Sixteenth Session

Rome, 26-30 March 2001, Red Room


Table of Contents


I. Introduction

1. The Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted at the Fourth FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (Leipzig, Germany, June 1996) through a highly participatory and country driven process.

2. The International Technical Conference agreed that follow-up processes called for action at all levels, and should involve all stakeholders. At the Conference, 150 countries committed themselves to taking the necessary steps to implement the Global Plan of Action (GPA) in accordance with their national capacities1.

3. Overall FAO activities directed to facilitate the implementation of the GPA are coordinated by the Seed and Plant Genetic Resources Service and monitored through the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA).

II. Status of implementation of the 20 priority activity areas of the GPA by countries and stakeholders

4. Regarding implementation of the twenty priority activities of the GPA, FAO is gathering the information through the national focal points. Countries and institutions reported many activities related to implementation of the GPA. While some are a continuation of on-going programmes related to GPA activities (Activities 1,4,5,7 and 9), others have been newly initiated or adjusted in response to the GPA. In particular, there has been substantial progress in strengthening national programmes (Activity 15) and regional and global crop-related networks (Activity 16). A large number of initiatives have been launched to promote on-farm management and seed production, focused on local genetic diversity (Activity 2), and important work is underway in respect of seed security (Activity 13). Efforts have been strengthened on genetic enhancement and base-broadening (Activity 10). There has been little progress with in situ conservation (Activity 4), ex situ conservation of species with recalcitrant seeds and minor species (Activity 8), regeneration (Activity 6), and early warning systems (Activity 18).

5. The interim financing mechanism of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is at the moment developing its operational programme on biological diversity, which to some extent draws upon the priority activities of the Plan. In its guidelines for enabling activities in support of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans, GEF specifically mentions the GPA.

III. FAO's facilitating and monitoring role

6. The CGRFA at its Eighth session "stressed the importance of facilitating and monitoring implementation of the GPA, and recognised the central role of FAO in this regard"2. A list of indicators and a reporting format for use by the countries has been developed for the consideration of the next session of CGRFA. A discussion document for the preparation of a facilitating mechanism for the implementation of the GPA with the involvement of all stakeholders has also been prepared.

IV. FAO's implementing role

This section of the report provides a summary of the recent activities in the different sectorial areas of the GPA where FAO is particularly well placed to implement the GPA.

7. Supporting on-farm management and improvement of PGRFA: Community based seed production and management of local genetic diversity has been promoted in Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Mali, Zimbabwe and Uganda through the Technical Cooperation projects.

8. Assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore agricultural systems: FAO provided technical support to several field projects for the restoration of agricultural systems in Afghanistan, Congo, Liberia, and Angola. Seed Security Consultative Groups, comprised of national experts and policy makers, have been established in Eastern Africa in response to droughts and in Southern Africa in response to floods.

9. Maintain and strengthen the World Information and Early Warning System (WIEWS): In 1999, FAO has organized meetings in Morocco and the Czech Republic to foster further development of WIEWS and create a global network of correspondents, and to discuss methodological approaches for the early warning system on PGRFA genetic erosion. FAO has revised WIEWS, which includes the Seed Information System, and has developed a new trilingual web interface with remote updating and improved searching and reporting capabilities.

10. Promote sustainable agriculture through diversification of crop production and base broadening: In April 2000, FAO organized the Global Cassava Development Strategy Validation Forum in collaboration with partners. A Workshop on "Broadening the genetic base of crops" in 1999, identified potential projects. Several activities related to the genetic enhancement through the promotion of Participatory Breeding in order to safeguard and use local germplasm have been jointly initiated with CGIAR centres.

11. Promote development of under-utilised crops: For promoting conservation and use of under-utilised crops, FAO supported several crop networks. These include: a network on vegetable crops and on Fruits in Asia and Pacific, Tropical Fruits in West Africa, and on under-utilised species in Southern and Eastern Africa. In 1999, FAO commissioned and produced a publication in order to raise awareness of the role of wild plants in farming systems. The promotion of under-utilised crops adaptable to agricultural marginal areas has been initiated through the creation of a working group on Cactaceae. A CD-ROM on Andean pseudocereals has been developed.

12. Promote networks for PGRFA: In the current biennium (2000-2001), the following FAO networks had their meetings: Mediterranean Citrus Network (MECINET), Mediterranean Selected Fruits Inter-country Network (MESFIN), the Global Network on Temperate Zone Fruits in the Tropics and Subtropics (TZFTS), the Inter-regional cooperative research network on rice in the Mediterranean areas (MED-RICE), the Datepalm network, the Global Citrus Germplasm Network (GCGN) and the Regional Integrating Mechanism (RIM) for the coordinated implementation of the GPA in Latin American countries.

13. Support to Seed Production: In 1999 and 2000, FAO has assisted in the establishment of the African Seed Network, the Southern African Development Community, the Seed Security Network, the Seed Network for Asia and the Pacific, the Seed Consultative Forum for Near East and North Africa and the Seed Consultative Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean. Building on the results of these regional meetings, a global meeting will be organized in Rome in 2001 to develop FAO's global strategy for seed policy and programmes.

14. Legal activities on PGRFA: Support was provided to the inter-governmental negotiations, such as those for the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, and for the International Network of Ex Situ Collections under the Auspices of FAO.

15. FAO seconded an officer to the CBD Secretariat to coordinate work on agricultural biodiversity. It has also engaged in work on traditional knowledge, ethical and gender issues related to the conservation and sustainable utilisation of genetic resources.

V. Future action: FAO strategic framework and MTP

16. The FAO Medium Term Plan (MTP) for the years 2002-2007 builds upon technical projects and continuing programmes, designed to attain the objectives described in the FAO Strategic Framework. The GPA priority activities are included in several entities and the Continuing Programme 212 P4, "Support to the FAO Global System on PGRFA" provides for a strategy to facilitate and monitor the implementation of the GPA. Successful completion of the negotiations for a revised International Undertaking will allow for further development of PGRFA conservation and utilisation in line with the priority areas of the GPA.


1 Leipzig Declaration, 23 June, 1996.

2 Document CGRFA-8/99/3