International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Norway’s Deputy Minister Visits Malawi with International Treaty

Ms Hanne Maren Blafjelldal, Norway’s Deputy Minister, local farmers and Mr Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the International Treaty


First Visit to Famers’ Fields in Malawi

Mzuzu, Malawi, 4 March 2018 – Hanne Maren Blafjelldal, Norway’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food joined FAO’s International Treaty Secretary, Kent Nnadozie, on a very special field mission in Africa today – to visit farmers’ fields in Malawi.

This visit marks the first time the International Treaty Secretariat is going into the field with a major donor to witness, first-hand, a project supported through the Benefit-sharing Fund of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

“We are excited to go into the field with Norway to see the Benefit-sharing Fund at work on the ground,” said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the International Treaty. “Norway is one of the International Treaty’s most steadfast champions and has long supported our efforts to conserve the world’s crop diversity and the rights of small farmers, and we are delighted to have the Deputy Minister participate in this field visit.”

Connecting local and global communities

“Last week, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, which was set up as a back-up of the world’s crop seeds, including seeds from Malawi’s fields,” said Deputy Minister Blafjelldal. “This also marks the 10th year for Norway’s annual contribution to the Benefit-sharing Fund of the International Treaty.”

Norway is a longtime supporter of the International Treaty and contributes a percentage of its annual seed sales to the Benefit-sharing Fund, which supports farmers in developing countries in conserving and using agricultural biodiversity in their fields as they cope with climate change.

“All countries benefit from the exchange of material and information made available through the Multilateral System of the International Treaty, so it is only right that we give back by contributing to the Benefit-sharing Fund and help farmers conserve agricultural biodiversity,” said Deputy Minister Blafjelldal.

The International Treaty helps connect local communities to the larger global community. Through the Multi-lateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing of the International Treaty, farmers, plant breeders and scientists around the world can exchange vital information and material for breeding the crops they need. And through the Benefit-sharing Fund, farmers in different countries can share seeds and know-how that they need in their local communities.

“The International Treaty helps member countries actively exchange seeds and information needed to maintain the biodiversity in farmers’ fields, while the Svalbard Global Seed Vault provides the world with a vital back-up plan,” said Secretary Nnadozie.

Boosting crop biodiversity

The sites the visiting dignitaries are seeing in Malawi are part of a 3-country project that also involves Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is not unusual for projects supported by the Benefit-sharing Fund, which has helped benefit almost 1 million people through 61 projects in 55 countries over the last 9 years. This particular project helps farmers grow drought tolerant crops and boosts biodiversity in their fields by increasing the variety of crops they can grow. All crop varieties used in projects sponsored by the Benefit-sharing Fund are also part of the International Treaty’s Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing.

“The International Treaty helps conserve biodiversity from the local to a global level,” said Secretary Nnadozie.

During the four-day trip in Malawi, visiting dignitaries are meeting farmers and partner organizations working to grow a variety of crops, such as sorghum, millet and cowpea. Diversifying the variety of crops increases resilience and improves nutrition.

Norway makes an annual contribution equaling 0.1% of their annual sales of seed and plant material. For 2017 this was approximately USD 110 000.

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