Melaku Worede was born in Ethiopia in 1936. After obtaining a PhD in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska, he returned to Ethiopia and became involved in the planning of the Plant Genetic Resources Centre in Addis Ababa, of which he became Director in 1979. Ethiopia is one of the world’s eight ‘Vavilov Centres’ noted for their great genetic diversity. It is this bio-diversity – now under great threat from drought and modern farming methods – that Worede has sought to preserve. Further, the Plant Genetic Resources Centre (PGRC) set out to establish ‘Strategic Seed Reserves’ of traditional varieties that could be released to farmers for planting in times of drought when no other seeds were likely to thrive. In only a few years, Worede and his staff collected and safely stored a considerable amount of Ethiopia’s genetic wealth. In the process, he established not only Africa’s finest facility of its kind, but also one of the world’s premier genetic conservation systems. Worede built this institution exclusively with Ethiopian staff, training a whole new generation of plant breeders and geneticists in his home country. In 1993 Melaku joined the Seeds of Survival Programme of Ethiopia, which he founded with the support of a consortium of Canadian NGOs led by the Unitarian Service Committee (USC Canada). Melaku Worede was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1989 and in 2015 Gaia made a film about his life’s work: Seeds of Justice – In the Hands of Farmers. He has been a critical advisor to our work with communities on seed, food sovereignty and climate change resilience.