SEEDS FOR LIFE: Climate proofing future food systems with the new ICARDA Morocco genebank

Published Date
May 09, 2022
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
ICARDA Morocco Genebank Opening
ICARDA-Morocco Genebank Opening
The new ICARDA Morocco genebank is supported by the Kingdom of Morocco, CGIAR Genebank Platform, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Genebank attributed funding, European Union, and the Global Crop Diversity Trust. 


On May 18th, 2022, the new ICARDA Morocco Genebank officially opens in Rabat, Morocco. This state-of-the-art facility safely stores one of the world's most unique and extensive collections of wheat, barley, chickpea, faba bean, lentil, and forage genetic material, providing the 'building blocks' that global researchers and breeding programs need to develop high-yielding, resilient, and climate-adapted crops and domestic alternatives to the widely imported staple crops under pressure today.

The new genebank will be inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Sadiki - Morocco's Minister of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, and Water and Forests, along with Mr. Aly Abousabaa, CGIAR's Regional Director of the Central and West Asia and North Africa Regional Office, and ICARDA's Director-General.

The ICARDA Genebanks in Morocco and Lebanon are strategically located to research important regional wild species and crop ancestors (wild relatives) in their natural habitat. Many locally collected species already thrive in harsh conditions, and their hardy traits offer the world much in the way of adaptability to climate change for future crops. 

The new genebank has been designed with cold rooms large enough to safe-keep ICARDA's entire genetic resource collection for up to 100 years before regeneration, including many species threatened in the wild. It also includes new, cutting-edge technology that allows research to take place on species within strictly controlled environmental conditions, essential to identify key genetic resources for tailored needs.

Since the 1970s, CGIAR, through ICARDA, has carried out a range of projects in Morocco, including the conservation and research of genetic resources, breeding of improved, climate-adapted crops, development of water and soil management approaches, farming with alternative pollinators, researching and scaling out of conservation agriculture, developing mixed systems using forages (animal feed) and staple crops, and capacity building of agricultural enterprise especially for women and youth. 

The Kingdom of Morocco and the Lebanon government are notable for their willingness to share genetic resources externally, significantly strengthening regional and global efforts to climate-smart food systems and agriculture. Offering diverse soil and climatic conditions typical for the region, Morocco is one of ICARDA's major food systems research hubs to develop new and resilient approaches and technologies for regional family farmers grappling with the climate crisis. The ICARDA Morocco genebank will become a central pillar of CGIAR's integrated desert farming and research initiatives in the region.

Speakers at the ICARDA Morocco Genebank Opening: 

  • H.E. Dr. Mohamed Sadiki - Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, and Water and Forests 
  • Mr. Aly Abousabaa - ICARDA Director-General, CGIAR CWANA Regional Director  
  • Mrs. Sonja Vermeulen - CGIAR’s Global Director of Genetic Innovation 
  • Mrs. Charlotte Lusty - Head of Program and Genebank Platform Coordinator, Global Crop Diversity Trust
  • Mr. Kent Nnadozie - Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, FAO  

Also attending will be Dr. Faouzi Bekkaoui, INRA-Maroc Director as well as experts and delegates from the Crop Diversity Trust, CGIAR, and other partners and donors.