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Tackling Genebank Emergencies

On the long road of conservation of crop diversity, emergencies occasionally arise, and it is then important to provide rapid assistance to genebanks facing the risk of losing their collections forever. In 2023, genebanks in Laos and Sudan faced such emergencies.

In response to conflict and extreme weather, the Crop Trust and the International Plant Treaty pledged over USD 100,000 from their jointly managed Emergency Reserve for Genebanks to support these at-risk genebanks. Launched in 2021, the Emergency Reserve supports genebanks in low- and middle-income countries to prevent catastrophic loss of their collections. 

In Sudan, armed conflict disrupted the energy supply, essential for maintaining the cold conditions needed to preserve seed samples. The Emergency Reserve pledged USD 92,760 for a solar power system to ensure a stable enery source. The Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Centre in Sudan conserves over 17,000 samples, including indigenous wild relatives of key crops. However, only 17% of these collections are duplicated in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, leaving the majority at risk.

In Laos, USD 9,800 was made available to the Rice and Cash Crops Research Center to purchase a new generator, providing a backup energy source during power outages caused by heavy rains and typhoons. This genebank safeguards nearly 15,000 seed samples, including important local landraces of glutinous and black rice.

Such emergencies underscore the importance of fully duplicating genebank collections, including in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. 

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