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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Fifteen countries in the Near East and North Africa region advance on the implementation of the Global Information System on PGRFA

22/05/2017

More than 25 experts on documentation and information exchange from fifteen countries of the Near East and North Africa Region met in Cairo from 9 to 11 May to participate in a regional capacity strengthening workshop for the implementation of the Global Information System on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

The workshop was organised by the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in collaboration with the National Genebank (NGE) and the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI) of Egypt and with the support of the FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa.

The event was possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Germany through a project that promotes the adoption of Digital Object Identifiers. The workshop also benefited from recent coordination efforts and activities in the region developed by the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA).

“The workshop promoted the use of common standards and tools to facilitate the registration and identification of PGRFA material in the Global Information System”, said Dr Kent Nnadozie, Secretary a.i of the International Treaty. 

The event gathered genebank curators, plant breeders, geneticists, in situ/Crop Wild Relatives experts, bioinformaticians and information specialists of the Region, nominated by the national focal points.

“At the national Genebank of Egypt we conserve 24,000 crop and forages accessions, we are using the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) for their distribution. We stand ready to report on them and to share other valuable information on the collection”, said Dr Hanaiya El Itriby, national focal point of the Treaty in Egypt.

“We have recently adopted GRIN-Global as the documentation system and we are interested to directly connect to the Global Information System to make our information more visible”, said Dr M’Barek Ben Naceur, Director of the National Genebank of Tunisia. He added that the institution is strategically positioned to collaborate with other countries in the Region.

The needs of the Region

The experts also participated in a regional evaluation of the status of documentation systems. The participants provided information on ten different documentation systems which main strengths and weaknesses were analysed. The exercise took into account the notification of material available in the Multilateral System and the use of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement of the International Treaty.

Several countries indicated that their documentation systems are obsolete and that they need some kind of support to upgrade and connect them to the work of plant breeders and farmers.  The main results of the evaluation will be made available soon by the Secretariat of the International Treaty.

Additionally, the participants became more familiar with the tools developed by the Capfitogen training programme of the International Treaty, the monitoring of the Global Plan of Action on conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA, the GRIN-Global genebank documentation system and the Genesys database.  The Eurisco portal was also presented as an example of a coordinated product generated from regional cooperation.

The experts also elaborated a short list of recommendations for further strengthening regional coordination and networking through the Programme of Work on the Global Information System on topics of mutual interest, tools, standards and on individual and institutional capacity. Among the recommendations, they listed the revamping of existing networks on plant genetic resources in collaboration with the Association of Agriculture Research Institutions in the Near East.

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