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Crop Diversity: A Tasty Way for Keeping Our Options Open
New York Ag Connection - 09/25/2023

On 19 September, scientists, policymakers and other crop diversity enthusiasts, flocked to Mindspace in Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s foodiest neighborhoods, to address one of the most pressing challenges of our time—how to protect our food from the ravages of climate change. Crop diversity is often overlooked in climate discussions, yet it's crucial to adaptation: we need diverse crops to meet the needs of current and future generations. The climate crisis poses a grave threat to global food systems. Crop failures and poor yields mean lost and blighted lives, migration, and conflict. We must act to adapt agriculture to climate change, or risk disaster.

On the sidelines of NY Climate Week, the Crop Trust, Bezos Earth Fund, and One CGIAR brought together experts to discuss concrete solutions at the Unlocking Climate Solutions: Embracing Nature and Agricultural Heritage event.

“At this point in time, [conserving crop diversity] is no longer a luxury; it’s a must. We have to do it. If we want farmers to continue farming, and if we want to adapt to the shifting climate,” said Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as the audience settled into their seats after beating rush hour traffic.

“If we had not kept our options open by actually conserving our genetic diversity, we wouldn't even know what we’ve lost. Now for the first time in human history, we’re going to have to produce a lot more healthier and equitably shared food using less land, water and with less inputs, but with hopefully more diversity. We’re in a position, thanks to wonderful partners like the Crop Trust, Bezos Earth Fund, Norway and Germany,” added Andrew Campbell, Interim Executive Managing Director of CGIAR.

The Crop Diversity Endowment Fund keeps our options open, in perpetuity. Managed by the Crop Trust, it invests money in a diverse range of low-risk financial instruments to generate sufficient returns to secure key collections of crop diversity in genebanks worldwide. The Endowment Fund currently supports eleven collections of global and regional importance, for example, those of cowpea, Bambara groundnut and maize housed at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, those of beans and forages conserved by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in Colombia and that of rice diversity safeguarded by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines.

At the event, Andy Jarvis, Director for the Future of Food at the Bezos Earth Fund, announced a new contribution to the Endowment Fund: “Crop diversity collections are the world’s ultimate public good, and probably the most underinvested one at the same time. We are excited to announce a USD 440,000 commitment to the Crop Trust’s endowment through Bioversity International, USA. The fund plays a pivotal role in the conservation of crop diversity in genebanks. This contribution embodies our shared responsibility to safeguard the genetic diversity that underpins our agriculture, enabling us to navigate the challenges of climate change with adaptability and resilience. Investing in the conservation of crop diversity means investing in lasting innovative solutions.”


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