EUR 20 million project to boost genebanks’ efforts to conserve and share samples of key staple crops will drive climate resilient and diversified food production.
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are facing the combined challenges of a rapidly changing climate, malnutrition, and a rising population. They will need more resilient, productive and nutritious crops if they are to meet this challenge. Genebanks conserve thousands of important plant samples which scientists can use to develop better varieties, but for years they have suffered from insufficient funding and inadequate staffing, putting plant collections, and future food security, at risk.
Seeds4Resilience, a five-year, EUR 20 million project led by the Crop Trust and funded by the German government, will provide financial and technical support for key genebanks in Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana to reach international standards of operation, ensuring collections are safe – and available for use – over the long term.
Ensuring key genebanks in sub-Saharan Africa are able to provide scientists and farmers with seeds could supercharge crop improvement efforts” said Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “Guiding these genebanks toward becoming world-class operations will unlock new funding opportunities to support their work long into the future. We’re very excited and extremely grateful to the Government of Germany for its commitment to this vitally important work.
This partnership with national genebanks will benefit researchers focused on the improvement of crops such as sorghum, millets and cowpea, and hence the farmers who rely on these crops, the majority of whom are women. The increased international availability of seeds and the development of improved climate-resistant crop varieties are also expected to benefit farming households beyond the partner countries.
Supporting National Seed Collections
National genebanks in sub-Saharan Africa are integral to the future prosperity of the region,” said Nora Castañeda, Project Leader, Seeds4Resilience. “They provide scientists and farmers with the raw material needed to breed improved crops, which are more resilient to drought and high temperatures, and more nutritious and productive than those currently grown.
EUR 8.5 million will support the five genebanks and ensure conservation efforts meet high standards: crop collections are safely backed up; data on seed samples are well documented; and seed collections are shared according to agreed international rules. This will involve upgrading genebank equipment, improving internal processes, and increasing the technical capacity of staff.
A complementary EUR 11.5 million contribution to the Crop Trust endowment fund will be used to generate income to help national governments co-fund the essential operations of national genebanks over the long term.
The Crop Trust is well placed to lead the project, having worked with several national genebanks in Africa over the past several years. This work includes:
- Collecting, conserving and pre-breeding crop wild relatives – the wild cousins of domesticated food crops – through the Norway-funded Crop Wild Relatives Project, now in its final year. The project involves partners in 14 African nations.
- Identifying at-risk plant samples in genebanks and undertaking “rescue” activities to increase seed stocks, and conserve duplicates in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Providing targeted financial support to seven African genebanks to prepare and send duplicate seeds from their collections to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a safety backup.
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German development bank, KfW.
For further project details, visit the project page.