S.O.S (Save our seeds)

By 2050, food demand will rise 56%. To meet this challenge, organizations around the world are taking action to safeguard a wide variety of seeds, ensuring a sustainable and nourishing future for all.

Deep in the arctic on a remote Norwegian island, a state-of-the-art storage facility known as ‘The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’ can be found nestled in the rock of a mountain. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Doomsday Vault’, it’s designed to protect the world’s crop diversity for centuries to come and provide a “backup” of the world’s food supply in case of disaster. Thick concrete walls protect over a million seed samples from almost every country in the world, with room for millions more.

While the ‘The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’, is one of the world’s largest and most well-known seed banks, it’s far from being the first or the only one. The concept has been around since the early 20th century, and today there are more than 1,700 all over the world. However, this number is expected to grow even more, as political unrest, economic downturn, and climate change force people to pay more attention to food scarcity and agricultural resilience.

The ICARDA research centre is an organization playing an important role in the development of unique genetic strains that are adapted to harsher environments. Their focus on ‘dryland agriculture’ makes their work of special interest to countries looking to implement sustainable agricultural practices that are resistant to climate change. Headquartered in Lebanon, it was originally founded in Syria in the 1970s, before the war forced it to relocate across the border in 2012. In fact, it was during this relocation that some samples were unfortunately lost. These seeds would later be replaced thanks to a collaborative effort with ‘The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’, who supplied replacement seeds from their own stock in Norway.

Evidently, since the start of ICARDA’s gene bank mission, the situation in Lebanon has changed dramatically. The country has faced economic and political crises since 2019, resulting in high cost of goods, high unemployment, and currency collapse.

In the face of this turmoil, the people of Lebanon rose to the challenge by finding innovative solutions to food scarcity and lack of resources. Urban agriculture and community gardens, along with the vital work of organizations like ICARDA, have been offering a message of optimism, that food security and recovery remains within reach. It is this enduring resilience, and a desire to go back to the land, that remind us that even in the darkest of times, hope can be found in the smallest of things: a seed.