Since my last corner at the end of April, the Crop Trust and particularly the Svalbard Global Seed Vault have received a lot of media attention. It is excellent to see this strong interest in our work, but it has also created some misunderstandings.
One common misunderstanding relates to the importance of ex situ conservation in crop collections vs. in situ conservation in farmers’ fields. I would like to stress that the Crop Trust’s constitutional mandate is to focus on ex situ conservation, but that both types of crop conservation are equally important and complementary. We should see in situ and ex situ conservation as a continuum – and not in any way as competing approaches.
Monitoring our media outreach we are constantly reminded how much easier it is to raise awareness about the Global Seed Vault than that of the living genebanks – on which we by far spend most of our time and resources. How to get more attention on the more complicated parts of our work is an issue we will continue to focus on.
Over the last month, the Science Team has signed several new collecting and pre-breeding agreements in the context of the Crop Wild Relatives project. We can mention that Nigeria and Malaysia have signed the two most recent agreements.
The science team is in full swing preparing for the upcoming reviews of two of the international genebanks – ICRAF and CIP.
Preparations are ongoing for the annual meeting of the Genebank managers. This week long event will take place in Turkey in October. One of the days will involve all genebank CRP partners as well as the Crop Wild Relatives partners. We are taking this new, and I think exciting approach, that will help us all understand how integrated our scientific agenda actually is. The science team is also preparing for the launching of the CGIAR Seed Longevity Collective Initiative during the ISSS workshop in Wernigerode in well a month.
We are making progress in developing a plan for saving the threatened coconut collection in PNG and suggest you read about it via our partners at CePaCT.
In terms of staff, it is a pleasure to tell you that Susan McCouch has signed a one-year consultancy with us for DivSeek. The DivSeek Steering Committee will meet for the first time in Rome on 28 May. It is a meeting we are looking forward to, and that has required a lot of preparations.
Nelissa Jamora has joined us on a short-term contract to work on measuring and communicating impact of genebank work – something our partners often demand.
We had the pleasure of meeting with the CGIAR Fund Council in Indonesia at the end of April. A document was presented jointly by the Consortium, the Fund Council and the Crop Trust. It contains results from the present Genebanks CRP, projections for future funding of the CGIAR genebanks and it starts looking forward towards the next phase of CRPs (2017-2021).
There was strong support for our proposal for sustainable genebank financing. As expected there were some reservations about whether the Crop Trust Endowment will reach its target. We explained that it of course would be difficult to deliver on the USD 500 million goal if the CGIAR donors don’t pick up the responsibility for fundraising they gave themselves when the Genebanks CRP was adopted.
The Crop Trust was asked to come back by November 2015 with more detailed costing for operating genebanks and projections for the Endowment.
Since late April, the Partnerships Team has reached out to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation to discuss prospects for EC support. We also met with Members of the European Parliament to discuss our partnership with their respective home countries. We met with the Thai authorities in Bangkok to review prospects for Thailand’s closer engagement with the Crop Trust.
On the private sector side, we engaged with a social impact advisory group and with a private wealth manager in Singapore to discuss ways for mobilizing private resources from the Asia region. We attended the 2015 European Foundation Center summit in Milan to raise awareness of our work and explore areas of cooperation with various foundations. Work continues on our planned Investment Sharing Facility (ISF) for private investors in Europe and the Gulf region. We plan for presenting the ISF in Addis at the UN Conference on Financing for Development.
We held meetings with partners in Rome on 18 May. This included our second global Stakeholder Discussions where we discussed accelerating and improving the crop breeding process through better available information and by adding genetic diversity through crop wild relatives. We also held our 12th Donors’ Council meeting, which included a report from the Executive Board meeting held in March 2015 in Lima; and the updated Concept Note on the governance role of the Donors’ Council.
Until next time,
 “It follows, therefore, that the five year work program described in this proposal must include the transition to sustainable funding. Unlike other elements of this proposal, however, success in this regard requires an alliance not only of the Trust, The Consortium and the Centers, but the Fund Council and the wider group of CGIAR donors.”