Among her discoveries: “Life is always a lesson,” she says. “Every day, I learn from everybody.”

On a much sadder note, Harvard’s Prof. Calestous Juma passed away just before Christmas:

Africa, he wrote, contained 60% of the world’s available arable land. It also contained, in sharp contrast to monocultures elsewhere, a vast range of indigenous crops. Many of these, long adapted to arid conditions, could help feed the world despite climate change. Africa was a reservoir of biodiversity, and the next step was to ensure that the storing of seeds, and research into them, became the business of African governments, universities and farmers. Perhaps his most satisfying stint was as the first executive secretary of the UN convention on biodiversity of 1992—in effect an African safeguarder of that vast and endangered genetic library, still hardly catalogued and still largely unread.

Let’s celebrate them, and all the others too.

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