Marie's Corner

Executive Updates

The last Marie’s Corner was published in the beginning of August. It is my pleasure to present a few executive updates of our work in August and September.

EXECUTIVE UPDATES

Governing Body meeting of the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, October 24 – 28, Oman (GB5)

From a Crop Trust point of view, the GB5 meeting was a success. Our aims in advance of the meeting were the following:

  1. That a simplified procedure for election of members to the Crop Trust Executive Board be approved
  2. That four members to the Crop Trust Executive Board be elected
  3. That a joint liaison function between the Treaty Secretariat and the Crop Trust Secretariat be approved
  4. That a joint side event with the Treaty Secretariat be successfully implemented
  5. That problematic language for the Crop Trust be avoided in resolutions

All five objectives were achieved.

Bilateral Meetings

The meeting with the Minister of Agriculture from Ethiopia should be particularly mentioned and I am optimistic we will be able to start working closely with Ethiopia.

During the two days of regional consultations before the formal meetings in Oman, we had meetings with the African group and the GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean Group) in addition to numerous meetings with delegations to have candidates to the Crop Trust Board nominated and the new simplified procedure accepted by the regional groups.

New Board Members

The adoption of the simplified procedure for election of members to our Board is probably the most important long-term outcome of the meeting for the Crop Trust. The new procedure should allow for smooth election processes in the future.

In the shorter term it is important to us that we have four new Board members from January 1, 2014: Gebisa Ejeta (Ethiopia) Peter Crane (UK) Mauricio Lopez (Brazil) and Pram Gautam (India). Adding these personalities to the existing Board Members, the election certainly gave us a very strong Board.

Please note that although all four members have informally been asked to serve on our Board, there is a formal procedure managed by the Treaty Secretariat through which they confirm that they are ready to serve on the Crop Trust Board.

PARTNERSHIPS AND COMMUNICATIONS

Endowment Contributions

We are delighted to tell everybody that we recently have received the following:

  • The United States of America donated USD 7,5 million to the Crop Trust’s Endowment for budget year 2012.
  • Norway announced a generous USD 16 million contribution to our Endowment. Currently we are in the phase of working out the contract with Norway

Great thanks to both the US and Norway!

Brazil Visit In September; Embrapa Hosts Crop Trust Visitors

From the 27th to the 30th of September, we had a most useful visit to Brazil, where Embrapa generously hosted us. Thanks for lots and great work by Zeze Sampaio and Luciano Nass.

We had excellent discussions with the President of Embrapa, Dr. Mauricio Lopez, and technical discussions with several staff members at the Embrapa gene bank, CENERGEN. We identified the need to work out a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Crop Trust and Embrapa. Crop wild relatives, information systems and cryobanking were identified as obvious areas for cooperation. The possibility of Embrapa depositing seeds in Svalbard was also considered an area for follow up.

The Minister for Agriculture confirmed in our meeting that Brazil is ready to be on the Crop Trust Core Croup to complete the endowment.

We also had excellent meetings in the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Foreign Affaires. Meeting twice with the latter, we had the opportunity of discuss long-term cooperation as well as topics of mutual interest in advance of the Governing Body meeting in Oman. We were given very good advice!

Meeting with Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson

In presenting the Crop Trust to the Under Secretary General it was nice to be able to show him the statement Ban Ki-Moon made when he visited the Svalbard Global Seed Vault: “Sustainable food production might not begin in this cold Arctic environment, but it does begin by conserving crop diversity”.

Jan Eliasson showed great interest in our work and we particularly discussed the rationale for the endowment and the endowment target. He confirmed that he personally would be more than willing to chair a pledging conference / fundraising event at the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015. Based on a letter from us he would consult the Secretary General. He did not exclude that the Secretary General might want to chair the event himself.

Latest Svalbard Visits

It is always easy to explain our mission when we show people around in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The boxes of seeds kept there can be of utmost importance if everything were to go wrong in any of the seed banks around the globe. In the beginning of August, we received a delegation from US Congress and also two Chinese journalists.

New Hires

Let me also say how happy we are that the new Director of Partnerships and Communications and the Communication Manager have joined the Crop Trust 7 October. We are happy to have both of them on board!

TECHNICAL WORK

Mid August visit to the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew (UK)

The Millennium Seed Bank, Kew (UK) is our main partner in our important Crop Wild Relatives Project. The gap analysis of the project is done.

We are now in the challenging phase of getting the collecting started. Challenging in the sense that it is difficult for Kew staff and our own staff to do the actual collecting in several of the countries that are identified as the most important. Thus, we have agreed with Kew that much of the collecting has to be done by local staff and that training courses need to be held in Africa and East Asia. Preparations for the training courses are being done these days.

CGIAR genebank managers meet in Ames, Iowa

The weeklong annual meeting took place in the middle of September. It proved to be very useful for planning purposes and to discuss big and small issues related to the implementation for the gene bank CRP (Crop Research Program). Topics of common interest were discussed in plenary and individual meetings were held with each of the genebanks and their manager. The over all impression is that our cooperation with the CGIAR genebanks goes well, but that all parties would benefit from closer contact between the Crop Trust management and the Director Generals at center level. We will follow up on this.

OPERATIONS AND FINANCE

The Crop Trust is now financially fully independent. Great work done by the Finance Team!

Equally great thanks to the Operations Team for having completed all policies required for our independent operations. These are many!

PLANS AHEAD

Crop Trust Executive Board to meet in Rome at end of month

All Board meetings are of course important. I think, however, it is fair to say that the coming Board meeting is particularly important. The Board will be discussing our Strategic Working Plan and Fundraising Strategy (both in draft format), which will be fundamental for the work of the Crop Trust in the coming years.

And of course we have the important Donors’ Council meeting 21 October.

Other highlights for this fall include:

  • Meeting with our Board Member Klaus Topfer. Berlin, 15 October
  • Participating in the World’s Food Day celebration. Berlin, 16 October
  • Visiting Canada. Last week of October
  • Participating in a workshop and meet high level representatives of the Indian Government in the middle of November – the workshop will be hosted by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan
  • Reviewing two international collections (Bioversity and CIMMYT)
  • Hosting several Crop Wild Relatives meetings – the Advisory committee will meet in Bonn in mid-October while several other meetings will be held on specific crops around the globe

 

Lots of fun work!

 

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