In 2008, amid the frozen mountain on the Svalbard archipelago, a facility that will safeguard the world’s most important seeds from disaster was built. In an event of natural calamities or man-made destruction, any government in the world can access the seeds in its safekeeping in order to restart life anywhere else.
On February 26 2018, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault marked its 10th anniversary by receiving shipments of more than 70,000 crop varieties. To date, the “Doomsday Seed Vault” has over one million unique seed crops in its keeping.
Its 10th year marked the largest number of institutions depositing seeds at the same time. Africa and South Asia deposited important crops like the black-eyed pea, sorghum, pearl millet, and pigeon pea. Other minor crops have also made its way to the facility in Norway. The Bambara groundnut from Africa, the Estonian onion potato, and European beans have now all been tucked away inside the vault.
The “Doomsday Seed Vault” was successfully tested in 2015 when the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas withdrew seeds to help Syria re-establish its agriculture after the civil war. The institution was able to withdraw its deposits of wheat, lentil, chickpea and other crops.
With its 10 years of successful operation, the Norwegian Government deemed it timely for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to undergo technical improvements. The government announced a start-up grant of $12.7 million for the said upgrades.
Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale said the technological enhancement will ensure that the vault can continue to offer the world a secure storage space in the future. The government deemed it extremely important to safeguard all the genetic material that is crucial for the world’s food security.
“The 10th anniversary is a major milestone for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” he said. “It comes at a time when agriculture is facing multiple challenges from extreme weather and the demands of a world population expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. This means it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds –the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture – are safely conserved,” he explained further.