Nearly 200 experts from around the world participated in an online event that brought together the world’s leading international experts to discuss the crucial role that sorghum and millets genetic resources can play for global food security and sustainable agriculture. The event, “Unlocking the Power of Diversity: the role of sorghum and millets genetic resources in sustainable agriculture” was particularly timely, as 2023 is the International Year of Millets (IYM).
“The International Year of Millets is people’s time. We need to take advantage of the opportunities that the processing activities bring to us today, and further promote entrepreneurship in the value-chain of these crops,” said Director Satyavathi. In this context, she added that” the Indian Institute of Millets Research is a global center of excellence on these crops”.
The genetic resources of the crops we are celebrating today hold the key to confront many of the challenges that countries will confront in the coming decades, said Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in his opening remarks. Millets and sorghum offer tremendous opportunities for sustainable agriculture, providing a win-win scenario in terms of providing nutrition without needing much in terms of additional resources, he added.
Jacqueline Hughes, Director-General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said: “We need to recognize the immense potential in these crops and revisit their contribution to food production in the context of climate change and other challenges,”. She added that “They offer additional solutions…and the international community needs to ensure that these crops will be available in the future.”
“Sorghum and millets are among humanity's oldest foods and a climate-smart and nutritious solution for our future,” said Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “Not only are they incredibly versatile and cherished by consumers in many countries, but they can also grow in arid soils and withstand drought much better than other crops. We are proud to support ICRISAT's millet and sorghum collections, but more money is needed to ensure these miracle crops can be fully conserved and used in perpetuity,” he said.
The event was divided into three segments in addition to an opening segment: (1) What are the challenges to sorghum and millet production and consumption and how can we overcome them; (2) Perspectives on the conservation of plant genetic resources; (3) and The Use of Diversity. The program featured 12 speakers from various sectors, including international organizations, non-governmental organizations, educational/research institutions, civil society organizations, private industry and the public sector.
Among the expert speakers were Prabhu Pingali, Professor and Director, Tata-Cornell Institute’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at Cornell University; Colin Khoury, Senior Director, Science and Conservation at the San Diego Botanic Gardens; Kuldeep Singh, Head of the ICRISAT Genebank; Andrew Mushita, Executive Director, Community Technology Development Organization; Rajeev Varshney, Director, Center for Crop & Food Innovation at the Food Futures Institute at Murdoch University in Australia; and Maria Marta Pastina, Research Director, Embrapa Maize and Sorghum in Brazil, among others. (Please see the program for the full list of all speakers.)
“The International Year of Millets is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of, and direct policy attention to the importance of safeguarding, sharing and using the rich genetic diversity that exists for millets and sorghum,” said Secretary Nnadozie.
Speakers in each segment provided a global overview of the status of the production of sorghum and millets, and of the conservation and use of their diversity, including the latest trends and statistics. The presentations focused on: the need for secure, long-term conservation of millet genetic resources; the need to increase availability and exchange of germplasm; and the need to increase the use of conserved genetic diversity.
The online forum, which was open to the public, was hosted by the International Treaty from FAO headquarters, in collaboration with the Crop Trust and ICRISAT, and provided simultaneous interpretation in Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
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This work aligns with SDGs 1,2, 13 and 17.