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).
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Thursday, November 17, 2005
Posted 4:15 PM by Luigi
Food security on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal
Submitted by Moffat Mamu of the Solomon Star on 17 November, 2005.
ANY attempts to improve the livelihood of people on Weathercoast of Guadalcanal must address food security. This was highlighted in the report for the 2005 Kastom Gaden Association assessment of food security and livelihoods on Guadalcanal’s Weathercoast.
The report is part of an AusAID funded three and half year programme called “Sustainable Livelihoods for Isolated Rural Areas Project” (SLIRAP). To achieve food security and reduce rural poverty in Weathercoast the project came up with four strategies. They are:
1) Diversification of food crop production
Diversification of food crop production is recommended following findings that land use is intensifying because of escalating populations and declining fallow period, decreasing soil fertility and increasing pests and diseases.
The report found that the taro and yams which were once popular in the villagers’ diet have been reduced considerably or lost, since surveys were made 25 years ago. The substitute crops to yam and taro today are cassava, kumara and banana. However, the report highlighted that during the area’s wet season sweet potato provides no useful alternative as it fails to form tubers in water logged soils or the tubers rot. Cassava is grown but suffers from debilitating attacks of scale insect, affecting yield and taste. With these findings the report suggested the introduction of improved varieties of staple food crops from other Pacific Island countries or international agricultural research centres via SPC Regional Germplasm Centre (RGC). It said crops with viruses should be reintroduced after they have been freed from viruses at the SPC RGC while for taro and yam – crops that have been lost due to pests and diseases – collections will be made to replace lost varieties.
2) Enhanced management of livestock and existing crops (pests and diseases, planning for food needs, soil fertility)
The second strategy is management of livestock, planning for food production and improvements to existing crops. The report divided it into three parts namely, livestock, family food planning and control of pests and diseases. In livestock, the report found that pigs are critical to livelihoods across the Weathercoast except for Seventh Day Adventist villages. Pigs provide an opportunity to invest and save and for many families it is a means of getting money for school fees. However, many villagers have lost their breeding stock through diseases and the consequence of the ethnic tension. As a result a big problem currently faced by villagers is the increasing threat pigs are to food security. “Pigs threaten food security by destroying food gardens. “In some areas wild pigs are the culprits while at other times free-ranging, domestic pigs are the source of trouble,” the report stated. The report said improved management can avoid such problems and Kastom Gaden Association (KGA) can assist as it has produced a manual in the keeping of pigs. Also, it highlighted the need to investigate ‘cough cough’ disease which is said to be the cause of death for many of the pigs in the area.
The report highlighted that May to July or April to September is the “time hungry” which brings a sense of insecurity to people. To avoid food shortage during this period the report highlighted the need for families to plan ahead. It said most families in Weathercoast depend on their ability to produce crops for their survival and most of their time is spent in garden production and little goes to planning what might be the best options. As for pests and diseases control the report recommended the need to educate farmers about the diseases, the provision of information on the nature of the diseases and the need to introduce new varieties of crops.
3) Strategies for income generation
The third strategy the report highlight on income generation found that the livelihood for Weathercoast farmers would come through investment in the construction of road access to markets in Honiara.
However, the report said it is unlikely that there would be any improvement in transportation in the near future so the development of light, high value products from existing or new crops would be the most appropriate option to generate income for the people. Some of the ideas raised in the report include, virgin oil, cocoa for chocolate and drink and so on. The report said there is also need to develop local farmers network to pool resources for more efficient marketing to help resolve present problems. It said two new crops will be trialed – they are cardamom and pepper.
4) Strengthening the enabling environment
The final strategy is strengthening and enabling the environment. The report said the project will develop links with Guadalcanal Province and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock.
It will also support the operations of the TCBTC, its partner organisation for project implementation on the Weathercoast. Staff will be financed by the project, trained and helped to develop a business place and students from the centre will provide links to community. It stated that women will be the target group for many of the isolated areas’ activities.
RAMSI senior development officer and Head of AusAID Catherine Walker told the gathering at the launching ceremony Tuesday, that the two final strategies focused on constraints that would need a lot of effort to overcome.
“Not only development partners, but Solomon Islands Government as well as the private sector especially those providing shipping services. These are the types of services we need to get back up and running. Not only will they provide economic growth or economic activity but it will boost income generating activities,” Ms Walker said.
She thanked those who have put the report together – highlighting that the report would indeed add to a stock of knowledge for work in Weathercoast.
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