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Delivering research-based solutions that harness agrobiodiversity and sustainably transform food systems

Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Bioversity International and
launching the Alliance with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Monday, 20 May 2019 | 14.30 – 17.00 | FAO Headquarters, Sheikh Zayed Centre

on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Bioversity International and the Government of Italy

Watch the recording of this event


Over the last 45 years, the global food security agenda has grown more complex. Nutrition, climate change adaptation, resilience and sustainability became key components of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Bioversity International evolved in response to these 21st century priorities and currently delivers science-based policy options, approaches and innovations using and safeguarding agricultural and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable food and nutrition security.

Co-location in Rome of the headquarters of Bioversity International and the United Nations food and agriculture agencies, especially the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to connect agricultural research, policy making and investments, and partnerships with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and national research institutes and universities, has played key roles in raising awareness of the solutions agrobiodiversity offers to the major challenges facing global food systems. (See Annex 1 for origins of Bioversity International in FAO and the CGIAR System).

Looking ahead, Bioversity International and CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) are joining forces in an Alliance focused on delivering research-based solutions that harness agrobiodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives. Juan Lucas Restrepo is Bioversity International’s new Director General, effective March 2019, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alliance with CIAT, effective January 2020.

Bioversity International and CIAT are CGIAR Research Centres, and an increasing number of scientists from other CGIAR Centres are hosted by Bioversity International in Rome. The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT and stronger CGIAR presence in Rome will improve international agricultural research interconnectedness with the UN food and agriculture agencies, and with the national agricultural research systems, government agencies, private sector and civil society organizations, which are vital to deliver science-based solutions and achieve impact at scale. FAO’s new Strategy on Biodiversity Mainstreaming across Agricultural Sectors offers an immediate opportunity for collaboration with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and other partners on integration of agrobiodiversity in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; for instance, scientifically rigorous and internationally agreed metrics to measure mainstreaming of agrobiodiversity is fundamental for informed decisions.

Bioversity International, FAO and the Government of Italy organized an event around International Day for Biological Diversity to celebrate Bioversity International’s 45th anniversary and highlight key achievements with partners, and introduce what the Alliance with CIAT offers partners now and in the future.


  • Celebrate past milestones in the history of Bioversity International with a focus on collaboration with the UN Rome-based Agencies, UN Environment Programme and national partners that have achieved impact in agrobiodiversity for: 1) Diets and markets; 2) Sustainable production systems; and 3) Genetic resources conservation.
  • Look ahead to the new Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, introduce the new Director General/Alliance CEO, and highlight ambition for greater collaboration with FAO, IFAD, WFP and other international agencies and national organizations engaged in delivering research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives.
  • Launch the bookCelebrating 45 Years of Agrobiodiversity Research
    Download the Anniversary Book


  • Permanent representatives to the UN agencies in Rome.
  • Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation; Environment, Land and Sea Protection; Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
  • Rome-based agencies (inter alia FAO, IFAD, WFP, IDLO, the Commission on Genetic Resources, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources).
  • Italian research institutions (inter alia IAM Bari, CREA, CNR, Scuola Sant’Anna)
  • Bioversity International
  • UN Environment Programme


The event took place on Monday, 20 May from 14.30 to 17.00 in the Sheik Zayed Centre at FAO headquarters and was structured in 3 parts:

In the first part of the event,the moderator, Marcela Villarreal, Director, Partnerships Division, FAO, introduced the high level podium and opening speakers. Daniel Gustafson, Deputy Director-General (Programmes), FAO, welcomed the participants, officially introduced Juan Lucas Restrepo as new Director General of Bioversity International and CEO designate of the Alliance between Bioversity and CIAT, and set the scene by referring to International Biological Diversity Day, FAO’s new Biodiversity Strategy, and Bioversity International’s 45th anniversary. The moderator then gave the floor to the Ambassador of Italy to the Rome-based international organizations and then the Chair of Bioversity International Board of Trustees to make their opening remarks. She then introduced the Keynote speaker on this year’s theme for International Biological Diversity Day - 'Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.'

The second part of the event celebrated the past and key partnerships with the Rome based UN agencies and national partners. Three former Director Generals highlighted milestones in the evolution of Bioversity International. Brief presentations followed on examples of achievement with partners in three work areas - Diets and markets, Sustainable production systems, and Genetic resources conservation.

The third part of the event looked ahead - introducing the range of solutions the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT offers to international and national partners and opening up to questions from the floor to the panel on the podium. René Castro Salazar, Assistant Director General, Climate, Land and Water and Biodiversity, gave closing remarks.


Moderator: Marcela Villarreal, Director, Partnerships Division, FAO

Part 1 – Opening (from 14.30 to 15.05)

20 mins

Welcome remarks

Daniel Gustafson, Deputy Director-General (Programmes), FAO

Vincenza Lomonaco, Ambassador of Italy to the Rome-based international organizations

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Chair, Bioversity International Board of Trustees

15 mins

Keynote 'Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health'

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica

Part 2 – Bioversity International past and present (from 15.05 to 15.50)

Introduction: Cristiana Mele, Councellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Italy 

15 mins

Celebrating 45 years of conservation and use of agricultural and tree biodiversity

Geoff Hawtin, Former DG Bioversity International, and Chair CIAT Board of Trustees

Emile Frison, Former DG Bioversity International

Ann Tutwiler, Former DG Bioversity International

40 mins

Examples of achievement with partners

Improving biodiversity in diets and markets

Joyce Njoro, Lead Technical Specialist, IFAD

Stefano Padulosi, Senior Scientist, Integrated Conservation and Use, Bioversity International

Agrobiodiversity for sustainable production systems

Matteo Dell'Acqua, Institute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna (video)

Carlo Fadda, Senior Scientist, Productive Agricultural Systems, Bioversity International

Conserving genetic resources for future food needs

Kent Nnadozie, Secretary International Treaty Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, FAO 

Michael Halewood, Senior Scientist, Crop and Tree Diversity Policies, Bioversity International

PART 3 – Looking ahead - Delivering research-based solutions that harness agrobiodiversity and sustainably transform food systems (from 15.50 to 17.00)

15 mins

Introduction to Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

Juan Lucas Restrepo, DG Bioversity International & CEO-designate Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT  

35 mins

Interactive discussion involving the audience and the high level podium representatives

5 mins

Closing remarks
René Castro Salazar, Assistant Director General, Climate, Land and Water and Biodiversity, FAO 


Reception outside the Sheik Zayed Centre, next to the Albero della Vita


Bioversity International originated in 1974, when the members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) established the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), as an international entity operating under the aegis of the CGIAR. Located in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IBPGR’s purpose was to coordinate an international plant genetic resources programme including emergency collecting missions, and building and expanding national, regional and international gene banks.

In 1991, IBPGR became a fully independent international organization under the Agreement on the Establishment of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), which entered into force in October 1991 following its signature by three states. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Italy, Bioversity International’s host country, is the Depositary of the Agreement. Some 57 states are now parties to the Establishment Agreement[1], having deposited an instrument of accession with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy.

In January 1994, IPGRI began independent operation as a CGIAR Centre and at the request of the CGIAR took over governance and administration of the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP).

In 2002, IPGRI and FAO founded the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which finances the maintenance of the international genebanks managed by the CGIAR and monitors their standards. Since 2004, IPGRI has  served as technical support in negotiations for the International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture(ITPGRFA) hosted by FAO, and supports its implementation at the country level.

In 2006, IPGRI and INIBAP became a single organization and the operating name became Bioversity International. The largest collection of banana germplasm in the world is managed and held in trust from FAO by Bioversity International. FAO is also one of the 12 Trustees of the Board of Bioversity International.

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[1] Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine.