International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture


Geraldine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Republic of Rwanda


Strengthening Crop Conservation and Exchange 

Kigali, Rwanda, 30 October 2017 Delegates from around the world gathered in Kigali for the opening of the Seventh Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GB7), which was opened by Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, H.E. Gerardine Mukeshimana.

“More productive, diversified agriculture and food systems are required to cope with the growing and changing consumer demands,” said Minister Mukeshimana, speaking of the need to feed a growing world population.

“All of these are taking place within unrelenting climate change, weather variability and natural resource constraints context,” she said, adding “the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is more than ever a common concern of all countries.” She spoke of the importance of the enhancement of the Multilateral System at this Governing Body Session, and appealed to member countries to come up with a clear and mutually acceptable mechanism of benefit-sharing. 

“The International Treaty is one of the proudest achievements of the FAO,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said via video message. “Plant genetic diversity help us develop better, more nutritious and more resilient crops,” he said, speaking of the importance of conserving the world’s agricultural biodiversity. “We must ensure that this legacy is conserved. It is crucial for the future of our planet,” he added as he highlighted the role of the FAO´s International Treaty.

“By 2050, we will have to feed 10 billion people,” said FAO Assistant Director-General René Castro-Salazar. “The International Treaty provides an important bridge between nature, agriculture and human beings,” he said. “We, at the FAO, are committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly to ending hunger.”

“Without seeds there would be no agriculture. Plant genetic resources are the raw material for all our food originating from plants,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary ad interim of the International Treaty. “They play a critically important role in agriculture, combating climate change and ensuring future food security. In fact, it was such global challenges that led to the establishment of The International Treaty almost 13 years ago,” he said. “Today, it is my honor to report that the International Treaty’s Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing is working well and is enabling the exchange of over 4 million packages of seeds and other crop material around the world at an average rate of 1000 samples per day.”

Other speakers at the Opening included Jean-Christophe Gouache, President of the International Seed Federation; Ambassador Timothy Fischer, Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of the Global Crop Diversity Trust; and Marjory Jeke, a farmer from Zimbabwe.

“We have managed to look after these crops before you were all born,” Ms Jeke said, and shared her personal experience as a smallholder farmer whose life has improved as result of the Benefit-sharing Fund. She called on the Governing Body to increase the Benefit-sharing Fund, and said, “We need your support in maintaining these crops for ourselves and for the rest of the world, now and in future.”

Over the course of the week, the 144 member countries of the International Treaty will make important decisions on how to further strengthen crop conservation, the exchange of crop seeds across national borders to help farmers and scientists around the world adapt crops to climate change, and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from such exchanges.

The possible enhancement of the list of crops covered by the International Treaty’s unique Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing, currently comprising over 1.5 million crop materials, is one of the major issues under discussion in this week’s Kigali meeting, along with the funding mechanisms needed to ensure stability.

The International Treaty contributes to a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It contributes directly to the achievement of SDG 2 – by promoting sustainable agriculture and working to end hunger, and of SGD 15 – by halting the loss of crop biodiversity. In addition, the activities, programs and projects supported by the International Treaty also contribute towards achieving SDG 5 – by working to achieve gender equality, SDG 13 – by supporting projects that combat climate change, and SDG 1 – by working to end poverty. 

photo by ENB

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