In a significant milestone for global food security, Ghana has become the 100th depositor to safeguard its precious seed collections in the renowned Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This move represents a crucial step in protecting Ghana’s vital food crops for future generations.
Ghana joins a distinguished group of 15 other institutions, including the Bonn University Botanic Gardens in Germany, also depositing for the first time. These organizations have chosen to secure duplicates of their invaluable seed collections within the confines of the Seed Vault.
For the past 15 years, the Seed Vault has welcomed genebanks from around the world, offering a safe haven for copies of their diverse seed samples. Following Ghana’s deposit, the Seed Vault now hosts “copies” of over 1.2 million seed samples from genebanks located in 74 countries. This genetic diversity is crucial for adapting agricultural systems to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing climate and other environmental factors.
The seeds deposited by Ghana originate from the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-PGRRI). This collection comprises varieties of maize, rice, eggplant, and cowpea – crops that are integral to the nation’s food security, health, and cultural heritage.
Daniel Kotey, Senior Research Scientist at CSIR-PGRRI, expressed his gratitude, saying, “This, our very first safety back-up, provides a sense of relief that our collections of crop diversity are on the path to being secured in perpetuity for the benefit of all humanity. The backup also highlights the hard work of the current and past staff members of the Ghana genebank and the farmers from whom the seeds were originally collected.”
Geir Pollestad, the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, extended a warm welcome to all the gene banks participating in the October 2023 seed deposit and congratulated the Plant Genetic Resource Institute of Ghana as the 100th depositor to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
CSIR-PGRRI, along with national genebanks from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia, which are also sending backups of their seed collections in October, are partners in the Seeds for Resilience project, led by the Crop Trust.
Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, emphasized the significance of the day’s deposits, stating, “Today’s deposits mark a very significant moment in our commitment to safeguard global food supplies, and we are very proud to be working alongside so many excellent partners in this joint mission.”
Representatives from Nigeria and Zambia joined the deposit, underscoring the international collaboration. Mayowa Olubiyi, Technical Assistant Director, representing the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) of Nigeria, commended the support from Crop Trust and KfW, saying it allowed them to deposit their seeds in the Seed Vault and enhance their national genebanks to international standards.
Maximilian Weigend, Director of the Bonn University Botanic Gardens in Germany, echoed the sentiment of hope, highlighting the value of frost-hardy varieties of lettuce, savoy cabbage, and tomato in Germany’s sustainable food production.
The USA Ambassador to Norway, Marc Nathanson, also visited the Seed Vault, expressing pride in supporting its mission. The United States deposited seeds representing 113 species and subspecies of vital crops essential for global food production.
Seeds from various countries, including Uruguay, Thailand, Albania, and the Czech Republic, have arrived at the Seed Vault. Kuldeep Singh, the genebank manager at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), emphasized the importance of these seeds in developing improved crop varieties capable of withstanding the changing climate and environmental challenges.
As the world grapples with the consequences of the climate crisis, natural disasters, and conflicts, preserving crop diversity takes on unprecedented urgency. Geir Pollestad, the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, emphasized the critical importance of securing crop diversity in these challenging times.
NordGen, the organization responsible for the operational management of the Seed Vault, expressed its pride in the trust placed in their work by genebanks worldwide. Lise Lykke Steffensen, CEO of NordGen, looked forward to welcoming more depositors in the future, highlighting the importance of global cooperation in securing food diversity.
This momentous occasion showcases the dedication of countries and institutions worldwide to ensure the protection and availability of crop diversity, a critical resource for global food and nutrition security.
About the Crop Trust
The Crop Trust is an international organization dedicated to conserving crop diversity and safeguarding global food and nutrition security. It provides long-term financial support to key genebanks worldwide and coordinates projects to secure crop diversity for the benefit of everyone. The Crop Trust is integral to the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Learn more at www.croptrust.org.
NordGen is the genebank and knowledge center for genetic resources in the Nordic countries. It oversees the operational management of the Seed Vault, maintains a publicly accessible online database of stored seed samples, and communicates with genebanks worldwide. Learn more about Nordgen at www.nordgen.org/en.