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May 22, 2009

Seeds from Africa bound for Global Seed Vault in Norway

by Ray Naluyaga

Over 5,000 samples of seed varieties are expected to be shipped from Nigeria to Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway this month.

The shipment, to be undertaken by Africa's leading Agricultural research partner, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), will be the second to be made to the facility in Norway in a move aimed at preserving the genetic resources of African crops.

"This year's shipment will involve about 5,000 seed samples of soybean, maize, bambara nut, cowpea, and African yam bean, in more than 10 seed boxes,"said Dr Dominique Dumet, head of IITA's Genetic Resources Center.

In a statement released in Dar es Salaam by IITA regional office, Dr Dumet said the whole aim of the shipment to Svalbard is about conservation of genetic resources and agro biodiversity for humanity.

According to the statement, agro-biodiversity is a term that captures all forms of life directly relevant to agriculture, from crop varieties to crop wild relatives, livestock, and many other organisms such as soil fauna, weeds, pests, and predators seen to be disappearing faster than any time since the demise of the dinosaurs.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme's 4th Global Environment Outlook report, the ongoing loss of biodiversity will restrict future development options for rich and poor countries with negative impacts on food security.

To stem the loss of agro biodiversity, the IITA Genetic Resources Center, located in Ibadan, Nigeria, has over the years, conserved more than 28,000 accessions of IITA mandate crops.

The centre houses the world's largest collection of cowpea-a key staple in Africa, offering an inexpensive source of protein- with over 15,000 unique varieties from 88 countries around the world.

The Svalbard Seed Vault is another safety net designed to hold duplicated genetic resources.

"It actually serves as a backup for genetic diversity. For instance, there are some genes in the seeds that we are conserving now that might solve problems of future generations, such as lack of resistance to diseases or tolerance for drought," Dr Dumet explained.

The Citizen

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