ANNUAL REPORT 2020
Rising to meet the challenges of our ever-changing world
Diversity safety duplicated+82K
Diversity data generated13
Grants provided for conservationUSD 30.9M
Contributions to future diversityUSD 17.9M
Diversity conserved736 K
Countries receiving samples78
Sir Peter Crane – Executive Board Chair, Crop Trust
When we look back over the achievements and challenges of 2020, we cannot ignore the profound and ongoing effect of COVID-19. As this crisis demonstrates, humanity cannot afford to become complacent.
Stefan Schmitz – Executive Director, Crop Trust
No aspect of the Crop Trust’s work in 2020 was left untouched by the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What we did
A Decade of Wild Genetic Diversity
We’re already seeing the CWR Project’s benefits for smallholder and subsistence farmers. In China, Kazakhstan and Chile, for example, fields are flourishing with drought-tolerant varieties of alfalfa.
At the Cutting Edge of Pre-breeding
This project is using exciting new methods and tools, like speed breeding and genomics, to revolutionize the breeding of improved varieties of neglected crops, which will get climate-smart crops into the hands of smallholder farmers more quickly.
Delivering CWR-derived Varieties into Farmers’ Hands
Pre-breeding aims to isolate desired genetic traits from crop wild relatives and introduce them into breeding lines that are more readily crossable with modern seeds. Under the Crop Wild Relatives Project, new pre-bred lines are being evaluated under field conditions with breeders and farmers.
What we did
Safer Genebanks Today and Tomorrow
Genebanks faced major challenges in 2020, but, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of genebank staff, collections of crop diversity under the CGIAR Genebank Platform remain safe.
Strengthening Genebanks in Africa
Even amid the immense challenges of pandemic lockdowns, Seeds for Resilience partners enthusiastically embraced the goal of strengthening their operations to safeguard unique crop diversity.
A Growing Bank of Knowledge
Building information systems that truly serve genebank technicians, curators, breeders and researchers is a key aspect of improving the global system for ex situ conservation
Pivoting to Digital-First Communications
All Crop Trust events in 2020 swiftly switched to digital, the team focused on increased outreach through partnerships with high-reach platforms to expand their reach and deliver messages to key audiences and communities. Participation in high-reach digital events increased views and reach substantially and, at the same time, dramatically cut travel and conference expenditures.
To maintain critical activities in 2020 under COVID-19 restrictions, our project partners were forced to take extraordinary measures—with some leaving family to stay on-site at their workplaces, ensuring that vulnerable plant materials and ongoing experiments would be looked after. It is because of these individual and collective sacrifices that project activities were able to continue at all in 2020.
Rising to the Occasion from Home
Shifting to remote work and dealing with rapidly changing COVID-19 restrictions certainly shook us all up—but it has also been a tremendous opportunity to rethink our old processes and mindset so we can continue to evolve as an organization.
Securing Our Food Forever
Funding Crop Diversity in Perpetuity
The Endowment Fund is an exciting idea to provide a sustainable, long-term financing mechanism and make possible the Crop Trust’s important work of safeguarding crop diversity in perpetuity.
In 2020, the Innovative Finance Working Group focused primarily on developing a Food Security Bond (FSB) concept, and a feasibility study on the FSB was carried out.
Looking Ahead: Responsible Investing
The Crop Trust considers integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns into its investment process to be an important part of its investment strategy, and one that supports its broader mission and objectives.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
“The presence of the Norwegian Prime Minister and her guests at the latest seed deposit at Svalbard clearly underlines the importance of the Seed Vault and its role in conserving critical crop diversity worldwide.”-Lise Albrechtsen, Special Envoy for Climate Adaptation and Food Security, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By sheer luck, it was possible to celebrate the Seed Vault’s February deposit as planned, shortly before world travel shut down. The other two vault openings for the year were carried out on schedule, although some participating genebanks had to postpone their shipments because of the pandemic.
A cool success
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault marked a major triumph in February 2020 just before global lockdowns began, with the largest deposit since the Seed Vault first opened in 2008, in terms of the number of institutions to send seeds at one time. More than thirty genebanks deposited seeds, including first-time depositors such as the Cherokee Nation.
The February deposit was organized to occur simultaneously with another major event: the 2020 Svalbard Seed Summit in Longyearbyen. The summit highlighted once again the urgent need to safeguard crop diversity and encouraged nations worldwide to make use of the Seed Vault as part of their national strategies to secure important seed collections.
Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, chaired the final session of the summit, which included messages from the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and the President of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Advocate, read out the Arctic Call to Action on Food Security and Climate Change, which was then signed by Prime Minister Solberg and President Akufo-Addo.
A 100-year experiment
In August 2020, the Seed Vault launched a unique experiment that will end a century from now. The experiment, the first of its kind, seeks to understand the longevity of the seeds of 13 globally important crops deposited in the Vault. The seeds in the experiment will be tested for germination in 2030, and every decade thereafter, until 2120. The experiment is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and involves partners from all over the world.
Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, the Seed Vault opened for a third time in 2020. In October, eight institutes sent 45 boxes, containing approximately 15,000 seed samples.
The year in numbers
● 42 genebanks sent seeds to the Seed Vault
● 9 new genebanks added to the Seed Vault depositor family
● 3 openings of the Seed Vault (in February, August and October)
The Seed Vault in numbers
● 1,074,533 samples safeguarded
● 1,116 genera represented
● 87 depositing genebank located in more than 60 countries worldwide