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The CGIAR Genebank Platform

2017-2021

The 11 CGIAR genebanks safeguard a unique global resource of crop and tree diversity and respond to thousands of requests for this diversity every year from users in more than 100 countries worldwide. The goal of the CGIAR Genebank Platform was to conserve these collections – and make their diversity available to farmers, breeders and researchers – in a manner that is cost-efficient, secure, reliable, sustainable over the long-term and in compliance the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Plant Treaty).

The CGIAR genebanks hold some of the world’s largest and most intensively studied and used collections of crop diversity, with a total of some 750,000 samples. These invaluable resources are held in trust for humanity under the Plant Treaty.

The Platform provided technical and financial support and oversight to the CGIAR genebanks, as a core component of a global system for the conservation of crop diversity.

Long-term support for genebanks

Supporting a cost-effective, rational global system for the conservation of crop diversity in genebanks is critical if we are to ensure global food and nutrition security in the face of global crises. 

The Platform complemented the existing long-term financial support that the Crop Trust provides to genebanks.

The Long-term Partnership Agreement (LPA) with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an example of this support, and a proof of concept for the Crop Trust’s endowment-based funding mechanism. The Crop Trust committed to funding the IRRI genebank in perpetuity and thereby safeguard 136,000 seed samples of rice for future generations. Since several additional international genebanks are reaching the performance targets that would make them eligible for LPAs, and the endowment mechanism is functioning well, the Crop Trust aims to enter into a number of additional LPAs in the next two years. 

Performance monitoring 

The CGIAR genebanks provided regular technical and financial reports to the Platform and monitored 19 performance indicators for each of the crop collections involved. 

The monitoring also included external technical and financial reviews every five years to ensure that the collections were running efficiently and effectively. The recommendations from these reviews guided the development of plans to tackle the specific technical and financial challenges in the conservation and use of the collections.

Additional support for genebanks

Working closely with partners and the Crop Trust information systems unit, the Genebank Platform supported additional initiatives, such as:

An evidence-based quality management system (QMS), a key objective of the CGIAR Genebank. Its development began in 2014.

Genesys database, which serves as the primary data source for a number of activities of the CGIAR Genebank Platform, and these activities rely on up-to-date accession information. 

GRIN-Global, an open-source, freely downloadable data management system developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Crop Trust to improve standardization among genebanks globally. 

Genebank Impact Fellowship program, which was established in 2018 by the Crop Trust and the CGIAR Genebank Platform to provide an opportunity for early career professionals to gain practice-based experience in evaluating the impacts of the international genebanks.

22 Crop Genepool ‘Diversity Trees’ representing the structure of crop diversity based on consultations with 60 experts and about 375 scientific papers.

The CGIAR Genebank Initiative  The CGIAR Genebank Initiative, springboarding from the CGIAR Genebank Platform, aims to implement technological advances and institutional measures to continue and improve the vital work of conserving important genetic resources for food and agriculture globally. 

Although it’s the end of the Platform, it’s not the end of the Crop Trust and CGIAR collaboration. In fact, in so many respects we have only just begun!

Charlotte Lusty CGIAR Genebank Platform Project Coordinator
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