Collaboration As A Matter Of Priority

Before the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force in 1993, the instruments for the institutional framework of PGRFA conservation management, germplasm exchange and utilization were developed in a rather ad hoc manner, based mainly on national and international codex for research work. Germplasm exchange was regulated according to the transfer of natural resources in research, i.e., free to all bona fide users and based on "pro mutua communatione," the mutual exchange as it is also practiced between botanical gardens (Hammer, 1995). Systematic survey, collection, and conservation of PGRFA have been underway since the beginning of the century. This was undertaken predominantly by the public sector. Today, a complex international and national system for PGRFA conservation is emerging. Engaged in the conservation and utilization of PGRFA since its beginning, FAO has developed some instruments, which are now integrated into FAO's Global System for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This global system is the formal framework for the access and exchange of PGRFA since the adoption of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (Chapter 9), based on the undertaking's basic concept of a multilateral system.

Since the establishment of the CBD in 1993, however, the international exchange system for PGRFA has experienced some setbacks. In some Eastern European countries, the recent privatization of agricultural research institutes has increased the uncertainty over the continuing free availability of their PGRFA (FAO, 1998). Furthermore, there are signs that the access to PGRFA in some supplier countries is starting to be restricted solely to national utilization5 (Virchow, 1999a). This may be however, only a transitional phase given the new International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA, 2002)—hereafter denoted by IT (Chapter 9), because in the long run, the benefit of global exchange of germplasm will exceed all exchange restrictions. Denying access to genetic resources may have a negative impact on those countries themselves when they are not able to participate in the further technological improvements of breeding. It can be assumed that in the future—as suppliers of germplasm—agrobiodiversity-rich but technology-limited countries may be in need of newly developed seed. These are supplied by countries, which are mainly characterized as agrobiodiversity-poor, industrialized countries.

For instance, the Chinese genebank and some African countries are restricting the exchange of indigenous germplasm. Furthermore, some other countries restrict the access by establishing bureaucratic obstacles (Hammer, 1995).

Collaboration between countries in conservation activities aims to strengthen national PGRFA programs; to avoid unnecessary duplication of activities in countries within the same region; to promote the exchange of germplasm, information, experiences, and technology related to PGRFA conservation; to promote and co-ordinate collaborative research, evaluation and utilization of conserved germplasm; as well as to identify and promote opportunities for collaboration in training and capacity building. The IT, Agenda 21, the Leipzig Declaration, and the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Utilization of PGRFA (GPA) stress the importance of collaboration at different levels for the conservation and sustainable utilization of PGRFA. International collaboration can be differently institutionalized, determined by the objectives of the partners involved. In the following section an overview is given of different types of collaborations.

4.1 International collaborations

At the international level, there is considerable collaboration between international and national organizations for the conservation and utilization of PGRFA. These collaborations are mainly based on the bi- or multi-lateral transfer of technologies and financial resources. These include international collaborative programs of FAO, including the Global System for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA, CGIAR, and other international organizations, bilateral programs, foundations, and NGOs as well as institutional processes like the International Undertaking on the Plant Genetic Resources or the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements. The compositions of the partners involved in this kind of collaboration are countries and organizations from the PGRFA, on the demand as well as supply side. For example, thirteen maize-breeding countries in the Americas agreed to collaborate on a germplasm project called the Latin American Maize Project (LAMP). Pioneer Hibred provided $1.5 million and technical inputs in support of this project. LAMP has been a highly successful initiative in regional collaboration to improve the conservation and use of maize genetic resources. While the main objective of the program was to evaluate the agronomic characteristics of maize accessions in germplasm banks in Latin America and the United States for future use, several other objectives were also set. These were, inter alia, to determine the exact number of accessions in each bank; to identify the amount and quality of seed in each accession; as well as to list accessions that are in need of regeneration.

In response to the information on regeneration needs, a subsidiary project entitled Regenerating Endangered Latin American Maize Germplasm was developed by USAID, USDA, and CIMMYT to salvage maize holdings in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. These 13 countries are participating in the regeneration of nearly 10,000 endangered landrace accessions. Newly regenerated material is conserved in the national collections, with samples duplicated at CIMMYT and/or NSSL (USDA National Seed Storage Laboratory).

FAO also carries out regional activities related to plant genetic resources through various projects. One example is the Improved Seed Production project in the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries. This project includes training in seed technology, elaboration of a regional seed quality standard, and the establishment of the Caribbean Seed and Germplasm Resources Information Network (CSEGRIN). In addition, FAO coordinates, through its regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, a Network for Technical Co-operation in Plant Biotechnology (REDBIO) for the exchange of information on tissue culture and other biotechnological techniques.

4.2 Regional collaborations

Regional collaborations are characterized by the common interests and objectives of the partners. One such category of collaboration is between countries from one region with similar plant genetic diversity. These regional networks cover all the different conservation activities that are of relevance to a specific region and, as such, it may include various crops and different programs. These national PGRFA programs often have similar objectives, and regional cooperation usually includes supporting each other's programs and combining similar tasks to increase the efficiency of conservation activities in the region. The main criteria to delimit a regional network are: (1) a common group of indigenous plant genetic resources and agroecological conditions; and (2) the coincidence of country groupings with actual or potential mechanisms for cooperation.

Another type of regional collaboration is defined by the specific crops to be conserved. These crop-specific networks deal with specific conservation and utilization tasks determined by the relevant crop. These networks bring together specialists from different fields on an international and/or regional basis to improve the conservation and utilization efforts for a particular crop's genetic resources. This may include a shared database of all accessions in ex situ collections as well as the in situ distribution of the crop, and the strengthening of collaboration in collecting and evaluation of germplasm. In addition, regional networks may consist of various crop-related working groups, i.e., crop-specific networks for specific regions.

In each region, there exist some PGRFA networks, some of which are in an advanced stage of development, others being in the stage of establishment:6

• The European Cooperative Program for Crop Genetic Resources Networks (ECP/GR) is the main plant genetic resources network in Europe, currently consisting of 30-member countries, which entirely finance the network. Besides this network, some other collaborative programs among European countries worth mentioning are: the European Forest Genetic Resources Program (EUFORGEN) and the Nordic Gene Bank, which is a centralized regional center for the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources in the Nordic countries.

• The West Asia and North Africa Plant Genetic Resources Network

(WANANET), as the main plant genetic resources network in the Near East, is strengthening national programs by reinforcing the role of national plant genetic resources committees and by promoting cooperation between organizations within countries as well as programs within the subregion. The operational regional plant genetic resources network in sub-Saharan Africa is the Southern Africa Development Corporation (SADC) Plant Genetic Resources Center (SPGRC). Its primary objective is to conserve indigenous plant genetic resources within the region, provide training and promote germplasm collection, characterization, documentation, and utilization. A regional plant genetic resources center in Lusaka, Zambia, and a network of national plant genetic resources centers in each SADC-member state characterizes its structure.7

• Four regional plant genetic resources networks for Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific are at various stages of development. Of these, the most developed is the Regional Collaboration in Southeast Asia on Plant Genetic Resources (RECSEA-PGR), which identified a regional network information system and on-farm conservation as its priority working areas.

Three subregional plant genetic resources networks cover South America according to its three agroecological zones. The three networks are REDARFIT, the Andean Plant Genetic Resources Network; TROPIGEN, the Amazonian Plant Genetic Resources Network; and the network of PROCISUR, the Programa Cooperativo para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Agropecuario del Cono Sur. In Central America, the Red Mesoamericana de Recursos Fitogenéticos (REMERFI) is a well-established network.

6 For more details, see Virchow (1999a), FAO (1998), and Virchow (1996).

7 SADC-member states are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

A specific example of regional collaboration is the development of regional or subregional genebanks. This collaboration might provide an alternative to building national genebanks, especially for the conservation of duplicate base collections. National genebanks may give priority to active or working collections, while long-term conservation in base collections might be more effectively carried out at the regional level, as some existing examples show:

• A central subregional base collection that also supports national programs (e.g., SPGRC in Southern Africa).

• The use of existing national genebanks to hold material on behalf of other countries in the subregion with appropriate legal arrangements where necessary (e.g., the role of Ethiopian and Kenyan genebanks in East Africa).

• A network of national genebanks, each one specializing in a particular species or group of species according to mandates agreed upon by the participating countries (proposed for North Africa).

In addition to the conservation of germplasm in single genebanks in individual countries and in regional genebanks, international organizations hold germplasm collections for particular crops, which complement the collections.

4.3 Further potential collaborations

Further cooperation is needed to increase the effectiveness of PGRFA conservation and utilization. Cooperation between the public and the private sector, the public conservation facilities, and the private seed industry, as well as between the professional breeding and farmers in marginalized areas, are possible.

The breeding industry needs support from public sector investment, particularly for processing of information on genetic resources and prebreeding activities. These activities represent long-term and high-risk (i.e., uncertain returns) programs of basic research especially in countries with an emerging breeding industry, like Kenya. Furthermore, these programs compete for resources with other long-term, but basic, and applied research in the private breeding sector (Smith and Salhuana, 1996). Aside from increasing the attractiveness of PGRFA in genebanks by carrying out information processing and prebreeding, this task—carried out by genebanks and financed by the public sector—can be seen as support for all (private, public, and informal) breeding efforts. There are already some collaborative efforts between the private seed industry and national and international public conservation facilities to support regeneration and evaluation, providing seed and information (see section 4.1). More of these collaborations between breeders and genebank managers will eventually lead to a more intensive use of landraces in breeding programs.

Furthermore, the breeding industry could cooperate with farmers in marginal areas. While the private sector's influence is currently rudimentary in marginal areas due to poor infrastructure or because the site-specific needs are of less interest to the private sector, cooperation with the individual breeding of farmers in marginal areas could, however, produce outputs of some interest for the breeding sector in the long run. Consequently, the breeding sector should support these farmers with their conservation activities. This cooperation should be in the interest of the governments, because many countries have to continue and increase the integration of the resource-poor farmers into the market to increase national food security (von Braun and Virchow, 1997).

The final potential collaboration is institutional linkages. In situ conservation often involves institutions (e.g., ministries responsible for forestry and environment) other than those that have prime responsibility for ex situ conservation (e.g., the Ministry of Agriculture).8 Additionally, NGOs often play an important role in in situ management. These informal conservation efforts, however, are rarely coordinated with public sector activities. Therefore, effective coordination is necessary to strengthen the linkages between all formal and informal organizations and their ex situ and in situ conservation efforts.

0 0

Post a comment