It seemed fitting that I started my duties as the Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Svalbard, the site of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the ultimate protection for crop diversity in the world. A week later I arrived in Bonn, Germany to join the energetic, passionate, and dedicated Trust staff following our recent move from Italy to Germany. Amidst this move, the Crop Trust, previously hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Bioversity International, become an independent organization. While this was a considerable amount of work, I commend the staff and all parties involved for such a smooth and well-organized transition.
Don’t worry though; I have had my fair share of work as well. In my first month with the Crop Trust, I have made important trips to Rome, Washington, D.C., and Norway
In Rome, I met with Emile Frison, the current Director General of Bioversity International, Shakeel Bhatti, the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Ren Wang, one of our new Board Members and Assistant Director General of FAO, and other supporters and donors. Over the next year, I aim to increase trust and build close relations with FAO, the International Treaty, Bioversity and our other partners in Rome.
In an effort to secure funding for the endowment from the United States, Paula Bramel and I went to Washington, D.C. to meet with key congressional staff members, farmers unions, seed organizations and ambassadors. We also had a very interesting meeting with the CGIAR Fund Council in the World Bank where we discussed the possibility of mutually beneficial cooperation in the months to come.
In Norway, I met with wonderful people at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, who are excited about our work and among other things, support us in our effort to conserve crop wild relatives around the world. We will plan a joint seminar with the University at Aas this fall to discuss plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
These trips have been integral for my introduction to the work of the Crop Trust. Over the next year I hope to meet with our current and potential partners and donors all over the world to ensure the diversity of crops forever.
The move to Bonn implied a lot of changes particularly with regard to support staff. We are delighted that new and excellent staff has joined us recently. The additions were surely needed – there is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead.
These days, we are busy finalizing Board Papers for the Executive Board meeting 22 and 23 May, and we are preparing for the official opening of our office in Bonn also on May 22. We are delighted that the German Minister for Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, Minister Aigner, will host the opening event.
We have recently sent off the final report for our five-year Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation-funded Global System Project and we are picking up steam on the Crop Wild Relatives project and the Genebank CRP. In the midst of this we are planning visits to Brazil and Australia in the relatively near future. I hope the trip to Australia will allow also for a visit to IRRI and the visit to Brazil, a visit to Embrapa.
For me it has been a great two months as Executive Director. Wonderful colleagues and an important and very meaningful job – what more could I ask for?
The mission of the Crop Trust is clear and attainable. With the energy, passion, and dedication of the Trust staff, our partners, our donors, I hope to lead the Crop Trust to ensure the diversity of crops, forever.