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
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Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
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Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Posted 6:10 PM by Luigi
Pacific islands look to coconut oil as energy saviour
PORT LOUIS (AFP) Jan 18, 2005
Struggling with rising oil prices, Pacific island nations are increasingly looking to coconut oil, long a basic foodstuff and massage lubricant, as an economically and ecologically sound petroleum alternative.
Pacific island officials gathered here last week for a UN conference on small islands extolled the virtues of the lowly coconut in reducing dependence on imported gasoline and potentially boosting ailing local economies.
Coconut oil is seen as an inexpensive and efficient renewable energy source particularly in Vanuatu, the Pacific archipelago inhabited by 217,000 people that spends about 20 percent of its annual budget on imported petroleum.
"It's a huge cost for a small economy like us," Vanuatu's Environment Minister Russell Nari told AFP on the sidelines of the island conference in Mauritius.
"If we have enough funds to produce coconut oil and if we don't have to fight against the oil lobby, islands may reduce seriously their dependency," he said.
Coconut oil was first used as fuel in the Pacific during World War II when a fuel shortage gripped the Philippines, forcing residents to look for alternatives, according to Espen Ronneberg of the Marshall Islands who serves as a regional advisor to small developing islands.
"Some clever people discovered that you can mix diesel and coconut oil to run the engine," he said.
The concept was abandoned with the end of the war but restarted several years ago as the price of oil began to skyrocket, Ronneberg said.
Last June, the idea got a boost when energy ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged that more priority be given to renewable energy sources, including coconut and palm oil.
Today, residents of Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands and their fellow Pacific nations, Samoa and the Cook Islands, all use coconut oil as fuel for diesel engines but still on a relatively small scale. About 100 private buses in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila are powered at least in part by coconut oil as are similar vehicles in the Marshall Islands, officials said.
In addition to reducing dependency on foreign petroleum, coconut oil offers several additional advantages, they said.
It does not pollute, and better yet, it has a "beautiful smell," said Vanuatu's Nari.
It is also cheap, costing about 80 cents per liter, compared with one dollar seventeen cents for the same amout of diesel, officials said.
And if it catches on as a fuel source, it could rescue Pacific island economies that have been hard hit by plummeting prices for coconut oil, one of their chief exports.
"It's a disaster because entire families depend on coconuts," Nari said.
"This could bring about a new life for the coconut," he said, adding that about 20 people in Port Vila now work in factories where coconut oil is used as a base to produce fuel.
It takes about five coconuts to make about a liter of fuel and the process is similar to that used to produce massage oil, although it requires more purification, Nari said.
And the fuel can be used to power all diesel engines without any technical modifications. "If you are running out of fuel, you can just stop at the next petrol station and fill up your car with diesel," Nari said.
Despite high hopes for coconut oil to become a leading fuel source in the Pacific islands, its use would be problematic in the developed world, according to Ronneberg.
Coconut oil's lone drawback appears to be that it can be used as fuel only at a minimum ambient temperature of 17 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit), he said.
But if industrialized countries are interested, perhaps they could find a way to heat the oil, he suggested.
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