With January already well underway, the Crop Trust communications team challenged me to pick five reasons to be excited about 2019. With so much work to choose from, it was no easy task. But as many of you know, I can never resist a challenge, so here is my selection:
We will be supporting national genebanks in sub-Saharan Africa
This is a particularly exciting new area of work. The Crop Trust has obtained an endowment contribution from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the proceeds from which are earmarked for long-term funding of national genebanks in Africa. We are working to secure support for a linked project that will upgrade a number of African genebanks in preparation for this long-term funding. National genebanks are essential to a truly global system of crop conservation, and need technical advice and financial support to ensure their collections are safely stored and available to scientists and farmers in the long term. Our work with these genebanks will help strengthen the foundation of African agriculture, and should help crop breeders and farmers respond to the challenges presented by climate change. We expect work to begin in May 2019, so stay tuned for more.
The Africa Rice Center will officially open its new genebank in Côte d’Ivoire
There will be many highlights related to the Crop Trust-led CGIAR Genebank Platform, but we are particularly looking forward to the Africa Rice Center opening its new genebank. The state-of-the-art facility near Bouake, which we expect to be officially unveiled in the first half of this year, was supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections – the predecessor to the Genebank Platform – and is an investment in the future of rice in the continent. It conserves over 20,000 different accessions of African rice. We will also be continuing to work with AfricaRice and nine other CGIAR genebanks to ensure they are making good progress towards qualifying for full funding of their essential operations from the Crop Trust endowment fund. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), of course, qualified last year; as of 2019 the Crop Trust is funding 100% of the genebank’s essential operations, forever.
Innovative Finance will open up new opportunities
Realizing that our fundraising can’t rely on governments alone, we will continue to develop innovative finance mechanisms to bring in private sector companies and individuals to a greater degree. This is long-term work, but we are steadily making progress with mechanisms such as our Investment Sharing Facility that we have developed with asset manager DWS. You’ll hear more about our planned crowdsourcing campaign, Food Angels, later in the year.
The Food Forever initiative will step up a gear
Following the success of the Food Forever Experience NYC, we’ve received enormous interest from new and existing partners to host their own versions of the event. These are now planned for Chicago, USA; Cusco, Peru; Stockholm, Sweden; and London, UK. We’re also delighted that the United Nations has invited us to produce a Food Forever Experience at their Global Day of Action in May, here in Bonn – just across the road from the Crop Trust headquarters. As momentum builds towards the 2020 deadline for SDG 2.5, Food Forever will continue to expand its reach, with new projects coming onboard. We’ll keep you up-to-date through news stories and our ongoing series of opinion pieces penned by movers and shakers in the food and agriculture sectors, whose work has a bearing on the UN Target.
The Crop Trust will celebrate its 15th birthday!
An important milestone for a small organization with a very big mandate! It’s been so encouraging to see the growth of interest in, and support for, crop conservation over the years. We’ll be planning a series of anniversary-related articles during the year, as well as a major event when we get closer to the birthday on the 21st of October. We will again celebrate people who have devoted their careers to the conservation and use of crop diversity.
There you have it – just a glimpse of some of the things to look forward to in 2019. As always, we are deeply grateful to our donors and partners who make all of the work we do possible. I expect to see many of you in due course, and wish you all a peaceful and productive year.
My very best,