A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Posted 4:49 PM by Luigi
PGR policy training capacity in the Pacific
Dr Mary Taylor, the RGC Adviser has just come back from a "Global Training of Trainers workshop: Law and Policy of Relevance To the Management of Plant Genetic Resources" in Leipzig, Germany (July 19-24). The purpose of this workshop was to train a cadre of actual and future trainers who are able and committed to use the module to organize subsequent training and training of trainers workshops in their regions, countries and institutions.
The workshop lasted for 6 full days and was very intensive, always starting at 8.30am prompt and continuing until at least 6pm every day. The workshop did not cover the whole module as there was insufficient time. Presentations were made on:
-Domains of learning
-Adults as learners
-History and Development of Law and Policy
-The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
-The Convention on Biological Diversity
-Centres of Origin, Distribution, Interdependence and Value
-TRIPs agreement and UPOV
-Development and Improvement of Genetic Resources
-Regional presentations on CWANA, SSA, Americas, and Asia and the Pacific.
The workshop also contained practical exercises which related to the presentations, and helped to highlight the problems that can occur when trying to develop and/or implement any law or policy pertaining to PGRFA. These exercises covered:
-Implementing TRIPS agreement and the UPOV system
-Development and Improvement of Genetic Resources
-Interpreting the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
PAPGREN plans to demonstrate part of this module at its meeting in October, and to use it for training in this very important area of PGR law and policy.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Posted 1:57 PM by Luigi
Vanuatu kava floods Fiji market?
Story reprinted from the Fiji Times (Tuesday, July 27, 2004)
KAVA importers in Fiji are flooding the local market with Vanuatu kava, buying it for as little as $6 per kg and reselling it here for more than $20 per kg. And Fiji Kava Council chairman Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo said they were investigating allegations that a banned brand called Tudei kava had infiltrated our market.
"Some kava drinkers in Noumea and Port Vila are complaining that they have been drinking substandard kava which is believed to be the banned brand which some exporters are sneaking into consignments. At the moment they are allegations but we would like to ensure that everything is checked to put the matter to rest once and for all."
He said 10 tonnes (10,000 kg) of Vanuatu kava had been entering the Fiji market every month. Ratu Josateki flew to Vanuatu last week to discuss the issue with government officials there. "This is undercutting our local growers and depriving them of money that should rightfully be theirs," he said.
"Their products are already neglected as they are and we are seeing daylight robbery in front of our own eyes. How can our people in the rural areas rise up out of poverty if the market that is supposed to be theirs is taken up by some cheap product from outside."
Ratu Josateki said as a result of this influx the quality of kava in Fiji had dropped significantly. "I warned them that we would have to seriously consider banning Vanuatu kava unless quality standards are controlled and scrutinised."
However, Ratu Josateki said Vanuatu kava was filling a vacuum, which Fiji farmers were failing to achieve. "My warning goes out to our farmers to stop relaxing and start mobilising your fields as we are anticipating a flood gate of requests should the Germans clear kava as being a safe drug towards the end of the year," he said.
"And if they cannot satisfy the local market how can they expect to satisfy the international one. There are studies which show some properties of kava identified as a drug that could in the future be used as treatment for cancer and other diseases - but the studies are ongoing. If that is true - then our growers are leaving a goldmine idle and wasted - unless they start to do the hard work."
Ratu Josateki said the Vanuatu Kava Council and Fiji quarantine officials would work hand in hand to ensure that all imports underwent thorough checks before being allowed into the market. He was in Vanuatu to discuss a replacement for the late Frank King, who was Vanuatu's representative on the International Kava Executive Council (IKEC). Ratu Josateki is co-chair of the council, which is funded by the European Union and is based in Brussels. He delivered a letter to the Prime Minister's Office in Vanuatu to invite the Prime Minister to attend the council's (IKEC) conference in Suva between November 20 and December 3.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Posted 2:19 PM by Luigi
Characterization of the giant swamp taro
Mr Viliamu Iese is a Samoan student at the University of the South Pacific, working on Cyrtosperma under the supervision of Dr Anand Tyagi, Head of the Biology Department, Dr Mary Taylor of the SPC-RGC and Dr Ian Godwin of the University of Queensland, Brisbane.
He's just finished interviewing farmers in Tuvalu, Pohnpei , and Fiji about their traditional knowledge of the different varieties of the crop, cultivation practices, and uses. He has characterized each variety he has found using 27 morphological descriptors. He has also collected leaf samples for DNA extractions and is now on his way to the University of Queensland to carry out DNA fingerprinting studies. We wish him luck in his work.
Posted 1:40 PM by Luigi
News from Papua New Guinea
I received this message a few days ago from Ms Rosa Kambuou, who is responsible for PGR at NARI, PNG, following some news I had posted on a tropical storm hitting Guam. It makes a strong point about the difficulty of maintaining germplasm collections and the importance of keeping duplicates.
What sad news for the farmers of Guam. Port Moresby experienced similar rainfall two weeks ago, in the middle of our driest month, July. Our property at Laloki was severely affected by flood waters. All our germplasm collections in the field were completely submerged under flood waters. We had to recue our national aibika collection by potting them in the nursery. We lost two accessions during the flood. Our national banana collection is looking stunted, but may eventually survive. We may lose some accessions of yams. The plants are not ready for harvest yet. Few D. alata were harvested, but most tubers were rotten. This disaster is giving us a strong warning that it is vital for us to maintain "duplicate" national collections in another NARI location.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Posted 4:05 PM by Luigi
The meaning of “Karat”
A message from Dr Lois Englberger on Karat bananas.....The International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) has asked me about the meaning of "Karat," and where the name came from, as a journalist is writing a story on this banana for a French scientific journal for wide audience. I need to provide this information back to INIBAP for passing on to the journalist. Several persons here suggested that it would be good to ask as many people as possible as there are many ideas around about this.
One story that I got was this: Karat is one of the three original banana plants of Pohnpei, along with Mangat and Utin Iap. There is a legend saying that “in the beginning,” all three were brought from the place called Katau, this being a legendary place that no one knows the actual location of. Katau is also the place from where Sakau (kava) was brought. Katau often comes up in Pohnpei legends. The names of bananas are taken from the name of the person bringing the banana, so that means that Karat is the name of the person bringing Karat from Katau.
Other people say that Karat is simply one of the original bananas of Pohnpei and is the banana used for feeding to infants.
Thank you for any advice.
Dr Lois Englberger
Island Food Community of Pohnpei
P.O. Box 2299
Federated States of Micronesia
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Posted 10:25 PM by Luigi
Simon Poon is an MBA Summer Intern working with Ramsey Reimers of RRE, Inc. on a project to hopefully further develop the business opportunities of pandanus in the Marshall Islands. You can contact him on dsp@MIT.EDU if you'd like more information on his work and RRE's pandanus business.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Posted 9:55 PM by Luigi
Seed and animal interactions
A recent article in National Geographic mentions work by Donald Drake of the University of Hawaii on how plant and animal interaction affects reproduction of native plants and food for native animals in the Pacific Ocean islands.
Animals may stop performing ecological functions such as seed dispersal long before they go extinct. Drake and co-worker McConkey found that, for example, flying foxes cease being effective seed dispersers when their population densities fall below a point that induces them to compete over food resources. They say it is important to take conservation actions before seed-dispersing animal species drop below this threshold.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Posted 9:08 PM by Luigi
Diabetes on the rise in Fiji
From Fijilive: www.fijilive.com
There is a significant increase in the number of people suffering from diabetes in Fiji today than a decade ago. This has been revealed in report compiled after a series of surveys by the National Food and Nutrition Center.
Food and Nutrition Manager Sneh Lata Chand says that current figures compared to their research in 1993 are alarming. She says that more people are dying from hypertension and diabetes than from any other disease. She blamed the deaths directly to the decrease in consumption of traditional food crops, which she said has been replaced by other types of food, both in rural and urban areas.
Chand said contribution of energy from traditional food crops has decreased over the years and people are now more dependent on cereal and low fiber types of food.
“This type of food intake leads to overeating, thus the risk of diabetes and hypertension increase,” Chand says.
She warned that there is an urgent need to limit the consumption of saturated fats and fatty foods, acids and sugar.
Posted 3:45 PM by Luigi
Trobriand yam harvest festival a success
By HENZY YAKHAM
From The National
THIS year's Milamala (yam harvest) festival on Trobriand Islands has been hailed as a great success. The praise came from Trobriand Islands paramount chief Pulayasi Daniel after the weeklong celebration. Chief Daniel commended his people for working hard to make this yam season a good gardening year. He said the success was indicated by the large quantities of yam harvested and the peaceful celebrations. Chief Daniel stressed the importance of yam for the Kiriwina (Trobriand) people, it is the cornerstone of their lives. "Yam has a lot to do with the people's livelihood because it dictates the status of people, creates power, provides social security and safety," he added.
Chief Daniel said for a long while, the significance of yam will remain intact even though the modern cash economy provided sustenance of many Trobriand islanders. He said among others, the annual Milamala festival:
* Preserve and promote the Trobriand culture
* Retain the identity of the people
* Promote competition among the people to grow more yams
* Encourage people to be self-supporting through local food production
* Bind villagers together (have and have not)
* Promotes tourism and spin-off businesses
* Putting Milamala on the right calendar
But chief Daniel also warned his people to be wary of threat to future Milamala festivals from bad influences of people returning home from other parts of the country. "People returning home or taking part in future festivals may bring back bad influences and practices not accepted in our communities," he said. Citing stealing as an example he said theft was a shameful act in the Trobriand society and such practice were unacceptable.
Chief Daniel said another threat to the Milamala Festival was people involving themselves in practices not traditional to Trobriand culture and way of life. "The use of modern guitars and copying other styles of dancing and songs not originally from the Trobriand Islands are threats to the real spirit and meaning of Milamala," he stressed.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Posted 2:09 PM by Luigi
New Scientist article on karat bananas
Following up my previous message, you can find an article in the latest New Scientist describing the work on karat bananas and nutrition in Pohnpei, as presented at the international congress on banana by Lois Englberger and Adelino Lorens.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Posted 8:08 PM by Luigi
First International Congress on Bananas
There's news of this, being held from 6 to 9 July in Penang, Malaysia, on the IPGRI Public Awareness pages here.
Dr Lois Englberger's work on the nutritional value of Micronesian Fe’i bananas is mentioned as one of the examples of banana research having a positive impact on people’s lives.
Posted 4:43 PM by Luigi
Guam's agriculture devastated by storm
Article by Katie Worth, Pacific Daily News.
HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 7) - Less than two weeks ago, farmer Victor Duenas had almost 25 acres of watermelons, bananas, cucumbers and long beans on his Inarajan farm, ripening in the warm island air.
Now he has none.
He is one of dozens of farmers who lost 100 percent of their crops in last week’s torrential rains and island wide floods, a loss that will cost the island's farmers between $350,000 and $500,000, according to Guam Department of Agriculture estimates.
Agriculture Acting Director, Paul Bassler said his department estimates that every farmer on island lost more than 50 percent of their crops to Tropical Storm Tingting, which brought 16 inches of rain to the island in a single day last week. Many lost everything, he said.
"It was a serious blow to the farmers, no question," Bassler said.
Fortunately for Duenas, he is enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, also known as NAP. While the program won’t compensate farmers for the full cost of their loss, it should provide farmers with enough money to get back on their feet, said Tom Camacho of the USDA's Farm Service Agency.
The USDA’s assistance program has actually been in existence for many years, said Camacho, and is available to farmers in areas including Guam, where no farm insurance exists because of the frequency of disasters. However, only since 2002’s Typhoon Chata’an, has the program had much participation from Guam’s farmers.
The program, he explained, will compensate a farmer about 50 cents on the dollar for about half of his or her lost crop. In other words, it covers about 25 percent of the cost of the crop loss.
"The intent is not for them to recuperate 100 percent of the cost, it’s to help them recuperate at least enough to purchase seeds and fertilizers and such so they don't have to fork it out of their own pockets again," Camacho said.
The farmers are required to pay an annual $100 administrative fee per crop they plan to harvest, with a maximum cost of $300 each year, Camacho said. He explained that some farmers find the program difficult because it requires them to keep detailed records of their harvests, but in the end it's a worthwhile investment compared to the massive losses they could sustain.
At times in the past, the government of Guam has provided money to help farmers whose income has been devastated, but the Legislature did not appropriate money for that purpose after Supertyphoon Pongsona in December 2002, and has not this time. Camacho said the governor would have to first declare a disaster for the money to be appropriated.
In the meantime, Duenas and other farmers around the island have been working to clean up the mess that Tingting left in its wake.
Part of the loss was because the farmers were not warned about or prepared for the storm’s massive rainfall, Duenas said.
"I’ve been a farmer for 25 years in Inarajan. This is the first time in my life to see a rain that won’t stop like that," Duenas said. "The old-timers are saying that that happened before, way back in the days, but for me, it was the first time.
"And they don’t even warn us. I could have saved some banana there (by) bracing them, but there was no message from anybody."
He said that before he lost all his crops, he was producing enough to make several thousand dollars a month, but now he will be without income for the two to six months it will take him to recuperate his various crops.
Every other farmer he has spoken with, Duenas said, including his neighbor, who has an aquaculture farm, lost nearly everything.
"All the farmers are hurting right now," he said.
July 8, 2004
Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com
Copyright © 2004 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Posted 4:18 PM by Luigi
Copra in Asia-Pacific: Bad news
By Kalvau Moli
PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 6) -- Delegates at the 41st Cocotech meeting at Luganville were told that productivity in the coconut sector has not substantially increased in the past four decades and is experiencing a downturn in some areas.
Addressing yesterday’s meeting, that brought together 14 members countries, Executive Director of Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), Dr. P. Rethinam revealed, "If we look at the world average productivity of copra, productivity it is only 0.89 ton copra/per/ha per year equivalent while the APCC member countries average is only 0.83 ton/copra per ha/per year except for Thailand and Vietnam. He listed most island nations within the pacific region as member countries that have been experiencing down turn in productivity level."
"Vanuatu productivity has dropped from 0.61 tons/per ha/per year to 0.50 over a period of thirty two years.
"In the thirst to find land for growing food crops, as well as to meet the growing demands for housing and industrial needs there is not much scope for horizontal area expansion in many of the coconut growing countries but there is greater scope for consolidation in areas of gap filling like in replanting and under planting thereby increasing the productivity considerably."
He raised the APCC’s concern that market wise, the governments will not be able to do every thing to assist the industry a lot will depend on the private sector, joint ventures and political will in the coconut sector.
The APCC Executive Director also confirmed that he intends to pledge this years APCC convention for year 2005 to be noted as, "year of the coconut."
In adding, he stated, "Over the last two years, the copra prices for copra and coconut oil are going up and all are happy. But as long as we are not increasing the productivity per palm or per unit area, the income increase cannot be a sustainable one."
"I am asking every member country to formulate short term strategy towards making their coconut industry more competitive."
He made an appeal for a joint effort by all member countries to come up with a new road map whereby the coconut production can again be revived.
The four-day meeting, which is held back to back with the APCC’s second coconut festival, was opened by the Interim minister of Trade and Industries, Willie Jimmy Tapangararua who made a pledge to the Coconut community to join hands in the effort to improve and sustain the industry. Regarding Vanuatu's situation, Jimmy made two proposals for assistance asking APCC to help Vanuatu in setting two processing units- one to process coconut husk into fiber.
July 7, 2004
Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com/
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Posted 7:20 PM by Luigi
PGR and nutrition
There is an article by Mary Taylor, Lois Englberger and myself on the role of plant genetic resources conservation and use for better nutrition in the Pacific in the June 2004 issue of SPC's Pacific Islands Nutrition newsletter (no. 60). You can find it here.
You can download Word and pdf versions, but the latter is a bit large. I can send you copies if you have trouble downloading.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.