Below is Marie’s address to the participants of the Crop Trust’s Pledging Conference held on 15 April 2016.
Mr Deputy Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Crop Trust, it is a great honor to welcome you all to this conference – an event to recognize and celebrate the importance of one of the greatest miracles of the world: seeds.
Your chapatti, your tortilla, your slice of bread, your sushi, your morning coffee, your afternoon tea, your evening soup, your nightcap, even your meat – almost everything you eat and drink has its basis in seeds.
The existing millions of varieties of seeds add up to one of our most important natural resources and global common goods.
Crop diversity does not suffice to achieve a food secure world, but it is a prerequisite. Without access to the widest possible diversity of crops, we will lose options to adapt agriculture to new climates, fight pests and diseases, increase yields and make our crops more nutritious and tastier.
Loss of diversity means a more food insecure world.
Sadly we lose diversity every day in the field, as well as in many of the world’s plant genebanks – where seeds in theory should be safe, but aren’t. This is exactly why it is so important that you are here. Work needs to be done now. Urgently.
Each crop variety lost is a loss of future options to build a resilient agricultural system, and for farmers to produce our food. Particularly for small-holder farmers that are the most dependent on locally adapted crops. We should never forget that the farmers are those who are in the front-line of the global struggle to feed a growing world population in the midst of climate change.
On my first day at the Crop Trust our eminent scientist Hannes Dempewolf – present in this room – told me he was going to a carrot meeting in Australia…….
I thought I had come to a madhouse. A carrot meeting? – in Australia?
Now I defend every carrot meeting in Australia, every maize meeting in Mexico, every teff meeting in Ethiopia. Because we need to get organized to safeguard all the different varieties of the ‘seed miracles’. All the 2500 thousand varieties of carrots, 3000 varieties of coconut, 4500 varieties of potatoes, 30 000 varieties of maize, 125 000 varieties of wheat, 200 000 varieties of rice.
– and we must collect and conserve wild relatives of the domesticated species too, because they may well contain the genes which will allow our children to grow and eat food with high nutritional value adapted to increasingly challenging climatic conditions.
Seeds are miracles, but it takes no miracle to conserve them and make them available to farmers, breeders and scientists. We know how to do it. It is not even expensive. But it does of course require some money.
– conservation without money is conversation. I have borrowed this saying from Professor Swaminathan – one of my heros – the father of the green revolution in India.
The Crop Trust is building an endowment fund to safeguard crop diversity in a long term – forever – perspective.
We are on our way. Knowing well we’re engaged in a marathon – not a sprint. If it had been easy, it would have been done by wise people before us.
Today’s conference will allow us to move faster towards our goal, towards the end of the marathon. We are very grateful.
We have established many new partnerships over the last 2 1/2 years. Some of these partners are here today. We are also aware that there are partners who would have liked to be here, but are unable due to various reasons – the acute refugee crises in Europe, national economic trouble and slower political processes than impatient optimists would like.
That is why we have decided to launch today a campaign that will last one year – a campaign to allow other partners to join and contribute to this unique endeavor to raise an endowment for safeguarding the building blocs of agriculture.
It is understandable that pressing crises get most attention. It’s a product of globalization – media travels faster than decision makers’ ability to deal with challenges in a comprehensive way, and they succumb to repairing crises rather than preventing them from happening.
This is why we need to get the private sector more involved in what has traditionally been seen as a government responsibility – companies benefit from global common goods like everyone else.
At the Crop Trust we have started to develop our first, innovative private sector partnerships. They will help point the way forward. We are very pleased to have some of you here.
We have developed an Investment Sharing Facility with Deutsche Bank which has good potential. We are also working on a Food Security Bond with them. Other banks and financial institutions are welcome to come on board with their ideas. Our minds are open.
Philanthropy is important, yet it will not take us sufficiently far. We need to build business cases in order to achieve global goals.
We have started cooperation with World Coffee Research that hopefully will lead to a conservation effort by companies in the coffee sector.
When your business is based on coffee, and coffee is at risk due to climate change, it makes perfect sense to invest in conserving its diversity.
If your business is dependent on citrus, it is a good idea to contribute to farmers being able to produce healthy and well yielding oranges and lemons.
We are really eager to involve the food industry more and move forward on crop-based cooperation and fundraising.
We have an exciting new partner in the media, entertainment and technology sectors, MetAL. They generously want to contribute to our cause.
– and importantly, we do have a long standing relationship with the global seed sector that we look forward to developing further.
On the innovative funding side, the Crop Trust Board has also signed off on our concessional loans policy.
I have been permitted by German development lender KfW to tell you that they are at an advanced stage of extending the first loan to the Crop Trust, on very favorable conditions. This soft loan would allow us to generate steady income to support our work over the next 20 years. The loan is expected to be the largest single financial inflow that we have ever received.
We also have good dialogues with other potential concessional lender countries. Money upfront is particularly valuable for our work since large amounts of crop diversity unfortunately is at immediate risk.
I do get excited about new funding prospects, yet governments have been and will continue to be our main partners. Up to now governments have contributed to almost 95 percent of our resources. Our sincere appreciation goes to all of them.
Let me particularly thank the US, our biggest contributor to the endowment, in addition to both governments chairing this conference – Germany and Norway. Germany has now contributed our largest single contribution to the endowment to-date. Norway is our biggest contributor overall. It was a particular pleasure to sign a new project agreement with the Norwegian Foreign Minister yesterday – for another USD 20 million to our unique Crop Wild Relatives project.
We also celebrate new project partnerships today. It is absolutely great that we will sign technical agreements with three partners; Brazil, Japan and DuPontPioneer. This week we have also signed agreements with Ethiopia, Chile and Ghana.
On behalf of our extremely dedicated Crop Trust team in Bonn and all our partners around the world, let me again thank you for being here. Let me also thank sincerely our partners at the World Bank, CGIAR, the FAO and the International Plant Treaty. We are fully committed to future cooperation for a fundamentally important cause.
Let me also say that it is less important that the Crop Trust and it’s partners thank you for being here. What’s important is that you will be thanked by our children, grandchildren and their children to come – these human miracles that will be just as dependent on the miracles of seeds as we are.
We should not let them down.
Thank you for your attention.