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2020 Annual Report Letter from the Executive Director

An excerpt from our recently published 2020 Annual Report by Executive Director Stefan Schmitz

No aspect of the Crop Trust’s work in 2020 was left untouched by the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shocks of the past year have emphasized just how interconnected, interdependent and complex our world is—and how vulnerable we and our global systems are.

But, at the same time, the pandemic has revealed much that is good about humanity: our adaptability, resilience, perseverance and readiness to support each other.

I am proud to say that I observed all of these traits at the Crop Trust during my first year as Executive Director.

When I review our achievements, as laid out in this annual report, I consider myself fortunate—fortunate to be part of a robust organization that is built on a solid foundation, staffed with such dedicated colleagues, connected to skilled networks and committed to a critical mission.

Owing to the pandemic, genebank managers and staff around the world had to find new ways to work to avert the risk of losing the precious plant genetic resources in their care, and planned expeditions to collect plants in the field had to be postponed.

But, thanks to their dedication and perseverance, essential conservation work not only continued, but also grew.

Our core support to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault remained steadfast, and, before world travel shut down, we celebrated the largest deposit since the Vault was opened in 2008. We continued to support the international genebanks under the CGIAR Genebank Platform, and also expanded our expert, evidence-based crop strategies to guide further conservation and use of crop diversity.

“The ongoing innovations of Genesys and other information systems, the successes of the long-term Crop Wild Relatives Project and Templeton World Charity Foundation Pre-Breeding Project, as well as the progress of our newest project, Seeds for Resilience, also give us much to celebrate.”

We are pleased to have signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture to contribute to food security efforts in some of the world’s most arid and saline environments. We also joined the Global Landscapes Forum as its 29th Charter Member, opening up new partnership opportunities and giving us greater access to key global communities.

The Crop Trust also manages projects that closely complement the work funded by the endowment. In 2019, with enormous thanks to our Norwegian donors, our partners concluded a 6-year effort to collect crop wild relatives, and we were able to continue to support the pre-breeding programs that will put key traits from these wild species in the hands of breeders and farmers.

A clear message emerges from this report: the Crop Trust is in a strong and unique position to support and advance global efforts to safeguard crop diversity, essential for future food and nutrition security.

Our next step is to leverage our assets to broaden the scope of our work and to scale-up our impact, including by extending our support to a wider range of genebanks, crops, technological initiatives and capacity-building programs through new projects.

The pandemic has demonstrated that nothing is certain. But, in turn, we have proven that it is possible to mitigate that uncertainty by being focused, creative and adaptable, and ready to find solutions to the challenges of our ever-changing world.

Stefan Schmitz

Read the Annual Report

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