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, October 28, 2004

    More on the mamala tree


    Thursday October 28, 6:00 am ET
    By Alex Lash

    A tree that grows on South Pacific archipelago nation of Samoa may be the source of a breakthrough AIDS drug, and the U.S. researchers working on the drug are trying to make sure Samoa and its people reap potential rewards with a most unusual license scheme. That may not be so easy.

    U.S. researchers in the late 1980s isolated a compound found in the bark of the mamala tree, which grows in the Samoan rain forest, with the help of the island's traditional healers. The compound, Prostratin, could be an important tool in the fight against AIDS. In exchange for the Samoans' cooperation, two institutions currently working with Prostratin have agreed to channel a portion of any future commercial success back to Samoa. But a larger question looms: Can a country assert "national sovereignty" over a plant that grows elsewhere?

    Mamala trees grow in tropical forests throughout the South Pacific, but researchers specifically credit Samoans in the western rain forests on the island of Savai'i for leading them to a potential AIDS breakthrough.

    That gratitude has been codified in contract. The University of California, Berkeley, announced Sept. 30 it will work to genetically engineer Prostratin so that it need not be extracted from mamala tree bark. Given the rapid tropical deforestation across the world, a synthetic source of Prostratin could prove crucial to keeping Samoa's remaining forests intact.

    "If we don't have the capacity for producing these drugs in a microbe, people will cut down rain forests to get trees, and there could be a hundred more drugs like this in that rain forest," said Jay Keasling, the UC Berkeley professor who will lead the genetic engineering project, which involves cloning the mamala tree genes and inserting them into e. coli bacteria so the bacteria pump out Prostratin in mass quantities.

    The university signed a memorandum of understanding with the Samoan government to return half of all revenue derived from the genes or intellectual property that stems from the research. That portion will be further split: 50% to the Samoan government, 33% to the village of Falealupo, and the rest to other villages and the descendants of the two healers who identified the medicinal properties of the tree bark.

    The Samoa case is playing itself out at a time of growing recognition of indigenous sources of drugs and other products. In recent years, companies that have patented products based on traditional knowledge have seen their patents challenged. For example, the European Patent Office revoked patents in 2000 for fungicide derived from the Neem tree of India, which Indians have used for centuries to make a wide range of products.

    The United Nations ' intellectual property arm, the World Intellectual Property Organization, is monitoring a voluntary effort to build databases of traditional knowledge. These databases would gather uses of traditional plants and other natural resources and publish them for all to see. This would create what patent examiners call "prior art" — examples of uses that trump a patent claim — and keep traditional knowledge in the public domain.

    It all started when Dr. Paul Alan Cox, an ethno-botanist familiar with Samoa from an earlier stint as a Mormon missionary, returned to the island in the 1980s to look for botanical cures in the wake of his mother's death from breast cancer. Once he learned the mamala tree was used locally to treat hepatitis, back pain, diarrhea, yellow fever and more — Cox sent samples to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.

    It turned out to be bad cancer medicine but a potential breakthrough as an anti-viral. The NCI and Cox received the patent on Prostratin as an anti-viral therapy in 1997.

    One of the problems with HIV , the virus that causes AIDS, is that it lies dormant in human cells and survives bouts of virus-killing drugs. Once a patient has finished a treatment to knock out active viruses, the dormant ones awaken and create more havoc. Prostratin is shown to activate dormant viruses so they can be destroyed by anti-HIV drugs.

    The AIDS Research Alliance of America of West Hollywood, Calif., is trying to determine if it will it work beyond the lab. That's where the Samoa licensing story gets more complicated.
    The nonprofit ARA hopes to start testing Prostratin in people next year, said executive director Irl Barefield. No other organization may do so; in 2001, the ARA signed an exclusive license with the NCI to become the sole developer of Prostratin as an HIV treatment.

    When it signed its license with the NCI in 2001, it also agreed to share 20% of development proceeds with Samoa. (The NCI license stipulates that licensees "begin negotiations for an agreement" with the Samoan government but doesn't specify further. Barefield said the 20% cut was "generous.")

    At Berkeley, Keasling's work — which still needs funding to get rolling — isn't covered by the NCI patent because it is a production method, not a disease-specific treatment. "We don't offer anything for sale or manufacture in bulk or have a sales force," said Carol Mimura, executive director of the school's office of technology licensing. "We are strictly engaged in research."
    For the university — or more likely, a company that licenses the Prostatin gene sequence and production methods Keasling produces — to develop an AIDS drug, it will have to sublicense from ARA. Sublicensees would not be required to reimburse Samoa in any way, said Barefield.
    "That's a smart way to do it," said David Deits, a partner with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle who specializes in international intellectual property matters. "If they impose an obligation that royalties on retail or wholesale sales of medications would have to go to the government of Samoa, that would be a problem."

    A larger question looms, however, about Samoa's "national sovereignty" over the homalanthus nutans gene sequence, which Cox asserted when the Berkeley agreement was announced. "This may be the first time that indigenous people have extended their national sovereignty over a gene sequence," he said.

    What this means from a legal standpoint isn't clear. Cox did not return phone calls by press time. If Berkeley professor Keasling patents the portion of the homalanthus nutans genome that makes Prostratin, he and the university are welcome to assign some or all of the patent rights to Samoa.

    Also in question is whether Samoa has claim to commercialization benefits derived from the mamala tree when the tree grows in other countries across the South Pacific. Do native healers of New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and other countries have the right to compensation? What about the governments of those countries? Do the agreements between ARA, UC Berkeley and the Samoan government set a precedent?

    The greatest question of all, of course, is whether Prostratin can help fight HIV. That won't be known for at least a few years. In the meantime, Paul Cox, UC Berkeley and the people of Samoa are charting new territory in giving countries and their people greater control of the intellectual property waiting to be unlocked from their natural resources.

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    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    Genetic ownership rights of mamala tree questioned

    ABC Radio Australia's Pacific Beat has an interview with Clark Peteru (SPREP) commenting on the recent agreement between Samoa and the University of California, Berkely on ownership of the genetic sequences of the mamala tree. Below is a brief summary of the interview. You can listen to the whole piece at http://www.abc.net.au/ra/pacbeat/stories/m963004.asx. If a transcript is provided, I'll circulate it.

    A prominent environmentalist has expressed outrage over a research agreement between Samoa and an American university. Clark Peteru has slammed both parties for failing to consult the local communities, saying the proposed research over the mamala tree is shrouded in secrecy. Under the agreement, Samoa also extended national sovereignty over the tree as well as its genetic sequence. The bark of the mamala is believed to possess a property which could help fight HIV AIDS.

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    Sunday, October 24, 2004

    Kiribati World Food Day and National Agriculture Day

    The following was received from Mr Tianeti Ioane Beenna of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of Kiribati.

    World Food Day and National Agriculture Day was celebrated in Kiribati on the 15th October. The guest speaker was the Minister of Internal and Social Affairs, who addressed the audience of government ministers and permanent secretaries, directors from the private sector, government departments, church organizations and women's associations and the general public. Planting materials and live animals (pigs, chickens, dugs) from the Agriculture Division, fish products from the Fisheries Division, and garden products from the Taiwan mission and private farmers were sold to the guets and public. The Health and Nutrition Unit demonstrated and measured diabetes and high blood pressure for the public and provided advice on healthy diets, including the use of traditional foods.

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    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Pacific Islands Regional Medical Distribution List

    From Arlene Cohen at the University of Guam.

    Several years ago, I started a Pacific Islands Regional Medical Distribution List. On it, I post medical and allied health information that I find and think may be of interest to people in the Pacific Islands.

    Much of the information comes from WHO and other international sources. It is completely informal and I am inviting any of you to become part of my list. Just drop me an E-mail and I will add you. If you find that the information does not interest you, just let me know and I can easily delete you.

    With kind regards,


    Arlene Cohen, Circulation and Outreach Services Librarian
    RFK Library, University of Guam
    UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam 96923 U.S.A.
    Voice: 671-735-2345 FAX: 671-734-6882

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    Global Crop Diversity Trust to conserve crop diversity

    This just in from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SPC is working closely with countries in the Pacific through the Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Reosurces Network (PAPGREN) to develop regional strategies for the key regional crops for support by the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

    21 October 2004 - The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative to conserve in perpetuity the Earth's most crucial agricultural biodiversity, entered into force today as an independent international organization.

    The Trust crossed a major milestone when Sweden signed the agreement establishing it. This brings the number of signatories to 12 from 5 world regions, thus exceeding the criteria for recognition under international law. Sweden joins Cape Verde, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Samoa, Syria, Tonga, and Togo as Trust signatories.

    Along with its signature, Sweden pledged 50 million kroners, about $7 million, to the Trust. The Trust's newest donor joins more than a dozen others, including Ethiopia, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, which recently pledged $50 000. This money will go toward building a $260 million Trust endowment, the proceeds of which will be used to fund the most threatened and valuable collections of crop diversity.

    The launch of the Trust comes as plant diversity suffers record losses in both farmers' fields and the wild. Extreme hunger and poverty also contribute to diminished plant diversity in many parts of the world. Even the genebanks that are intended to be safe havens for crop diversity are under increasing threat from underfunding.

    "Rich and poor nations alike are signing on to support the Trust," said Geoff Hawtin, the Trust's Executive Secretary. "This shows that they recognize the urgency of protecting crop diversity collections for all countries, whatever their level of development or region of the world."

    "Ethiopia is very rich in agricultural biodiversity but extremely poor in financial resources," said Dr. Tewolde, Director General of the country's Environmental Protection Authority and a member of the Trust's Interim executive board. "The future for Ethiopians -- along with the rest of humanity -- cannot be secure unless the future of agriculture is secured. Therefore, we welcome the opportunity to help save the world's crop diversity collections."

    "Sweden highly values agricultural diversity," said Mats Åberg, Deputy Director at the Department of Global Development in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The Nordic Genebank, of which we are part, has taken strong measures to protect our region's diversity, and has extended cooperation to collections in southern Africa as well as to our Baltic neighbours. But we know it is not yet enough. Humanity's agricultural heritage must be protected wherever it is found."

    The goal of the Trust is to provide a secure and sustainable source of funding for the world's most important crop diversity collections. There are more than 1 400 crop diversity collections in more than 100 countries around the world. These collections are the best source of the raw material farmers and breeders need to develop hardy, dependable, productive and nutritious crops. They contain traits that will allow crops to cope with climate change, pests and disease, as well as to increase crop yields to feed the ever-growing human population.

    The proceeds of the Trust, ultimately about $12 million per year, will support basic conservation costs in national and international collections of crop diversity. The Trust will also provide funding to rescue and salvage collections currently at risk, and build capacity in developing countries to manage such collections.

    "The majority of the world's crop collections are operating on extremely tight budgets," said Hawtin. "Many developing countries find it difficult to keep the electricity running, let alone support the activities needed to ensure the safe long-term conservation of the crop diversity they hold. Yet this diversity is critical in the fight against hunger," Hawtin added.

    Some have dubbed Ethiopia "a living seed basket" for its almost bewildering variety of wild and domesticated varieties of seeds and grains. Ethiopia is a primary gene centre for field crops such as niger seed (Guzotia abyssinica), tef (Eragrostis tef) and Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) and a secondary gene centre for crops such as durum wheat, barley, sorghum, finger millet, linseed, sesame, safflower, faba bean, field pea, chickpea, lentil, cowpea, fenugreek and grasspea. Today, Ethiopia has 4.5 million people who are facing food shortage. In 2002, Ethiopia struggled with the worst famine since 1984 with some 15 million people facing starvation.

    To date the Global Crop Diversity Trust has raised about $51 million towards its goal with another $60 million under discussion. In addition to Ethiopia and Sweden, donors include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, the United States of America, Switzerland, the Grains Research and Development Council of Australia, Syngenta, Pioneer/Dupont, the Gatsby Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Syngenta Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, and the Future Harvest Centres.

    "FAO welcomes the establishment of the Global Crop Diversity Trust so soon after the coming into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture," said Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Agriculture Department. "The Trust will help ensure that one of the key objectives of the Treaty -- the safe conservation of crop diversity -- becomes a reality."

    "IPGRI is proud of the role it has played in bringing this historic initiative into being," added Emile Frison, Director-General of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). "We look forward to continuing to provide important technical support to the Trust as it undertakes its critical task of underwriting the costs of conserving the world's most important food crops."

    The effort to establish the Global Crop Diversity Trust was a joint initiative of FAO and IPGRI on behalf of the Future Harvest Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The Trust is an element in the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which became law on 29 June 2004.

    Related links

    Global Crop Diversity Trust

    International Plant Genetic Resources Institute

    The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

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    Pacific islands get help with transport

    From Spore: http://spore.cta.int/spore113/spore113_brief.asp#b11

    The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has approved a grant of US$467,000 to study obstacles to better air, sea and road links in Pacific countries. The study will analyse how poor transport hampers development and will draw up strategies for improvement, looking at possible reforms of public sector agencies and operators and the potential for private sector participation. Inadequate transport links are partly blamed for poor economic integration and trade levels in the region – intra-Pacific trade accounts for less than 5% of the total trade figures.

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    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Farmer Training Workshop on Banana Improvement, Marshall Islands

    From Dr Dilip Nandwani of the College of the Marshall Islands, Majuro.

    The Second Banana Farmers Training Workshop was opened on the 20 September at the College of the Marshall Islands’ Science Station, Arrak. The workshop was organized by CMI, the Ministry of Resources and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. The week-long workshop provided training in banana production using the narrow-pit system, composting and organic bulking to farmers, research assistants and CMI’s agriculture class students. The resource persons included FAO consultant Dr Winston Charles, Land Grant Researcher Dr Dilip Nandwani and staff of the Technical Mission of ROC to RMI.

    Banana is an important staple food in the Marshall Islands. It has been somewhat neglected in the past, but because of its role in the diet it has now been given high priority in the Agricultural Development Plan of the country. As a consequence, the Government has to implement a plan of action to increase production and utilization of banana aimed at self-sufficiency, income generation and to raise the standard of living of small farmers.

    A project has therefore been formulated and implemented with assistance from FAO to strengthen national capability to overcome the many constraints that limit the successful production of banana in the RMI. Among the constraints are poor planting materials, inadequate agricultural practices, lack of efficient control of diseases, poor post-harvest handling, marketing and storability.

    RMI recognizes the urgent need to grow more food to keep pace with the ever expanding demand caused by rapid population growth rate. In the project, efforts have been concentrated on the application of improved technology generated from banana research to the agricultural sector in RMI to increase production.

    The following project activities are in progress:

    1. tissue culture aimed at the production of disease free clones resistant to Black Sigatoka disease
    2. distribution of high yielding disease free suckers to farmers
    3. training farmers in sustainable management of atoll banana production by the adoption of the narrow pit-system of planting bananas

    Tissue culture plants of both local and introduced cultivars of banana have been produced at the Land Grant research laboratory in collaboration with regional and international research centers. New introductions of more than twenty- five cultivars are under field trial and have produced quality bunches in many cases. Tissue culture plantlets have been distributed to the farmer community in Majuro and outer islands.

    More than thirty farmers, students and Research Assistants attended the training. The workshop was closed by CMI President Dr Wayne Schmidt, who awarded the certificates to participants. Our sincere thanks to the SPC Regional Germplasm Centre (RGC), INIBAP and DPI, Australia for providing valuable banana germplasm to Marshall Islands, the FAO for funding support and the Technical Mission of ROC to RMI for active participation and support.

    For more information contact: Dr Dilip Nandwani (dilipnandwani@yahoo.com) or Ministry of Resources and Development (rndsec@ntamar.net).

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    Fiji to host kava meet

    Fiji Times, Thursday, October 21, 2004

    FIJI will host the first international kava conference from November 30 to December 2. Cabinet made the decision based on a submission by the Minister for Agriculture, Jonetani Galuinadi, on Tuesday.

    Mr Galuinadi said the conference was organised in conjunction with the International Kava Executive Committee meeting established following the recent kava symposium in Europe.
    He said the major goals of the conference was to provide an international forum for discussions on the scientific and regulatory situation of kava and evaluate new scientific data on toxicity and efficacy of the crop.

    Mr Galuinadi said it was also aimed at creating an improved quality control system of kava raw material from the South Pacific and identifying ways to secure the future of the industry.
    He said with Germany and other kava importers currently reviewing legislation and protocol on the importation of the commodity, it was apparent that ground work was done before the lifting of the trade ban.

    "A collaborative effort is currently being undertaken under the umbrella of the International Kava Executive Council to address the situation at the International Kava Conference serving as the staging ground," he said.

    He said scientific papers presented during the conference would also highlight other bi-products of kava apart from the pharmaceuticals.

    "These biproducts can be in the form of cosmetics, which is a billion dollar industry, and the industrial use of kava," he said.

    Regional representatives and producers from Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and government representatives will attend the conference.

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    Pohnpei World Food Day Agricultural Fair a Success

    This press release just arrived from Lois Englberger in Pohnpei.

    Over 500 people gathered Friday 15 October at the Spanish Wall Baseball Field to celebrate World Food Day along with a diversity of local food crops, an amazing display of huge yams, and presentations of the Art, Essay, and Healthy Cooking Competitions, following the theme: Island Foods - Grow and eat yellow varieties for health and wealth.

    The activity was organized by the World Food Day Committee and Island Food Community of Pohnpei, with Pohnpei Agriculture of Economic Affairs, College of Micronesia-FSM, Departments of Education and Health, Head Start, Attorney-General's Office, and CSP. Over $4500 in prize money was presented to farmers, competing in 50 categories with 288 entries and displaying 17 varieties of bananas, including 14 yellow-fleshed varieties having great health benefits: Karat Pako, Karat Pwehu, Karat Kole, Mangat, Ihpali, Kudud, Karat en Iap, Utin Iap, Utimwas, Taiwang, Akadahn, Akadahn Weitahta, Utiak, and Utin Kerenis. The high value of these yellow-fleshed varieties was emphasized by the high prizes ($50, $40, and $30 for first, second, and third prizes compared to $15, $10, and $5 for the corresponding prizes for the common varieties (Utin Ruk, Utin Menihle, and Inasio). Participants in the five categories of yellow-fleshed giant swamp taro varieties competed for the same high prizes as the carotenoid-rich banana varieties.

    Emeren Manasa and Moses Edgar pulled in the highest prizes of the Fair, $245 each, as their whopper single vine (oahnoapwoat) 245-pound Kehp en Peniou yams tied for 1st Prize. The yam prizes were awarded by weight, at $1/pound. Kesia Paulino with her 220-pounder and Welson Peter with his 170-pounder won 2nd and 3rd Prize ($220 and $170). Welson Peter and Leon Sizumu tied for 1st with their Kehp en Dol en Wai yams, weighing 154 and 155 pounds, Emeren Manasa was 2nd with a 150-pounder and Iumy Gilemete came in 3rd with a 145-pounder. Kesia Paulino won the Master Exhibitor award, taking over $500 of prizes in categories from Karat Pako, Mangat, Inahsio, Mwahng Pwiliet, papaya, karertik, coconut, bele, squash, pumpkin and Chinese cabbage.

    Adelino Lorens, Pohnpei Chief of Agriculture/Chairman of the Island Food Community of Pohnpei, presided as Master of Ceremonies. He stated that this was the first state Agricultural Fair in many years and that the event attracted great attention, particularly the great size of the yams, despite the yam disease. He added, "The event was a success in showing the local food crops. Farmers are now already planning for next year!" During the official program the keynote speaker Iso Salvador Iriarte strongly encouraged people to produce and eat local foods, pointing out that despite people's thinking that ice cream is good for the sick, he knows that it can make a person sick. Elementary students Consuela Abraham from Saladak, and Janice Kapriel from Seinwar, read their winning essays and winning art entries were displayed, from Headstart to 8th Grade.

    The Cooking Competition section was a flurry of activities, with 12 participants and 20 entries. The COM-FSM Pohnpei Campus Hotel Restaurant Management students made a sweep of prizes in the restaurant category, displaying beautifully presented Pandanus Muffin Delights, Taiwang Banana Bread, Karat Banana Sorbet, and Mangrove Crab Swamp Taro Volcanoes. Pelihda Walter, Yunis Hedgar, Delse Ernest, and Merlain Abraham won 1st Prizes respectively in the Karat, Taiwang, Giant Swamp Taro, and Local Food Open categories.

    Funding support was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children's Fund, Sight and Life, Australian Embassy, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network, and the Pacific German Regional Forestry Program.

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    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    Biodiversity losses threaten world's 900 million rural poor, UN says


    An unprecedented loss of biodiversity has reduced the amount of food available to the world's 900 million rural poor and should receive widespread attention, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today.

    "Given the growing interdependence among countries and expanding trade in agricultural goods and services, maintaining biodiversity for food security is as much a global priority as a local one," she said at a commemoration in New York of World Food Day.

    "Many freshwater fish species, which can provide crucial dietary diversity to the poorest households, have become extinct, and many of the world's most important fisheries have been decimated," Ms. Fréchette noted.

    She pointed out that biodiversity is key to fertilizing soil, recycling nutrients, regulating pests and diseases, controlling erosion and pollinating many of crops and trees,.
    "And it is knowledge of biodiversity - notably by farmers responsible for their families' health and well-being - that can ensure food availability during periods of crisis, such as civil conflicts, natural calamities, or disabling diseases," she said.

    World Food Day takes place annually on 16 October, the day on which FAO was founded in 1945 in Quebec City, and was observed at FAO headquarters in Rome last Friday.

    In Africa's Great Lakes valleys, the forests of the Amazon, or Southeast Asia's river systems, "women and men farmers apply their formidable experience to harvest plants, raise livestock and fish every day to ensure their families' food security," Ms. Fréchette said. "Their knowledge, as much as that of any research institution, is crucial to our future."

    Through video conferencing from Guadalajara, Mexico, FAO Goodwill Ambassador Mana, a musical group, was to introduce school children in Mexico and the United States who have been active in "The Growing Connection," a pilot project linking school gardens in Africa, Latin America and the United States.

    Early next month the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is scheduled to convene in Geneva its Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.

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    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Community Health and Agriculture Show in PNG

    Tony Jansen of Kasdom Gaden and Melanesian Farmers First Network has just sent in this report from Fred and Angelin of the FHRIP/CBHC Program. Family Health Rural Improvement Program and Community Based Health Care are two groups that have come together to run a community health and agriculture program in Tari district, in the Southern Highlands of PNG. FHRIP is a local group and CBHC is a national NGO that is part of the Nazarene Health Ministry. The show was supported by the Melanesia Farmers First Network with funds from Oxfam Australia.

    The Community Health and Agriculture show held on the 16th and 17th of September 2004 was a great success. More than 1000 people attended the show from five CBHC communities and two Support Stations involved in the FHRIP/CBHC Programs in two electorates, namely Komo/Margarima and Tari/Pori.

    On the second day of the show more than 1500 people attended because we put more activities into the program, like bicycle races, tag of war for male and female teams and running races etc. That was possible because the Tari District administration put in some money for the Independence Day celebrations to the CBHC show committee.

    Some of the big displays at the show were:
    • Rabbit killing and how to do the skinning of the rabbit and frying its flesh
    • Squash pumpkin and banana flour making
    • Banana cakes making and pineapple drinks
    • Roasting rabbits and sheep
    • Selling of fish, kakaruks, pigs, different verities of fruits and vegetables
    • Tree nursery seedlings, vegetable seeds and seed preserving method (six bucket system)
    • Cultural artifacts
    • Women Group’s sewing and knitting displays and selling
    Pari Andawale community won the BEST PRODUCT Trophy and Hoeabia community won the BEST DISPLAY Trophy. Apart from their own sales individual farmers received prizes of tools and cash for bringing their good and healthy products to the show. Thirty–four farmers received prizes of tools and a K8.00 cash price and another 32 farmers were given K4.00 cash prizes. The money for the cash prices, K1000.00 in total, was given by the Lord Mayor. Communities said that they have made a total of K3,400 in cash from their sales. They said that it will be good if an organization like CBHC can host such a show each year, for them to come out from the places where they hide in fear of their own enemies and do their selling and get to know each other as farmers of different communities and network as partners in this program.

    As a result of the show two men came in from Hulia District saying that they want to organize their clan now to join the Tikibi CBHC community and a group of 4 people from another community of Kikita came and consulted our office and opened their account in the community credit scheme and said they will organize their community soon to get involved in the CBHC program.

    The show really opened everyone's eyes and in the near future every community in the Hela region will be involved in the FHRIP/CBHC Program.

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    The Birth of Agriculture in PNG

    Thanks to Grahame Jackson for pointing out this article in Science Vol. 301, pp 189-193, 11 July 2003.

    Origins of Agriculture at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of New Guinea
    T. P. Denham, S. G. Haberle, C. Lentfer, R. Fullagar, J. Field, M. Therin, N. Porch, B. Winsborough

    Multidisciplinary investigations at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea show that agriculture arose independently in New Guinea by at least 6950 to 6440 calibrated years before the present (cal yr B.P.). Plant exploitation and some cultivation occurred on the wetland margin at 10,220 to 9910 cal yr B.P. (phase 1), mounding cultivation began by 6950 to 6440 cal yr B.P. (phase 2), and ditched cultivation began by 4350 to 3980 cal yr B.P. (phase 3). Clearance of lower montane rainforests began in the early Holocene, with modi.cation to grassland at 6950 to 6440 cal yr B.P. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) was utilized in the early Holocene, and bananas (Musa spp.) were intensively cultivated by at least 6950 to 6440 cal yr B.P.

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    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    Biodiversity and food security in Fiji

    A great article by Dr Randy Thaman of USP from the Fiji Times of 7 October 2004 is reproduced below.

    THE purpose of this article is to argue that food security and good health for all of Fiji's people should be our number one development priority, in order to achieve food security we must protect and use sustainability our very rich biodiversity inheritance.

    In Fiji, our food security depends on three sources:

    1. The wild harvest
    2. Agricultural production
    3. Trade

    Fiji originally depended almost exclusively on the first two: wild food and water from our forest, non-forest land, rivers and our seas; and plant and animal products from our agricultural systems.

    The provision of these fresh nutritious foods depended on our land (vanua) and our fishing grounds (iqoliqoli).

    Our people eat many wild foods including wild yams (tikau, rauva and tivoli), ferns (ota), guava, tropical almonds (tavola, badam), freshwater and marine finfish (ika, duna and bonu), shellfish (vivili), crusateans (qari, ura, urau, vaba and mana), octopus and squid (kuita, kuita nu) and seaweeds (nama, lumi).

    We eat root crop including true taro (dalo), giant taro (via mila), giant swamp taro (via kau), yams (uvi and kawai), sweet potato (kumala), cassava (tavioka) and taniia or cocoyam (dalo ni tana).

    We eat important tree crop, such as coconut, bananas and plantains (jaina, liga ni marama, vudi and bata), breadfruit, jackfruit, Tahitian chestnut (ivi), citrus fruit, cutnut (vutu), pawpaw, Malay apple (kavika, amra), vi-apple, (wi), mango, avocado and tamarind.

    We eat a wide range of other nutritious locally grown foods, such as taro leaf spinach, hibiscus spinach (bele), sugarcane, Fiji asparagus (duruka), corn, Chinese and English cabbage, many beans and pulses, Indian spinach (tubua/ chauraiya), lettuce, okra, eggplant, pumpkin, watermelon, cucumber and a number of other gourds, pineapple and passionfruit.

    We also have spice and tea plants such as chilies, coriander, ginger, tumeric, curry leaf, mint and lemon-leaf tea (coboi, Fiji cha and drau ni moli).

    We also have fresh wild and locally raised chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and cows to supply fresh lean meats, eggs and dairy products.

    For many of these local plants and animals, there are many different varieties or breeds.

    In Ucunivanua and Muaivuso villages in Eastern Viti Levu, for example, the people eat over 200 different types of finfish and over 70 different types of shellfish, cabs, lobsters, octopuses, seahares, jellyfishes, sea anemones, shell fishes and other marine invertebrates and plants.

    Over half of these are sold at the local market to provide cash incomes and satisfy the food security of Fijis growing urban population.

    This genetic diversity is also part of our biodiversity heritage. For example, in Fiji there are at least 100 named varieties of taro, 50 yam varieties, 19 sweet potato varieties, eight cassava varieties, 20 coconut varieties, 12 breadfruit varieties, 20 sugarcane varieties, seven rice varieties, 16 bora bean varieties, five chicken breeds, seven cattle breeds and five traditional breed of pig.

    This genetic diversity is an insurance to our food system in terms of protecting our food plants and animals against diseases and natural disasters, such as hurricanes and drought because the different varieties and breeds have different abilities to withstand pests and diseases and natural disasters.

    Finally, the last part of Fijis biodiversity inheritance is the great knowledge that our diverse cultures have about their traditional food systems.

    It includes the knowledge on how to collect, hunt, fish, farm and care for wild and domestic plants and animals.

    It includes beliefs, knowledge of seasons and seasonal migrations, recipes, ways of preserving and preparing good, how to breastfeed and nurture babies.

    It includes the language and names associated with the ecosystems, these plants, animals, our food and drinks and how they affect our health.

    This nutritional biodiversity and diversity (our ecosystems, plant and animal varieties and our knowledge about them) is the foundation of our food system and our health.

    For most people these are still the most nutritious foods in terms of providing high quality nutrients essential for good health.

    Today, however, the people of Fiji are increasingly dependent on trade and imported foods.

    Unfortunately, given the purchasing power and low level of nutritional awareness of most of our people, most of the imported food they eat consists of nutritionally inferior foods that are high in animal fat, sugar, salt and are low in high quality protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water needed for good health.

    As a result, Fijis people now have some of the highest and increasing levels of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, dental disease and a number of cancers.

    Why? Because most of these non-communicable diseases are related to the increasing consumption of highly processed foods and the abandonment of fresh local foods.

    Protection of our time-tested Fiji food system and the biodiversity that support it is easier than trying to recreate a biodiverse food system that has been destroyed by shortsighted commercial interests that advertise the very food that have given our urban people the highest rates in the world of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, gout, dental disease and some forms of cancer.

    Sadly, many of these ecosystems and the plants and animals are now endangered. Many of our mangrove forests and coral reefs, where we get so many of our seafood, are dying or being destroyed.

    Many of the fish and seafood that were common in the past, such as eels, sea turtles, mullets, bumphead parrot fishes, scad mackerel, shellfishes and crustaceans such as the venus clam, spider conches and giant clams are now rare or disappearing.

    Squid, coconut crabs, sea crabs, slipper lobsters, and some forms of seaweeds are now hard to find or have disappeared.

    Many of our coastal and inland forests, traditional varieties of taro, yams, sugarcane, rice, breadfruit, coconuts and bananas and wild yams, fruit and medicinal trees our traditional breed of chickens, pigs and goats are disappearing and our agricultural lands are being eroded.

    Of at least equal concern is that the current generation knows few of the names of our fishes, shellfishes, crabs, wild plants and varieties of cultivated plants.

    They do not know how to hunt, fish, farm or preserve, prepare or eat many of our traditional nutritious foods.

    Young farmers, who do not know the names or importance of our fruit trees and medicinal plants no longer protect them or plant them and kill when they clear new agricultural lands.

    This could be considered a loss or an extinction of the nutritional biodiversity of the minds of our people.

    In short, we are losing our nutritional biodiversity.

    Our biodiversity (Fijis ecosystems, the wild and domesticated food plants and animals contained in them, and our peoples knowledge of them) is the real foundation for food security.

    This is not to say that trade and imported foods are not important as the third leg of the tripod of food security.

    It is only to say that local production, which depends almost entirely on Fijis biodiversity and the knowledge that our people have of it must be protected as the real foundation for food security in Fiji.

    If we fail to protect our biodiversity, as has happened in some areas of Africa and Asia, our people will suffer the same famines and extreme nutritional poverty that graces our television screens daily. It is our choice.

    The sustainable use and protection of our vanua and iqoliqoli is the foundation for food security for all of our people.

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    "Geo-tourism" in the Cook Islands

    Geo-tourism is defined as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents." Including its agriculture? Why not? The following article from National Geographic describes a geo-tourism initiative in the Cook Islands.

    Angela Burnford
    October 1, 2004

    The Cook Islands fit the image of a South Seas paradise: white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, and coconut palms. This Polynesian chain scattered across a thousand miles (1,600 kilometers) of ocean receives more tourists per capita than any other South Pacific destination. That's four visitors per year for every one of the Cooks' 20,000 residents.

    It sounds like a success story. Yet Cook Islands authorities are revamping their entire tourism strategy.

    So what's not to love?

    Cook Islanders are said to be known for informality and approachability. Nearly everyone speaks English, though the native tongue is Cook Islands Maori. Drive around Rarotonga, the main island, and you'll pass beachside accommodations—from backpacker hostels to larger resorts—lots of restaurants and bars, and plenty of shopping.

    But according to tourism consultant Peter Phillips, the Cooks have become a destination "hard for the outsider to tell from any other white-sand and palm-tree place."

    Commissioned to update the Cook Islands' tourism strategy, Phillips's initial report stated, "There is no clear vision for the future of tourism in this country." He told the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation that the destination offers the same tourism products as South Seas competitors like Fiji and French Polynesia. "So there is one boat for high-speed boating offshore; there is a microlight [aircraft] operator; there is the usual safari tour in a Land Rover."
    Island tourism authorities have now endorsed Phillips's recommended solution: geotourism. Phillips came across the geotourism concept in a presentation made by the concept's developer, Jonathan Tourtellot, National Geographic's director of sustainable tourism. Tourtellot defines geotourism as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents."

    Few Cook Islanders appreciate the uniqueness of their culture and heritage, according to Phillips. "People down-value everyday life, so many of the really distinctive aspects of the locality can come under threat or be lost."

    A geotourism inventory of the Cooks shows there is plenty to save. Self-governed in association with New Zealand, the islands are split into two groups: the Southern Group, home to the two most populated and visited islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaki; and the remote Northern Group, consisting of small coral atolls with abundant marine life. Today travelers venture to outer islands in order to find things unique to the Cooks, such as rare wildlife, local cuisine, and handicrafts sold directly by the residents who made them.

    The northern atoll of Penrhyn is known for natural mother-of-pearl and islanders who craft shell jewelry and finely woven pandanus hats. Ask a local how to weave and you'll get an individualized lesson. "The approachability of Cook Islanders means that you don't need a formal setting to be taught," Phillips explained. "A woman making a hat on Penrhyn will happily show you, although then you will realize how hard it is."

    Islanders have traditionally called Atiu, in the Southern Group, the "land of birds." Atiu is home to an endemic swiftlet called a kopeka, of which only 400 remain. The kopeka flitters silently outside by day and at night nests in Anataketake cave (one of many limestone caves on Atiu), clicking and echolocating (using sound to locate objects) like a bat.

    Perhaps the most famous of Cook Islands handicrafts are tivaevae: brightly colored, intricately embroidered quilts pieced together by small groups of women using a technique developed in the Cooks. Because of the social significance of crafting tivaevae and the number of months required to make one, they are considered prized family heirlooms and remain inside the home. However, you can view tivaevea at the Atiu Fibre Arts studio and, if you're willing to pay upward of U.S. $1,300, you can buy one for yourself.

    Phillips began his project with the most extensive tourism consultation ever undertaken in the Cooks. With government officials alongside, he met with locals, business owners, and other tourism stakeholders on 10 of the 15 islands. "I have found the concept of geotourism extremely useful in broadening people's thinking about the character of tourism," he reports.

    The task now is to build a tourism strategy based on the distinguishing character of the Cooks. Earlier this summer Phillips gave a presentation on geotourism that was broadcast twice on Cook Islands television. The Cook Islands Tourism Corporation has since authorized him to write a new plan based on a definition of geotourism he adapted to the islands: "tourism that sustains and enhances the well-being of resident Cook Islanders and their environment, culture, aesthetics, and heritage."

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