Marie Haga | Marie’s Corner
Let me do a different Marie’s corner this time. I’ll give you a peek inside the organization on the morning of a random day – 18th September.
After a relatively early morning by the computer I walk to the kitchen, get my coffee and go into the Partnerships and Communications office. There, they are working at full-speed, planning the Food Forever annual meeting, in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, on September 23rd & 24th. This is a chance for Food Forever Champions and Partner Organizations to get together, network, and showcase the work they are doing for the future of food.
When I enter the room they are discussing day two of the meeting, where Champions and Partner Organizations will be signing their Food Forever pledges. These pledges will detail activities they intend to undertake over the coming year that support Target 2.5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This target is the raison d’etre of Food Forever, focusing on the importance of conserving crop and livestock diversity by 2020.
In another corner of the room a September 25th event in New York City is being planned in detail – minute-by-minute. The first-ever Food Forever Experience, which coincides with the UN’s Global Day of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals, is in the making. The Food Forever Experience: NYC – taking place at Google’s offices in Chelsea – will see ten top chefs give guests a glimpse of what the future of food could taste like if we embrace some of the weird and wonderful foods currently on the margins of the US culinary mainstream. These range from crickets and algae to plants with wonderful names like elephant foot yam and sugar kelp.
As well as a chance to sample some new and exciting foods, this event will help shed light on some of the world’s lesser-known crops, while calling on chefs and consumers to plant the seed for a more diverse, sustainable, and delicious future.
Once we’ve savored the flavors at the Google event, we hope to take the Food Forever Experience to Africa later this year, and Asia, Latin America and of course, our host country, Germany, in 2019. This will make the Food Forever Experience a truly global initiative, helping to raise awareness far and wide of the importance of achieving SDG Target 2.5 – a global target for the global community.
My coffee and I realize the team is perfectly fine without us in the room, so we walk across the hall where our Corporate Operations department is working on a an ICT contract. The Crop Trust has been built brick by brick since we came to Bonn five-and-a-half years ago, and our IT staff have been helping us do this one brick at a time. Thanks to their dedication and creativity, our ICT systems have always worked well. But now the time is right to take a comprehensive look at where we are at and where we want to go over the coming years. Our Executive Board will have a good basis for a decision on our ICT approach at its next meeting.
Corporate Operations has many functions, and further down the hall is our invaluable travel assistant chasing Board Members and organizing their travel for the above mentioned Executive Board meeting, which takes place at the end of October.
My morning walk continues as I cross to the Science team, where I find it disturbingly quiet. I then remember that staff are in a meeting with our partners from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discussing the ten-year Crop Wild Relatives project that Norway generously funds. Kew has been a fundamentally important partner in the collecting phase of the project, which has been successfully completed in 24 countries around the globe. This work is a major rescue operation of the crop wild relatives that are disappearing disturbingly rapidly due to climate change, urbanization and other factors. One of the important topics in the meeting with Kew is the methodology for a new “gap analysis” that will show what the project has achieved in terms of tracking down important wild plants missing from genebanks, and where there is still work to do.
The Science team is – in parallel with the Crop Wild Relatives meeting – planning an important call for the next day. After one-and-a-half years, we are still working on a proposal to the Green Climate Fund for support to our strategy to upgrade and provide long-term funding to national genebanks of global importance. Thanks to our partner KfW – the German government’s development bank – and the its Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), it now seems we have a very solid proposal. We won’t know until the middle of next year whether these efforts will yield results, but we are – as always – hopeful.
On the way back to my office I stop by the Finance team where we briefly discuss the first meeting of the Innovative Finance Group, which will be held on 9th October. We also discuss refinements to the budget for a proposal we’ll send to a foundation from whom we are hoping to receive first-time support. I don’t want to disturb the rest of the Finance team, knowing they need to concentrate on our revised 2018 budget and the multi-year budget for 2019-2021.
After my tour around in the office I sit down in my chair to check e-mails. I notice with satisfaction that the Crop Trust Executive Board have no objections to the Long Term Partnership agreement that we have negotiated with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. We will tell you more about the agreement on World Food Day – 16th October, when IRRI and the Crop Trust will formally sign it. Since most Crop Trust staff won’t be able to attend the signing ceremony in Singapore, we’ll mark the occasion by preparing and enjoying rice dishes from various parts of the world in our little kitchen here in Bonn. Checking the calendar, I remind myself of two important calls in the afternoon, to prepare for forthcoming presentations at The Explorer’s Club and a Food Tank panel – both in New York City.
While the Crop Trust has grown quickly – now with over 30 people – it still amazes me how the teams keep on top of everything! That is why I feel privileged to work with such an amazing group of people. I can firmly say that the dedication and efficiency of staff here make The Crop Trust a truly inspiring place to work!