Our biggest Crop Trust event in February is our next Executive Board Meeting. We are eager to welcome our largely new Board to Svalbard today. While waiting for them to come and give us future directions, let me give you an update on our recent activities.

Technical Update

The Technical Team was fully engaged during the past month on the two large projects, which form our technical programme. In addition, an offshoot of one of these projects took an important step forward.

With regards to the CRP Genebanks programme, one important area of activity has been the genebank reviews. We are finalizing the reports of two recent genebank reviews (Bioversity and CIMMYT), as well as planning three more reviews (IITA, AfricaRice and ICRISAT), to take place in the next nine months. We have also started planning two CGIAR important meetings, one of the fifteen Centre Director-Generals in March, which will focus on fundraising coordination and programme management, and the Annual General Meeting of the eleven genebank curators, for the latter part of the year. The technical report on the whole CRP progamme is due in March, and we have been asking Centres to start completing their individual reports using the Online Reporting Tool (OTR). The OTR has been improved for easier use. The regular monthly meetings of the Management Team of the CRP have continued.

A top priority for the Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project has been to put in place the grant agreement for the second phase. This has been delayed by the illness of our main contact at the Norwegian donor, but he is now back in the office, has all the documentation, and we expect rapid progress. There will be a review of the first three years of the project in March, as well as a meeting of all project partners to mark the end of the planning phase. Preparation for both started last month and is well advanced. The next phase of the project is the collecting work, and we, together with our partners at Kew, are now deep in negotiations with a number of countries. This is happening both bilaterally, and, in the case of South East Asia, in the context of a regional training workshop.

A major component of both projects are information systems, and we are on course to launch the next, much improved version of Genesys, the online portal on the world’s genebank collections, in early March. Major work is proceeding both on the interface and the data it gives access to. Information is also the topic of a new initiative, with its origin in the CWR project that has been ramping up of late. DivSeek is a proposed framework, ultimately hopefully a consortium, for fostering and supporting the linkage of DNA sequencing data to other data on genebank accessions, to increase and facilitate the use of conserved germplasm in crop improvement. We are preparing a white paper on this, following a successful meeting in San Diego in January.

The Sustainable Development Goals

As one of very few organizations we were invited to give a presentation to the Open Working Group on the Post 2015 Development Goals in New York. Please find our statement below. You will see that we make the argument for conservation and availability of crop diversity as a prerequisite for food security, and suggest it be reflected under the targets of the overarching goal of food security. Our statement was well received. We will, however, need friendly countries to follow up in the negotiation process, which starts in March. Our intention is to follow up with contacts in New York in the time ahead. It is our judgment that it is a fair chance for getting wording in the final documents that will reflect our aims and we will certainly give it a try.

Partnerships and Donor Outreach

Our outreach to current and potential new donor partners has intensified significantly over the past months. We are actively implementing the new Strategic Work Plan and the Fundraising Strategy.

In the last month we have been present at the Green Week/Global Forum in Berlin. We participated in a panel chaired by UNEP and had bilateral meetings with the following countries:  Egypt, Estonia, France, Hungary, India, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, and Switzerland. The discussions served to outline the role and current work of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, to review the scope of cooperation of the Crop Trust with each individual country, and to explore opportunities for future technical and financial collaboration.

At the end of January we met with numerous FAO Permanent Representatives in Rome. The purpose of these discussions was to re-establish contact with a number of current and new partner countries, to review the Strategic Work Plan and Fundraising Strategy, and to seek assistance in identifying suitable counterparts in country capitals in the areas of agriculture, economic development and foreign affairs. Many of these discussions will be followed up by subsequent country visits.

Individual and group discussions were held in Rome with representatives of Australia, Central European Countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovenia), France, Japan, Latin American Countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela), the Netherlands, Nordic and Baltic Countries (Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden), South Africa, and the United States.

We also met with the World Famers Organization (WFO) and the Director General of Bioversity in Rome, to review the proposed new strategic directions of Bioversity and how these complement the work of the Crop Trust.

I can also mention that we have had discussions with Germany’s Ministry for Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Economic Development Cooperation, as well as with Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance. During my stay in the United States when I gave the presentation to the UN, I also met with representatives of US Congress, the US Department of Agriculture, USAID, and partners in Washington, DC.

It is too early to say what will come out all these meetings and contacts in terms of support to the endowment fund, yet were are confident to be on the right track. Right now I am writing this Marie’s Corner from the Air China terminal in Beijing, China. We have had three excellent days of meetings in Beijing and we are on our way to Seoul, South Korea. I will be back in China next week to continue the dialogue with different institutions and ministries.

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