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Reflections on 2019

Photo of Stefan Schmitz

4 May 2020

“The importance of the global family of genebanks as fail-safes for our planet’s future food supply has never been so apparent.”

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Svalbard Global Seed Vault during the largest deposit since the Seed Vault’s opening in 2008. I was humbled to witness at first-hand genebanks from all over the world making deposits of seeds of several hundred different species. The importance of the Vault and the broader global family of genebanks as fail-safes for our planet’s future food supply has never been so apparent. I was struck by the enormity of the task we have in front of us.


In November 2019, it was my honor to accept the position of Executive Director of the Crop Trust. I am familiar with much of the Crop Trust’s excellent work under the leadership of my predecessor, Marie Haga, and I look forward to building on that strong foundation. With our partners, much valuable work has been carried out to support meeting SDG Target 2.5, which we celebrate in this report.

The United Nations SDG Target 2.5 calls for the international community to safeguard and share the genetic diversity of both crops and livestock by 2020.

Meeting Target 2.5 embodies the mission of the Crop Trust. The endowment fund guarantees the long-term conservation and availability of the building blocks of our food system, contributing to securing the planet’s future food supply in a climate emergency.

“We are immensely grateful to our donors. The support received in 2019 further highlights the growing understanding that preserving global crop diversity is essential to achieve food security in increasingly unpredictable and severe climatic conditions.”

Our mandate also feeds into a broader spectrum of the SDGs, and the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement – and it is my mission to ensure we play a pivotal role in contributing to the global sustainable development agenda.

Collections of crop diversity require constant maintenance, and even brief disruptions or variations in funding can leave material at risk of permanent loss. So, as we look ahead to 2030, and arguably the most important decade of the century, the growth of the endowment fund will remain a priority for the Crop Trust.

The Crop Trust also manages projects that closely complement the work funded by the endowment. In 2019, with enormous thanks to our Norwegian donors, our partners concluded a six-year effort to collect crop wild relatives, and we were able to continue to support the pre-breeding programs that will put key traits from these wild species in the hands of breeders and farmers.

In partnership with CGIAR, in 2019 we completed the third year of the five-year program, the CGIAR Genebank Platform. The Platform ensures that the international genebanks managed by CGIAR centers are running efficiently, their crop collections are conserved to a high standard, and that as many samples as possible are immediately available when they are needed by scientists, farmers and other users.

In our newest initiative, Seeds for Resilience, we partner with five national genebanks in Africa. The project provides the financial and technical support for these national genebanks to reach international conservation standards and ensure their collections are both safe and available for the long term.

Food Forever is a campaign to raise awareness, aimed to shed light on the crucial importance of SDG Target 2.5. Its flagship event series gives the public a glimpse of an exciting food future. By working with innovative chefs to cook dishes using lesser-known ingredients, the Food Forever Experience plants the seed for important conversations about a more diverse and sustainable food future.

There is much to challenge and excite us in the year ahead. But for now, I hope you enjoy this Annual Report for the challenging and exciting year that was 2019.

Stefan Schmitz

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