World Agroforestry Centre celebrates ten years of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Ramni Jamnadass (left) and Alice Muchugi carrying the seed deposit box to the Vault. Photo: Crop Trust


Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre deposited accessions of 12 tree species to mark the Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s tenth anniversary.

The 318 accessions of the tree species were presented at a ceremony to mark the tenth anniversary of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, housed deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago halfway between the mainland of Norway and the North Pole. Accessions are plant material collected from particular areas.

The World Agroforestry Centre’s (ICRAF) deposit, along with around 70,000 other crop varieties, will take the total number of unique varieties received by the Vault in the last decade to over 1 million.

ICRAF was the first institution to deposit tree seeds at the Vault. During the inauguration ceremony in 2008, ICRAF presented three boxes containing 507 accessions of 125 species. Later in 2011, two boxes containing 269 accessions of 109 species were added.

Lucy Keino and Agnes Were of ICRAF’s Seed Laboratory verify and prepare seeds for dispatch. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Ramni Jamnadass, leader of ICRAF Research Theme on Tree Productivity and Diversity — which aims to realise economic and ecological value from tree genetic resources — and Alice Muchugi, manager of the ICRAF genebank, presented the latest box of tree seeds to the Vault, adding to those already deposited by ICRAF: 1094 accessions of 180 species of which 151 species are native to Africa.

Alice Muchugi (left) and Ramni Jamnadass (right) with Jon Georg Dale, Norwegian Minister of Agriculture. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

‘The Seed Vault is extremely important’, said Jamnadass. ‘It ensures the survival of crop and tree species for present and future generations. ICRAF considers it a high responsibility that we ensure seeds from as many trees as possible that are of importance to human survival are deposited in the Vault. Conflict areas and those experiencing severe impacts of climate change, for example, can obtain seeds from the Vault to restore their agricultural and agroforestry land back to productivity, particularly so if other genebanks have no or limited supplies’.

The Vault is a long-term seed storage facility that has been built to withstand the test of time and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters. The Vault represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity. In the last ten years, only one institution has withdrawn seeds: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. Its own seed bank in Syria had become unable to operate owing to the conflict there.

The Vault was designed as a backup facility for the world’s seed banks, an initiative of the Global Crop Trust Diversity (Crop Trust) and Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) in collaboration with the Government of Norway.

The celebration to mark the tenth anniversary was hosted by Crop Trust and NordGen at Svalbard, with guest of honour Jon Georg Dale, Norway’s Minister of Agriculture.

‘The tenth anniversary is a major milestone for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault’, he said. ‘It comes at a time when agriculture is facing multiple challenges from extreme weather and the demands of a world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. This means it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds — the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture — are safely conserved’.

A foundation stone ceremony was held during the anniversary, which saw the genebank managers, including ICRAF’s, add seeds to the Seed Vault Foundation Stone. In June 2006, the then Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, announced the decision to build a seed vault in Svalbard. To commemorate the decision, the heads of governments from the five Nordic countries attending the occasion poured seeds into a symbolic glass cylinder filled with stones from the area where the Vault would be constructed. The foundation stone is now housed at the Svalbard Museum.

ICRAF’s headquarter is in Nairobi, Kenya, home to the late Wangari Mathai, a Nobel Prize laureate, conservationist and leader of the famous Green Belt Movement. She was honoured to deposit the first box of seeds at the Vault’s opening in 2008.

CGIAR genebank managers inside the Svalbard Seed Vault. Photo: Crop Trust


Watch video:

Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated by representatives from all around the world




The World Agroforestry Centre is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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