We are winding down to the end of the year and I am happy to share with you our last Newsletter for 2015. It covers the month of November and the first part of December. You will also hear from us in early January – we will then look back at all of 2015 and forward on 2016.
Let us start out with our scientific work:
Regarding the management of the CGIAR genebanks, we have organized a 7-person writing team from the genebank managers, germplasm health units and germplasm policy to work on the full proposal for the Genebanks Platform for 2017 – 2021. This will be a high priority until the end of January.
We had 25 participants from 15 countries attending the Genebank Operations and Advanced Learning (G.O.A.L) workshop held in India in mid November. Essential elements of genebank QMS system, holistic management of genebank documentation systems and background to the CBD, Nagoya Protocol and the Plant Treaty were presented and discussed. The group collectively worked on genebank policies and procedures, GRIN-Global as well as compared different international genebank standards.
The 2016 funds for our Crop Wild Relatives project have thankfully been confirmed from the Norwegian Government. This means we can continue on full speed also next year. Right now collecting agreements are being elaborated and/or negotiated with partners in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Ecuador. By the end of the year, 5 additional collecting agreements will be signed (Sudan, Ghana, Nepal, Uganda and Pakistan) and 3 pre-breeding agreements (bean, banana and barley/grasspea). Despite exchange rate challenges we are on course to meet targets. We also continue optimizing, developing and improving the new website.
The second DivSeek Steering Committee meeting took place on December 8 at the Crop Trust in Bonn. Topics on the agenda were discussions about the identity, goals and governance of the Initiative as well as preparations for a DivSeek Roundtable Discussion in January 2016 in San Diego.
The Genesys Oversight Committee met in Amsterdam at the end of November. We presented an overview of Genesys related activities since 2013, which sparked the discussions and resulted in ideas on how to further improve Genesys. The group then discussed the role and Terms of Reference of the Oversight Committee in the future. The acting chair of the committee, Theo van Hintum, will collate committee input and produce a new version of the Terms of Reference.
A Japan-funded project in support of genotyping and phenotyping of African rice collections at the AfricaRice genebank was agreed with the Ministry of Agriculture. Two small projects in support of national genebanks in Ethiopia and Kenya were prepared for consideration by Ireland.
With regard to Partnerships, we held several events in November and December with current and prospective Ministry of Agriculture governments. On November 2nd we carried out a workshop in Washington, DC jointly with the CGIAR Fund Council. This was followed by meetings with the US government and staffers in Congress, the Mexican authorities, and discussions in South Africa with government and members of Parliament. We also held meetings in Oslo to discuss Norway’s future cooperation with the Crop Trust, involving government and Parliament.
On November 23rd we held a joint workshop with Kew Gardens in London about the importance of Crop Wild Relatives, which was attended by representatives from Government and the research community. The following day we gave a presentation to UK Parliament and met with Government. We also held discussions in Berne with the Swiss Government and in Basel with Syngenta AG and Syngenta Foundation. We received a high-ranking official of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture to discuss current and future cooperation. Further meetings were held in Madrid with the Government, as well as discussions with the Governments in Colombia and Chile. We are in discussion with the European Commission about their cooperation with the Crop Trust.
We will have a couple of high level events in early 2016, and we have issued invitations for the Luncheon of Ministers of Agriculture at the Green Week/ Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin on 15 January 2016, which is supported by the German Agriculture Ministry and KWS Saat AG, and we are inviting selected governments and corporations to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in March 2016.
On Communications, new sections of the website have been published, including the pledging conference, the global patron, and the impact of crop diversity. Additionally, our team has worked on the development and launch of the #cropsincolor campaign and website, a collaboration with Getty Images and DuPont Pioneer, in which we celebrate the role crop diversity plays in all our lives. For this first year, the focus in on three crops: maize, rice and cassava. Please see the introductory video.
We published a story on the “Seed Longevity” study that is being undertaken by the 11 CGIAR genebanks. We are producing new Crop Wild Relatives videos, where we will see our eggplant pre-breeding partners from Spain, Cote D’Ivoire, and Sri Lanka discuss their work. And we are gearing up to prepare the 2015 Annual Report in order for it to be ready prior to the April 2016 Pledging Conference.
Right now we are gradually winding down for the holidays. Batteries need to be recharged for a challenging 2016.
We take this opportunity to thank the Board for excellent cooperation in 2015, wish everybody Happy Holidays, and look forward to continued work for securing the basis for our food in 2016.
Best regards from all of us in Bonn,