International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

African experts discuss how to improve plant genetic resources documentation through the Global Information System


Experts from 18 African countries met in Cape Town, South Africa, and discussed the way in which they can improve the documentation of plant genetic resources and information exchange through standards, tools and services of the Global Information System of the International Treaty and the strengthening of existing regional initiatives.

The objective of the workshop was to enhance both individual and institutional capacities to document and exchange plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA). The workshop was organized by the Secretariat of the International Treaty on PGRFA in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the FAO Office in South Africa from 12 to 14 December 2017.

The event was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Germany through the project GCP/GLO/685/GER and the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative implemented by Bioversity International and supported by the Government of The Netherlands which supported the participation of 36 experts from the region.

The workshop also provided the opportunity to discuss and follow up on the main decisions adopted by the Seventh Session of the Governing Body in early November 2017 to ten national focal points of the International Treaty.

Assessment through National Reporting

All participants provided an overview of the national programmes on conservation and use of plant genetic resources with particular emphasis on the work of the national genebanks in the management of the collections and on the collaboration with community seed banks, farmers and plant breeders.

In this regards, several member countries of the SADC Community emphasized the support of the SPGRC network (SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre) and its documentation and information management system called WEB SDIS that provides access to more than 17 000 accessions.

Participants included genebank curators, plant breeders, geneticists, in situ and CWR experts, bioinformaticians and information specialists. The speakers described the advantages of using Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), how they help to uniquely identify and document plant genetic resources on the long term, and to increase data interoperability between systems, which had been for years one of the main demands of the community of users. 

In this context, the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Center and the Secretariat of the International Treaty plan to increase collaboration in the area of documentation and information sharing.

In addition to the members of the SADC Region, participants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda also joined the capacity-building event and illustrated their documentation systems at the national level.

The agenda of the event included strategic training activities on documentation standards, presentations on other information systems and tools of the International Treaty and partner systems and initiatives, like the monitoring of the Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Second GPA).

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