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

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    New INIBAP web site

    This just came in from the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP).

    INIBAP is pleased to announce the launching of its new web site.

    In addition to changing the look of the website, new sections on banana products and general information on bananas have been added. We also made it easier to navigate between the 3 language versions.

    The site was developed using the open-source PHP technology.

    Our address hasn't changed. Visit us at www.inibap.org.

    We welcome your comments.

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    Sea level rise and taro on Tuvalu

    A short article in Orion magazine talks about how "global warming is coming first for the Tuvaluans ... suddenly the spring high tides are washing across the island of Funafuti, eroding foundations and salt-poisoning crops in the fields. Tuvalu ... is drowning. Tuvaluans have begun to work out plans for evacuating the population over the course of the next decades as the sea rises."

    The article includes a picture of a taro plant accompanied by this caption:

    "In recent years, taro plants, a food staple, have become weakened, the leaves damaged by salt as rising seas infiltrate groundwater tables. Increasingly, Tuvaluans rely upon imported food."

    Clearly, reliance on imported foods is not primarily a consequence of increased salinity affecting local crops, but it is interesting to see such a statement in the popular press.

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    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    Agreement between Samoa and UC Berkeley on bio-prospecting

    The following is an article by Robert Sanders of UCBerkeleyNews.

    The University of California, Berkeley, has signed an agreement with the Samoan government to isolate from an indigenous tree the gene for a promising anti-AIDS drug and to share any royalties from sale of a gene-derived drug with the people of Samoa.

    The agreement, announced today (Thursday, Sept. 30) in Apia, the capital of Samoa, supports Samoa's assertion of national sovereignty over the gene sequence of Prostratin, a drug extracted from the bark of the mamala tree (Homalanthus nutans). The drug currently is being studied by scientists around the world because of its potential to force the AIDS virus out of hibernation in the body's immune cells and into the line of fire of anti-AIDS drugs now in use.

    "Prostratin is Samoa's gift to the world," explained Samoan Minister of Trade Joseph Keil. "We are pleased to accept the University of California as a full partner in the effort to isolate the Prostratin genes."

    Despite Prostratin's promise as an anti-AIDS drug, its supply is limited by the fact that the drug has to be extracted from the bark and stemwood of the mamala tree. Researchers in the laboratory of Jay Keasling, UC Berkeley professor of chemical engineering, plan to clone the genes from the tree that naturally produce Prostratin and insert them into bacteria to make microbial factories for the drug. A similar technology is currently being explored to produce the anti-malarial drug artemisinin.

    "A microbial source for Prostratin will ensure a plentiful, high-quality supply if it is approved as an anti-AIDS drug," said Keasling, who also is a faculty affiliate with the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) and head of the Synthetic Biology Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "We consider the actual gene sequences as part of Samoa's sovereignty, and every effort will be made to reflect this fact."

    The agreement, signed by Prime Minister Tuila'epa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa and UC Berkeley's Vice Chancellor for Research Beth Burnside, gives Samoa and UC Berkeley equal shares in any commercial proceeds from the genes. Samoa's 50 percent share will be allocated to the government, to villages, and to the families of healers who first taught ethnobotanist Dr. Paul Alan Cox how to use the plant. The agreement also states that UC Berkeley and Samoa will negotiate the distribution of the drug in developing nations at a minimal profit if Keasling is successful.

    "This may be the first time that indigenous people have extended their national sovereignty over a gene sequence" said Cox, director of the Institute for Ethnobotany at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii. "It is appropriate, since the discovery of the anti-viral properties of Prostratin was based on traditional Samoan plant medicine."

    The National Cancer Institute, which patented Prostratin's use as an anti-HIV drug, requires any commercial developer of Prostratin to first negotiate an equitable benefit-sharing agreement with Samoa.

    "I think that UC Berkeley could set a precedent both for biodiversity conservation and genetic research by including indigenous peoples as full partners in royalties for new gene discoveries that result from their ancient medicines," Keasling said.

    Keasling and a team of scientists led by Cox traveled to Samoa in early August to meet with leaders in three Samoan villages where the tree grows. They obtained the prior informed consent of the chief's council from each village to assist in the research in return for a share of the Prostratin gene proceeds. Dr. Gaugau Tavana, a Samoan educator from the National Tropical Botanical Garden, presented a Samoan-language PowerPoint presentation on genetic engineering in each village.

    A previous royalty agreement on Prostratin was signed in 2001 by the Prime Minister of Samoa and the AIDS ReSearch Alliance, which is sponsoring clinical trials of Prostratin as an anti-AIDS therapy. That agreement would return 20 percent of any commercial profits arising from the plant-derived compound to the people of Samoa.

    Keasling and his Samoan collaborators will freeze living cells from the mamala tree in liquid nitrogen so that extraction of the perishable RNA can be conducted in the laboratory. Then begins the process of tracking down the enzymes that actually build the molecule Prostratin.
    Once Keasling has pinpointed the key enzymes and cloned their genes, he plans to insert the genes into a strain of E. coli bacteria that he has created to produce isoprenoid compounds like Prostratin. The product of more than 10 years of genetic engineering, the bacterial factories have already proven useful in producing precursors of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, which he hopes to produce inexpensively for people in the developing world. The process also can be used to produce flavors and fragrances, many of which also are members of the class of chemical compounds called isoprenoids.

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    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    More on corm rot of swamp taro

    The following was contributed by Dr Grahame Jackson to follow up an earlier posting on this disease...

    The problem of corm rot of swamp taro in the swamp pits of Yap has been identified as Radopholus similis by Gordon Grandison at DSIR (as it was called then) Auckland, New Zealand and CABI Institute of Parasitology, St Albans, England by John Bridge. It is also in Guam in a swamp used by people from Yap. Management of the problem is best sought by cleaning of the planting material of all signs of corm rot. Some preliminary investigations were done too to see if the Colocasia rots in Palau were linked in any way to the swamp taro rots in Yap. These are written up in the proceedings of the UNDP/FAO/GTZ/IRETA Regional Crop Protection Workshop, Apia 1986. Preliminary results from surveys of plant diseases in the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau by GVH Jackson (p. 106).

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    Nematology training in Kosrae

    From Dr PC Josekutty (MPPRC) and Mrs Kenye Killin (Asst. Director CES, Land Grant Program, Kosrae).

    One of the world’s leading plant Nematode specialists Prof. Dirk De Waele, Katholike University Leuven, Leuven, Belgium is conducting a nematology training and workshop in Kosrae, FSM (22-28th Sept. 4). In addition to the Agriculture and Land Grant Program staff, Agriculture students and farmers in Kosrae Researchers from Pohnpei and Yap are also participating in the workshop. Dr Murukesan, a researcher from Yap State, FSM carried infected corm samples of swamp taro (Cyrtosperma) from there. Material suffering from the "mystery" disease of corm rot of swamp taro in Yap is found to be infected with a parasitic nematode at unusually high densities according to Prof. Dirk, who has studied nematodes throughout the tropical Asia and Africa.

    The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program of the USDA is funding the training.

    Dr PC Josekutty ptculture@mail.fm

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    Thursday, September 23, 2004

    World Food Day in Pohnpei

    News from Adelino Lorens and Lois Englberger...

    We would like to share with you some of the plans for World Food Day 2004 that are taking shape here in Pohnpei. The theme is: ISLAND FOODS: GROW AND EAT YELLOW VARIETIES FOR HEALTH AND WEALTH

    We have prepared several fliers, the general one for World Food Day, the Cooking Competition, and the Food Processing Workshop.

    The will be three competitions:

    1. Art Competition in the primary schools and Essay Competition in the secondary schools
    2. Local Crops and Crop Varieties (63 categories, including selected rare varieties of banana, giant swamp taro, yam, pandanus, other)
    3. Cooking Competition - 5 recipe categories (Karat, Taiwang, Giant swamp taro, Pandanus, Other), with 2 groups: Restaurant and Individual. The criteria for the cooking competition are: healthy cooking method (boil, steam, bake, raw, not fry); healthy ingredients- low in sugar, salt, fat; tastes and looks good; local ingredients; food sanitation; and recipe accompanying the dish.

    A Food Processing Orientation Workshop on Oct. 4 will include the following topics:
    - Concept of Product Development, Generating Ideas in Product Development
    - Getting Started in Product Development
    - Principles of Food Preservation
    - Food Spoilage, Food Handling/Food Safety

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    Wednesday, September 22, 2004

    What caused the collapse of Easter Island society?

    Easter Island is widely cited as the classic case for unsustainable development, its inhabitants destroying the forests on which their survival depended. However, of 69 Pacific islands surveyed in a new study for soil quality, fallout of nutrient-rich volcanic ash and humidity, Easter Island rated the third lowest. "Easter's collapse was not because its people were especially improvident, but because they faced one of the Pacific's most fragile environments," Barry Rolett and Jared Diamond report in Thursday's issue of Nature, the British weekly science journal.


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    Sunday, September 19, 2004

    Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Highlight PGR

    As reported earlier, the First Regional Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry was held in Suva from 9–10 Sept. 2004, followed by the first combined regional meeting of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services from 13–17 Sept. 2004.

    In their Communique, Ministers noted that:

    "Healthy and vibrant agriculture and forestry sectors are essential for the wellbeing and development of the peoples of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories. However, these sectors are now facing a multiplicity of challenges from globalization, rapid population growth, increased threats to human health and environmental degradation. Ministers and Representatives therefore recognized the urgent need for sustainable and integrated development of their agricultural and forestry sectors to meet these challenges."

    There followed specific recommendations including this on plant genetic resources:

    "Ministers and Representatives acknowledged that access to genetic resources (crop, tree and animal) is necessary to ensure food security in the long-term. Broadening the genetic base of crops, trees and livestock, genetic improvement and diversification are crucial in coping with rapid change. Regional initiatives such as NARI’s PARCIP should be supported. Access to and utilization of genetic resources will be enhanced through active participation in PGR networks, both at the regional level (PAPGREN) and at the international level (COGENT and BAPNET). To ensure continued access to genetic resources the countries of the region should consider endorsing the RGC MTA, ratifying the International Treaty, and signing the Establishment Agreement for the Global Crop Diversity Trust."

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    Promoting fruits and vegetables in the Pacific

    A workshop on fruits and vegetables for Pacific Islands countries was held immediately after the international symposium on fruits and vegetables in Christhcurch, "Globalising 5 A DAY - To Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Worldwide." The report on the international symposium can be found at www.5aday.co.nz. The regional workshop was organized by the Lifestyle Health Section of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with the World Health Organization (WHO) and WPRO. Participants - mainly nutritionists and health workers - from the following countries attended: Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu.

    Participants developed regional and national action plans for what they planned to do to promote fruits and vegetables.

    Regional plans included:

    1) Establishing a Pacific Islands Fruit and Vegetables group with NZ and AUS as honorary members. SPC will set up an e-mail group to share and liaise also with FAO.

    2) Sharing:
    - photos of f&v (NZ, SPC)
    - information on workplace catering policies
    - information about organic gardening
    - positive school garden stories

    3) All countries will receive follow-up support and monitoring (SPC & WHO) over the next 6 months and beyond.

    4) Logo: Paula will include local fruits and vegetables into NZ logo and show it to participants as draft

    5) World Food Day in 2005:
    - aim for focus on fruits and vegetables
    - need posters, information, leaflets, stickers, school information
    - announce school garden competition

    6) Health Ministers meeting 2005:
    - propose fruit and vegetable break
    - prepare information sheet on taxation and disparities in the region
    - seek NZ sponsorship for fruit/vegetable import & local supply paid for in caterers budget

    Wendy Snowdon
    Nutrition Education & Training Officer (NETO)
    Lifestyle Health Section
    Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)
    BP D5
    Noumea Cedex 98848
    New Caledonia
    Telephone : +687 262000
    Direct Line : +687 260183
    Email : WendyS@spc.int
    Fax : +687 263818
    Website : http://www.spc.int/Lifestyle/

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    Linking farmers to Plant Protection Networks (Solomon Islands)

    Thanks to Grahame Jackson for sharing this report.


    In the first progress report, I mentioned that PestNet was implementing a 2-year project in north Malaita, Solomon Islands with funds from infoDev World Bank. The project provides remote communities the opportunity to use email to access information and advice on plant pests in a timely manner. Our partners are Kastom Gaden Association, Department of Agriculture and Livestock, People First Network, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

    To achieve its objective, the Project is working on pest problems of taro, Abelmoschus and watermelon in four villages, and is conducting an awareness campaign in the project area to encourage people to use the email service, which connects them to PestNet.

    This report summarises a visit made to north Malaita in August last.

    A map of Solomon Islands showing the project site can be viewed at

    Email awareness

    The awareness programme is planned to start this month. It will be carried out by the Community Field Officer (employed by the Project) and the local agriculture officer. The email station at Silolo continues to function well, and is used by communities near and far, although not yet for agriculture matters.

    Pest problems: visits to villages

    The problems

    PRAs and pest surveys were done last October, and the local farmers’ network committee chose three crops in four villages for further work. In two villages on the coast (Gwou’ulu and Malothawa), the project is working with farmers to manage Nisotra, a chrysomelid beetle attacking Abelmoschus, an important leafy greens. The beetle does so much damage that many people have given up growing the plant. In a third village (Takwa), watermelons are a major cash crop, but leaf blight (still to be identified) and Diaphania indica caterpillars (identified on PestNet) are a problem. Inland (at Gwaiau), the lethal virus disease of taro, known as alomae (literally, taro dies) is the focus.

    Natural sprays against pests of Abelmoschus and taro

    The farmers have attempted to control Nisotra and the planthopper, Tarophagus, which spreads alomae, using natural sprays. There are a number of products that can be obtained locally – tobacco, chillies, Fuu, (Barringtonia asiatica), Uka (Derris spp.), and Furii (made from a local, unidentified, tree). Commercial pesticides are not available, are unlikely to be used on everyday foods, and there is little or no experience in their use. For these reasons, the Project does do not recommend them.

    Unfortunately, none of the natural sprays were effective, either in tests made by the farmers or during the recent visit. Insects were sprayed while on the plants, collected with treated leaves, and put into plastic boxes so see the effect. Most were still alive after 48 hours. Further tests are now planned to see if any of the sprays are effective repellents, but hopes are not high. Nisotra for example, falls or jumps to the ground when sprayed (even with water), but within a few minutes is back on the leaves. We will also test whether it is practical to hand pick Nisotra.

    It would help if we could find the breeding sites. So far, larval stages have not been found on the roots of Abelmoschus, the most likely place.

    Roguing to control alomae of taro

    An alternative method of controlling alomae is being attempted: roguing – carefully pulling out diseased plants and burning them. This is the way the disease was controlled historically, but has gone out of fashion due to changing beliefs. The Project has been discussing the disease with farmers, sharing information on its cause and method of spread, and suggesting that roguing is a good method of control, especially if all growers do it. An alomae committee has now been formed, and the members will try to convince the community to work together to control the disease. Taro is an important cash crop at Gwaiau.

    Watermelons: insects, pathogens and other difficulties

    Watermelon can be a lucrative crop for growers in the Takwa area (there are four villages growing them). Individual plantings are relatively large, often an eighth of a hectare and more. However, a visit to one (Nanadi) showed the problems faced by growers: pests (Diaphania and a leaf blight) are present, rainfall is high, and growers do not know how to use pesticides properly, often confusing the two commonly used products, chlorothalonil and acephate, so control is poor. Successive crops are planted on the same land over a period of several years, which increases the pest problems. The last crop, planted in March and maturing in June, was mostly a failure.

    Our first response is to provide growers with seed of varieties that have done well in other Pacific Island countries to see if there is resistance to the leaf blight. Then there will be training in safe and effective use of pesticides, and attempts to introduce Bt and copper products.

    Feedback from PestNet members

    Please let me know if you would like a copy of the tour report. And if you have experience with natural sprays, please share them with the Project.

    And as I said last time, do keep your comments coming.

    Rural email is going to make a big impact in isolated Pacific communities. In the Linking Farmers project we are beginning to see its potential to support NGOs and agricultural extension workers. We want to be in a position to offer help when email systems are established more widely in the region, as they will be. Only this month the Government of Samoa announced that it is to make Internet access more widely available to all citizens. The success of PFNet in Solomon Islands has been such that UNDP and other donors are looking to replicate the network in PNG and Vanuatu, and already in PNG churches have established viable email networks.

    Grahame Jackson
    7 September 2004

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    Collecting Banana Diversity in the Pacific

    This just in from The Seed Savers' Foundation.

    Michel Fanton, one of the directors at The Seed Savers' Foundation in Byron Bay, Australia, has just returned from two weeks in the Solomon Islands. His visit was to support the efforts of their partners the Kastom Garden Association (KGA) and its seed saving arm the Planting Material Network (PMN). The PMN has a programme to preserve the diversity of bananas on the outer island of Makira, a rich centre of domestication for bananas. Traditional varieties are fast disappearing. Since April 2002 the PMN has made three collections of more than one hundred and fifty types of bananas. This was done with the help of a grant passed on by The Seed Savers' Network with the aim of helping local subsistence farmers. There are only few kilometres of sealed roads on Makira, so the first collecting expedition was made by motor canoe and by foot along small tracks. Isolated villages with radio facilities were invited to donate their local banana varieties and delivered the suckers wrapped in woven coconut fronds and banana leaves.

    Dorothy Tamasia, who is curating the two highland collections, was recently trained to describe th botany of bananas by international standards at an INIBAP course. She is now training girl students to recognize features of the plants, flowers, leaf shape and colour, trunk, etc. For the highland collection, Dorothy visited farmers from her language group in isolated villages she knows well. There are more than 70 languages in the Solomon Islands.

    Students at the Manivovo Training Centre on the coast have contributed to the collection by bringing in banana suckers from their villages on their return from their annual holidays. Each variety is named and tagged with its origin, local name, donor's name and utilisation. Some varieties are valued for bride price, others at different ceremonies and feasts. Some particular varieties are chosen for making rafts for transport. The Makira bananas look and taste very different to the commercial Cavendish type banana that we consume in the West, and have more complex flavours.

    This last three years Seed Savers has been able to pass on assistance to a growing number of community based organisations in Asia, Europe, the Pacific and Latin America. Groups supported in this last year were in Australia (50 local seed networks), Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cuba, Ecuador (new national network), India (5), Indonesia, The Solomons and Vanuatu. Thanks to our friends, supporters and volunteers. Seed savers volunteers are regularly spending time with some of these groups. Our latest volunteer Jan is now working in Bali with a local sustainable agriculture group on seed posters. Seed Savers has a Seed Saving and Working on Seed Projects course happening in Byron Bay, Australia starting on October 4th to 9th. Applications with resume welcome.

    This article can be found on the Web here.
    Contact Michael at michel@seedsavers.net.
    The Seed Savers' Foundation website is at www.seedsavers.net.

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    Digital Flora of a South Pacific Island

    University of California, Berkeley and Jepson Herbaria graduate students Andy Murdock and Anya Hinkle have developed an outstanding online resource for the flora of a South Pacific island, the Moorea Digital Flora Project. View photos of common plants found on Moorea, including descriptive information and ethnobotanical uses. Also available are checklists of all known vascular and nonvascular plants for Moorea.

    Visit the Moorea Digital Flora Project Homepage.

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    Monday, September 06, 2004

    PNG sweet potato improvement project

    This just in from Mr Patrick S. Michael, a PNG scientist who's just off to the University of Nottingham in the UK to work on sweet potato improvement. If you have any comments or advice you can contact Patrick on science22worm@yahoo.com. Very best wishes to Patrick!

    In the light of plant tissue culture, biotechnology and genetic engineering, my project aims at developing sweet potatoes varieties that are tolerant to frost damage thereby introducing antifreeze genes into the genomes of the drought tolerant sweet potato cultivars using the techniques of genetic transformation (engineering) aiming at making sweet potato production more stable, productive and continuous at the same time maintaining genetic diversity, identify cultivars and establish a comphrensive core collection.

    I also look at developing useful, flexible, precise transformation methods for crop improvement and research techniques that could be expolated to management of other plant genetic resources, which should allow breeders, researchers and the authority to adopt for creating core collection of the germplasm, generating new improved varieties, registration of varieties and intellectual protection and tracing germplasm for benefit sharing.

    Part of the work could include developing National Biosafety Framework (NBF) for PNG and to increase understanding of information gathering and analysis, stakeholders consultation, risk assessment procedures, mechanisms for sharing of risk assessment and management experiences, implications for risk assessment and decision-making at national levels, systems for public participation and information, networking to share lessons and experiences, and opportunities for collaboration to deal with the GMOs and the products of biotechnology in PNG.
    Sweet potato samples were collected from NARI-Aiyura and tissue cultured at the Unitech Biotech Center Tissue Culture Facilities and ready to be taken to the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom were most of the genetic engineering work will be done. The materials have qualified UK and PNG quarantine. Part of the project will include searching for the low temperature genes (-20C) in a known biological sources and identifying a suitable vector for DNA uptake and integration into the host cells.

    Upon successful transformation and development of evaluation and risks assessment procedures and consultation with the PNG Government, SPC and stakeholders, evaluation trials will be carried out in the highlands of PNG to test their ability to withstand real low temperatures.

    The study has been funded by the Commonwealth Government of the United Kingdom, under the Central Chevening Funds and will run for about 18 months. My projects starts on the 20th September 2004 and I will be leaving for United Kingdom on the 12th of September, 2004.

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    Noni in Samoa

    This just in from O le Siosiomaga Society, a Samoan environment NGO.

    In a few days time, O le Siosiomaga Society, with financial assistance of more than US$25,000 from its Platinum eco-partner Nonu Samoa Enterprise will be celebrating for the first time in Samoa a new and annual national event called (Nonu Samoa Day 2004) for the new cash crop and medicinal plant Nonu or (Noni) which is also scientifically known as Morinda citrofolia.

    Nonu has now ranked as the second revenue earner for Samoa according to reports from the Samoa Central Bank and has boosted the participation of our village community members in cultivating this eco-friendly crop.

    Nonu Samoa Day Event is a a result of close collaborative effort of Nonu Samoa Enterprise and your society to ensure that a greater portion of the benefits from exporting this crop will flow back to the village communities while at the same time having less impact on Samoa's precious environment - a classic example of practical sustainable development activity.

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    Thursday, September 02, 2004

    Regional genebank directory ready

    One of the key elements of the Pacific Agricultural PGR Action Plan is the exchange of information on ex situ collections. A Directory of Plant Genetic Resources Collections in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories is now available at


    and will soon be published by SPC (with technical support fromIPGRI and funding from NZAID and ACIAR). This responds to the need of PGR users in the region to know what Pacific germplasm is maintained where, both within the region and outside it. It also highlights the considerable commitment to – and investment in – the ex situ conservation of PGR that is being made by countries and regional and international organizations in the Pacific. The information was provided by the managers of the different genebanks and by national PGR focal points, all of whom are listed in the text, and to all of whom we extend our thanks. Although the focus has been on food crops, in the interest of closer collaboration between the agricultural and forestry sectors on genetic resources conservation we have included the ex situ collections of forest tree species maintained by the South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG) Project. These data were provided by SPRIG national collaborators and the project team leader, Dr Lex Thompson. We thank them too, and look forward to the continued sharing of information between agriculture and forestry programmes in the Pacific. We have much to learn from each other.

    This Directory necessarily provides no more than a snapshot of the situation as of mid-2004, but the information will be kept regularly updated by SPC in a publicly accessible database. It will also be fed into global efforts to maintain genebank information by IPGRI and FAO. In fact, the information for Fiji and Papua New Guinea in this directory was gathered as part of an FAO-supported process of establishing a national information sharing mechanism on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA. We would encourage other countries to establish similar mechanisms. There are doubtless inaccuracies and gaps in the data presented here, and changes are bound to occur, so please contact SPC if you have any comments or suggestions for improvement. To facilitate the updating process, we provide empty forms which may be filled in for each genebank and sent to the SPC or IPGRI contacts listed in the directory. We welcome all feedback.

    Both SPC and IPGRI hope that the information brought together for the first time in this Directory of Plant Genetic Resources Collections in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories, and in the accompanying database, will help make the conservation and use of PGR in the Pacific more effective and more efficient, and so better able to serve the needs of both this and future generations of Pacific peoples.

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