Happy New Year and welcome to a busy Crop Trust 2014!

The Crop Trust Executive Board made very important decisions at its last meeting in Rome in October. The new Strategic Workplan and the Fundraising Strategy clearly set out our priorities for 2014.

The new plans are no doubt ambitious. But our mission is well defined, it is necessary and achievable and it represents an essential contribution towards global food security.

In this newsletter I will focus particularly on our work with partnerships and awareness raising and you will hear more about progress in the technical area in my next ‘corner’.

Awareness raising at higher political level

In order to be successful, we need to make our voice heard at a higher political level and clearly present our case. We are gradually trying to work our way to ministerial level during our visits in partner countries, but also taking advantage of events where we have a chance to meet several decisions makers on one occasion.

Right now, the Crop Trust is represented at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture and the Green Week in Berlin (January 17-26). We have a stand, and will be represented in a panel discussion and take the opportunity to meet with Ministers and Deputy Ministers individually.

October last year we got a generous offer from the FAO Director General to chair a meeting of a group of agricultural ministers in Svalbard some time in 2014. We are planning for the event in close cooperation with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. As of now it looks like the event may take place in early September.

The next meeting of the Executive Board of the Crop Trust will be held in Svalbard on February 25-26 and we have a group of VIPs representing major donors and partners going there immediately after the Board meeting. All with the intention to underpin the Crop Trust’s fundraising and outreach efforts towards the donors’ conference planned for mid-2015.

We had meetings at the UN in New York in early November to discuss the post-2015 development goals and argued that crop diversity should become a part of these – essential as it is to food security. It is far too early to say how this process will go, but we are very pleased to have been invited to present our case to the Working Group dealing with the sustainable development goals in New York in the beginning of February.

Fundraising

Of the two basic documents the Board decided on in October, the Fundraising strategy contains detailed information on our short to medium term goals. Let me quickly recall what is says:

  • The Endowment Fund of the Crop Trust is targeted to reach $850 million in two phases, as follows:
  • Phase 1: $500 million, by mid-2015, to cover international collections protected under Article 15 of the International Treaty.  This is an increase of $350 million over the $150 million in the Endowment Fund as of last October; and
  • Phase 2: an additional $350 million, by 2018, to cover other collections of the 25 most important crops, per Annex 1 of the International Treaty, as well as covering other long-terms costs of operating the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, building necessary information systems for global crop conservation, and running the Crop Trust Secretariat.
  • The fundraising strategy will prioritize the Endowment Fund over projects, building up the endowment from a diversity of sovereign and private donors, and using different fundraising methods including fair burden-sharing between countries.

 

In late October, we visited the United States and Canada to discuss these countries’ further contributions to the Endowment Fund. In Washington, DC, discussions were held with the appropriations committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, with USAID and the Department of State, and with the World Bank. Discussions on the Hill about the 2014 US Farm Bill are advanced, which includes new proposed funding authorizations for the Crop Trust Endowment Fund.

Also in Washington, DC, there were discussions with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to review the past cooperation and funding of the Crop Trust and to assess areas for possible future joint engagement, including for the Endowment Fund. The Global Systems Project, concluded in 2012 and funded by the Gates Foundation, was carried out as a joint initiative between the Gates Foundation, the Crop Trust and the United Nations Foundation. The Global Systems Project targeted 21 of the world’s most critical food crops and resulted in the largest rescue effort ever for plant genetic resources, regenerating over 76,000 crop varieties. The objective is to build on this momentum for further work on ex situ conservation with the Gates Foundation.

The meetings in Ottawa included the House of Commons, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The focus was on supporting efforts by Canada to mobilize new funding for the Crop Trust from the foreign aid budget, given the strong thematic alignment of Canada’s development aid priorities, including food security, with the Crop Trust’s mission. There was an emphasis on the need for solid results and impact reporting by the Crop Trust to underpin these efforts. Additional meetings were held with Genome Canada on their seed sequencing work, and with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

In Belgium we met with the federal services for Finance / Treasury and for Foreign Affairs / Development Cooperation. Discussions centered on the prospects of Belgium becoming a new contributor to the Crop Trust Endowment Fund, as Belgium is a signatory to the International Treaty. With agriculture being a shared responsibility between the federal services and the regions, the different parts of government would be cooperating in this respect.

Meetings in the European Commission (EC) were held with the Directorate for Development Cooperation (DEVCO). In view of the EC’s prior and current financial support to both the CGIAR and the Benefit Sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, there are possible prospects for future EC support to the Crop Trust Endowment Fund. The Crop Trust’s focus on food security, nutrition and climate change fits well with the 2014-2020 development policy priorities of the EC. A meeting also took place with COPA-Cogeca, the European Union Farmers Union Association, in Brussels.

In late November discussions were held with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Life in Vienna. The exchanges centered on the prospects of Austria becoming a new contributor to the Crop Trust Endowment Fund, as Austria is a signatory to the International Treaty. Further discussions will be needed, involving also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria.

Also in November, we met with the authorities in India. Discussions with the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and a visit to India’s national genebank reaffirmed the vast diversity of plant genetic resources available in India and the country’s pivotal importance for global food security. India is a signatory of the International Treaty and has already contributed to the Crop Trust Endowment Fund in 2006. A further contribution from India to the Crop Trust is under discussion. In addition, the Crop Trust visited various agricultural institutions in New Delhi and in Chennai, and paid a visit to ICRISAT, the CGIAR research center located in Hyderabad, including to its large international genebank.

Let me add that it was such a pleasure meeting our new Board Member Dr. P.L Gautam in Delhi. We had an excellent exchange of views. It also proved to be very valuable to inform Indian authorities that Dr. Gautam was elected to our Executive Board.

It should be mentioned that M. S Swaminathan hosted our visit to India. We are truly grateful for all the work the foundation did for us, and we also left the foundation extremely impressed by their work and with increased inspiration for working towards our common goals. I was honored to deliver the Millenium Lecture on “Feeding a growing world  – despite climate change” at the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Concerning private sector donors, we have approached selected high-net-worth individuals in a number of countries. Contact has also been established with selected foundations. Moreover, a project is being considered for possible individual solidarity contributions to the Crop Trust at a bio supermarket chain in Germany.

In sum: we are trying to do the ground work to inspire countries to come up with financial support at the Pledging Conference in the middle of 2015. It is far too early to speak about results and we still have a long way to go to reach out sufficiently to previous, current and prospective donors. But we are on our way!

In the next few weeks we will be visiting China, South Korea and the Netherlands. We will also be having a number of bilateral discussions with country representatives at the FAO in Rome.

We are sure keeping busy. We remain ever confident and supportive of our mission.

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