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?
Monday, November 29, 2004
Posted 8:45 PM by Luigi
Coconut timber user group
Markus Streil, Sustainable Forest Management Operation Facilitator of the Pacific German Regional Forestry Project, has set up a Pacific Coconut Timber User Group which can be joined here:
The Pacific Coconut Timber group:
Posted 6:56 PM by Luigi
Climate Change in the Pacific
WWF's PowerSwitch campaign against climate change includes a network of "climate witnesses" that "can testify to rising sea levels and coral bleaching, violent storms and disappearing species, deadly heatwaves and drought."
The WWF Climate Witness from the Pacific is Penina Moce, 43, married with five children. The family live in Udu on Kabara Island in Fiji. She was nominated at a village meeting in October 2004. See what she has to say here.
Posted 6:14 PM by Luigi
Farmers Diversity Show in Solomon Islands
This just in from Inia Barry of Kasdom Gaden Association (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Soloomon Islands.
Kolombangara and Rannongga farmers have come together for the first time for a Farmers' Diversity Show at Gizo market today (Thursday, 25th November 2004).
Farmers involved in the Planting Materials Network (PMN) in Kolombangara had the idea of having a Farmers' Diversity Show so that they could come together and show the diversity of the different crops that they grow and encourage, learn and share with each other about the variety of different food crops that can be grown and different farming techniques.
Farmers registered in the morning and displayed their best produce and their best local kai kai dishes for a competition. Judges from the Kastom Gaden staff, Ministry of Health and Save the Children staff looked at all of the produce on display from different farmers, and awarded prizes for the best fruit, best vegetable, best root crop, best diversity of produce and best tasting local kai kai. First, second and third prizes were given for each category.
Other events during the day included farmers exchanging planting materials of the different crops in their gardens, both seeds and suckers, as well as farmers talking about the activities that they are doing carrying out in their communities. This included information about two farmer training centres that have been set up by active farmers in Western Province – the Sausama Grassroots Farmer School and the Kusi Organic Agro-Centre. Both of these farmer training centres have been set up by farmers with support from their communities, with the purpose of providing training in improved sustainable farming techniques for farmers in the local areas.
Inia Barry, Mary Timothy and Karen Lummis from the Kastom Gaden staff helped coordinate the day, and the EU Micro-Projects helped support the event. The farmer members of the Planting Materials Network, and the staff of Kastom Gaden, would like to thank the EU for their ongoing support to the activities of the national farmers network, the Planting Materials Network.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Posted 8:46 PM by Luigi
There are several papers on Pacific crops available online in the latest issue of the journal Ethnobotany Research and Applications, Volume 2(1), Nov. 22, 2004.
Selected papers are peer-reviewed and published electronically soon after acceptance. They appear online in several weeks and are freely available as PDF files.
Crops and Cultures in the Pacific: New data and new techniques for the investigation of old questions.
A Review of Recent Molecular Genetics Evidence for Sugarcane Evolution and Domestication.
L. Grivet, C. Daniels, J.C. Glaszmann & A. D'Hont
p. 9-17 http://www.ethnobotanyjournal.org/vol2/I1547-3465-02-009.pdf
Is the Quality of Kava (Piper methysticum Forst.f.) Responsible for Different Geographical Patterns.
Vincent Lebot & Patricia Simeoni p. 19-28
Bananas in New Caledonian Kanak Society: Their socio-cultural value in relation with their origins.
Valerie Kagy & Francoise Carreel
Floating, Boating and Introgression: Molecular techniques and the ancestry of coconut palm populations on Pacific Islands.
Hugh Harries, Luc Baudoin & Rolando Cardena
Genetic Diversity in Taro, and the Preservation of Culinary Knowledge.
Posted 8:32 PM by Luigi
Macarthur Foundation Awards $2 Million Grant to USP
Grant Funds Will be Used to Promote Biodiversity Conservation in the Region
CHICAGO—The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced a grant of $2 million to the University of the South Pacific (USP) for its Institute of Applied Sciences. The USP is a regional university serving 12 countries, with its main campus in Fiji.
"The South Pacific is one of the world’s richest repositories of endangered marine life, home to some 400 species of coral and 900 species of fish," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation.
"The University of the South Pacific is one of the most important academic institutions in the region, leading efforts to conserve this abundant biodiversity. A proud partner in their work for over a decade, the MacArthur Foundation is delighted to announce this grant, which will help anchor USP’s conservation efforts for the future."
The University of the South Pacific will use the grant to establish an endowment to help fund postgraduate fellowships in conservation and taxonomy for Pacific Islanders, and to host outside experts for short-term visits. Grant funds will also be used to design a new herbarium facility, purchase equipment for monitoring the health of the region’s reefs, and fund efforts to explore extending Institute services.
"Pacific peoples are largely dependent on their biodiversity for their subsistence needs as well as for economic development," said Dr. William Aalbersberg, Director of the Institute. "The University strategy is to develop skills in taxonomy and conservation to help understand what these resources are and how they can be sustainably utilized, while at the same time working at the community level to build on traditional knowledge to develop resource management plans. This approach is showing initial success in raising community incomes and conserving biodiversity in Fiji.
The MacArthur Foundation grant will allow more talented Pacific islanders to be trained and to extend the geographical area of the work."
Each year, the Foundation makes a small number of large, institution-building grants to organizations that have previously received support from the Foundation and have reached a stage of institutional development where such an investment would be particularly timely.
Support for the Institute of Applied Sciences at USP helps advance the Foundation’s conservation and sustainable development priorities in the South Pacific, one of its nine focal regions. With the goal of preserving the Pacific’s rich marine sector, grantmaking in the region has been geared towards strengthening local management of marine resources and promoting sustainable fisheries.
The Foundation’s Conservation and Sustainable Development program focuses on preserving the biodiversity of living organisms and maintaining tropical ecosystems, which are home to some of the world’s most diverse natural communities and critically endangered species. The Foundation provides support to help create and manage parks and marine areas, increase the skills of local governmental and non-governmental institutions and individuals, and strengthen environmental law and policy.
In addition to traditional conservation focused on protected areas, the Foundation seeks to address both economic and conservation needs by promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and helping the local population manage the biodiversity on which they depend for their livelihoods.
About the Institute of Applied Sciences at University of the South Pacific (USP): The Institute is divided into five sections: analytical laboratory, environment, food, herbarium, and natural products. The Analytical Laboratory performs most chemical and microbiological analyses required in the region and received international accreditation in 2004. The Environment Unit performs Environmental Impact Assessments and has developed innovative participatory approaches to assist communities in resource management and has received major international awards in the last two years, the Equator Initiative Award and the Whitley People and the Environment Award. The Food Unit combines work in food analysis, food technology and food safety. The Herbarium manages over 70,000 plant voucher specimens and is developing as a center of excellence in taxonomy and conservation. The natural products work focuses on commercial use of regional biodiversity. The twelve countries that have campuses as part of the University of the South Pacific are: Cook Islands, Fuji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
About the Foundation: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with headquarters in Chicago, is a private, independent grant-making institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. The Foundation makes grants through four programs. The Program on Human and Community Development supports organizations working primarily on national issues, including community development, regional policy, housing, public education, juvenile justice, and mental health policy. The Program on Global Security and Sustainability supports organizations engaged in international issues, including peace and security, conservation and sustainable development, population and reproductive health, and human rights. The General Program supports public interest media and the production of independent documentary films. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards five-year, unrestricted fellowships to individuals across all ages and fields who show exceptional merit and the promise of continued creative work. With assets of more than $4 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $185 million each year.
Contact: Jen Humke, The MacArthur Foundation Tel. 312/726-8000
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Posted 2:39 PM by Luigi
Collecting taro and Pandanus on Mwoakilloa
This just arrived from Lois Englberger in Pohnpei...
Dear Island Food Community of Pohnpei members and others,
Amy Levendusky and I just completed a trip to Mwoakilloa Atoll to document giant swamp taro and pandanus and to collect planting material. Below is the article we wrote for the Kaselehlie Press newspaper.
Mwoakilloa Provides Taro and Pandanus Planting Material to Pohnpei
The Island Food Community of Pohnpei (IFCP) just completed a trip to Mwoakilloa, 29 October to 8 November, documenting names and characteristics of the local food crops and cultivars and collecting giant swamp taro and pandanus cuttings for planting in the Pilot Farm collection in Pohlangas, Madolehnihm. The trip was supported by the Pacific German Regional Forestry Project. Despite the small size of Mwoakilloa Atoll, it has a diversity of giant swamp taro and pandanus varieties with over 20 varieties of each.
An initial documentation trip was made in November 2003, supported by the Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network. Food samples (6 pandanus and 7 giant swamp taro varieties) were also collected and analyzed for nutrient content at the DSM Nutritional Products laboratory in Basel, Switzerland. This was supported by the Task Force Sight and Life, a humanitarian initiative by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in Switzerland.
Kehn Albert, Health Assistant in Mwoakilloa, ably coordinated the present visit. At a community meeting, the results of the nutritional analyses were presented. All pandanus and taro varieties contained valuable levels of beta-carotene, the most important of the provitamin A carotenoids, from 110 micrograms (mcg) per 100 grams in En Kehlen pandanus to 280 micrograms/100 g
in Kipar en Majal. In the giant swamp taro, the levels ranged from 150 mcg/100 g in Nihn-Jaimon to 380 mcg/100 g in Jehm and Jikohki. Apuh fruit (Crataeva speciosa) was found to have the highest levels, at 1070 mcg beta-carotene per 100 grams of fruit.
Consumption of beta-carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids provides important health benefits, helping protect against diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, vitamin A deficiency (leading to greater infection and vision problems), and anemia (weak blood).
Nelson Albert, Lincoln Lebehn, Marciano Edmund, Apiner Jim, Noreen John, and Edward Dannis assisted in provided the giant swamp taro varieties. These included: Nihn-Jaimon, Nihn-Dannis, Nihn-Dijohn, Wiklale, Nihn-Limwei, Nihn-Ringlen, Nihn-Abrahm, Nihn-Doahmw, Jehm, Nihn-Eneri, Palihngaling, and Nihn-Ropis. Kehn Albert collected cuttings for eight pandanus varieties: En Pesi, Insohl, Juiaipwapw, Luarmwe, Mehkilkil, Nehnkedak, Mwajak, and Jorihm.
Amy Levendusky, Peace Corps Volunteer working with Pohnpei Agriculture and Dr. Lois Englberger made up the IFCP team. Many thanks to the Mwoakillese community, their hospitality and help in providing planting material for the Pohnpei Giant Swamp Taro Genebank Collection in Pohnlahngas, Madolenihm.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Posted 6:42 PM by Luigi
There's a Focus On...Underutilized Crops in this month's New Agriculturist On-line which includes an article on how the EU's Novel Foods Regulation is preventing market access to various products, including from the Pacific. There's also an article - reproduced below - on Canarium nuts in Vanuatu.
On the islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific there is no mistaking the nangai nut season. At dusk, villages reverberate to the steady rhythm of knife on nut as villagers work to split asunder the hard outer case and reveal the soft white kernel of Canarium indicum. "We always used to eat our fill of nangai," says Chief Samson Bule pausing to berate a grandchild who grabs yet another mouthful, " but now they are worth good vatu [cash] to us."
At the central airstrip of the island of Pentecost, coconut-frond baskets of nuts are loaded into the hold of the passenger aircraft that calls in three times a week, to be flown south to the capital Port Vila. Larger quantities are sent down on the inter-island trading ships. Local businessman and exporter Charles Longwah is buying the nuts. "There's huge demand. It is organically produced. It has a special texture, so unique that even those with nut allergies can enjoy nangai." Gradually exports rose fast from a few dozen kilos to 300 tonnes of nangai shipped in the shell in 2002. Principle destinations include Australia, Japan and Hawaii; but the European Union has denied access to its markets (see An unintended barrier to EU markets). More recently there have been no nangai exports at all as local demand, after promotions in local hotels and shops, has been so strong.
"It takes many tonnes of production to supply just a few centimetres of supermarket shelves," explains Longwah, "so we are way off that. But a high-value low-volume crop is just what Vanuatu's farmers need." The farmers agree with him. The value of other agricultural exports - copra, coffee and cocoa - have all crashed, and after an exciting start a few years ago even exports of the herbal and medicinal extracts of the kava plant have all but collapsed.
Not only are nangai nuts economically attractive but growing them makes ecological sense too. C. indicum is a fast-growing forest tree and does well beneath the natural canopy or amongst the mix in a typical food garden clearing, where the sapling can get established while bananas, climbing yams and more are tended all around.
Up on the steep slopes of central Pentecost, Harrison Barae has a grove of young nangai. "Now that there are buyers who want nangai I am happy to plant a few," he says. Are they hard to establish? "You just have to keep wild pigs or other people's cattle away. And weed around so they can get space." It will be six years before his trees fruit. Harrison, and others planting nangai now, have hopes that the market will be even better by then.
However, as any novel crop grower or trader knows, money does not just grow on trees. Macadamia, brazil and cashew, all established nuts, have only maintained their value - and returns to growers - where quality and consistency of supply are guaranteed. This is why trader Charles Longwah is running training sessions on the Vanuatu islands best suited to growing nangai, to explain to motivated farmers how to do all that it takes to produce top grade product. In his office-cum-depot, with shelves brimming with jars and packets of nangai ready for sale, he is cautiously optimistic about its potential. "There are a lot of other countries around the Pacific rim who'd like to grow and export nangai. I just want to make sure that Vanuatu gets a bite at the market."
Posted 12:51 PM by Luigi
An Online Database of the Papua New Guinea Herbarium Specimens
The Papua New Guinea data repatriation project aims to develop a low-maintenance, cost-effective internet-accessible herbarium accession database (PNGplants) for use by the Papua New Guinea National Herbarium (LAE). Initially, the database has been populated by the repatriation of replicate electronic data of the LAE herbarium held at the following four major Australian herbaria:
This project is supported by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Posted 6:44 PM by Luigi
Food security for atolls
From SPC's PacificPestInfo Newsletter.
A workshop to discuss food security in the Pacific especially for atoll countries was held in Kiribati 19–22 October. The workshop was officially opened by the Minister of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD) Hon. Martin Tofinga, who told participants of the importance of food security contributing to health and wealth of a nation. He said marginalised environments are more challenged with food security issues. He pointed to imported refined foods as examples of food insecurity and production of local foods as food security. A background paper by Dr Mareko Tofinga, Head of Crop Science Department, USP Alafua Campus, provided a good overview of atoll agriculture and its special limitations on food production. A paper by the Permanent Secretary of MELAD, Mr Tukabu Teroroko, focused on government’s role in addressing national food security and how it works closely with the private sector to seek technology to improve food productivity. SPC was represented through the participation of two staff of the Land Resources Division.
Dr Siua Halavatau, DSAP Extensionist, discussed the critical issue of poor soils in atoll conditions and the work DSAP is carrying out in preparing compost. Mr Emil Adams presented on agricultural information for food security, focusing on communication activities by LRD to address atoll agriculture. Former Agricultural Liaison Officer (ALO) and Head of Extension Ms Kina’ai Kairo assisted by current ALO Ms Taan Teraira organised the workshop including an elaborate traditional welcome ceremony. SPC have in the past through the Regional Germplasm Centre (RGC) supplied the Agriculture Department with tissue culture bananas, sweet potato and taro. All these crops are doing well at the research station at Tanaea under the supervision of Research Officer Mr Tianeti B Ioane.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Posted 12:38 PM by Luigi
Nutrition in Micronesia
Just received from Dr Lois Englberger in Pohnpei.
I would like to share with you that I will be presenting three posters at the International Vitamin A Consultative Group meeting and International Zinc Consultative Group Symposium in Lima, Peru, November 15-19. For one of these Adelino Lorens is a co-author. The three abstracts are titled:
Acknowledgements and warm thanks are given to the funding agencies: Sight and Life, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Australian Government, Thrasher Research Fund, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Atlanta Center for Nutrient Analysis and Howard University for laboratory analyses (taro).
Monday, November 01, 2004
Posted 1:42 PM by Luigi
Habitat protection in Micronesia
Two items on recent moves to protect habitats in Guam and CNMI.
GUAM MILITARY LAND AVOIDS HABITAT PROTECTION
HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 1) – In a win for local indigenous rights activists as well as the Guam Department of Agriculture, nearly all of Guam has been spared the unpopular designation of critical habitat, according to a press release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
About 25,000 acres, or nearly 20 percent, of Guam's land had been proposed to be designated critical habitat, but the press release said that has been cut down to 376 acres.
Critical habitat designation is a term of the Endangered Species Act that identifies a geographic area as essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species.
Though it doesn't alter the ownership of the land, it does limit certain kinds of development on that land.
Most areas of the land at issue were military land, and some are privately owned, and the designation was intended, in theory, to protect the endangered Mariana fruit bat, Mariana Crow and Guam Micronesian kingfisher.
The proposal, spurred by a lawsuit by environmental organization EarthJustice against the Fish and Wildlife Service, has been repeatedly denounced by indigenous rights activists because they do not believe the federal government should have the right to determine how indigenous people use their land. They also have said the designation would further slow the return of Guam's military-occupied lands to the Chamorro people.
ROTA CARVES OUT 6,000 ACRES FOR HABITAT
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 1) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has designated some 6,033 acres of land on the island of Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas as “critical habitat” for three endangered Mariana Islands species.
Once the amendment to the Endangered Species Act takes effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, some 463 acres of private land and 5,570 acres of public land on Rota would become critical habitat for the Mariana crow.
On Guam, however, the federal agency disclosed that only 376 acres of land out of the 24,800 acres as originally proposed would become critical habitat for the Mariana crow, Mariana fruit bat, and the Guam Micronesian kingfisher. A total of 18,815 acres that were removed from the proposed critical habitat cover military-controlled lands.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.