Overview of the flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea: The long road to a completion
Prior to the initiation of the Ethiopian Flora Project (EFP), there were a number of attempts over the years to write the flora for a particular region/s or areas of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The modern Ethiopian Flora Project was initiated in 1980 as a bilateral agreement between the Ethiopian and Swedish governments through the then Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission (ESTC) (now the Ministry of Science and Technology) and the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC) (now Sida-SAREC). The project was carried out with shared responsibilities between Addis Ababa University and Uppsala University, Sweden. The objectives of the project were: 1) to write up a Flora of Ethiopia (FE), which later became the Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea (FEE) with the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1991; 2) build-up of the National Herbarium and a related library; and 3) promotion of scientific activities in other fields of botany. By the end of the project in 2009, the writing of the FEE was completed with the publication of 8 volumes in 10 books including information on the description, ecology and distribution of 6,027 vascular plants taxa. Of these taxa, 10% are endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea (Ensermu Kelbessa and Sebsebe Demissew, 2014 in this volume). Due to this project, the number of plant specimen in the Herbarium grew from 14,000 in 1980 to 80,000 at present. The project has also trained 11 Ethiopian nationals at PhD level, who later become the nucleus for the advancement of Botanical Sciences in Ethiopia. The early conception of the complementary value of a Botanical Garden to the National Herbarium for research and education by these young academicians led to the initiation of its establishment. They had worked tirelessly over the years. This effort finally led to the establishment of the Gulelle Botanic Gardens on the outskirts of Addis Ababa in 2005 in collaboration with the Addis Ababa City Administration.
Key words/phrases: Botany, Ethiopian Flora Project, Gulelle Botanical Garden, National Herbarium