The SADC Executive Secretary, H.E. Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax visited the SADC Plant Genetic Resources Centre (SPGRC) in Lusaka, Zambia on 26th May 2016. In his welcoming remarks, the Head of SPGRC, Dr Paul Munyenyembe informed the Executive Secretary of the uniqueness of the 27 year old SPGRC as a regional genebank in Africa, and explained achievements attained over the years which include conservation of about 45,000 seed samples, of which 18,000 are conserved at the SPGRC, and the remaining in SADC Member States; the establishment of a long-term storage facility; and the development a web-based documentation system where Plant Genetic Resources data can be exchanged instantly online. The Head of the SPGRC thanked SADC Member States and International Cooperating Partners for their continued support. Special recognition was given to the Government of Norway for the substantial support that facilitated the establishment and sustenance of the Centre.
In her response and address to the staff, the Executive Secretary expressed her pleasure visiting and interacting with SPGRC staff. She commended the Center for the achievements made over the years, and applauded the Centre for being at the forefront in coordinating the development and harmonization of plant genetic resources policies in the region. The Executive Secretary appreciated efforts made by the Centre and said she was confident that the genetic resources of SADC will continue to be conserved for many generations to come, and will continue to contribute to the region's food and nutrition security, and environmental management efforts
She urged the Centre to shift its focus from mere conservation to greater utilization of the conserved material as a contribution to food security in the region. She also urged the Centre to conceive innovative approaches to resource mobilization in order to sustain its activities, especially in the face of the declining budget as a result of financial challenges faced by Member States. For SPGRC to maintain its status as a regional centre of excellence in plant genetic resources conservation, the Executive Secretary urged the Management and staff to be up to date with the best technologies and practices that meet international standards in plant genetic resources conservation. She also urged the Management to take advantage of the ongoing review of SADC Secretariat structure so as to enable the Centre function more effectively.
In his remarks, the SPGRC Board Chairperson, Mr Godfrey Mwila thanked the Executive Secretary on behalf of the Board, Management and staff for finding time in her busy schedule, to visit the Centre. He welcomed the Executive Secretary's commitment to drum up support for the Centre. He said that the Centre was very important for addressing some of the topical issues such as climate change and food and nutrition security. He therefore urged SADC Secretariat's support for positioning SPGRC to play regional and global roles not only in conservation but also in sustainable utilization of germplasm materials. He also emphasized the need for expanding Gene bank space that will include construction of a biotechnology laboratory that will see the Centre using modern technologies to conserve vegetatively propagated materials, conducting more accurate characterization using molecular markers.
During her visit, the Executive Secretary held discussions with Technical Departments that include Ex-situ Conservation, In-situ conservation, and Documentation & Information. As part of the discussions, she was introduced to the regional Genebank and the field where germplasm materials are multiplied and regenerated.