A lot has happened over the past month and it is wonderful to be able to sit down and reflect through my corner in May!
Last week we had another genebank review. This one was at AfricaRice in Benin. These genebank reviews prove to be extremely useful for us, but even more importantly it seems for our partners. On the initiative of the South African Ambassador, Ms Tambo, we met with the whole African Group in Rome last week. A joint visit with Kew/The Millennium Seed Bank to Turkey is rapidly approaching and we hope to move forward on our cooperation with Turkey on crop wild relatives. Visits to the US, UK, Finland and Spain are also on our partnership program.
The Crop Trust’s technical team continued to be fully engaged during the past month on the two large collaborative projects that form the bulk of our technical program.
With regards to the CRP Genebanks, planning continued for the review of ICRISAT in November, as well as for the Annual Genebank Meeting in October, for which invitations will go out by the end of the month. The Recommendation Action Plan arising from the CIAT review was agreed and Janny van Been was hired as a consultant to assist genebanks on their Quality Management Systems. We submitted the annual financial report to the CGIAR Consortium. We held a meeting of the Management Team of the CRP in late April, which included updates on Genesys and GRIN-Global as well as the development of crop communities (beginning with case studies on wheat, rice and maize).
An internally commissioned external review (I know it’s a mouthful!) of the first three years of the Crop Wild Relatives project was carried out in March, coinciding with a meeting of all project partners to mark the end of the research and planning phase. We now have the final review recommendations, which are all very positive and constructive, and are developing a reply. Negotiations with a number of countries continued, in particular it seems that Embrapa (the biggest agricultural organization in Brazil) will be presenting a collecting proposal. We are happy to announce that a new collecting agreement is in place with Portugal.
The new version of Genesys, the online portal on the world’s genebank collections, is now available, and is beginning to attract attention from additional data providers. Discussions continue with Brazil, China and Korea on these genebanks becoming data providers. The Wheat Genetic Resources Center at Kansas State University volunteered to become a data provider. Three CGIAR centres now update their data on Genesys automatically (ICARDA, Bioversity and IRRI). For IRRI, Genesys is the only way that genebank data is exposed to the public. Three different centres (CIAT, CIP and CIMMYT) have taken the lead in GRIN-Global development and deployment, a community that will be opened up to interested national programmes and others at a conference call scheduled for June.
In early April, the Crop Trust spent several days in Rome meeting with a number of FAO country representatives to (re-)establish contact, explaining where the Crop Trust stands in terms of its technical work and exploring areas of future cooperation. Bilateral discussions were held in Rome with Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States. Most meetings are expected to lead to follow-up discussions with representatives in donor capitals.
Also in Rome we met with FAO Deputy-Director General Semeda and with our Executive Board member and FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang to review cooperation with the FAO. We also held discussions with the Secretariat of the International Treaty to review our various joint activities. Moreover, we met with the President of IFAD to explore options for linking IFAD’s capacity-building work at the farmer level with the Crop Trust’s work on ex situ crop collections.
In Brussels we met with a range of managers and staff of the European Commission. This included the Directorates General of Agriculture and Rural Development; Environment; Development Cooperation; Health and Consumers; Research, Innovation and Science; and Climate Action. The EC is a signatory on its own of the Treaty, and there was strong support for our drive to establish closer technical and financial ties with the EC going forward.
In mid-April, a high-level delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture of India visited the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, deposited the first seeds from India’s national genebank. On the communications front, we met with the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew in London to finalize the joint public outreach for the second phase of the Crop Wild Relatives Project. Discussions are ongoing with possible developers of the new Crop Trust website.
At the end of April all Crop Trust staff gathered for a day of teambuilding. It is certainly important and exciting to see a staff so devoted to working together to reach the goals of the Crop Trust.