The 17th meeting of the Executive Board is taking place right now in Lima, Peru where we will discuss how we envisage the complete global system for conservation and availability of crop diversity, but also learn more about the operations of CIP – the International Potato Center.
Let me start with the happy news that we, in the next day or so, also this year are expecting a clean audit. Keeping our financial house in full order is essential. We clearly manage to do that – big thanks to our dedicated Finance Team!
On the partnership side in February and the beginning of March had a focus on finalizing the invitation letters for the Crop Trust Pledging Conference in April 2016 in Washington, DC, to be held at the margins of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings. We worked out the letters with the Development Cooperation Minister of Germany and the Foreign Minister of Norway who are co-inviting to the conference. The letters are being sent to more than 50 nations with an active foreign aid program and will be followed up through bilateral contacts by the Crop Trust, building on our government outreach to date.
Also in February, we met with the Indian authorities to speak about our technical and financial cooperation and delivered a speech at the Indian National Seed Congress in Agra. Thanks again to Dr. Gautam for preparing the ground for substantial meetings in Delhi. We met with the authorities in Oman to discuss options for future cooperation. We held a seminar in Washington DC involving USAID, USDA and the White House to review our past partnership and to explore various projects for future cooperation.
At the end of February there was a major seed deposit in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the international advisory committee met and we hosted a group of visitors. The visitors included the Vice Minister of Agriculture from Germany, high-ranking officials from the European Commission, the deputy chair of the health committee of the European Parliament, the head of the German national genebank, as well as private sector representatives from the seed industry. This first group of visitors was followed by an important second visit of senior officials from the Dutch Government. We also welcomed a large group of media representatives in Svalbard. It was a busy month up north!
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the midst of it, continues to be a good meeting place. It is great to have plenty of time to discuss technical issues and future cooperation with important partners.
February was also a busy month for Crop Trust Communications. Much media attention was created through a press release on the recent deposit in Svalbard of more than 20,000 varieties of crops from the USA and Africa Rice. This included media from the BBC, Wired, Fox News, Yahoo, USA Today, a useful video from Newsy, Wired Japan, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany and over 20 more media articles from more than 10 countries.
It is also worth noticing that as a result of the launch of the new Crop Trust website, website page views have increased by some 50% to an average of 7,000 views per week. Our new video, Securing our Food, Forever, has been viewed more than 2,600 times. We have reached more than 150,000 people through social media since the launch of the new website.
The science team is very busy steadily reviewing and clearing the first of an expected total 70 reports (!) from the genebank CRP and the Crop Wild Relatives projects. It is good to notice that the process is proving quite a bit smoother this year for the genebank CRP due to improvements to the online reporting tool.
We have also spent a lot of time on preparing an options paper to the CGIAR Fund Council meeting in Indonesia in the last week of April in cooperation with the Consortium Office and the Fund Office. The document will serve as the basis for a decision by the Fund Council on how to deal with funding of the international genebanks in the years to come, and until the Crop Trust has completed the endowment. The Board will discuss the content of the document in Lima.
We have participated in some key technical events: International workshop on the promotion of Public-Private Partnerships for Pre-Breeding and the 5th International Conference on Next Generation Genomics and Integrated Breeding for Crop Improvement.
You might recall that Susan McCouch was elected as the Chair of the DivSeek Steering committee during the Partnership meeting in San Diego in January and we are pleased that the rest of the Steering committee now is also elected. Jointly with our partners we have started preparations for the first meetings.
Let us leave it there for the moment. We will report more on the technical work when we meet next week. The Lima meeting will mainly deal with technical topics. The Board named its last meeting in Bonn the “reciprocity meeting” – the upcoming meeting can probably be called the “global system meeting”.
Greetings from the Bonn team,