An unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss is one of the defining global challenges of our times. Reduced biodiversity undermines the resilience of agricultural systems, threatens nutritional security and puts the foundations of crop improvement at risk. Sustainable Development Goal 2.5 highlights the importance of maintaining genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives, including through soundly managed genebanks, and ensuring access to that diversity and equitable benefit sharing, in accordance with international law.


CGIAR genebanks manage collections of more than 20 staple crops in 10 locations across five continents. The collections are made freely available upon request to thousands of users worldwide every year under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, accounting for a large amount of the germplasm being exchanged under the multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing. 

This Initiative aims to support the global system for the conservation and use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Ensuring diversity in perpetuity through implementation of routine CGIAR operations to effectively manage germplasm, ensuring that crop collections are both secured in long-term storage and readily available for distribution. 
  • Future-proofing collections and exchange though innovations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of genebank and germplasm health unit operations under an enabling policy environment. 
  • Supporting breeding programs through increasing value and use of collections by promoting the active participation of genebanks in trait discovery and facilitating full use of the diversity in genebanks in measures to adapt to climate change and increase nutrition and food security through genotyping collections, improving data management and accessibility, and developing discovery-ready genetic resources. 
  • Strengthening the global system by promoting mutually supportive roles for CGIAR and its national partners to improve the function and scope of the global system through, for example, co-developing curricula and supporting consultations, training and capacity strengthening for priority international efforts.


    CGIAR genebanks are managed under the framework of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for food and agriculture and provide germplasm freely to users worldwide upon request.


    Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

    1. Users worldwide have timely access to disease-free, viable germplasm from CGIAR genebanks in compliance with Plant Treaty and phytosanitary regulations. 
    2. Genebank staff manage collections with increasingly standardized, high-quality data, adopting automated approaches for seed characterization in 6 genebanks and improving seed quality management of at least 50 species. 
    3. CGIAR breeders and researchers more precisely identify germplasm of value to their work, facilitated by trait-specific subsets and populations and added-value information available in public data portals. 
    4. National and international genebanks conserve and distribute plant genetic resources for food and agriculture more efficiently and reliably.


          Projected impacts and benefits include:



          70,000 additional genetic accessions become available (an increase of 15%). 

          Agrobiodiversity conserved in genebanks and made available for use underpins efforts to reduce the loss of genetic variation at all levels and to safely restore and diversify agroecosystems, supporting the provision of environmental services as well as crop genetic resources. 


          More than 23.1 million people (4.7 million households) are projected to benefit from high-yield vitamin A-rich cassava and orange-flesh sweet potato. 

          Agrobiodiversity available in genebanks includes nutritional traits and variation and resilient landraces to underpin farming system diversification and crop improvement in support of planetary and human health, and nutrition and food security. 


          More than 42.6 million people (9 million households) are projected to benefit from high-yield high-zinc rice, stress-tolerant maize, and high-yield wheat. 

          Agrobiodiversity available in genebanks includes specific crops and genotypes to underpin crop improvement and farming system diversification in support of efforts to increase farmers’ employment and income and thus reduce poverty and enhance livelihoods. Crop improvement also contributes not only to the volume of crop yields, but also to their stability, which is especially critical for farmers in vulnerable and marginal situations. 


          More than 2.5 million women producers (and 3.4 million women and girls in adopting households) are projected to benefit from high-yield fast-cooking beans and orange-flesh sweet potato. 

          Some needs of women, men and youth may be addressed by providing improved technologies (varieties with adaptive traits) that respond to their preferences (such as those that can reduce processing labor, quality traits and income-generating traits) and by repatriating landraces that have been selected by women over time for particular preferred traits. 


          More than 69.9 million people (14.7 million households) are projected to benefit from stress-tolerant maize. 

          Genebanks hold landraces and crop wild relatives that are a rich source of adaptive traits and genetic material that can be made available through a range of tools and approaches in adaptive breeding, developing new stable varieties of globally important crops to adapt to new challenges linked to climate change. 


          Projected benefits are a way to illustrate reasonable orders of magnitude for impacts which could arise as a result of the impact pathways set out in the Initiative’s theories of change. In line with the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, Initiatives contribute to these impact pathways, along with other partners and stakeholders. CGIAR does not deliver impact alone. These projections therefore estimate plausible levels of impact to which CGIAR, with partners, contribute. They do not estimate CGIAR’s attributable share of the different impact pathways.

          The Genebanks Initiative has a wide array of demand, innovation and scaling partners, including national genebanks, International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Global Crop Diversity Trust, CGIAR breeding programs, NARS breeding programs, and farmers’ groups.

          Header photo: Mariana Yazbek in active collection at ICARDA’s genebank at Terbol station in Lebannon’s Beqaa Valley. Photo by M. Major/Crop Trust.