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GLF Live with Tony Simons, Charlotte Lusty, Lava Kumar and Vania Azevedo

Q&A on COVID-19 and genebanks

See the full GLF Live series on COVID-19 and climate change here.

From the desk of Landscape News comes a series of live interviews with experts examining the linkages between COVID-19 and climate change. On 13 May, Tony Simons, director general of World Agroforestry (ICRAF), spoke with Charlotte Lusty, head of programs and genebank platform coordinator at Crop Trust; Lava Kumar, virologist and head of germplasm health at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and Vania Azevedo, genebank head at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) about the relationship between COVID-19, genebanks and the conservation of seeds.

GLF Live with Tony Simons, Charlotte Lusty, Lava Kumar and Vania Azevedo
COVID-19 and genebanks

Tony Simons is the director general of World Agroforestry. Tony has worked for 27 years on issues at the tropical agriculture/forestry interface in more than 40 developing countries. This has spanned the private sector (Shell Forestry), academia (University of Oxford), official development assistance (ODA/DFID) and research (CGIAR). He holds a B.Ag.Sci degree from Massey University, NZ as well as Masters and Doctoral degrees from Cambridge University, UK. In 2009, he was made an Honorary Professor in Tropical Forestry at the University of Copenhagen. Tony is a Board member of Africa Centre Technology Studies, Plant Resources of Tropical Africa, DANONE Livelihood Fund and DCM International Imaging. He is also the Leader of IUFRO Forest and Water Task Force. He has published over 100 research papers and has sat on several journal editorial boards.

Charlotte Lusty is head of programs and genebank platform coordinator at Crop Trust. She leads the Crop Trust in overseeing the technical and financial management of the CGIAR genebanks. Previously, Charlotte worked at Bioversity International in France; the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center in the UK; and the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania. Charlotte has co-authored several publications. Charlotte is from the UK; and studied Biological Sciences and Zoology at the University of Edinburgh.

Lava Kumar, virologist and head of germplasm health at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has 24 years of working experience in the CGIAR system, focused on controlling emerging and established viruses in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. He explores transdisciplinary approaches for disease control, including characterization of pathogens, molecular diagnostics, ICTs and remote sensing for surveillance, phenomics for host-pathogen interactions, clean seed production, and seed health certification. He is actively engaged in the development of policies and regulations, and awareness-raising on emerging diseases. He coordinates the Germplasm Health (GH) component of the CGIAR Genebank Platform, focusing on establishing technologies, procedures, and strategic partnerships to fast-track the safe distribution of healthy germplasm from CGIAR centers to partners around the world. 

Vania Azevedo took over as the Head of Genebank at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) after a rewarding career working in plant genetic resources with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). She holds a degree in biology from the University of Brasilia. An internship at the Plant Genetics Laboratory at Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology in Brasilia opened her eyes to the world of conservation of plant genetic resources. Vania received her PhD in molecular biology and soon after joined Embrapa to continue her work in molecular characterization for in situ conservation. In 2012, she became the coordinator of the Plant Genetics Resources Project responsible for the conservation of plant genetic materials at Embrapa until 2018, when she left to join ICRISAT.


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