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?



    Monday, February 28, 2005

    "Born again" sweet potato bring hope

    Michael Smith, Guardian Weekly


    Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, has seen such a collapse in its agricultural base that over 5 million people will need charity to prevent starvation by the end of the year, according to the UN's World Food Programme. President Robert Mugabe's land reforms have seen a dramatic drop in commercial maize production, leaving 38% of the population undernourished.

    Poor harvests in 2002 and 2003 left millions of people needing food assistance. Last year Zimbabwe's farmers planted only about a third of their usual fields and the World Food Programme has designated Zimbabwe as a "hunger emergency zone". Food will be a major issue during the presidential elections scheduled for next month.

    Yet small-scale farmers are not without hope. They are benefiting from "born again" sweet potato plants, developed by a team of Zimbabwean scientists. The eight agricultural graduates are employed by Agri-Biotech, founded by Edinburgh-born scientist Dr Ian Robertson, the company's chief executive, who teaches agriculture at the University of Zimbabwe. The plants make it possible for a 30-metre square plot to feed a family of seven all year. Over 30,000 people have benefited in the past two years. And that's just the beginning: so far the company has covered eight of Zimbabwe's 56 districts, chosen by the Zimbabwe Farmers Union.

    The Agri-Biotech team call the plants "born again" because they have found a way of removing the virus that plagues sweet potato crops. In a GM-free tissue culture process, they employ cutting edge science literally. They dissect out the 0.25mm tip of the bud, which is free from viruses and other micro-organisms, and throw the rest away. The lab team then grows the bud tip in a test tube for nine months into a virus-free plant, and keeps on sub-culturing it to increase numbers.

    From there they transplant the plants into plastic greenhouse tunnels and take cuttings from them. These are bought by donors, such as the Swedish Cooperative Centre (SCC). The Stockholm-based NGO is funding Agri-Biotech to supply 3,000 starter plants to 160 nursery farmers. "We need good lab work plus good greenhouse work to deliver to good farmers," says Robertson, a specialist in plant tissue culture.

    Unfortunately the virus cleansing is not permanent. "The clean plants will inevitably pick up new viruses and degenerate," says Robertson. "Farmers come back to us for new clean material every few years."The starter plants grow in August, and are irrigated during the following months of sunshine. Many resettlement farmers have access to a well, stream or irrigation system. Each of the 160 farmers can then sell the runners to over 100 neighbours in time to plant for full growth during the rainy season, which starts in December. Meanwhile the nurserymen lift the virus-free sweet potato tubers and sell them early when prices are good, at a time when neighbours are growing for "stomach-fill" for their families. Nothing is wasted. Tubers that are too small or too big to sell at the market, or are damaged by insect pests, are fed to cattle.

    Boy Ncube was one of 20 nurserymen who were trained, over three days, in nursery management and field production by Agri-Biotech's liaison officer Reuben Tayengwa. Agri-Biotech then supplied Ncube with 3,000 cuttings of Brondal sweet potato as well as 200 stakes of Zambezi cassava. With the help of organic fertiliser, Ncube grew vines to sell. Over two years his 30-metre square plot expanded to three hectares. He has turned his initial delivery of $150 into sales of $16,000. This has allowed him to buy a cow and he is building a house, and will buy a "bakkie" (truck) to carry his tubers to market. His best field has yielded 50 tonnes per hectare, compared with the national average of six tonnes.

    Nicholas Chimbwedza started farming 2.5 hectares of Brondal two years ago. Selling vines, fertilised with cattle manure, earned him $150. He has started harvesting tubers from just 0.16 hectare and has earned $1,000. This has enabled him to buy a new pump for his field. He expects to earn over $15,000. Dickson Gumede has 0.32 hectare and expects a harvest of eight tonnes on a yield per hectare of 25 tonnes. In the current emergency SCC has contracted Agri-Biotech to deliver 1,000 plants each to another 1,000 "beneficiaries": disadvantaged orphans, old people who have lost their "middle generation" to HIV/Aids and single parents. In two years, thanks to Agri-Biotech's research and donor funding of some $300,000, the farmers have cashed in $1.2m. The company itself has made only $50,000 but it has employed eight graduates. The UK's Department for International Development is "very impressed with the excellent work and dedication of Ian Robertson and his team", says Tom Barrett in DFID's Zimbabwe office. DFID has developed a programme in collaboration with several NGOs and Agri-Biotech that will distribute the improved sweet potato planting material to as many as 2,000 of the poorest households in Harare. Care, with DFID funds, also has a programme that should reach 2,000 rural farmers in Masvingo province.

    For further information: email agbio@mweb.co.zw

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