Marie Haga | Marie’s Corner
The Pledging Conference has taken us one step closer to our final goal: assuring the world safeguards and has access to the crop diversity we need to feed ourselves today, and hopefully feed our progeny tomorrow. And that is reason to celebrate.
Amidst the challenges the world faces today, with a refugee crisis in Europe, El Niño in Africa and Latin America, turbulent markets and crumbling oil prices, we at the Crop Trust stood behind our decision to carry on with our Pledging Conference. Time and resources are always in short supply; decision makers must sometimes choose between urgent matters and important ones. Safeguarding crop diversity is indeed both.
Ours is a long-term endeavor that needs a long-term solution. This calls for partners that look beyond the short-term cycles and quantifiable results.
The Pledging Conference paved the way for the doubling of our endowment fund. This gives us a solid base to work on in the time ahead. But the Pledging Conference turned out to be about so much more.
We were honoured with the presence of past, present and future partners, from the public and private sector – a diverse cross-section of friends and collaborators who not only took the time to accompany us in this big day, but also took a moment to share publicly their thoughts on the work we do, the importance of crop diversity and the need to conserve this global common good.
Critical to a successful event was the active participation of our co-hosts: Norway, our biggest donor, and home of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault; and Germany, home for the Crop Trust secretariat since 2013, and our third largest donor.
A big thank you goes to our co-chairs: Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and Tone Skogen, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.
In the lead-up to our conference, Germany announced its pledge of EUR 25 million. To date, this is the largest one-time contribution to our endowment fund.
The day before the Conference, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende and I signed a new cooperation agreement securing USD 20 million support for the final phase of one of our ground breaking projects: Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change; Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives .
At the Conference we were fortunate to have a video intervention by the President of the Republic of Mauritius.
Watch the Video
Madam Gurib-Fakim discussed the challenges her country has recently faced due to climate change and the role crop diversity needs to play in adapting the world’s agriculture to this new reality.
Back in November 2004, Mauritius became one of the earliest signatories to the Crop Trust’s establishing agreement. I thank Madam Gurib-Fakim for her words of support and look forward to working with her in protecting plant diversity, an issue close to the hearts of both of us.
We were honoured that the keynote speech was given by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Jan gave an inspiring speech that drew a straight line between the work of the Crop Trust and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the heart of his speech was the need to make possible, in an interdependent world, a life of dignity for all.
It was wonderful to see Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand – countries that made their initial pledges to the Crop Trust back in 2003 – 2005 – stand up and pledge further support to our organization.
It matters not what continent we live in, nor where our favorite crop comes from – e.g. maize from Mesoamerica, rice from Southeast Asia, wheat from the Fertile Crescent. We all eat. And we all benefit from crop diversity. It makes sense then that the responsibility to safeguard crop diversity is shared by all. So in the lead up to the Pledging Conference, we also met with representatives of corporations and foundations, asking them to join us in assuring humanity safeguards the crop diversity we need, today and tomorrow, to adapt our agriculture to unforeseen challenges.
Innovation has been key in expanding and diversifying our support system. We appreciate having many new partners with us at the Pledging Conference, Deutsche Bank being one of them.
Another new partner was Vincent Bradley, from the media, entertainment and technological industries (METal). Vincent brought excitement and energy and a determination to do his share. He, his friends and his family have committed to ‘the Lathyrus Project’, which aims to conserve the diversity of grass pea, and develop new, high-yielding, low-neurotoxic varieties.
Dupont Pioneer, who back in 2004 pledged a million dollars to the Crop Trust, and currently helps fund our #CropsInColor campaign, announced a new commitment from the private sector and representatives from the International Seed Federation and Syngenta where among those who accompanied us that day.
Contributions to the endowment fund directly contribute to the amount of annual funding that the Crop Trust can provide key genebanks around the world to safeguard and make available crop diversity over the long-term.
The Pledging Conference was a celebration. It gave us an opportunity to hear what our current partners and donors think about our work – how they perceive the Crop Trust and the work we do.
The United States of America is the largest donor to the endowment. They support us in other ways too. Last year, a grant from US Agency for International Development (USAID) provided USD 2.3 million for operational expenditures in 2015.
Another early supporter, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also accompanied us in this historic day.
To sum up: We have come a long way. But there is work still a lot of work to be done. We are grateful to our many supporters. We will build on the confidence we are shown, and we will humbly continue to challenge those who are not yet on board.
All for one cause: to safeguard the diversity of crops that the farmers of the world need to feed a growing population in times of climate change.
Now I kindly invite you to view an image-and-caption gallery that showcases some of the diverse partnerships that were announced at the Pledging Conference and highlights some noteworthy words of support from our key partners.