Ethiopian plant geneticist Dr Melaku Worede – or simply ‘Melaku’, as he was fondly known – was celebrated for establishing the first seed and plant gene bank in Africa, bringing together traditional farmers and scientists. Our friendship had its roots in the early 90’s, when we met Melaku and his team in Ethiopia. They were leading the way in participatory, in-situ plant breeding that defied the elitist assumption that this sophisticated process could only take place in the confines of the science lab. Melaku knew that the most critical knowledge relating to seed diversity came from the farmers, and that to breed for resilience alongside a great many household and community needs, the crops must remain in the field where they are locally adapted. In 2012, Gaia joined GRAIN in convening technical training in collaboration with Melaku and MELCA-Ethiopia, on the use of genetics to further enhance farmers’ seed diversity. Many of the attendees have gone on to lead transformative work within their communities, with seed central to restoring food sovereignty and indigenous knowledge systems. In 2015 we made a film, Seeds of Justice: In the Hands of Farmers, to share the story of Melaku’s work, for which he was awarded the prestigious Right Livelihood Award in 1989. From the plains of Ethiopia to the halls of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, he showed us that keeping seeds in the hands of farmers makes our food system healthier, resilient and just. This commitment to seed diversity influenced country-wide commitments from Canada to the UK – including our Seed Sovereignty Programme for the UK & Ireland, inspired by his vision. Click here to read our celebration of Melaku, after his passing in 2023.