ILRI scientist Alexandra Jorge reports that she just returned from a series of marathon events that were very important and relevant to the ILRI forage genebank in Addis Ababa. Here she shares her notes:
CGIAR annual genebank meeting
After the new CGIAR financing arrangements were set up, this was the first meeting (FAO, Rome) of the 11 CGIAR genebanks. It was very useful to discuss new strategies, efficiencies and collaborative ways of work. In addition to the genebank managers from each of the centers (highlighting the participation of the newly recruited genebank managers for CIP, CIMMYT-maize and IITA), several additional scientists participated in the meeting (Bioversity, IPK, SPC, CGN, FAO, GCP and CGIAR consortium). One of the days was dedicated to scientific presentations and interactive discussions in plenary or in smaller groups. ILRI and CIMMYT genebank managers were responsible for the organization and chaired this science day. Themes discussed included: Common policies and guidelines, capacity building, use of molecular tools in genebanks and risk management.
- In addition to the annual funds approved for the core activities of the genebanks, some additional proposals for short term activities were also discussed and approved. ILRI’s proposal to collaborate with the Israel Plant Gene Bank to collect key legume species (Lathyrus, Medicago, Trifolium and Vicia that are commonly used forages in drylands and tropical highlands) in target areas of Israel was approved amongst other collecting proposals.
- The ILRI genebank manager was also invited to join the executive committee of the ICWG (Inter Center Working Group) that is being re-named and updated to suit the new way of work in the CGIAR genebanks.
- ILRI also became part of the advisory committee for the CGKB (Crop Genebank Knowledge Base) project, a diverse website platform for sharing knowledge about genebank management and procedures developed with considerable contributions from ILRI genebank in 2010.
The next AGM meeting will be held at USDA headquarters in Iowa, USA in September 2013.
German scientific expert supports the genebank plant health laboratories
Dr. Evelyn Moller recently spent 5 weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia providing technical support to ILRI’s work in the plant health laboratories. She gave excellent inputs, training and advice on our laboratory procedures and quality checked routines. We reorganized the labs with a more practical workflow, calibrated endless numbers of equipment and established templates for routine procedures to assure all the details are captured to facilitate troubleshooting. She also gave us several training sessions and provided support to acquired key equipment that needed replacement as well as installing some new equipment. She was very dedicated, hardworking and interacted a lot with our staff as well as other CGIAR staff interested in her skills.
SES is a German volunteer service – Foundation of German Industry for international Cooperation (with more than 20 000 registered experts – retired skilled and management professionals that volunteer for short term assignments worldwide wherever their expertise is needed). This was the first experience of this kind at ILRI; we highly recommend this sort of scientific exchange.
Despite the end of the assignment, the connection was made and collaboration and support is continuing through skype and sharing folders and pictures, as long as the internet connection in Addis campus allows…
ILRI genebank international review
In November, we hosted a team of 3 international scientists from the USDA, the Millenium Genebank and the Global Diversity Trust to evaluate our genebank procedures, workflows, infrastructure and staff composition, as well as financial expenditures and reporting. We had intensive and very long sessions that provided useful external insights and ideas for improved efficiencies and reduced risks. The reviewers also interviewed random users to obtain feedback on our responsiveness and relevance to their work. In addition to a couple of improved efficiencies within the genebank, the main message was to make extra efforts to collaborate more within ILRI and the new CGIAR as well as with our external users, to learn better about what is needed and what we can offer that can have impact.
While we were advised to reach more users and maximize the use of the diversity of our germplasm (even expand it for key ecotypes if needed) at the same time we should be more restrictive on the number of seeds we make freely available, so that our stocks last longer and are made available for more users.
Beyond the review itself, we also used this opportunity to network and discuss further collaboration between our genebank and the genebanks where the review team members work. Many ideas for interesting and challenging student projects were discussed and may be implemented in the future!
New collaboration with INIFAP (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones forestales, Agricolas y Pecuarias), Mexico and CIAT
As part of a new project (conservation, characterization and use of forage genetic resources for priority grazing land ecosystems of Mexico), the government of Mexico is supporting and promoting collaboration between INIFAP, ILRI and CIAT to implement scientific exchanges and capacity building across the 3 institutes on forage and livestock issues.
A preliminary visit was carried out last week by two scientists from ILRI (Alexandra Jorge and Jean Hanson) and CIAT (Rao Idupulapati and Rein van de Hoek). We traveled with Salvador Fernandez (Coordinator of Research, Innovation and Partnerships, INIFAP) to three main sites across the country:
- Huimanguillo Research Station, Huimanguillo, Tabasco
- El Verdineño Research Station, Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit
- Calera Research Station, Zacatecas, Zacatecas
We visited field plots and laboratories and discussed joint activities of INIFAP, CIAT and ILRI as part of the forage genetic resources project. We discussed in detail activities for the next 6 months, including training of staff on key forage research and genebank management areas as well as scientist exchange visits to Cali, Colombia and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Did you know that the meaning of “Zacatecas” in the local language is “land of abundant pastures”? This was true when the first settlers arrived but not so true anymore. So, perhaps the forage collaboration between ILRI, INIFAP and CIAT could help to give justice to the original name of this highland, dry and cold region of Mexico!