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?
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Posted 3:13 PM by Luigi
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
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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Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.