Seed Vault Syria

Seed Vault Syria


The Seed Vault Syria project is an initiative to preserve traditional Syrian crops. This will protect them from climate change, war, and other disasters. The aim is to collect as much genetic diversity from the Middle East as possible.

This project is operated by Slow Food International. The goal is to keep varieties that farmers can't save anymore. Seeds are gathered from local farmers who can't cope with changing weather and political situations.

In 2011, the first shipment was sent from Damascus by Slow Food and ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas). Over 1250 seed samples have been safely stored in Aleppo.

The long term goal is for the project to add new species and varieties. It will also help farmers learn how to conserve traditional crops. This will increase the availability of diverse crops that thrive in both arid climates and unstable environments. This will make the food system more resilient and better able to cope with shocks like droughts and displacement.

History of the Seed Vault

The Seed Vault is a global seed bank located in the Svalbard archipelago, off Norway's coast. It was built to serve as a secure, long-term backup for a vast array of crop varieties. These seeds are kept safe in the Vault, in order to prepare for any future disasters and guarantee crop variety availability.

Now let's take a look at the Seed Vault's history and why it was set up.

Origins of the Seed Vault

The Seed Vault, also known as the ‘doomsday vault', is a seed bank. It stores a wide variety of plant seeds to ensure future food security in times of global crises. It was built in a former military storage facility near Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. There are almost 1 million samples of plant seeds stored on 500 square feet.

The idea for the Seed Vault came from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Global Crop Diversity Trust. It's purpose is to safeguard unique crop varieties from destruction due to natural disasters, wars, or other catastrophes. In 2016, its purpose changed. It became a place to store samples, and make them available to scientists through approved organizations.

In 2020, Seeds Of Survival: A Journey Through Syria’s Seed Bank Crisis showed how important seed banks are. Seed saving can help reforest areas after conflicts. But some areas like Syria don't have access to large gene banks while they rebuild their agricultures. International collaborations are needed to save endangered species. The Seed Vault on Svalbard Archipelago is one place where these collaborations can happen.

The Syrian Seed Vault

In 1983, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) established the Syrian Seed Vault as an outreach program from Syria. Its intention was to protect important varieties of seed and wild species that could be at risk due to regional and global issues.

The Vault includes a range of crop species suitable for dry areas, e.g., wheat, barley, lentils and chickpea. It also stores landraces, which are varieties of crops grown outside commercial agriculture.

ICARDA also collects seeds from other countries for the mission of reducing food insecurity in the poorest nations. Unfortunately, due to conflict in Syria, ICARDA has limited access to the Seed Bank. So, reproductions around the world have been created to ensure the preservation of these valuable seeds no matter what happens in Syria.

Benefits of the Seed Vault

The Global Seed Vault, located in Svalbard, Norway, is a safeguard for the world's food supply. It holds millions of different seed samples from thousands of species. This vault is thought to be the most important store of food crop diversity on the planet. It's an essential part of producing enough food for a growing population.

Let's look closer at the advantages of this seed vault:

Preservation of Plant Genetic Resources

The Seed Vault is a great way to store plant genetic resources. These resources are important for food security and the ingredients used in medicines, cosmetics, and other products. Preserving them ensures they will be available in the future and can help crops survive changing climatic conditions.

The Seed Vault holds seeds of wheat, barley, beans, and lentils found in the Middle East. It is climate-controlled and shields the seeds from external factors, such as temperature changes or humidity. It also safeguards them from disasters like floods and fires.

The Seed Vault preserves plant genetic resources that can help us achieve food security. This way, we will have access to our stored varieties of food plants even in times of conflict. This is possible due to the sophisticated technology and up-to-date security protocols used by the Seed Vault:

  • Climate-controlled environment
  • Shields seeds from external factors
  • Safeguards against disasters like floods and fires

Improved Access to Plant Genetic Resources

The Seed Vault in Syria brings farmers and stakeholders closer to the country's agricultural heritage. It gives them access to share, use, and exchange innovative crop varieties. The vault also provides info on conservation, production, seed quality, genetic characterization, nutrition composition and agronomy practices.

This facility facilitates sustainable management of Agriculture Genetic Resources. Protecting these materials from biopiracy, it creates an effective conservation mechanism for future generations. Research activities based on the vault's facilities can develop new crop varieties with improved nutritional performance or tolerance to constraints.

The efficient storage systems used at the Seed Vault aid core users across countries. They can benefit from germplasm sharing and improve food security by preserving landraces and providing additional variety even in marginal environments. Being one of the 13 facilities platform storing regional collections of seeds worldwide, its importance in safeguarding food security beyond Damascus' borders is clear.

Challenges of the Seed Vault

The seed vault in Syria is essential for keeping plant diversity alive. Challenges abound, such as access to the vault, danger to the seeds, and a lack of resources for maintenance. In this article, let's investigate the difficulties and what's been done or suggested to deal with them:

  • Access to the vault
  • Danger to the seeds
  • Lack of resources for maintenance


Funding is a major challenge for keeping the Seed Vault operational in Syria. Initially, money came from countries and organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation, Unesco and USAID. But, due to the conflict, money sources are becoming scarce. Volunteers are raising money online to keep it running.

Without enough funding, the Seed Vault's operations will suffer. Staff salaries are mostly under minimum wage, making it hard to attract new people. Inflation caused by declines in foreign currency investments has raised food and health care prices. This has forced many citizens to migrate outside of Syria, leaving even less people to keep up operations.

Funding is critical for this source of biodiversity and conservation knowledge. Without it, it’s hard to imagine how long it can remain open.

Political Instability

The Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway is designed to protect 860,000 seed samples from climate disasters or human errors. But, even its mountain location cannot save it from political instability or conflicts.

In 2015, the International Center for Agricultural Research in Syria (an affiliated off-site genebank of the Global Seed Vault) was destroyed due to a war. This meant that alternative duplicates had to be found for the seeds stored in this genebank, as their storage sites were no longer accessible.

This shows how political instability can disrupt years of preservation and conservation efforts, as millions of crops face changing climates or external risks.

So, although the Global Seed Vault Location is secure against natural disasters, vigilance is still needed when dealing with geopolitical issues or legal disputes encountered in various research partnerships.

Limited Access to Resources

The Seed Vault in Syria has limited access to resources, both financial and natural. This makes capacity-building activities tough to carry out. There's also limited research capacity, making preventive measures hard to do.

The main problem is ongoing war and conflict. Plus, poor governance has caused a lack of international funding. Even if money is received, it's not prioritized due to delays in decision making and mismanagement.

Access to hard-to-reach sites takes longer or may not be possible because of lack of infrastructure and transportation. This affects field collection trips, bringing samples from field sites into labs and storage in gene banks.

Lastly, widespread poverty in conflict-ridden areas results in underfunding for research laboratories and storage facilities. This limits open access to plant genetic diversity, which is necessary for conservation efforts in Syria's seed vaults.


The Seed Vault Syria project shows it's possible to boost a region's food supply. The seeds now sit in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, with other collections from around the world. They're available for researchers, breeders, and farmers that need them.

We wish the project's success will motivate more research into advancing agriculture worldwide and guarding genetic diversity. We hope projects like this become regular, as genetic science progresses and worry over food security remains high. This project is a vital reminder of our ethical duty to safeguard our planet's biodiversity by preserving seeds for future generations.

Thank you for thinking about backing our effort to keep Syrian agricultural research alive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Seed Vault Syria?

Seed Vault Syria is a project that aims to collect and store the seeds of important crops in the world. The project is located in Syria, but it aims to secure the world's food supply by storing seeds from around the globe.

What is the purpose of the Seed Vault Syria?

The purpose of Seed Vault Syria is to protect the world's food supply in case of a natural or man-made disaster. By storing seeds, the project aims to ensure that we have access to important crops, regardless of what happens in the world.

Who is responsible for the Seed Vault Syria?

The Seed Vault Syria project is run by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). The project is funded by a number of different organizations, including the Norwegian government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

What kinds of seeds are stored in the Seed Vault Syria?

The Seed Vault Syria stores a wide variety of seeds, including wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, and hundreds of other important crops. The goal is to store as many different types of seeds as possible, to ensure that we have access to the widest variety of crops possible.

Is the Seed Vault Syria open to the public?

The Seed Vault Syria is not open to the public, as it is a highly secure facility. However, the project does share information and seeds with other organizations and researchers around the world.

What happens if there is a disaster that affects the Seed Vault Syria?

The Seed Vault Syria has taken steps to ensure that it can withstand natural disasters and other types of emergencies. However, if something were to happen, the seeds stored there have duplicates in other locations around the world.

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