International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Safeguarding crop diversity in emergencies

Climate events, pandemics, pest and pathogen outbreaks, conflict and war are posing ever-increasing threats to crop diversity. The permanent loss of this diversity makes it harder to develop new crops that can withstand climate change and or improve resilience to future shocks and challenges faced by agriculture. These threats can impact the infrastructure and functioning of national or international genebanks that conserve diversity for today and the future. They can also impact the seed systems that small-scale farmers rely upon for their food security and such systems can be an important source of diversity that is adapted to farmers needs and is not conserved in genebanks.

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its partners are taking action to tackle these urgent threats. 

Responding to emergencies

The Emergency Reserve for genebanks

The Emergency Reserve provides rapid, short-term and urgent support to seed collections in the global system of ex situ conservation. 

In June 2021, the Crop Trust and the Secretariat of the International Treaty launched the world’s first fund to provide financial support to genebanks under imminent threat. The Emergency Reserve provides urgent funding for genebanks to ensure they can respond swiftly to emergency situations.

Read more here:

Emergency response projects

With generous support from donors, the International Treaty is able to partner with FAO’s emergency team and other stakeholders to respond to disasters that threaten crop diversity.  

For example, when Cyclones Idai and Kenneth made landfall in Southern Africa in 2019, heavy rains, floods and landslides affected over 3.8 million people and destroyed nearly 800 000 ha of standing crops in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Farmers lost local seed reserves and crops that were ready for harvest. With funding from the Government of Germany and Kingdom of Norway, the International Treaty, together with FAO’s emergency team, partnered with governments, genebanks and farmers on a project aimed to rebuild seed systems in cyclone-affected communities in Southern Africa.

Find out more about the project here:

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