Skip to content

Resource Library

Crop Trust Recognizes the “Global Gatekeepers” of Crop Diversity

22 February 2018

Guests watch the Legacy Award video honouring awardees.Guests watch the Legacy Award video honouring awardees.

Seven scientists received an inaugural Legacy Award for dedicating their careers to crop conservation

SVALBARD, NORWAY (25 February 2018) -- As part of the 10th anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the Crop Trust recognized seven of the world’s “gatekeepers” of crop diversity by giving them individual Legacy Awards.



The award ceremony, which took place in Svalbard, Norway, Sunday (Feb 25th) coincides with the latest shipments of more than 70,000 seeds to iconic Seed Vault. These will take the total number of seed samples deposited there over the last decade to more than one million. Deposits are made by genebanks from all over the world, to back up their own collections safely and securely.

Several of the Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are retiring managers at the vitally important genebanks of CGIAR, which conserve and share hundreds of thousands of seeds of food and forage crops. Duplicates of seeds from CGIAR genebanks make up the majority of varieties currently backed up in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.


The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are:

  • Daniel Debouck – International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
  • Jean Hanson – International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ethiopia
  • Ahmed Amri – International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco
  • Hari D Upadhyaya – International Center for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India
  • Dave Ellis – International Potato Center (CIP), Peru
  • Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines


In addition, a Legacy Award was also given to Cary Fowler. Cary was one of the visionaries of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and worked tirelessly for its creation. He is currently a special advisor to the Crop Trust after serving as the organisation’s Executive Director from 2007-2012, a period that saw the Seed Vault being designed and constructed, as well as receiving its first shipments of seeds in 2008.

All recipients received a personalised award featuring specially commissioned artwork by Sophie Munns.

“The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are the global gatekeepers of crop diversity, having spent decades committed to their belief in the absolute importance of seed conservation,” said Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “They understand – and have helped thousands of others learn about - the deep connection between seeds, our agricultural history, and our future. Without the passion and dedication of these scientists the world would be a far less rich, far less diverse place. On behalf of everyone at The Crop Trust, I thank them for their tireless efforts to conserve one of humanity’s most important natural resources – its seeds. I thank them for the gifts they have given to the world, and the magic that they have helped make happen.

The Crop Trust’s Charlotte Lusty, who coordinates the CGIAR Genebank Platform, said: “These awards could not go to more deserving, dedicated people. Over the last few years I’ve seen first-hand their passion and commitment to the conservation of crop diversity, and their profound understanding of why this diversity is important and how it can be used. It has been a huge pleasure to have worked with them. They will be tough acts to follow.”

Elywn Grainger-Jones, Executive Director of CGIAR System Organization, said: “Genebanks are the backbone of CGIAR innovation. They ensure that thousands of scientists – across CGIAR and beyond – are able to breed crops that are more resilient, productive and nutritious. Recognising these genebank managers is to pay a debt of gratitude to them, for dedicating their professional lives to conserving and sharing crop diversity.”


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest collection of crop diversity in the world. Located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the Seed Vault is owned by the Norwegian Government and operated under a three-party agreement between the Norwegian Government, the Nordic Genetic Resources Center (NordGen) and the Crop Trust. Depositors to the Seed Vault own the samples that they deposit and only they can retrieve the material.

The CGIAR Genebank Platform enables CGIAR Research Centers to fulfill their legal obligation to conserve and make available 750,000 accessions of crops and trees on behalf of the global community under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Platform supports day-to-day genebank operations, and activities to improve efficiency, enhance use and ensure compliance with international policy. This work is supported by donor contributions to the CGIAR Fund. For a list of Fund donors please see: Additional funding comes from the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund.

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services. Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR Centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

Sophie Munns is a visual artist from Australia whose is passionate about crop diversity – especially seeds. Through her work, Sophie aims to highlight the age-old relationship between people and plants.

Categories: For The Press, Press Releases

Scroll to top