As a national research institute, EIAR aspires to see improved livelihood of all Ethiopians engaged in agriculture, agro-pastoralism, and pastoralism through market-competitive agricultural technologies.

IMPORTANCE OF THE SECTOR

The country Ethiopia is endowed with rich flora and fauna due to its physical and climatic diversity. The diversity of total number of vascular plants in the country is estimated to be 6500 species, of which an estimated 10% of the species are endemic and more than 14% are aromatic and medicinal plants (Mekuria et al., unpublished). To this end, several indigenous and exotic, medicinal and other aromatic or essential oil bearing plants could luxuriously grow in Ethiopia. Due to their refined nature and extremely minimised volume, essential oils are widely used in the world, in substitute for the original plant material from which they are derived. Particularly, they are in common use in different industrial firms of the developed world. Similarly, in Africa, and including Ethiopia, more than 80% of the population is relying on herbal medicines. In Ethiopia, 90% of the population (45% high land and 45% agro-pastoral land settlement) are the regions of traditional medicine, where there is more than 80% of agro-biodiversity of medicinal plants.  These medicinal plants are the major sources of crude drugs of natural or biological origin, and are mostly preferred over modern medicine, especially in the developing countries. This is since they are relatively cheaper, more accessible to the society, and have undisputed acceptance by most people of these countries. Medicinal plants are, therefore, credited for their significant contribution to the national economy of most developing countries. In developing countries like Ethiopia, on the other hand, where the economy is agrarian, industrialization is best achieved through establishments of agro-based industries (UNIDO, 1986). Production of essential oils and medicinal plants is an agro-industry venture that effectively fits the national development endeavours of most developing countries, including Ethiopia. These commodities do fetch significant amount of foreign currency, as they are given very attractive premium prices for they are highly concentrated by nature. Development of these invaluable plant species do also benefit the rural population involved in different tasks at farm level (i.e. cultivation and harvesting of the raw materials, and to some extent their primary processing at the field). 

In general, the development of the sub-sector plays an important role in product diversification in the farming system from the point of view of export products and also contributes a lot the development of agro-industries. The development of capacity and technical capabilities through various research activities on these plants would, therefore, initiate potential investors to invest on the sector and thereby significantly improve economic returns and opportunities within this sub-sector.