Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship call for applications

Bioversity International announces its call for applications for the Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships.  Two Fellowships, for up to US$ 20,000 each, will be available for 2013 to carry out research from 3 to 12 months on a wide range of themes related to the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries.

One of the themes is “Policy research in support of implementation of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture“.  The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture entered into force in 2004. Parties to the Treaty are committed to creating a common pool of genetic resources to support agricultural research, plant breeding and training. Countries need to implement combinations of polices, laws and administrative guidelines to become fully active participants in the common pool. The effective implementation of the Treaty at the national level requires a comprehensive collection and assessment of baseline information about plant genetic resources conservation and use in each country and protracted engagement with a wide range of stakeholders. National policy makers can use those inputs to identify options for implementing the Treaty, including for example how community-based plant genetic resource management initiatives can be involved more directly in the implementation of the Treaty. Such work may be addressed by studies that 1) improve understanding of the role that such initiatives play in the conservation and provision of germplasm of all kinds or 2) improve understanding of how community gene/seed banks initiatives may complement national and international gene-banks.

Other themes focus on :

  • Use of agrobiodiversity as an instrument for climate change adaptation
  • Research to enhance the conservation of genetic resources of a tree species important to the livelihoods of the rural poor
  • Sustainable diets for improved nutrition and health
  • Gene discovery in crop wild relatives
  • Facilitating better use of genebank materials
  • Researching neglected and underutilized species for food and nutrition security
  • Applying economics to agrobiodiversity conservation, sustainable use and policy analysis
  • Management of Musa diseases through a better understanding of specific host-pathogen interactions and co-evolution.

Applications may be submitted in English, French or Spanish by 11 November 2012.
Download the Call, Application Form and Guidelines


National kick-off workshop in Rwanda

Story by Léontine Crisson and Jean R. Gapusi

On 17 and 18 July 2012 in Kigali, Rwanda, the national kick-off workshop for the project  “Strengthening national capacities to implement the ITPGRFA” took place hosted by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB). RAB is the coordinating institution of the project and responsible for the implementation of the ITPGRFA. Participants came from various RAB research programmes, delegates from universities, the farmer cooperatives confederation and Bioversity International. Jean Gapusi (RAB), the national focal point for both the ITPGRFA and the Nagoya Protocol (CBD), introduced the project background. He explained that within RAB a taskforce on genetic resources has been set up to work on issues of access and benefit-sharing. He mentioned that Rwanda is in the process of developing regulations on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and of drafting of a bioprospecting policy. Michael Halewood from Bioversity International clarified the steps to operationalize the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing, first of all the confirmation which of the plant genetic resources from Rwanda  are automatically under the multilateral system (MLS), and which are voluntarily included, followed by the sharing of this information publicly, including through notifying this to the ITPGRFA Secretariat. The crops that are automatically included are those Annex 1 crops and forages that are under the management and control of the national government and in the public domain. He stressed the importance of having the legal space to implement the multilateral system, including knowing who would be authorized to provide materials through use of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). Participants then discussed the five research themes of the project.

The second day was dedicated to training. Various more in depth presentations were made. Carlo Fadda from Bioversity International’s regional office in Nairobi introduced concept of ‘climate analogues’ – identifying parts of the world that have a climate that is similar now to the way the climate will be in reference sites in the future. He also introduced the ‘climate analogues tool’ which has been developed by CIAT and the CCAFS (Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security research program of the CGIAR) to assist in such analysis. Through use of the tool, Rwandan research teams will attempt to identify potentially useful germplasm from analogue sites that they can access through the multilateral system. Léontine Crisson, seconded from the Dutch Ministry of Economic affairs, Agriculture and Innovation to Bioversity International, and working with the Rwandese team for three months, introduced the need-to-know about the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of the CBD, and its relations to the ITPGRFA.

The workshop resulted in participants gaining more knowledge about the project, the International Treaty and its Multilateral system of benefit-sharing, and about relations with the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing under the Biodiversity Convention.

Crop Wild Relatives and Climate Change – new website

The website aims to be a resource for those interested in collecting, conserving and using crop wild relatives (CWR) in the context of adapting agriculture to climate change. The site is providing information on the taxonomy, distribution, conservation status and breeding potential of the wild species in the genepools of 26 crops of major importance to food security that fall under Annex 1 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. CWR not yet available in genebanks will be collected, conserved, and through prebreeding and evaluation, materials will be prepared for use by plant breeders and farmers.   

The site is the result of cooperation between the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in partnership with national and international crop conservation and use programmes, universities and other research institutions.

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Treaty book available on line – Plant Genetic Resources and Food Security

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is a pivotal piece of recent legislation, providing a route map for the use of such resources for sustainable agriculture and food security. This book explains clearly the different interests and views at stake between all players in the global food chain. It touches upon many issues such as international food governance and policy, economic aspects of food and seed trade, conservation and sustainable use of food and agricultural biodiversity, hunger alleviation, ecological concerns, consumers’ protection, fairness and equity between nations and generations, plant breeding techniques and socio-economic benefits related to food local economies. The book shows that despite the conflicting interests at stake, players managed to come to an agreement on food and agriculture for the sake of food security and hunger alleviation in the world. The book is part of of the Earthscan/Bioversity International series “Issues in Agricultural Biodiversity” and is now available online from Bioversity.  Download the PDF.