Past, present and future perspectives


Many of Eastern Africa's biological resources are used for agricultural, pharmaceutics, construction, clothing and ornamental products and have high local, national and global economic value. For example, the economic benefits of biological resources in Uganda have been estimated at about US$741 million annually (Emerton and Muramira 1999). The breakdown of economic benefits to Uganda is illustrated by Figure 2b.2.

The agricultural biodiversity of the sub-region is also rich as evidenced by Ethiopia, one of the world's 12 centres of genetic diversity known as 'Vavilov Centres'. Ethiopia is the sole or the most important centre of genetic diversity for arabica coffee, tef, enset Ensete ventricosum) and anchote (Coccinia abyssinica), and for sorghum, finger millet, field pea, chickpea, cow pea, perennial cotton, safflower, castor bean, and sesame. Genetic erosion in other parts of the world has led to Ethiopia now also being the most important centre of genetic diversity for durum wheat, barley, and linseed. The Plant Genetic Resources Centre of Ethiopia has been entrusted with safeguarding this wealth of genetic resources and, by 1994, had a collection of 53 625 specimens of 100 crop types in its gene bank. The Centre also keeps substantial ex-situ collections of arabica coffee and is involved with a number of farming communities in promoting the in situ conservation of crops (EPA/MEDC 1997).

Eastern Africa's biological resources also make the sub-region a desirable destination for tourists and makes a significant contribution to economic development. For example, Kenya's tourism industry is the country's second largest earner of foreign exchange, contributing 19 per cent to the country's GDP (World Bank 2000).

Click to enlarge

Figure 2b.2: economic benefits of biological resources, Uganda

Source: Emerton & Muramira 1999