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New countries from Asia and the Pacific join Seeds Without Borders Initiative

(Thimphu, Bhutan, 23 November 2022) – During the two-day workshop on “Seeds Without Borders,” nine countries from Asia and the Pacific signed an agreement to strengthen the region’s seed sector.

Seeds Without Borders is a regional seed policy agreement that speeds up the distribution of modern rice varieties across countries in Asia, particularly in South and Southeast Asia. In 2014, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) facilitated the agreement signed by India, Bangladesh and Nepal. To date, the agreement also includes Bhutan, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.

This year, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Fiji are joining the agreement. Fiji is the first Pacific Island nation to join Seeds Without Borders, marking the expansion of the agreement from South and Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands.

On Tuesday, senior agricultural officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Fiji, India, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam signed an agreement called the Thimpu Protocol of Discussion that would help improve the process of implementation of the previous agreements under Seeds Without Borders, such as those that were signed in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013) and Kathmandu, Nepal (2014), and Siem Reap, Cambodia (2017).

Among the discussion points talked about in Thimphu is how each country could work together with IRRI who serves as the convenor of the agreement. The latest agreement also intends to add roots, tuber crops, and fruit crops to the current ones covered by the agreement such as rice and other cereals, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables, sugarcane and fiber crops.

“Bhutan is honored to be part of the Seeds Without Borders as this agreement is instrumental in implementing the country’s programs to achieve food and nutritional security. It would also help Bhutan’s food system become self-reliant, productive, diverse, resilient, and sustainable,” said H. E. Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, Minister for Royal Government of Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Bhutan is one of the organizers of the workshop together with IRRI.

“IRRI has been serving as a broker for this regional seed sharing agreement for almost a decade and we’ve seen how efficient and effective seed sharing policies across countries play an important part in transforming their agri-food systems. Gaining access to a diverse selection of genetic resources, improved and climate-smart crop varieties enables the nations to address the challenges in their agri-food systems better,” said IRRI Director General Jean Balié.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the Thimphu Protocols of Discussion will commence on 23 November 2022. Whenever required, a member country may obtain endorsement of the respective government. In case of unforeseen circumstances, member countries reserve the right to withdraw with mutual consent.

Donors such as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Syngenta Foundation, Asian Development Bank (ADB), ADBi, and the SAARC Development Fund participated in the workshop.