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Svalbard seed vault welcomes baobab, hairy eggplant and African rice

Nine depositors – from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Zambia – are sending their seeds for safekeeping for the first time.


Svalbard seed vault.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a cornerstone of global food security, will open its doors for the first time this year to welcome 23 depositors, half from Africa. 

Nine depositors – from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Zambia – are sending their seeds for safekeeping for the first time. Some more popular crops deposited this time are beans, barley, cowpea, maize, rice, millet, and sorghum. 

A symbol of collective commitment

Established 16 years ago and operated in a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) and the Crop Trust, the facility was designed to hold over 2 billion seeds and ensure their availability for future generations. Located in the permafrost of the Svalbard archipelago on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the Seed Vault maintains optimal conditions for the long-term storage of seeds, protecting them from natural and human-made disasters. 

In addition to its role as a repository of diversity, the Svalbard Seed Vault symbolizes international cooperation and solidarity. The deposit event,  which will be attended by the Minister of Food and Agriculture of Norway, Geir Pollestad, exemplifies the collective commitment of the world agricultural community to sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, and the well-being of present and future generations.

The deposit on 27 February will see a diverse array of returning and new depositors contributing to safeguarding agricultural biodiversity. With the addition of almost 14,000 this month, the Seed Vault will now house over 1.27 million seed samples. 

International seeds go underground

IPK (Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research) in Germany will deposit the largest number of seeds: 2,679 samples of 267 different species of crops. Mali’s Institut d'Economie Rurale is the second largest depositor, with 1,601 samples of ​​sorghum, beans, pearl millet, fonio, millet and other crops.

The third largest deposit, of 1,045 rice accessions, will be sent by Madagascar’s National Center for Applied Research of Rural Development. This and 14 other deposits are possible thanks to support from the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) Project, a global 10-year initiative to strengthen global food and nutrition security funded by the Government of Norway and led by the Crop Trust. 

BOLD partners come from all corners of the world. The event includes the first deposit of cowpea and rice from Nigeria-based Ahmadu Bello University, one of Africa's largest and most prestigious universities. The University of Sarajevo’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences in Bosnia and Herzegovina sends seeds of maize, beans, and other crops. The Indonesia-based Borneo Institute Foundation, an NGO, is shipping seeds of hairy eggplant, maize, rice, and Vigna.

A returning depositor, the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) of Mali, will ship seeds of African rice and fonio (Digitaria exilis), both declining crops. African rice, a local species distinct from the more familiar Asia kind, was historically neglected and forbidden to grow in commercial rice zones. It is mainly found in the inland delta of the Niger River and is highly nutritious. New, more productive varieties have been developed by crossing it with Asian rice, benefiting the people of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

The deposit also includes tree and forage seeds. 

African baobab and numerous types of acacia are part of the agroforestry tree seeds sent by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Seeds of birch, pine and spruce will arrive from Skogfrøverket, the Forest Tree Seed Centre, which is responsible for conserving and managing forest tree seeds in Norway. Julius Kühn Institute from Germany is sending apple seeds. 

A BOLD project partner and first-time depositor, the Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture and Plant Growing is putting a particular emphasis on safeguarding seeds of alfalfa and wheat grass. “Pastures are the main source of animal feed for indigenous communities. Unfortunately, pasture species are disappearing in some places,” said Sakysh Yerzhanova, Leading Researcher of the Forage Crops Laboratory of the Kazakh institute. New Zealand’s national forage genebank, the Margot Forde Germplasm Centre, is sending perennial ryegrass and other forage crops.

Once delivered safely to the Seed Vault, the seed samples will join the tens of thousands already stored in the subterranean seed chambers at temperatures of around −18°C.

Additional Quotes

Geir Pollestad, Minister of Agriculture and Food for Norway, said:

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a long-term security measure for global food security. This deposit will be the largest number of new depositors that we have ever seen. After this deposit, 111 seed banks in 77 different countries will have a backup of their seeds in Svalbard. This is not a symbolic act, it is part of the countries’ security policy, says the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Geir Pollestad.”

Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director of NordGen, said:

“Svalbard Global Seed Vault offers an additional, vital level of security for the world’s agricultural biodiversity, a service that is important for our global food security, especially in troubled times. It is both gratifying and hopeful that so many new genebanks around the world will participate in this seed deposit.”

Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, said:

"One cannot describe the relief and joy we all feel as the seed boxes from all over the world arrive at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. There is so much work behind this brief moment. The Seed Vault represents a shared commitment to global peace, where nations unite to safeguard a common resource vital for sustaining life worldwide. Preserving genetic diversity in this Arctic fastness ensures the adaptability and resilience in our crops, guaranteeing food security for generations to come."

A full list of the 23 genebank depositors who are delivering unique seed varieties to Longyearbyen can be found below:

Seed deposits February 2024





Margot Forde Germplasm Centre

New Zealand


17 forage species, grasses and Trifolium ssp., 101 Lolium

World Agroforestry Centre ICRAF



21 sp. agroforestry tree species, 60 Acacia ssp., 46 Faidherbia

Institute of Biosciences and BioResources



7 species, 194 Triticum ssp.

National Agricultural and Food Centre



7 species, 191 wheat




267 different species


Nordic countries


135 species, appr. 500 barley

Julius Kühn Institute



Fragaria and Malus




Picea, Pinus, Alnus, Betula

BOLD partners

Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture and Plant Growing (new)



15 species, forage grasses and legumes

Fabia CSB Bogdanci (BOLD)



18 species, vegetables, legumes, 102 Phaseolus ssp.

Biodiversity Education and Resource Centre (new)



16 species, legumes, grains and vegetables

Borneo Institute Foundation (new)



Oryza, Vigna, Zea and Solanum ferox

Seed Savers Network Association (new)



Pigeon pea, Bean, Sorghum, Finger Millet and Cowpea

Ecogerm Farmers (new)



11 species, Zea, Solanum ssp., Amaranthus, Lycine, Talinum, Brassica, Phaseolus

The National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (new)







13 crops, tropical grains and legumes, 241 sorghum

University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences (new)

Bosnia & Herz.


15 species, 93 Phaseolus, 91 Zea

University of Cape Coast




Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research

Burkina Faso



Agricultural Research Institute of Burundi



Sorghum, beans, pearl millet, finger millet, maize, Groundnuts, pigeon pea, cowpea, okra

Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (new)



9 species: Sorghum, maize, beans of different genera, millets, etc

Institut d'Economie Rurale



Sorghum, beans, pearl millet, Oryza ssp., maize, Triticum ssp., melon and fonio millet

Ahmadu Bello University (new)



Cowpea and rice



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