Wheat seeds being planted in a field in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, not far from the Syrian border have had a long journey.They started their life in a research center close to Aleppo as part of global efforts to ensure food security amid a changing climate. After hostilities broke out, the seeds were part of a batch sent to the doomsday seed vault in Norway for safe keeping. The vault, buried in a mountain on an icy island close to the North Pole, houses a huge collection of seeds from around in the world, kept for safe keeping in case of disasters.
When the fighting intensified, staff at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) fled Aleppo leaving behind their valuable seed collection. They smuggled out some seeds and made the first withdrawal from the doomsday vault to redevelop the collection they left behind.
Now, researchers have restarted their work in Lebanon's fertile Bekaa valley. In this project, Jennifer Duggan reports on how these seeds help continue the center's research into growing crops in arid conditions, of vital importance for global food security. The seeds are being sown in an area where many Syrian refugees have settled. The center's staff plan to build a genetic bank in Lebanon, just like the one left behind in Aleppo, and will return the parent seeds once again to the vault in Svalbard.