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Partnerships and Organizational News

The Crop Trust made a number of important strides in its partnerships and outreach in 2021. This included signing a memorandum of understanding with the World Vegetable Center, launching an Emergency Reserve fund for genebanks in crisis, and supporting and participating in key events such as the United Nations Food Systems Summit and Global Landscapes Forum discussions in Africa and alongside COP26 in Glasgow.

Joining Efforts with WorldVeg

In September, the Crop Trust and the World Vegetable Center strengthened their partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly support the conservation and availability of vegetable diversity worldwide. 

The MoU focuses on ensuring that vital germplasm for breeding resilient, productive and nutritious vegetable varieties can be protected and used over the long term. It emphasizes joint fundraising to establish more sustainable financing for the WorldVeg collections and taking steps to support the safeguarding of threatened vegetable diversity worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

WorldVeg was a partner in the Crop Wild Relatives Project that concluded in 2021, in particular in evaluating wild relatives of carrot and eggplant and in pre-breeding carrot, but this new agreement raises the level of engagement significantly.

An Emergency Reserve for Genebanks in Crisis

In November 2021, the Crop Trust and the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Plant Treaty) launched the world’s first facility to provide financial support to genebanks under imminent threat.

It’s clear that the world needs genebanks and the precious seeds they store. Yet, genebanks are not indestructible.

Natural disasterspolitical crises, pest and disease outbreaks, equipment failure and, most recently, the challenges caused by the global pandemic, can all precipitate catastrophic losses of the invaluable resources that genebanks conserve.

“The reality is that until now there hasn’t been a structured, predictable and consistent way to respond to these crises,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the Plant Treaty. “The Emergency Reserve will provide a funding mechanism that can respond rapidly when there’s an imminent threat to unique crop diversity collections that fall under the Treaty framework.”

Initial support from the Crop Trust is provided through the BOLD Project, which is funded by the Government of Norway.

Communications, Outreach and Engagement 

That’s a Wrap for Food Forever Initiative 

The Food Forever Initiative, launched in June 2017, came to an end in July 2021. This global partnership raised awareness on the importance and urgency of conserving and using agricultural biodiversity and advocated for concrete actions and ideas to support the implementation of the UN SDG Target 2.5.

Its final event, Biodiversity for Resilience: Harnessing Crops’ Potential for Drylands Restoration and Climate Change Adaptation, was held at the Global Landscapes Forum Africa conference and explored the power and potential of crop diversity through two lenses: the scientific and the gastronomic.

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Celebrating the Crop Wild Relatives Project

After more than a decade of working to adapt agriculture to climate change, the pioneering Crop Wild Relatives Project came to an end. In its final year, we celebrated major achievements through social media campaigns, press releases, blogs, videos, media blitzes, events and more. 

Take a look back at this global initiative

On World Food Day, together with the International Potato Center (CIP), the Crop Trust announced a new crop wild relative-derived potato called CIP-Matilde. The campaign reached more than 50,000 people through social media, launched four videos for social media which were played 9,000 times, published three blogs and earned more than 340 news clippings from media.

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Launching the BOLD Project, the Next Decade of Global Impact

Building on the successes of the Crop Wild Relatives Project comes the BOLD Project, which was announced live on stage in Paris at Global Citizen Live in September 2021 by former Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein. 

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault grant opportunity that BOLD includes marked our most successful social media post ever. It reached 465,000 people and led to more than 8,000 clicks to the Crop Trust website.

Social media success

The Crop Trust has made major advances in the impact of its communication efforts, with increases in video views from an average of 80 to over 3,500, blogs readership increasing from 100 views to more than 3,000, Facebook reach growing from 30,000 to 630,000 and Instagram reach climbing from 11,000 to 490,000. 

Reaching New Audiences with Multimedia Campaigns

The communications team ran numerous multimedia campaigns during the year, bringing the Crop Trust’s core messages to a wide range of audiences. Key campaigns highlighted Crop Trust-hosted events at the Global Landscapes Forum Climate and Africa conferences, 

Stefan Schmitz’s end of year video message was viewed by 15,500 people combined on various channels, boosting the organization’s profile. Our vanilla infographic, highlighting the work the Crop Trust does to conserve this and other crops, reached 24,500 people. 

A Key Voice in the Global Agrobiodiversity Dialog

The Crop Trust has been a key voice in the dialog around new global policies on agrobiodiversity, contributing ideas and background documents at events such as Global Landscapes Forum Africa Digital Conference: Restoring Africa’s Drylands in June, the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September, and the Second International Agrobiodiversity Congress and the Global Landscapes Forum Climate Conference: Frontiers of Change in November.

United Nations Food Systems Summit

In the run-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) the Crop Trust presented a document describing a “Game-Changing Solution” for conserving agrobiodiversity that focused on scaling up financial resources to support ex situ conservation, globally, by engaging a wider set of stakeholders through innovative finance mechanisms. It also highlighted the need for crop diversity to form an integral part of any long-term solution for sustainable food and nutrition. This was presented formally through the UNFSS Action Tracks 3 (Nature-Based Solutions) and 5 (Resilience), and was supported by two science briefs, Crop Diversity, its Conservation and Use for Better Food Systems. The Crop Trust Perspective and Safeguarding and using Fruit and Vegetable Biodiversity.

The Crop Trust also played a leading role in the development of the Agrobiodiversity Working Group (together with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT) and then co-led the Agrobiodiversity Cluster together with Johns Hopkins University. 

The Cluster provided an important platform for discussions that included the delegations of the governments of Netherlands, Norway, Japan and Spain, and organizations such as the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the One Planet Business for Biodiversity network and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The Crop Trust also took over the UNFSS’s Twitter and Instagram accounts for a day, reaching almost 2 million people and sharing an intimate look into our work and impact. 

Second International Agrobiodiversity Congress

The Second International Agrobiodiversity Congress was convened in November 2021 by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and organized in collaboration with 32 partner organizations, including the Crop Trust.

Crop Trust Executive Director Stefan Schmitz gave a keynote speech on the fourth day of the Congress to the Scientific Symposium on Integrated Conservation and Use of Agrobiodiversity. “The truth is there is a lot of underutilized, underappreciated and just plain unexplored diversity in the cold rooms of the 1,700 or so genebanks around the world,” he said. “The potential to transform our agriculture is in those cold rooms.” But to realize this potential, genebanks need to make a proactive effort to develop and strengthen ties with users, and breeders and farmers need to know these genebanks exist. “They need to get out of their comfort zone, and explore this diversity—go beyond what they usually rely on,” Schmitz concluded. 

On the final day of the Congress, the Crop Trust and the Genebank Platform hosted a virtual side event, “Genebanks: Hedging bets for tomorrow’s agri-food economies.” The event brought together speakers from Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, the Philippines and USA to discuss the multiple values of genebanks and to explore how genebanks can be positioned to contribute to future agri-food economies.

Global Landscapes Forum Climate Conference: Forests, Food, Finance – Frontiers of Change

The Crop Trust hosted two sessions at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Climate Conference in November 2021. The first, Into the Wild: Climate Resilient Crops for a Drier, Hotter World, celebrated the successes and lessons learned over the course of the Crop Wild Relatives Project, which came to an end in November 2021. The second, It Starts with a Seed: Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change, launched the BOLD Project, including the new Emergency Reserve for Genebanks. It earned the highest reach among all videos from the conference with 60,000 views. 

Finance Director Janet Muir and Executive Director Stefan Schmitz also highlighted BOLD in keynote speeches. Stefan’s speech had the absolute highest number of views at the event (110,045).

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View the recordings

Global Landscapes Forum Africa Conference: Restoring Africa’s Drylands

The Crop Trust convened two sessions at the GLF Africa Digital Conference, one focusing on the importance of African genebanks in ensuring food security across the continent and the other on harnessing the potential of crops for drylands restoration and climate change adaptation.

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Crop Trust 2.0

In 2021, the Crop Trust received funding from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for a 3-year project to further develop the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund, expand our expertise and raise awareness about the Crop Trust and its mission.

The partnership focuses on:

  • enhancing the Crop Trust’s resource mobilization efforts and supporting the development of new financing instruments to help meet the organizations’ funding targets
  • strengthening the Crop Trust’s work with key genebanks around the world
  • amplifying awareness of the organization’s mission through network-building and public awareness campaigns in the Crop Trust’s host country.

“The Crop Trust has a great mission, a great team, good policies, and concepts in place, and has a remarkable history over the last 16 years,” says Stefan Schmitz. “But we still have major challenges to overcome in achieving our vision—a global system under which all unique samples of crop diversity in the world are securely conserved in high-functioning genebanks.”

The project will help the Crop Trust take practical steps toward this vision. This includes exploring a wide variety of innovative ideas for fundraising to help achieve the target of USD 850 million in the Endowment Fund, for strengthening the ex situ conservation system and for how, what and with whom the Crop Trust communicates to further its mission.

The project will focus on enhancing the Crop Trust’s resource mobilization efforts and will support the development of new financing instruments to help meet the organization’s funding targets. In addition, it will strengthen the Crop Trust’s work with key genebanks around the world, and amplify awareness of the organization’s mission through network-building and public awareness campaigns.

“We share the Crop Trust’s vision of the importance of genebanks and their work to the development of a resilient, sustainable and food-secure future in the face of climate change,” said Sebastian Lesch, Head of Agricultural Division of BMZ. “We are delighted to be working with the Trust in helping bring this vision to fruition.”

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New Chair of Donor’s Council

In October 2021, the Republic of Korea, represented by Dr. Taek-Ryoun Kwon, Director General, Technology Cooperation Bureau, of the Rural Development Administration, was formally elected as the new Chair of the Donors’ Council. Norway was elected as the new Vice-Chair, and is represented by Daniel van Gilst, Senior Agricultural Advisor at theNorwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Human Resources Prepare for a Post-COVID-19 World

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and organizations around the world to adopt remote working, and the Crop Trust adapted rapidly. Starting in October 2021, however, the Trust started to re-open its offices, with measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of the staff, and to allow official duty travel. It is now developing a remote working policy that will capture the lessons learned from the enforced home-working of 2020 and 2021 to ensure that both the staff and the organization benefit from more flexible working practices.

As the pandemic eases and more staff return to the office, the emphasis will be on rebuilding the strong sense of team that the organization prides itself on.

A Growing Team Demands Different Management Processes

The Crop Trust staff has grown in recent years, and stood at 42 people by the end of 2021, with an almost 50/50 split between female and male staff members.

This calls for changes in processes and procedures, and the human resources team has been busy reviewing existing policies, including those addressing gender and diversity and data protection.

New staff members recruited in 2021 included:

  • A PR and Media Coordinator, Project Development Coordinator and an Innovative Finance Lead for the Crop Trust 2.0 project
  • A Genebank Information System Officer and a Data and Information Management Assistant to support Genesys and GRIN-Global Community Edition.
  • A Contracts and Grants Officer, a Travel and Operations Assistant and a Partnerships Assistant to strengthen institutional capacity in these areas

IT Roadmap Approaches Final Destination

The revamp of the Crop Trust’s IT infrastructure and facilities is nearing completion. The final phase: implementation of a portal through which our partners can more easily interact with us. The portal design has already been completed, and is now being built.

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