Program to Develop Technology and Strengthen Capabilities in Conservation and Use of Agrobiodiversity
Under the auspices of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID), two workshops were held from 2008 to 2010 on the implementation of the ITPGRFA for countries from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC) in Cartagena de lndias (Colombia, July-August 2008) and Antigua (Guatemala, August 2010). The success of the events was a testament to the effectiveness of this kind of workshops in contributing to the implementation of the ITPGRFA objectives within the GRULAC community. The coordination of the workshops between the organizations involved was a decisive factor in achieving the objectives set, particularly given Spain’s commitment to the ITPGRFA. The organizations involved were the Secretariat of the ITPGRFA, the Spanish International Cooperation and Development agency (Agencia Española para la Cooperación Internacional y el Desarrollo – AECID), the Spanish Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine areas (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino) and the Spanish Plant Genetic Resources Center (Centro Nacional de Recursos Fitogenéticos) of the Spanish Institute for Research and Agrarian Technology (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria – CRF-INIA). The workshops were also effective due to the close relationship between the National Plant Genetic Resources Conservation programs and the National Agricultural Research Institutes (Institutos Nacionales de Investigación Agrícola – INIAs) in Spain and the GRULAC countries.
The positive experiences from earlier workshops and the importance of achieving some key ITPGRFA objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly those explained in articles 5, 6, 7, 8, and 13.2 c, were strong incentives to continue with these activities. At the same time, it became clear that there was a need for the workshops to be developed in greater depth with more technical content. This way, a technology transfer program was considered in which the workshops would be a key element of a broader-based action strategy.
Taking this precedent and the region’s necessities as a point of departure, the Program to Strengthen Capabilities in National Plant Genetic Resources Programs in Latin America – CAPFITOGEN – was launched. This program has been focused on the development of appropriate technologies for countries that are extremely agrobiodiverse but that have limited economic resources. Its function was to develop and transfer technology and to provide the appropriate training for technical stafffrom the Latin American countries that are signatories to the Treaty.The product of that effort was the development of what we now know as CAPFITOGEN tools.
The warm reception given to the tools and the methodologies developed under the auspices of the CAPFITOGEN program in 2013 motivated some of the countries targeted by the program to organize national workshops on their initiative, financed by the most interested parties. At the same time, other countries and regions not initially targeted by the program started to show interest, asking for tools and transfer and training activities.During the period 2013-2020, 15 training workshops were held (Colombia-Regional Workshop I, Cuba, Spain, Honduras, Uruguay, Brazil-Regional Workshop II, United Kingdom, Albania, South Africa, Mexico, Portugal, Ecuador I, Argentina, Ecuador II, China-Regional Workshop III). More than 300 technicians from over 40 countries have been trained, more than 40 research studies have been published, and over ten doctoral theses using CAPFITOGEN tools have been identified.
Thus, the CAPFITOGEN program was used not only as a generator and facilitator of appropriate technology but also as a model of transfer. One of its most innovative aspects is how it seeks to involve people who have developed scientific methodologies. They are invited to develop the tools provided by the program based on their methodologies and to carry out the technical training and transfer activities themselves. This model means that the program beneficiaries are guaranteed direct access to the scientists and developers behind the tools to answer queries or discuss cases. At the same time, the scientists themselves benefit directly from the experiences and issues tackled by the technical experts from national programs. As a result, tools of greater application and better suited to meet real needs will be developed in the future.
The first version of CAPFITOGEN tools (2012-2014) provided users with seven tools focused on the representativeness of ex situ conservation. The second version of the program (2014-2018) offered 14 tools, including some to support decision-making on in situ conservation and several complementary tools (which facilitate the use of other tools). Additionally, the second version was available through a user-friendly interface using forms designed in HTML and java deployed on virtual servers. It required the local installation of software and a virtual server system (on the user’s PC).
From 2019, a shift in focus led to a new Program to Develop Technology and Strengthen Capabilities in Conservation and Use of Agrobiodiversity, with a global scale, new challenges, and broader scopes. The Farmer’s Pride project (http://www.farmerspride.eu/), funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union has provided strong support to introduce a new version of the tools (CAPFITOGEN3). This new version consists of two utilization modes, on server mode (analysis on AWS servers) and local mode without HTML-java-virtual server interfaces (to avoid the problems that several users reported in some particular cases). The Universidad Nacional de Colombia has also become a sponsor for the development, maintenance, and update of CAPFITOGEN3 tools through extension projects and international cooperation.
CAPFITOGEN3 local mode and on server mode will lead a high number of activities, consultancies, new instruction and on-demand training efforts, and the development of novel applications.