An entourage of academics and business specialists accompanied the princess during her visit as part of the Belgian Economic Mission. This special task force, led by the princess, promotes the development of economic and academic relationships between Belgium and the South American countries of Peru and Colombia. The mission visited the International Potato Center to strengthen ties and learn about CIP’s global scientific and economic impacts.
Pieter de Crem, Belgian Federal Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, and Belgian Vice-President and Minister of the Economy, Jean-Claude Marcout, accompanied the princess on her visit. Other members of the mission included Cécile Jodogne, Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Trade and Investments, Michel Dewez, Ambassador of Belgium in Peru, and Genevieve Renaux, Economic Advisor to His Majesty the King of Belgium.
The academics accompanying the princess represented leading Belgian universities such as the Belgian Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and the University of Ghent. These universities play a role as collaborative partners with CIP in programs related to genetic enhancement, crop improvement, and crop management for sustainable intensification of potato and sweetpotato cropping systems.
Within CIP’s Biodiversity Complex, the princess appeared keen to learn that CIP houses over 4500 potato accessions and over 7000 sweetpotato accessions. This is the largest genetic collection of potato, sweetpotato, and Andean roots and tuber crops stored anywhere in the world. The head of the Biodiversity Complex, David Ellis, explained how CIP’s renowned genebank conserves and preserves potato and sweetpotato for researchers around the world focused on enhancing food security and improving nutrition for vulnerable populations.
“Belgium and CIP share a long relationship,” explained Dr. Wells, “and Belgium has supported our research both financially and scientifically.” The linkage between CIP and Belgian universities stretches back over the past 43 years. Dr. Wells furthermore explained that Belgian financial support had been critical in CIP’s development of new technologies and programs that have had lasting impacts for smallholder farmers across Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
“It is an honor to have received a visit from Princess Astrid and her special mission, and we look forward to working closely with the Belgian people in the future in order to promote food security, increased well-being, and gender equity for poor people in the developing world,” concluded Dr. Wells at the end of the princess’s visit.
Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid & Dr. Barbara Wells, Director General CIP