Marie's Corner

Full Speed Ahead

My first Marie’s corner was written early May – after 2 months as Executive Director. After 5 months in the job, I am equally excited about the organization and my job. It is a pleasure to present a few highlights from our team’s work since I last reported.

Official opening and Executive Board Meeting

We were delighted to host the first Executive Board meeting in our new home in Bonn 22 and 23 May. It was a great inspiration for staff to have a chance to meet with Board Members – in the meetings as well as in the Board dinner. We were greatly honored that the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Ilse Aigner, formally opened our offices on behalf of the German Government on May 22 and hosted a nice reception, which forever will be a part of our history.

The May Board Meeting was a great help in preparing our strategy for the next 10 years. Developing the plan for Board approval in October obviously is our most important task in the months ahead.

We were delighted that the Chair of the Treaty on PGRFA, Dr. Javad Mozafari, participated in the Board meeting and promised his support for making sure nominations to the Crop Trust Board will go through at the Governing Body Meeting in Muscat 24 – 28 September.

Partnerships and Communications

I am happy to present our new Director for Partnerships and Communications: Michael Koch. Michael has a long career in the World Bank where he has worked on different aspects of Fundraising. He is a German national with a global mind. Michael will formally join October 7, but has already spent time with us in Bonn and it seems that he has gotten to know us quite well. He is eager to get started and I believe he will begin in October at full speed. We are greatly looking forward to having him fully on board.

On the fundraising side, I’d like to mention that we had a very successful visit to Australia in the middle of June. Our Board Member Tim Fischer did an absolutely fabulous job for us in advance of and during the visit. We met with the now Prime Minister, met briefly with the Foreign Minister and had meetings with several key people in the government as well as from the opposition. Furthermore, we had excellent meetings with partners – AusAID, GRDC and ACIAR. Seen from a funding perspective, we are purely delighted that the head of AusAID, Peter Baxter, offered to participate in our core group for raising the endowment. We are now in the process of working our project proposals for future cooperation with GRDC and ACIAR.

In addition to the formal meeting, Tim also chaired a roundtable organized by the Crawford Foundation where we presented the Crop Trust. We also gave a presentation at the National Summer Grains Conference in Brisbane. The media was well organized for the visit and it generated a lot of interest in the importance of crop diversity.

The visit proves how important Board Members are for Crop Trust. There is no way we would have had the same success if it weren’t for Tim’s involvement.

We have had Donors Meeting in Rome (June 13 hosted by Norway) and in Berlin (June 26 hosted by Germany). It was necessary to pick up with Donors after the move because we have had limited contact over the last year and a half. The turn out at the meetings was reasonably good, the meetings themselves worked out well, and it is clear that we need to follow up donor representatives both in Rome and in Berlin.

I am pleased to report that we have made important progress in developing relations between the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Crop Trust.  We have started a process to see how we can work more closely on Information Systems and we are working on a Crop Trust liaison function hosted by the Treaty in Rome.  I am hopeful that the Crop Trust will particpate in processes related to the future of the Treaty. I participated, as an example, in the High Level Consultations on the future of the International Treaty on PGRFA in Bandung, Indonesia in the beginning of July.

Let me also say that I have had very useful meetings with our FAO Board Member Ren Wang, with the Secretary of the Commission on PGRFA, Linda Collette, and with the new head of Bioversity, Ann Tutweiler. It certainly was a pleasure to speak and participate in the Nordic genebank’s (Nordgen) 5th anniversary in Alnarp, Sweden.

Technical work

The technical work progresses well. Since there are important happenings in the next weeks, I’ll report more extensively in the next Marie’s corner. This time I limit myself to say that the final report of the 5 years Global System Project (the “Bill and Melinda Gates project”) is sent off, the gap study of the Crop Wild Relatives project is published and the work on the plant gene bank CRP requires a lot of interesting work.

Policy

There seems to be a very interesting development towards a broader understanding of the need to expand Annex 1 of the Treaty on PGRFA. This is something the Crop Trust has argued in favour of for a long time and key countries like Brazil and Indonesia seem to take a lead to move the process forward.

There is a growing interest in technical as well as political circles for better understanding what sequencing technology can mean for plant breeding in the future. The Crop Trust has been involved in processes at the technical level, and will continue to do so. We will also discuss with our partners in FAO, the Treaty on PGRFA and the Commission on PGRFA to make sure efforts are not duplicated and unhealthy competition does not occur.

Operations and finance

The move to Bonn and becoming an independent organization requires a whole new set of policies in the field of operations. The policies the Board has not yet approved, will be presented to the Board in October. These days we are working to get the Enterprise Management System in place. When it is done, we will be able to take the last steps to full financial independence.

We are working on two new technical assistant recruitments and the recruitment of a Communication Officer. Hopefully all of them will be in place in not too long since we have plenty of work for them to do!

Plans ahead

There are plenty of things that we are looking forward to:

  • receiving a delegation from US Congress in Svalbard in the beginning of August
  • visiting Brazil the last week of August including meeting the Minister for Agriculture and the president of EMBRAPA
  • meeting all the gene bank managers for the International plant collections in Ames, USA in the middle of September
  • participating in the Governing Body meeting of the Treaty on PGRFA in Muscat, Oman, the last week of September
  • presenting the Crop Trust in Berlin on the World’s Food Day 16 October
  • participating in a work shop and meet high level representatives of the Indian Government in a work shop organized by Prof Swaminathan 18 November

 

And of course we have the very important Donor Council Meeting 21 October and the Board Meeting 22 and 23 October.

In other words – plenty of fun work to do!

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