Syria is part of the “fertile crescent” – also know as the “cradle of civilization” – which saw the development of some of the earliest human civilizations. These civilizations flourished in part due to water supplies and agricultural resources. The fields around Aleppo, Syria were among the first to produce wheat and barley crops for humankind. Today Aleppo is the site of a ongoing battle in a bloody civil war that has convulsed the Syrian nation.
Despite the dangerous conditions, a team of scientists at the Icarda genebank in Aleppo has done extraordinary work in preserving the genetic diversity of seeds that the world’s population relies on for food. They have risked their lives to preserve nearly 150,000 seed varieties. Most of the samples will be held in safety at a remote location in Norway, at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world’s hedge against agricultural disaster.
Mahmoud Solh, director general of Icarda, said the bank represented the “genetic wealth” of humanity, with plants from some 128 countries. “The role of gene collection in preserving crop biodiversity and ensuring future food supply has become particularly important as climate change poses a serious threat to crops and food security in the developing world,” he said.
An inspiring and informative read.