ICARDA’s seed bank, where seeds are saved from a bank in Aleppo, Syria, is helping scientists develop new pest and weather resistant crops.
Crop diversity, which is so essential for food security, has declined by three quarters since the 1900s. The world’s insurance policy is a network of 1,750 seed banks which safeguard plant biodiversity and can be turned to in times of crisis. But conflict can make even the seed banks themselves vulnerable.
“It became impossible to access the gene bank in October 2015 because we were banned from accessing the centre by the armed group controlling the area. They stole the vehicles, they stole a lot of equipment … nothing was left in the headquarters except the building and the gene bank.” Ali Shehadeh (see picture) Syrian seed conservationist
Aljazeera interviewed the team of scientists who have fled the horrors of the Syrian war and are rebuilding the ICARDA seed bank in the heart of the fertile crescent where agriculture began.
28 May 2019. Food Tank, How a Syrian Genebank Secured Over 100,000 Seeds During Wartime, Maybe Saving the future of wheat
Article by Alexandra Talty, A freelance journalist and writer based in Batroun, Lebanon.
Dr. Ali Shehadeh never meant to be a hero. But when conflict erupted in Syria in 2012, threatening the work of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas or ICARDA, Shehadeh took matters into his own hands.
Called a “legume maniac” by his colleagues while studying for his doctorate in Birmingham, England decades earlier, Shehadeh was one of 90 senior staff working in Tal Hadya, Syria, at ICARDA’s flagship mission. The genebank, established there in 1983, is part of an international consortium of genebanks around the world that aim to secure wild and cultivated varieties of nearly every seed in the world.