ZAMBIA Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) through its National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC) has safety duplicated more than 300 local seed varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway which provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in genebanks around the world.

This important milestone towards ensuring the long-term protection of the country’s major food crops was made possible with support from Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) under the Seeds for Resilience Project, funded by the Federal Government of Germany (BMZ), through the German Development Bank (KfW).

Principal Agricultural Research Officer at Zambia Agricultural Research Institute, Graybill Munkombwe, stated among the seeds safety duplicated were sorghum, cowpeas, rice, beans, rice, okra, cleome, cucumis, cucurbita and maize.

Mr Munkombwe disclosed that Zambia stood at 60 percent in terms of safety duplicating its seed varieties at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and at 80 percent at the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre (SPGRC).

“NPGRC has been conserving crop genetic diversity since 1989 and currently has about 6, 653 seed samples under its collection of which some of the samples have been safety duplicated to SPGRC, Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) among other notable genebanks,” he said.

Mr Munkombwe stated that as countries confront the challenges of changing variability, population growth, and unforeseen disasters, the Svalbard Vault remained an invaluable resource, securing the agricultural heritage.

“I would to make an earnest appeal to other genebanks to ensure that they safety duplicate their materials at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in case of unforeseen eventualities which might wipe out their food heritage,” he implored.

And Crop Trust Executive Director, Stefan Schmitz, hinted that the deposits by some countries under the project marked a very significant moment in the institutions commitment to safeguard global food supplies.

Dr. Schmitz said he was very proud to be working alongside so many excellent partners in this joint mission which was aimed at advancing global efforts to conserve the resources.

“We are extremely grateful to all of our partners, and in particular the Seeds for Resilience genebanks, as well as our donors from Germany and Norway, for supporting this vital work. Conserving the world’s crop diversity must continue,” he emphasised.

Safety duplication is the process of duplicating genetically identical sub-samples of a collection to mitigate the risk of its partial or total loss caused by natural or man-made disasters.

Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia are among the countries that had sent back-ups of their collections.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, managed by the Crop Trust in partnership with the Norwegian government, serves as a backup repository for the world’s seed collections and currently safeguards over 1.2 million seed samples, making it the world’s largest collection of crop diversity at a single location from 74 countries.

As the climate crisis wreaks increasing havoc on food systems, protecting the world’s crops has never been more urgent. –NAIS