Tangled Bank Seminar

Tangled Bank Seminar by Tinde van Andel (Naturalis Biodiversity Center at Leiden) on the "Rice of the ancestors" and Ola Westengen (NMBU) on "Sorghum genetic diversity in Africa and the role of local seed systems".

Tangled Bank Seminar with Tinde van Andel and Ola Westengen

Rice of the ancestors
Tinde van Andel

Tinde van Andel

13:00 - 14:00

Naturalis Biodiversity Center at Leiden


Maroons, descendants of enslaved Africans who fled into the Amazon forest of Suriname ca. 300 years ago, cultivate many landraces of rice. Some rice varieties were taken from 18th century plantations, others were exchanged with Asian contract laborers after the abolishment of slavery, and some have an African origin. Maroon ancestors hid rice grains in their hair that they encountered in slave ship holds and secretly cultivated them behind the plantations. On their flight to freedom, they took these rice grains to the interior forests, where they ensured food security and the continuation of their traditional culture until the present. The MaroonRice project combines ethnobotanical, morphological and phylogenomic methods to identify the genetic diversity and origin of Maroon rice and to analyze its importance for nutrition and spiritual wellbeing. The unique agricultural and ritual practices of Maroons confirm their role as custodians of rice diversity, a role that is currently under threat from external pressures and encroaching globalization.


Prof. Dr. Tinde van Andel is an ethnobotanist employed by Naturalis Biodiversity Center at Leiden, the Netherlands. She holds a chair in Ethnobotany at Wageningen University and a chair in History of Botany and Gardens at Leiden University. She collaborates with the Natural History Museum in Oslo in a research project on traditional rice varieties in Suriname.

Sorghum genetic diversity in Africa and the role of local seed systems

14:00 - 15:00 Ola Westengen

Ola Westengen

Associate Professor
Noragric at NMBU


Sorghum, one of the world’s five most important crops, originated in Africa. In a paper published in in 2014 we present molecular evidence of a close associations between sorghum population structure and the distribution of ethnolinguistic groups in Africa. At the continental scale we identified an association between language family distribution and sorghum landrace population structure. At the village level, the seed system of the Pari people, a Western-Nilotic ethnolinguistic group, provided a window into the social and cultural factors involved in generating and maintaining the continent-wide diversity patterns.
In an ongoing project in Ethiopia we are further exploring the role of ethnolinguistic factors in shaping crop diversity and the ethnobotanical/seed systems involved. 
Combining research methods from ethnobotany and crop genetic resources research holds great potential for generating new knowledge about how human societies have shaped plants and how plants have shaped human societies.  


Ola Westengen is an Associate Professor at Noragric, NMBU and leader of the research cluster 'Climate Change and Agricultural Development' at the department. Prior to joining Noragric in 2015, Westengen was the Coordinator of Operations and Management of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. A plant scientist and ecologist by original training, he works on the intersections of science and policy around issues of environmental and agrarian change in Africa. His specialties includes agrobiodiversity; conservation and use of genetic resources; seed supply systems; food security and adaptation to climate change; crop evolution and crop diversity as biocultural heritage.

Publisert 4. mars 2019 11:39 - Sist endret 3. mai 2019 02:56