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World Coffee Research (WCR) and The Crop Trust have published a Global Conservation Strategy for Coffee Genetic Resources.

The goal of the strategy is to ensure the conservation and use of coffee genetic resources for a positive, sustainable future of the crop and for those who depend on coffee for a livelihood.

A background study was carried out on the vulnerability of coffee genetic resources conserved ex situ and in situ, as well as on the main constraints to the use of these genetic resources. A survey of the status of major coffee collections was also carried out, site visits were made to seven of these collections, and a study of the cost of conservation of the CATIE coffee collection was completed. The main objective of the assessments was to assess the security of the current conservation system, significant gaps, resource requirements, significant constraints and opportunities for use.

Based on the survey and site visits, conclusions can be drawn about the current global system for conservation of ex situ collections. The first observation is that it is not a ‘system.’ The current situation is of a set of nationally focused collections that are isolated from each other and from external users.

Generally, in most institutions, conservation of the collection is secure due to the dedication and commitment of the institutes and their staff. Everyone is challenged, to some degree, to cover the annual cost for the routine conservation operations.

“The current ‘system’ is not sustainable, secure, cost-effective or rational,” said WCR and The Crop Trust. “What is needed is a global system that will secure unique accessions as a global resource for use by future generations, in order to ensure the sustainability of coffee production now and in the future.”

Through the global conservation strategy development, six high priority actions have been identified to facilitate the transition from the current system to a global conservation system for coffee.

  • Secure stable funding for long-term conservation of collections in origin and the CATIE collection through the Crop Trust Endowment Fund
  • Upgrade facilities and capacity of origin and user collections
  • Use of an ABS that will facilitate germplasm exchange and use
  • Establish a global platform for collaboration in coffee genetic resources conservation and use
  • Ensure the safety duplication of all conserved accessions
  • Ensure greater complementarity of ex situ and in situ conservation of coffee genetic resources.

“To support this effort, there is also a need to recognize the collective responsibility that governments, producers, processors, and consumers have for this key resource,” said WCR. “Sustainability of the supply chain will depend upon research and development built upon the coffee germplasm conserved for future use. This support will need to come from industry and consumers.”

The Crop Trust and WCR estimate it will cost about US$1 million a year to support the most important collections. A global endowment of US$25 million, paying out 4 per cent per year, would provide that ongoing funding forever, without the need to scrape together funding year to year. The Crop Trust and WCR said they will now work towards funding for a Crop Trust Endowment Fund.

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