Marie's Corner

Continuing Momentum in March

Dear Executive Board Members and Observers,

The highlights of the month of March were the finalization of the CGIAR Genebank Platform proposal (2017 – 2022), the finalization of the report on phase 2 of the Crop Wild Relatives Project, and the proposal for phase 3 (2017 – 2020). These ambitious programs will help keep us busy in the coming years and take us closer to our goals – to create a cost effective, rational global system for conservation and use of crop diversity. On the list of highlights we could also mention the Genebank Operations Advanced Learning Workshop (GOAL) at IITA in Nigeria and broad coverage in media of the Crop Wild Relatives gap analysis paper. We were also delighted to have one of the our genetic resources’ heroes visiting our offices in Bonn, Dr. Pat Moony. All along we have, of course, prepared for the upcoming Pledging Conference on 15 April. Let us go in some more detail on the mementum we have gained in March:

Genebank Platform

After a long and interesting process the CGIAR Genebank Platform proposal was finalized several hours before the deadline – midnight March 31st!

The proposal is the result of a group effort; we have made the most of the genomics, policy, phytosanitary, data management and germplasm conservation experts in the group. A key aim of bringing the CGIAR genebanks under one umbrella is to exploit this wealth of expertise within the genebank community to enable all Centers to rise to the same high and exacting standards. This will strengthen the common goods that exist within the system for the benefit of the whole. Important steps have already been made in this regard within the Genebank CRP, especially for conservation activities. A reoriented approach to the Platform with Use and Policy Modules aims to give the genebanks more capacity to achieve change in its interaction with users to ensure stronger collaboration, exchange and use of the diversity in the collections.

We can sum up the aims of the Genebank Platform as follows:

  • ensure that genebank operations are fully sustained and strengthened within a validated quality management framework;
  • ensure that all collections are available, safety duplicated and documented according to performance targets;
  • gain efficiencies in operations that result in reduction of costs, using a science based and rationalized approach;
  • strengthen the capacity and management of germplasm health units;
  • provide a global response to the threats affecting in situ crop diversity through targeted, multi-crop collecting in partnership with NARS;
  • strengthen the global system of institutes and instruments that contribute to the conservation and use of genetic resources globally;
  • develop a totally new experience for the genebank user based on modernized and ideally visual, information search tools and much enriched data;
  • change the culture between genebank and user so that information flows more easily between them and adds value to the collections;
  • ensure compliance across the CGIAR with international genetic resources policy.

Crop Wild Relatives

On our 10 years Crop Wild Relatives Project we signed three new collecting agreements in March with Ethiopia, Spain and Guatemala. A new pre-breeding proposal for beans was also signed. Most importantly was, as mentioned, the phase 2 project report and the phase 3 proposal. Let us say more about this in our next Newsletter.

Genebank Operations Advanced Learning Workshop (GOAL) at IITA brought together over 40 genebank specialists from IITA, Bioversity, AfricaRice, ICARDA and partners from national agricultural research institutes in Nigeria and Egypt. All the participants work in genebanks, and are committed to making them more effective and efficient. The workshop was designed to help them do just that, and gave participants a platform to share and discuss new ideas for better genebank management in the future. This is the second GOAL workshop to date. The third workshop is scheduled for late 2016 and will take place in East Africa, where partners will target field conservation.

Partnerships and Communications

Rhodes College, in Memphis TN, continues to be a very good partner of ours. The Crop Trust’s partnership with Rhodes College, formally the “Cary Fowler ’71 Environmental Studies International Fellowship,” has flown by over the past four years. The Crop Trust has benefited from the engagement of 12-month fellowships for a Rhodes graduate.. We have just concluded the process to recruit the newest Rhodes Fellow – starting this summer. Thanks a lot to Rhodes!

There are several highlights to mention in Communications. Firstly, some 30 media outlets have covered the publication of the CWR Project’s Gap Analysis study in the scientific journal Nature Plants. Highlights include BBC News, National Geographic and SciDev.Net. OpEds also appeared in the media, including one penned by the Crop Trust’s first Executive Director, Geoff Hawtin and another written by myself. We also published a video-interview with Nora Castañeda, lead author of the study.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was again in the news with coverage of the first seed deposit of 2016. Of particular note is an AJ+ video that went viral on Facebook (viewed 30 million times, with over 370,000 shares and 165,000 likes).

We published the second gallery of images under the #CropsInColor campaign, celebrating maize diversity in Latin America. Additionally, we published the second issue of the Genesys Newsletter, and we continued enhancing our social media presence in Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Instagram and Flickr.

In March, the overall focus of the Partnerships team was to communicate with invited donors and partners about the upcoming Crop Trust Pledging Conference on 15 April 2016 in Washington, DC. We held bilateral discussions with a number of current and prospective donor governments. This includes the Department of Agriculture of Switzerland, which joined us for a visit of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

We are in discussions with possible official lenders for a concessional long-term loan to the Endowment Fund. Moreover, we are exploring with the German authorities how private donations from within Germany could become tax deductible for the donor.

On the private partner side, we are in a dialogue with investment banks about prospects of launching the Crop Trust Investment Sharing Facility with high net worth individuals, which would generate a flow of annual contributions to the Endowment Fund. We are also developing the concept of a possible Food Security Bond issue, which would mobilize resources to support selected national crop collections in their upgrading efforts.

Best regards from all of us in Bonn,

Marie

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