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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PAPGREN coordination and support

  • IPGRI
  • ACIAR
  • NZAID
  • CTA
  • SPC
  • PAPGREN
  • 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
    Rarotonga
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Chief
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Kolonia
    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
    Kolonia
    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
    Nausori
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Papeete
    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
    Tarawa
    Kiribati
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Secretary
    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
    Director
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Palau
    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
    Boroko
    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
    Apia
    Samoa
    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
    Honiara
    Guadalcanal
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Honiara
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Nuku'alofa
    Tonga
    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
    Vanuatu
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific
    SPREP

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    PBIF
    PestNet
    SIDS
    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?
    DIVA-GIS

     

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    Tuesday, January 31, 2006


    Cooperation on agricultural development among PICTS

    From DIDINET Issue 1, 2006

    The Solomon Islands Government is seeking technical assistance from Papua New Guinea (PNG) for its agricultural development programme. During a recent visit to PNG, Solomon Islands' Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has shown particular interest in PNG's successful oil palm industry. The ministry was also seeking advice and information on other agricultural industries, including cocoa, coconut, and rice farming and livestock development.

    A five-member delegation, led by Minister responsible, Enele Kwanairara, traveled to West New Britain Province during their week-long visit and inspected a few oil palm projects and held discussions with the New Britain Palm Oil Company.

    Mr Kwanairara said Solomon Islands is recovering from the ethnic crisis in recent years and is now seeking assistance to revitalize and rebuild its agriculture sector. He said Solomon Islands was lagging behind PNG in terms of agricultural growth, however, both countries can work together to help and enhance their agriculture sector.

    Mr Kwanairara said his country is in need of technical assistance in many areas of agriculture and livestock and was willing to get PNG agricultural experts including scientists to work there. He said a national agricultural council has been established and to support its efforts to develop agriculture, the council, through the Ministry will be seeking PNG's support and advice.

    He said oil palm development, particularly the out grower scheme, is being introduced in the heavily-populated Malaita region, hence, their visit to PNG oil palm projects was to gather vital information. Oil palm is now regarded as an important economic crop, and landowners are also beginning to understand and co-operate with the government in allowing for agricultural development to take place.

    Mr Kwanaira said smallholder rice farming is also being promoted in a big way with the help of the Republic of China on Taiwan, adding that more effort is also given to fruits and nuts development.

    His PNG counterpart Mathew Siune warmly welcomed the delegation and assured them that his Department would provide whatever assistance was needed. He said PNG was willing to provide technical assistance in oil palm, cocoa, coconut, coffee, livestock, spices and was also prepared to send qualified agriculturists to work in Solomon Islands.

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    Sequencing cassava?

    The genetic code of cassava – one of Africa's staple crops – should be sequenced next, say Raven and colleagues

    Source: SciDev.Net

    The recent successful sequencing of the genetic code of rice will underpin research on the crop for decades. This promises to bring huge benefits for farmers and consumers, but where should the science go next?

    In this letter to Science, Peter Raven and colleagues say sequencing should now focus on the crops vital to poor farmers.

    They point out that in 2050, some 90 per cent of the world population will live in developing countries and rely largely on agriculture — making such crops central to food security, poverty reduction, health, social stability and economic growth.

    Cassava, they say, is an ideal choice. Grown throughout tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas, the crop feeds some 600 million people a day. Yet average yields attain barely a tenth of their potential — a concern of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Cassava Partnership, which says it should be the next species to have its genetic code sequenced.

    Doing so would not only boost breeding technologies, but also bring the crop into the mainstream of plant science research. This is, say Raven and colleagues, the time to apply genomics to the needs of the global majority.

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    Australasian Plant Breeding Conference

    The 13th Australasian Plant Breeding Conference will be held in Christchurch, New Zealand from 18-21 April 2006. The following is from the conference website.


    "The main theme for the 13th APBC is “Breeding for Success: Diversity in Action”. Our aim is to highlight the economic, sociological and environmental benefits of plant breeding and plant biology in Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia, and to look at progress in addressing a range of challenges that face our primary industries. New Zealand’s economy in particular is dependent on its plant-based industries and the 2006 conference will highlight the essential role that plant breeding and the wider plant sciences have played in its development and will play in its future. The diversity of crops that are in commercial use in Australasia is broad and our six core themes should allow the full breadth of research activity within these crops to be presented. The involvement of researchers working with minor crops in particular provides opportunity for more robust discussion of key issues and a greater exchange of ideas."

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    New Tropical Timber Agreement Negotiated

    Thanks to Markus Streil of the GTZ-SPC Regional Forestry Project for this information.

    United Nations Conference for the Negotiation of a Successor Agreement to the International Tropical Timber Agreement (1994)

    This was attended of PICTs by Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu. The new text calls for strengthening the capacity of member States "to improve forest law enforcement. . . and address illegal logging and related trade in tropical timber." It also encourages member States "to support and develop tropical timber reforestation, as well as rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forest land, with due regard for the interests of local communities dependent on forest resources."
    The Agreement also notes that "poverty alleviation" should be an objective of tropical timber harvesting and trade.

    Given the importance of commodities to many developing countries, these agreements also help to increase the transparency of markets for commodities through sharing statistics and other valuable data. The international commodity organizations - such as the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) - can also help developing countries make the best use of their commodity sectors.

    The Agreement (for 10 years shall enter into force by 2008):
    • provides a framework for cooperation and consultation among countries producing and consuming tropical timber
    • seeks to increase and diversify international trade in tropical timber and improve conditions in the tropical timber market
    • promotes and supports research to improve forest management and ways of using wood.
      encourages the development of national policies to protect tropical forests and maintain an ecological balance.

    Source: http://www.unctad.org/Templates/Page.asp?intItemID=3676&lang=1

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    EU Export Helpdesk service

    Published : Jan 30 2006
    Source: CTA Office Newsletter

    EU Export Helpdesk service for developing countries draws 1.2 million visitors in 2005
    The European Commission’s Export Helpdesk for Developing Countries received an average of 3700 hits a day in 2005, establishing a "one-stop-shop" service for developing country exporters looking to export to the European Union. The Export Helpdesk is a concrete demonstration of the European Union’s commitment to facilitating trade between developing countries and the European Union.

    The EU Export Helpdesk was established in 2004 to make it easier for businesses in developing countries to export to the European Union. It provides all relevant information on exporting to the EU, including information and assistance on import tariffs, customs procedures and the European Union Rules of Origin. The second phase of the Helpdesk - concerning EU and Member States’ specific import requirements and internal taxes - was launched by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in June 2005.

    The Helpdesk has a number of interactive features, including a Market Place to allow exporters to share information and experience on exporting to the EU and an information service that provides answers to technical enquiries. In 2005, the service assisted with more than 1500 detailed technical enquiries from exporters. The service is available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

    The Export Helpdesk service will continue to expand in 2006 with new on-line facilities offering further information on voluntary export standards and other aspects of exporting to the EU.

    More information http://export-help.cec.eu.int/

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    Monday, January 30, 2006


    A breadfruit celebration in Pohnpei?

    The exchange reproduced below may be interesting to those involved in the promotion and conservation of local crop varieties, particularly breadfruit but also others……

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Greetings Ms. Ragone. I am contacting you from Pohnpei. One of the information releases that we received from Luigi Guarino of SPC recently has once again kicked off interest in the local promotion of Breadfruit. The particular article mentioned the collection of breadfruit recipies and a Breadfruit celebration held in Hawaii. I tossed out the ideaof doing something similar here in Pohnpei. We have a very active NGO called the Island Food Community of Pohnpei, headed by Dr. Lois Engleberger and supported by the local Division of Agriculture, the Extensioon service and many other local groups. This group is starting to consider having some sort of breadfruit street festival to promote the use of more breadfruit in our diets. This would likely happen during the next major breadfruit season in July-September 2006. We read that there were over one hundred recipies developed and displayed at the Hawaii event. Would it be possible to get copies of those recipes? If this is possible, please let me know. I will be in Hawaii in mid-January and might be able to arrange to meet with you at tha ttime. I have received a number of requests for varieties of breadfruit that produces year-round. The latest was from Chuuk which I thought was the Breadfruit capital of the Pacific. I know that some of the varieties were held at a 'Breadfruit Garden' in Kosrae up until a few months ago. Unfortunately they were cut down and although some are regrowing, I doubt that any identification information is available. Mary Taylor of SPC and I discussed the possibility of importing tissue culture of the varieties you identified as year-round producing in Hawaii. I believe the feeling is to have them processed through the SPC lab in Fiji before we import them to Pohnpei. This may be for virus indexing and quarantine restrictions. Would it be possible to arrange such a
    transfer with you? Regards, Jim Currie

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Dear Jim,

    My apologies for taking so long to reply to your email. I had hoped to be in Pohnpei this past week to participate in the Pohnpei Agriculture Station conservation workshop, but was not able to attend. Are you still planning a trip to Hawaii in January, or did I miss you? I'll be working at Kahanu Garden in Hana, Maui, where the breadfruit collection is located, January 31-February 2, and it would be great if you could visit there.

    It would be wonderful to have a breadfruit festival in Pohnpei during rahk and I will be happy to help you, Lois, Adelino, and others with this in any way, including sharing some of the recipes. We hold the breadfruit cookoff in Hana each fall as part of the Aloha Week Festivities, this event brings the community out for a parade, music, food booths, etc. Hana is a small community of about 1200, and I think you could have a nice festival in Kolonia?

    I can send you our signup sheets, informational materials, etc., to give you an idea of how we organized our cookoff and did the judging. We asked local businesses to contribute prizes, either cash and/or services or products. For example, the local resort hotel donated a room for 2 nights. Because Hana is a poor community, we found that awarding prizes encouraged people to enter the contest. That and the recognition for having a winning recipe!

    There were four categories:
    1. appetizers
    2. soups & salads
    3. main dishes/entrees
    4. desserts

    We gave 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes in each category, as well as a grand prize (the best of the best), and a prize for best presentation. The latter prize was to encourage people to present the dish in a beautiful way. I can email you some pictures to give you an idea of how creative people were.

    We asked participants to sign up for the contest, and to provide a written recipe with the cooked dish. The garden provided fresh fruits from 2-3 different varieties from the breadfruit collection to any of the participants who wanted fruit. Some people used fruit from their own trees. The day of the cookoff, participants had to bring their dish by a certain time; each dish was given an identifying number so the judges wouldn't be biased by knowing the person who cooked the dish. A panel of judges (5) sampled each dish and rated them. This worked because we had 20-25 different dishes each time. If there are more entries, you may need more judges, and split them up by category, e.g., judges just for the desserts. An odd number of judges is critical so there aren't any ties!

    We then awarded the prizes and served up small samples of the dishes to people at the festival for a small fee (e.g., three samples for $2.00). The money helped defray the cost of plates, utensils, etc. Everyone donated their time to help with the event.

    A couple of cooks entered the contest and we thought it would be a good idea to have a separate category just for chefs, and that might be a possibility in Pohnpei, with so many different restaurants.

    As to breadfruit that fruit year round, there is no one variety that fruits continuously, but it is possible to have an extended season by planting several different varieties. I visited Chuuk last February and was astonished to see the loss of varieties since I was last there in 1987. I think it critical that the FSM conduct a systematic survey of breadfruit diversity to determine how many varieties of breadfruit there are, and identify which ones are rare or at risk, and develop an appropriate conservation strategy for those. Either by planting them in local gardens/villages in each district or in a regional breadfruit conservation collection. We've done a similar project in Samoa and an inventory could readily be done in the FSM. Adelino and I spoke about this when I visited Pohnpei in January 2005.

    The track record for breadfruit collections in the Pacific is a very poor one, because of lack of resources and staff to care for the trees. There was a nice breadfruit collection on Kosrae. When I visited it in 1987 there were about 30 trees, all maintained, and some even had identifying labels. I've been to the collection several times since then and identified a few of the trees closest to the building, but the ones on the hillside are unknowns. Most were neglected and smothered with vines. Collections in Samoa and Tahiti have suffered the same fate. There is even a breadfruit collection on Pohnpei on the grounds of the former agriculture station. It was established by TTPI agriculturists in the 1970s and consists of varieties from Chuuk and Tahiti and maybe Pohnpei. Some of the trees have been cut down over the years. Adelino and I were unsuccessful in finding any records for this collection to identify the varieties, but I was able to ID two Tahitian varieties.

    I think that it is critical to first inventory the existing breadfruit varieties in the FSM, which truly is a center of diversity, before introducing new varieties. After all, local varieties supported the islanders there for a 2-3000 years. Of course, we will be willing to provide varieties from our tissue culture project, but it would be unfortunate to replace proven, local varieties with a few introduced ones.

    I am working both with the RGC in Fiji and the University of British Columbia on tissue culture projects and we are also going to look at salinity tolerance of different varieties at UBC. We're not yet ready to start distributing varieties.

    Look forward to hearing from you all and continuing this discussion.

    Regards, Diane

    Diane Ragone
    ___________________________________________________________________

    Diane,

    Kaselehlie from Pohnpei and thank you for your reply to Jim's inquiry regarding possibility of planning a breadfruit festival in Pohnpei for promotion purposes. I think your respond is never too late, you provided useful guidelines in your e-mail. I trust Jim, Lois, others and I in Pohnpei would agree to pursue and plan the first breadfruit festival in Pohnpei the upcoming season, starting April or May this year. Please go-ahead and share with us the information you have that could help us in planning and other possible help from you.

    I am also still interested to work on conservation strategy of Pohnpei breadfruit varieties. It is also a practice for Pohnpeian farmers to grow as many varieties to connect or prolong harvesting season. Thus, perhaps some farmers may be willing to cooperate and maintain collection of different varieties in their own lands. This approach may be cost and use effective, please comment.

    Regards,
    Adelino

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Dear friends

    I think an “on-farm” strategy for breadfruit conservation could be quite successful in Pohnpei due to existing farmer practices. What would be needed, however, is a central record of where to find the different varieties around the country and also some sort of agreement on access. It would not be so interesting to know where the different varieties are if the farmers involved refuse to share them with others (according to defined rules and for defined purposes).

    Regards

    Luigi

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    Flooding in Tuvalu

    From Vili Iese in Tuvalu.

    Just want to share what is happening in Tuvalu now. Yesterday evening (30th) the sea was very high during high tide, higher than I experienced before. Most of the roads and also areas closer to Weather offices, Tuvalu Electrical Cooperation were flooded. Some homes were also flooded. The most disappointed thing for some people was that their home gardens (food) and pig sty were flooded too. The farmers including myself have to wait for the low tide to feed the pigs. The waves broke very closer to houses, and even on the road, throwing rubbles and logs on the road. It was very scary to see the sea coming so closer to the land, and almost everything you see is flooded with salt water. For the past 5 years I spent here in Tuvalu I never experienced any high tide this high before, and it was also the same story around here in Funafuti. Sometimes we wonder whether the tide is rising in a faster rate than scientists predicted, who knows? But I also heard that more higher tides (>3m) are coming up in Feburary. For higher countries, 2.5m or 3m high tide is nothing but for a country so narrow, low (about 5 meters above sea level) it is a big problem. Salt spray is now at its worst stage affecting many food crops here in Funafuti. I dont know about the outer islands, and giant swamp taro pits there, but I can imagine it is worse than here. I feel very scared that i just want to go back home with my family sooner.

    Thanks for listening.

    Vili

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    Sunday, January 29, 2006


    Yams in Micronesia

    There are two papers posted here on yam diversity and conservation on the Micronesian island of Yap, by Dr Murukesan V. Krishnapillai, a researcher at the Agricultural Experiment Station,
    College of Micronesia, Yap Campus. On eis on yam diversity, the other on the role of women in yam conservation.

    These were part of a "virtual conference" organized by the International Research Foundation for Development (IRFD) as a contribution to the Barbados +10 - United Nations International Meeting on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States last year. As part of this effort, IRFD launched the "World Forum on Small Island Developing States: Challenges, Prospects and International Cooperation for Sustainable Development." The objectives were "to continuously Mobilize the Scientific Community to engage in research, policy analysis, and design programs of action to solve major problems faced by small island developing states; and Raise Global Public Awareness on issues of small island developing states through research, education, and dissemination of new knowledge." Also included is a paper by Prof. Randy Thaman of USP I've circulated before, entitled "The Earth’s “Cool Spots” Under Threat: The Conservation Status and the Priority Need for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Atoll Biodiversity and Ethnobiodiversity in The Pacific Islands."

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    Diabetes and local foods

    From Dr Lex Thomson, SPRIG Project Team Leader.

    Dear friends,

    Thank you for all of the interesting e-mails in recent months and the outstanding efforts being made to promote local foods in Micronesia. Well done to all concerned !!!

    My mother has Type 2 diabetes and I have a keen interest in the subject of nutrition/lifestyle and how it impacts onset of diabetes.

    I would like to draw to your attention the work of Dr Jenny Brand-Miller and her co-workers on glycaemic index. In simple terms glycaemic index refers to the rate at which blood sugar level is elevated after eating a meal containing carbohydrates.

    Low glycaemic index foods are recommended for people at risk of diabetes and it is becoming increasingly common for low GI foods here in Australia supermarkets to be labeled as such. Jenny and her co-workers have now published several useful books on the subject.

    Incorporating a diversity of local foods including high fibre sources will evidently provide a healthy, balanced nutrition and lower GI.

    We also need good research to identify low GI carbohydrate Pacific islands root crops varieties in much the same way as Lois Englberger and co-workers have identified high carotenoid/Vitamin A precursors types of banana (Karat) and pandanus (tearabukitaba, tekaureiko). Some work done in the Caribbean indicated that Xanthosoma taro may have lower GI than other root crops.

    There are several things that we can do to improve nutrition, reduce the GI of our meals and give more long lasting energy after eating a meal .

    These include:

    1. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar onto fish, salads etc…this reduces the GI of such meals.
    2. Incorporate low GI foods into meals. Pulses, i.e. beans, lentils (including baked beans) etc are low GI and recommended.
    3. Don’t overcook foods – for example pasta (spaghetti and alike) should be cooked to what Italians call al dente…still fairly firm in texture to bite…overcooking pasta raises its GI.
    4. Rice is high in GI and not generally recommended! However there are some lower GI types of rice, for example Basmati rice has a different type of starch and is converted to glucose much less quickly (than many other types of rice) …However, I expect it is difficult and/or much more expensive to buy Basmati rice in northern Pacific (but is becoming common on supermarket shelves in Fiji).
    5. Eat smaller meals…more often.

    And of course reduce intake of saturated fats, alcohol and so on…

    With best wishes,

    Lex Thomson
    SPRIG Project Team Leader

    * Comments:

    Dear Lex,

    Thank you so much for your email on glycaemic index and introducing this to our email participants. This is so important, as you point out!

    We have entered into discussion with Dr. Anne Perera from the New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited and we are hoping to carry out some research first on phytochemical and antioxidant content of some FSM foods, and hopefully we can also look into fiber and possibly glycaemic index at some time for local food crops.

    Also I would like to mention that we have screened over 30 varieties of giant swamp taro for carotenoid and mineral content and 10 varieties of breadfruit for carotenoids.

    The findings are exciting!

    For example, there are yellow-fleshed varieties of giant swamp taro (Simihden, Mwahng Tekatek, Pwiliet in Pohnpei; Yubekmang, Bolabei in Palau, Adbuweg and Teggur in Yap and others). We are sharing about these in a visual way via photographs and cards.

    Vili Iese has shared with us also about how he has been communicating this concept of carotenoid-rich giant swamp taro with farmers in Tuvalu!

    A number of Micronesian giant swamp taro varieties are also rich in iron, zinc, and calcium.

    Iron and zinc are essential for building strong blood. Anemia (weak blood) greatly affects productivity and cognitive development, among other health problems. so we very much want to share more about the giant swamp taro varieties rich in these essential minerals!!

    Again Lex, thank you for sharing this message!!
    Lois
     
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    Thursday, January 26, 2006


    Billboard promotes local foods in Pohnpei

    From Dr Lois Englberger.

    We are happy to share with you that the first IFCP GO LOCAL billboard for promoting local food has been set up on the main road by the Pohnpei State Hospital. The term GO LOCAL is one that was coined some years ago by Bermin Weilbacher, and was selected to be the written message on the sign as it refers both to local foods and local knowledge and culture, and has become a well-known term in Pohnpei.

    The artwork design (prepared by Wehns Billen) shows a father working on the land and kneeling to plant a small seedling, with his young child at his side, showing the idea of teaching the new generation and passing on traditional knowledge and care of local foods, with the mother nearby involved in preparing food for eating.

    Some of the foods illustrated are particularly striking, as the pandanus, which is in the upper right hand corner, shining out in full glory like the sun! Also the Karat banana in the upper left hand corner with its very erect bunch and red-skinned fruit is very noticeable. Breadfruit, coconut, taro and other foods are depicted as well, to give a symbolic appearance of island foods.

    In addition to the billboard at the hospital, there will be one at the causeway on the way to the airport and one will be constructed in Mand Village near the community hall, as a part of our project for promoting local food there in that community.

    We would like to thank Nena Nena, FSM Secretary of Health, Education and Social Affairs who suggested that this would be a good thing to do. Thank you Nena!! We are happy too that the installment is at the time of the FSM Health Policy Symposium with many health representatives from overseas and all FSM states.

    We thank Bermin Weilbacher for the GO LOCAL term, Wehns Billen for the great concept and artwork design and Pohnpei Arts and Craft for the painting, construction, and installment. Captain Benido of the Department of Public Safety is thanked for his time in approving the sites and ensuring of their road safety. A final thanks goes to the German Embassy based in Manila, Philippines, for funding this project and Karin Jahr de Guerrero for her great help in this. We thank also those others giving ideas to this and hope too that the message may have real impact in promoting local foods.

    Local foods billboard, Pohnpei

    Dr. Lois Englberger, PhD
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P. O. Box 2299
    Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941 FM
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Telephone: 691-320-8639 Fax: 691-320-4647
    Website: http://www.islandfood.org/

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    Sunday, January 22, 2006


    More on Hawaii taros

    Exploitation of Hawaii's taro plant prompts outcry: Researchers say indigenous flora should be mined for medical purposes

    By PAUL ELIAS
    Saturday, January 21, 2006
    Associated Press

    HONOLULU -- On an idyllic spit of lush landscape at the University of Hawaii sprout the massive heart-shaped leaves of hundreds of taro plants.

    Native Hawaiians hold the plant sacred in cultural lore, which is why many are now demanding that the university relinquish three patents claiming ownership to taro varieties developed by one of its scientists.

    It's just the latest collision between indigenous people and commercial interests over so-called biological prospecting, the growing practice of scouring the globe from the Amazon to the deep ocean for exotic plants, microbes and other living things with biological properties ripe for commercial exploitation.

    A United Nations University report concluded that 62 per cent of all cancer drugs were created from bioprospecting discoveries. The patenting of such living things has exploded in the past few years from less than a dozen in 2000 to more than 100 last year, according to University of Hawaii researcher Stuart Donachie.

    "There are things here worth looking for," said Dr. Donachie, who has discovered five new bacteria on remote islands in the state. "They could provide something new that benefits society."

    For example, the key ingredient in the breast cancer drug Taxol, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is taken from the bark of the yew tree, while Wyeth's kidney transplant drug Rapamune comes from Easter Island soil.

    Such bioprospecting is on the rise and has huge potential for good, according to the researchers going to sea, climbing mountains and trekking to obscure corners of the world in search of exotic and undiscovered life.

    The expeditions could ultimately make hazardous waste cleanup more affordable, reduce pollution and make better medicines -- if genetic discoveries can be exploited and controlled.
    Pharmaceutical companies view bioprospecting as an alternative for drug development to their traditional, chemistry-based manufacturing process.

    Other companies are looking to nature for industrial applications, such as using an enzyme found in deep-sea vents to streamline ethanol production, while still others are hunting Antarctica for useful microbes.

    But tough ethical questions are being raised about allowing private companies to patent and profit from Mother Nature: Who owns the living thing that yields the revenue? Are companies simply pirating local knowledge and resources from indigenous people?

    Legislation in the Hawaii legislature to ban bioprospecting has stalled, although lawmakers are expected to soon release an inventory of all bioprospecting agreements that the University of Hawaii has with industry.

    A long history of colonialism in the remote bioprospecting hotspots of the world has also created mistrust of prospectors -- even if most mining projects only involve scooping up a smidgen of DNA to tease out novel enzymes and proteins to make new products.

    "We are taking spoonfuls or handfuls of dirt or water and we aren't disturbing the environment or depleting the resources in any way," said Martin Sabarsky, a spokesman with San Diego-based Diversa Inc., which has rights to mine University of Hawaii discoveries for novel genes.

    "We are finding things that haven't been found before and we think that adds value in many different ways," Mr. Sabarsky said.

    Many Hawaiians accuse the University of Hawaii -- which in 2003 began sending Diversa exotic microbes unearthed by researchers in volcanoes and elsewhere in the state -- of giving away things that belong to the Hawaiian people and cannot be sold.

    "It's not about the money so much," said Le'a Kanehe, a lawyer with the nonprofit group Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism. "It's really about our relationship with the land. Our rights aren't being recognized."

    Nowhere is the bioprospecting issue more contentious than in Hawaii, the most biologically diverse state in the country and home to more than 22,000 species of plants and animals. Close to 9,000 of those species are found only in Hawaii.

    The patenting of the taro plants is just the latest dust-up between native Hawaiians and the school.

    Eduardo Trujillo, the researcher who developed the three disease-resistant strains and patented them, said his work saved the sacred plant from devastation.

    "The patents are intended to protect the new hybrid taro cultivars for exclusive use by our farmers," he said in an e-mail reply to questions.

    According to Hawaiian legend, the first cosmic couple gave birth to a stillborn, Haloa, from whose gnarled body sprang the broad-leafed taro plant, whose roots also happen to yield one of Hawaii's best-known foods -- poi.

    The Hawaiian people, it is believed, came from a second brother, making the taro plant part of their common ancestry.

    "Our genealogy arises from the taro," Hawaii activist Mililani Trask said. "The taro patents are a desecration."

    Bioprospecting is mostly unregulated, especially in international waters, and there are mounting calls in the North America and at the UN to establish legal frameworks for such work.

    "With more pharmaceutical companies turning to exploring other new technologies as sources for new drugs," the United Nations noted last April, "it is becoming increasingly clear that poor countries might never realize the full benefits of their genetic endowments."

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    Greetings from Lae, Papua New Guinea. I write to inform you that I have been keeping a close eye on the development taking place in Hawaii on Taro. The struggle between the traditional Hawaiians and patenting of taro will certainly create a situation in the region particularly in the small Island nations that depend on taro as one of the export commodities.

    In PNG, after our recent trip to Fiji, we are waiting for our Provincial Government to official launch the “Commercialisation” of taro this will be history as we see one of our traditional root crops enters the commercial arena. In commercializing our taros, we give our farmers the opportunity to value their taro the same way they value their coffee, cocoa, coconut, vanilla, etc, but within our control. Commercialising our taro, would also address the issue of income generation and employment opportunity.

    In this regards, the ownership of traditional gene pool for taro and other traditional root crops which PNG also has the genetic diversity will bound provide interesting arguments as the situation in Hawaii become increasingly echoed throughout the Pacific. PNG’s NARI has so far released 4 Taro Leaf Blight resistant varieties which our farmers and passionate taro eaters are trying to get use to. The genetic materials came from some of traditional taros. So there we are. Patenting, ownership of original materials, all remains to be seen when the matter is becoming an issue throughout the region.

    Thank you for keeping us informed,

    Stephen Mesa
     
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    Thursday, January 19, 2006


    Unique ways of promoting local foods

    An forthcoming article in SPC's Pacific Islands Nutrition newsletter based on materials provided by Dr Lois Englberger.

    Many of you are familiar with the work going on in Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei (IFCP) – a non-profit NGO. This group of dedicated and very enthusiastic people has achieved a lot since it was established in January 2004 – here are some of the activities which they have used to promote key local foods.

    Commemorative stamp series released by the FSM Postal Services/FSM Philatelic Bureau featuring Karat (a local banana which is rich in provitamin A carotenoids): The FSM Karat stamp issue features four different stamps at commonly used denominations: 4 cents, 10 cents, 22 cents, and 37 cents. The photos, contributed by Dr Lois Englberger and Luigi Guarino of SPC, demonstrate a mother feeding her child with Karat banana, the deep yellow-orange color of Karat flesh, a Karat bunch and a plant with the characteristic erect bunch. A message is also printed on each stamp sheet: “Karat has a very unusual texture for a banana. It is very smooth, and thus perfect for babies as their first food to complement breast milk, at around six months.”

    Recipes: Using local foods, focusing on lesser known and more nutrient-dense varieties. Publicised via community events, newspaper and used in one local teaching restaurant, the Blue Plate Café of the College of Micronesia-FSM Pohnpei Campus.

    Website: A comprehensive website including recipes, pictures and resources (http://www.islandfood.org).

    Proclamation of Karat as the state banana of Pohnpei: This was declared by the State Governor Johnny P. David on World Food Day 2005. One IFCP member stated “Other places have state flowers and state birds, why not Pohnpei have its own state banana?”

    Genebank collection: As a joint project with Pohnpei Agriculture, nutrient-rich varieties of bananas and giant swamp taro have been planted at the Pilot Farm collection at Polahngas in Madolenihmw Municipality for conservation, provision of planting material, teaching purposes, and research.

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    Forestry publications

    Christine Fung of the SPC/GTZ Pacific-German Regional Forestry Project announces that publications relevant to the Forestry and Trees Team of SPC's Land Resources Division are now online here.

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    Gourmet sweet potato?

    Here's a Press Release by Crop & Food Research New Zealand (19 Jan 2006) sent in by Aroha Te Pareake Mead. This is what she says about it: "It would be nice if the main motive for this collaboration was to increase the production of kumara as a food staple for all, rather than a boutique product for the high-end market. It is boutique market that usually motivates intellectual property assertions by the researchers."



    The unique white-skinned and white-fleshed early Maori kumara are to be studied for their potential as a gourmet food.

    Demand for foods derived from "unaltered" or "pure" plant material that is produced using culturally and environmentally sensitive techniques has prompted research on nine lines of early Maori kumara. These include three lines with the unique white skin and white flesh which were among those brought back from Japan to New Zealand in 1988.

    The Pu Hao Rangi Trust, guardians of the early kumara, have joined with the Tahuri Whenua Inc. (the National Maori Vegetable Growers' Collective), in a joint venture to explore the economic potential of New Zealand's early kumara. Technology New Zealand will fund the two-year research project.

    Chairperson of Pu Hao Rangi, Dell Wihongi, said, "We are delighted to be working with the Tahuri Whenua. We have the heritage kumara and Tahuri Whenua represents the Maori Vegetable Growers Collective which is successfully producing crops for select markets. Just as our fore-bearers found ways to grow this root crop as a food source, we seek to find the current potential of these kumara."

    Chairman of Tahuri Whenua, Nick Roskruge said, "Currently, we are involved in growing and dispersing early varieties of taewa (potato), kaanga (corn), hue and kamokamo. There is an increasing demand for wholesome, natural, regional foods, particularly from top-end diners and the slow food movement. Our early kumara would fit this and, if we can grow enough of it, I think there is potential for export."

    The nine early Maori kumara lines (four pre-European and five post-European) were returned from Japan for safe-keeping to the Pu Hao Rangi Trust. On their return, Crop & Food Research assisted the Trust by removing viruses and Pam Fletcher has maintained the virus-free lines in tissue culture at Lincoln.

    Crop & Food Research agronomists are now working to understand the best growing conditions for the cultivars. Yields and quality during storage will be two key factors examined in the trials.
    Crop & Food Research's Maori Research Leader, Dr Meto Leach said, "Unlike common kumara grown today, little is known about these early cultivars. The research is needed to see how they will survive transplanting and to identify their susceptibility to climate and disease."

    The aim is to identify an early kumara line suitable for the market and to establish a successful production system. Tahuri Whenua and Pu Hao Rangi will work together to get production underway and develop markets.

    The research should be complete by July 2007 and then the knowledge gained will be given to growers who will work to build up production.

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    Follow-up:

    Maori Party Commends Initiative of the ‘Guardians of the Kumara’

    Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party; 20 January 2006

    The Maori Party today congratulated Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust, guardians of the early kumara, for their joint venture with Tahuri Whenua Inc, the National Maori Vegetable Growers Collective, to explore the economic potential of the early kumara.

    Technology New Zealand is funding a two year project, based on nine lines of early Maori kumara. The unique white-skinned, white-fleshed kumara are being studied to identify a early kumara line suitable for the market.

    “I pay special tribute to the dedication of the kuia, Dell Wihongi [Te Rawawa, Hokianga] who I know will ensure that the intellectual property involved in this research will stay with tangata whenua” stated Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

    Dell Wihongi was Principal claimant for the WAI 262 claim, the Native Flora and Fauna claim; and is Chairperson of Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust.

    The precedent for securing intellectual property rights has been established internationally, through an agreement with the International Potato Centre (which is part of the United Nations) and the Potato Park owned by the six Aymara/Quechua communities. The Centre signed a binding agreement that they would not assert intellectual property rights over any research results or products.

    “This kind of research is exciting if it has the potential to reduce poverty amongst Maori whanau by encouraging more whanau to grow produce for their own consumption as well as for markets” said Mrs Turia.

    “The Mäori Party welcomes any opportunity to share the benefits of our traditional foods” stated Mrs Turia. “Our hope will be that the outcomes of this research will not just produce food for the high-end boutique market, but will also create affordable food for all”.

    “The Maori Party also commends the initiative of Tahuri Whenua in their endeavours to produce taewa (potato), kaanga (corn), hue and kamokamo.

    “Re-introducing traditional staple foods such as these early kumara into whanau diets, can also have great promise in improving Maori health” said Mrs Turia.

    Mrs Turia spoke about the cultivation of the early kumara in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    “These issues are uppermost in our minds with the United Nations meeting next week in Spain expected to discuss, again, the contentious issues around the so-called ‘Terminator Technology’.

    Terminator (or GURTS - Genetic Use Restriction Technology) is a technology of genetic engineering that has been designed by the multi-national seed industry to render seeds sterile at harvest - thus forcing farmers to return to corporations to buy fresh seeds rather than saving and reusing their own.

    “The Maori Party is aware that the multi-national seed companies have often campaigned long and hard to convince indigenous people that they have the answer to crop failure with the creation of their hybrid plants, when in fact crop failure is often the result of deforestation, chemical pollution and the ozone layer effect”.

    “The Maori Party will be writing to the Government to encourage them to maintain the moratorium against Terminator Technology” stated Mrs Turia.

    “Maori organic food producers, small-holder farmers, and tangata whenua will be amongst other communities campaigning against genetic use restriction technologies” said Mrs Turia.

    “We will be keeping a close eye on the Government delegates attending the Convention of Biological Diversity [CBD] and Agricultural Biological Diversity [ABD] meetings to protect traditional knowledge and food security, through opposing terminator technology”.
     
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    Manual for developing climate change adaptation strategies

    Tompkins, E.L. et. al. / Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research , 2005

    From Eldis.

    Climate change is an environmental hazard that affects all countries, although it poses special risks and challenges for small islands. This practical manual specifically addresses what small island countries should do in order to develop adaptation strategies to changing weather patterns. It provides clear information, ideas, tools and techniques for taking action today, and is aimed primarily at government officers who would like to learn more about climate change, its impacts and preparedness options.

    The guide is structured as follows:
    • what small islands might be able to expect from climate change. It outlines why small islands are vulnerable to climate change, introducing the risks and potential hazards that climate changes poses
    • methods of assessing vulnerability and climate impacts. The process of managing the consequences of climate change through the development of an adaptation strategy is introduced
    • how you might go about starting the adaptation process, how to make risk management plans and how to link these with other planning processes
    • the process of implementing an adaptation strategy outlining a number of important components including legislation and enforcement, and how to finance adaptation
    • a glossary containing definitions of the key words and scientific or unusual terms used throughout the guidebook.
    It also contains information about and links to further sources of information such as useful organisations and publications as well as a list of references to specific documents referenced in the text.

    An important message in this manual is that communities and governments can best prepare by building on their existing strengths and good practice. The guidebook has been designed to be flexible in order to enable readers to apply the recommendations and develop their own climate change adaptation plans.

    Download the pdf here.

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    Third Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands

    Global Oceans Organization , 18 January 2006

    The Third Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands will mobilize high-level policy attention, topical working groups, analytical papers and other contributions to provide a review of progress achieved and obstacles faced in the implementation of international targets on oceans, coasts, and small island developing States (SIDS), especially those related to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and other related agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21 (please see Table 1 for a summary of major international ocean commitments).

    More: http://www.globaloceans.org/paris3/

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    Wednesday, January 18, 2006


    Sustainable coconut based intercropping for more income

    From The Hindu's Farmers Notebook.

    INTER-CROPPING coconut gardens with vegetables, pulses, tuber crops, fruit crops such as banana and pineapple makes for sustainable farming, according to Dr. V. Rajagopal, Director, Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasargod, Kerala.
    While vegetables and pulse crops fetch good returns as intercrops in coconut gardens in a short span of time, banana can provide income particularly in the initial stages of the coconut plantations, according to him.
    "Usually farmers prefer to grow a variety of intercrops in the coconut gardens as growing coconut alone as a monocrop is not viable, as farmers have to wait a minimum of four years (in the case of dwarf varieties) to realise a good profit," he said.
    Growing vegetable and banana between the coconut trees can supplement income in the developing stages of the coconut palms, according to Rajagopal.

    Mulching material

    "Also the leaves of vegetables and banana can be effectively used as a green mulching material for the coconut palms to enhance nut productivity", he said.

    Mr. K. Kunhambu Maniyani, a progressive farmer of Kasaragod district of Kerala has recently won the best farmer award presented by the International Plant Genetic Resources (IPGRI) and Coconut Genetic Network (COGENT) for effective intercropping of vegetables and pulse crops in his coconut garden.

    Space utilisation

    Mr. Maniyani, a model farmer who is practising the concept of coconut based intercropping for higher income has effectively utilised the interspace in his coconut garden for raising different vegetable and pulses as intercrops.

    In his 0.88 hectares, Mr. Maniyani grows local west coast tall coconut variety as the main crop. There are about 110 coconut palms out of which 75 are in bearing. This coconut variety "is well adapted to the local climate of Kerala and the average yield of the tree is about 80 nuts every year," said Dr. Rajagopal.

    By adopting intensive intercropping with crops such as banana, tapioca, cowpea and bhendi (lady's finger) in his coconut garden, Mr Maniyani has been able to get a net income of Rs.10,000 -12,000 every year.

    The coconuts, after domestic use, are sold as raw nuts in the local market, according to Maniyani.

    He has also been growing tapioca as intercrop in about 0.5 acres, which fetches him a return of Rs.3,000 every year.

    "In my personal experience nendran variety of banana can be profitably cultivated as an intercrop in coconut gardens in the early phase of coconut growth," Maniyani said.

    He is presently cultivating about 75 nendran banana plants in 0.25 acres. "The average yield of banana obtained is about 10-12 kg per plant. Banana intercropping fetches me an income of Rs.6,400 every year," he said.

    Vegetables such as bhendi and cowpea fetch an income of Rs. 1,000 every year.

    Fertilizer application

    Mr. Maniyani said that he applies only organic manures to his coconut palms. But he applies both chemical fertilizers and organic manures to his nendran banana plants and vegetables.

    He has also accommodated a few arecanut trees in between the coconut palms.

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    Nutrition training for teachers

    The Island Food Community of Pohnpei and the Dept. of Education organized a one-day Teacher’s Training on the “Yellow Varieties Message” and other nutrition topics at Condon Hall Catholic Mission in Pohnpei on January 19, 2006. This included:
    • a presentation on the “Yellow Varieties Message”
    • discussion of the Pohnpei Bananas Poster
    • the “Going Yellow” video
    • a presentation on the vitamin-A cards

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    Monday, January 16, 2006


    Agricultural information needs and actors in the Pacific

    From IAALD.

    The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) recently published a series of reports on the agricultural information situation in Pacific island countries. All the reports can be found via CTA's virtual resource centre - http://www.anancy.net/.The reports are part of a wider assessment of the needs in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. They examine information needs, information management capacity and information sources. The following reports are available: Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga.

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    Sunday, January 15, 2006


    Mand Community Gears up to Plant

    From Dr Lois Englberger: Here we like to share with you our recent article printed in the Kaslelehlie Press, Dec. 22-Jan 4, 2006 issue. A photo of the Mand Community with their planting tools prizes accompanied that article and should be soon on our updated website, http://islandfood.org. Kalahngan, Lois

    On December 8, 2005, members of the Mand Community Working Group received planting tools as awards in the first round of the Mand Planting and Weight Loss Competition, initiated in September 2005, in a project coordinated by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei. The first round of awards focused on the planting part of the competition and involved careful recording and monitoring of plants planted and cared for. The top eight prizes (shovels)
    were awarded to: Asipa Albert, Nelihser James, Esdel Pedrus, Lohla James, Elene Edward, Ihser George, Rosiana Semes, and Mesihner Jose. Others participating received machetes, sharpening stones and files.

    The Mand Community Working Group aims to increase their production and consumption of local foods. So far efforts have focused on planting taro, banana including the yellow-fleshed banana as Karat and Utin Iap, citrus (Karertik), soursop, and a variety of vegetables.
    The German Embassy, based in Manila, Philippines, is kindly thanked for the funds which provided these awards, as a part of their Small Grants Program for development initiatives.

    Dr. Lois Englberger, PhD
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P. O. Box 2299
    Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941 FM
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Telephone: 691-320-8639 Fax: 691-320-4647
    Website: http://www.islandfood.org

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    Friday, January 13, 2006


    Hawaiian activists, farmers: UH shouldn't own taro

    Ron Mizutani, KHON2 News.

    There's another controversy brewing in Hawaii's agricultural industry, and this one involves a plant close to the hearts of many islanders.

    Hawaiian activists and some farmers are demanding that the University of Hawaii give up its patents on three lines of taro. They believe the university shouldn't own what's been here for years.

    There's a definite shortage on poi, a Hawaiian staple made from the root of the taro plant.
    "It's something that has sustained us as Hawaiians," says Walter Ritte, Hawaiian activist.
    Taro production has suffered because of diseases, like taro leaf blight, which can wipe out entire fields. UH researchers say that loss in productivity led to experiments and a successful discovery.

    "It was a cross between a Palauan cultivar and one from Hawaii, and there's no biotech involved. It is simply taking the pollen from one plant and putting it into another plant," says Janice Uchida, UH plant pathologist.

    In 2002, UH was granted patents on three varieties of taro.

    "The patent was pursued because in many other universities the college can actually make some royalties, and the royalties from a patent can help to further research," says Uchida.

    "I find it incredibly arrogant that the university would take it upon itself to seek patents on a plant like taro," says Bill Freese, biotechnology expert. "The idea that the university has somehow created kalo is ridiculous."

    The issues stir strong emotions in Hawaiians, who believe they are direct descendants of the taro plant.

    "We have this sacred relationship with this taro and nobody can understand thus far," says Ritte.

    "Every Hawaiian links blood-wise to the kalo," says Mililani Trask, Hawaiian activist.
    Many are outraged that farmers, who may choose to grow these types of taro, are barred from doing any breeding on their own and must pledge a royalty fee to the university if they sell the product.

    "It's inappropriate for someone to get a patent on our food and medicine and then to purport to sell it to us," says Trask.

    "These varieties belong to native Hawaiians, they should not be made the private property of the university or any other institution," says Freese.

    The university says it wants to protect their product from being reproduced elsewhere. Those against patents say this is a symptom of corporate greed, and in this case robs native Hawaiians of their natural heritage.

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    Thursday, January 12, 2006


    Ode to the Sweet Potato

    "In a period of great climatic uncertainty, plagued with floods and famines, the Fujianese merchant Chen Zhenlong was greatly impressed by the high-yield, fast-growing sweet potatoes he saw cultivated in the Philippines. He bought some of the exotic American plants and brought them home, growing them experimentally on a plot of private land. When Fujian was struck by a crippling famine in 1594, the canny Chen approached the governor with his new discovery, and persuaded him to introduce it that season. The venture was rewarded with a crop that saved the lives of thousands of Fujianese. The governor gained the nickname 'Golden Potato', and the incident led to the composition of He Qiaoyuan's 'Ode to the Sweet Potato', part of which went:

    Sweet potato, found in Luzon,
    Grows all over, trouble-free
    Foreign devils love to eat it
    Propagates so easily.

    We just made a single cutting
    Boxed it up and brought it home
    Ten years later, Fujian's saviour.
    If it dies, just make a clone.

    Take your cutting, then re-plant it
    Wait a week and see it grow
    This is how we cultivate it
    In our homeland, reap and sow."

    SOURCE: Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty, by Jonathan Clements (Sutton, 2005), p. 15

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    WWF leads volunteer efforts to battle forest fires on New Caledonia

    From the WWF website.

    More New Caledonia's dry forests
    More on forest fires
    New Caledonian researcher receives scientific award
    WWF Global Forest Programme

    12 Jan 2006

    Noumea, New Caledonia – WWF is assisting authorities on the French Pacific Ocean territory of New Caledonia to fight fires that have threatened the island’s endangered forests and wildlife. The fires, which have been blazing for nearly two weeks, have engulfed more than 4,000ha in a critical area near the capital, Noumea, destroying rare flora and fauna along the way.

    “Several rare plant species are being wiped from the planet,” said Regis Dick of WWF-France. “Some unusual plants that thrive in the cobalt- and nickel-rich soil are disappearing, and a species of gymnosperme, exclusive to New Caledonia, is also under threat.” New Caledonia represents a fragment of the ancient super-continent Gondwana.

    Isolated for approximately 80 million of years, New Caledonian's tropical forest ecosystems are among the most unique on earth, where more than 80 per cent of the nearly 3,000 native plant species found nowhere else, including the rare Neocallitropsis pancheri, which was once heavily exploited for its fragrent oils. Today, much of the moist, dense tropical forest is gone, and that which remains increasingly threatened.

    Major threats to the remaining habitat include uncontrolled burning, mining activities, and predation by introduced species. Despite the yearly scourge of fires in New Caledonia and repeated appeals from environmental groups such as WWF, authorities on New Caledonia have failed to establish adequate measures to prevent and control fires.

    Responding to the situation, WWF-New Caledonia launched a wide-spread public appeal, together with partners (ASNNC, CIE, Endemia, Symioses, SCO, and others), for local citizens to join the effort to fight a particularly devastating fire effecting one of the island’s important watersheds. Over a period of five days, some 400 volunteers — armed with shovels, water vaporizers and courage — risked their lives to support fire fighters in their effort to control the spreading fire. With the arrival of French disaster teams, the fires are now extinguished.

    “Now that the fires are over, we are working to devise an effective fire prevention and fire fighting plan for New Caledonia,” said Hubert Geraux, WWF's New Caledonia Ecoregional Coordinator. “We hope to ensure that no fire-related ecological disaster of this magnitude can occure in the future.”

    In addition to the effects fires have on the island’s flora and fauna, subsequent torrential rains wash away nutrient rich topsoil and fine sediment, which clogs waterways and smothers coral reef dwelling organisms in the island’s many pristine lagoons. As a result, fire-scorched areas suffer a drastic loss of biodiversity, and in some cases, their capacity to sustain life in the future. “These combined effects explain why fire outranks invasive species and mining as the greatest threat to biodiversity in New Caledonia,” said Geraux.

    END NOTES

    • New Caledonia tropical forests are one of WWF’s Global 200 ecoregions. The Global 200 is a science-based global ranking of the Earth’s most biologically outstanding terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. It provides a critical blueprint for biodiversity conservation at a global scale. Developed by WWF scientists in collaboration with regional experts around the world, the Global 200 is the first comparative analysis of biodiversity to cover every major habitat type, spanning five continents and all the world’s oceans. The aim of the Global 200 analysis is to ensure that the full range of ecosystems is represented within regional conservation and development strategies, so that conservation efforts around the world contribute to a global biodiversity strategy.
    • WWF’s New Caledonia Tropical Ecoregion Programme, established in 2001, aims to protect priority areas and species; encourage natural regeneration of the dry forests, create protected areas; stop land clearing for agriculture; increase public awareness of dry forest; and control and limit forest fires.

    For further information

    Ahab Charles Downer, Country Programme Manager
    WWF New Caledonia
    Tel: +687 27 50 25
    E-mail: secretariat@wwf.nc

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    Tuesday, January 10, 2006


    A Pastor and PGR in Tuvalu

    From Viliamu Iese.

    "Tuvaluan culture values the pastor as a chief. So the pastor of Niutao island (one of the islands I used in my study of giant swamp taro) initiated a farmers club to plant varieties of taro and giant swamp taro on the island. When I visited it before Christmas I was totally impressed to see a lot of giant swamp taro and taro growing in their plantations. The pastor managed to put together about 20 farmers, and they plan their own activities, and all farmers work on one plantation at a time, to plant food crops. The pastor started this idea after hearing my talks about the nutritional and economic significants of the giant swamp taro, taro and other local foods. So thanks to Dr Lois Englberger for sharing her findings that helps to promote local foods here in Tuvalu. I advised the pastor to include other food crops like pandanus, bananas, and breadfruit in their farming scheme. I wish other islands of Tuvalu will follow that good example so that we can increase the cultivation and production of local foods."

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    Monday, January 09, 2006


    Country Profile: Samoa

    The latest New Agriculturalist On-line has a country profile of Samoa which includes a discussion of taro leaf blight and the TaroGen project. It is reproduced below.

    The volcanic islands of Samoa lie south of the equator, about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific. The total land area for Samoa is less than 3000 square kilometres with the two largest islands, Upolu and Savai'i, accounting for over 95 per cent of the land mass. Only two of the eight smaller islets are inhabited but all the islands are mountainous, with fertile land suitable for agriculture situated in a fringe around the coastlines. Subject to natural disasters, the islands are ecologically fragile and vulnerable to environmental degradation. In the early 1990s, a succession of highly destructive cyclones caused widespread damage to the country's economy and infrastructure. More recently, in early 2004, cyclone Heta seriously damaged crops and resulted in extensive flooding.

    Such natural disasters have an enormous impact on an island nation dependent on fishing and agriculture. Over two-thirds of Samoans are employed directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector, with the manufacturing sector also mainly processing agricultural products. Much of Samoa's economy is, however, based on primary production. Crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry account for around 40 per cent GDP, much of it at subsistence level. Coconut, cocoa and banana are all important cash crops and fishing provides the major source of protein as well as important cash income. Livestock production is mostly small-scale, mainly pigs, poultry and cattle.

    A taro tale

    Samoa's farming system is still largely based on the traditional practice of mixed cropping. Root crops are the most important staple food. Taro (Colocasia esculenta), believed to be one of the world's oldest food crops, was traditionally the main root crop of Samoa and was the preferred starchy staple until the cyclones of the 1990s. However, the impact of the cyclones followed by the rapid spread of taro leaf blight (Phytophthera colocasiae) resulted in a major decline in production, particularly as all cultivars proved susceptible to the disease. Whereas taro was once the largest export commodity, generating more than half of all export revenue in 1993, it currently accounts for less than one per cent of export revenue.

    As a result of the devastating impact of taro leaf blight and the potential threat to other Pacific islands, an AusAID-funded project established the Taro Genetic Resources and Utilisation (TaroGEN) project. The objective of the project was to produce leaf blight resistant cultivars, but this has not proved easy as taro is difficult to breed, and improved cultivars have failed to be accepted by consumers. The project ended in 2003 but accessions from around the Pacific have been collected and a regional germplasm centre has been established in Suva, Fiji. TaroGEN has also helped to support a breeding programme in Samoa involving staff and students from the University of the South Pacific, the Extension and Research Divisions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests and Meteorology, and local farmers. However, until acceptable blight resistant cultivars are identified, integrated control combining cultural and chemical methods appears to provide the most effective approach for managing the disease.

    A need to diversify

    Prior to taro leaf blight, Samoa's major exports were taro and coconut cream, mostly destined for other countries in the Pacific. However, the collapse of taro exports has led to some diversification of Samoa's export products and markets. In recent years, production and export of copra, coconut oil and fish have significantly increased and almost 15 per cent of Samoa's exports are now sent to European markets. But despite some diversification, including into exports such as nonu juice, two-thirds of agricultural exports are derived from coconut (copra, copra meal, coconut oil and coconut cream). However, this too could be threatened by the recent increase in rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros). The adults cause the most damage, burrowing into young coconut leaves and, if they reach the growing tip, the palm may be killed or suffer reduced nut set. Biological control, particularly when combined with cultural control and field sanitation, has proved to be quite effective. A recent development is to promote the use of coconut oil as a biofuel. Samoa's Electric Power Corporation is currently running a trial using 15 per cent locally produced coconut oil mixed with 85 per cent diesel in some power generators. Results so far have proved encouraging.

    Home to the second largest Polynesian ethnic population in the world, after the Maori, the national culture for the majority of Samoans remains very traditional; the majority of land is owned communally and the system of village government is well recognised. But with few options beyond agriculture, fishing or tourism, many of the younger generation are migrating to Apia for better paid work or are leaving the country for American Samoa, New Zealand or the US. Remittances sent home provide valuable income for many Samoan households. Changes in expectations, however, are resulting in conflicts and there is a likelihood of greater instability as court battles over land titles increase. With shrinking markets for agricultural produce, higher input costs and lower availability of labour in rural areas, extended families are no longer able to provide an assured social safety net. Samoa is also no longer self-sufficient and imported foods, which are usually of low nutritional value, are now established as basic household necessities and are cheaper to buy than local vegetables.

    As agriculture declines, tourism is growing rapidly and the sector is now the largest revenue earner after remittances. However, even with tourism providing employment in rural areas, there are many who believe that the rapid rise in tourism is not good for the economy or the environment. The Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, will seek a third term in late February 2006. Though generally popular, his leadership has recently been questioned, particularly in relation to an ongoing strike of government doctors, and some feel that the current government has had insufficient opposition.

    New Zealand, Samoa's principal trading partner, has recently increased its support to the agro sector in Samoa and commercial trade in breadfruit and papaya began in 2005. However, the challenge, according to the New Zealand High Commission, is for Samoa to develop capacity to deliver exports in commercial quantities and to support these with effective marketing strategies.

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    Fruit resources

    The latest issue of the DIDINET Newsletter from NARI has a number of interesting articles on PGR, including the following:

    Manual for growing and marketing breadfruit for export

    A booklet has recently been produced on breadfruit. It is titled “A Manual for the Growing and Marketing of Breadfruit for Export”. It was produced by Nature’s Way Cooperative (Fiji) Ltd. The booklet covers the export market for breadfruit; practices to achieve export quality production; and growing breadfruit in orchards (including air layering, planting, spacing, pests and diseases and harvesting); post-harvest handling; quarantine treatment; financial returns from commercial breadfruit production and marketing.

    The booklet can be obtained from Dr Mike Bourke (Mike.Bourke@anu.edu.au) at the Australian National University, Canberra.

    Publications on fruit in Samoa

    A Fruit Tree Development Program operated in Samoa from 1984 to 2001. It was funded by the UN Development Program for the Ministry of Agriculture in Samoa. A number of publications are available in electronic form from this project, being:

    New Fruit for Samoa
    For a Fruitful Samoa
    Fruit Tree Project - Avocado, mango and citrus management.

    The first named document contains notes on 18 fruit species. All of these grow in PNG.

    Electronic copies of these files, and the new publication on growing and marketing breadfruit, can be obtained from Mike Bourke (mike.bourke@anu.edu.au) at the Australian National University, Canberra.

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    Sunday, January 08, 2006


    New Book

    Darwin's Harvest: New Approaches to the Origins, Evolution, and Conservation of Crops
    Edited by Timothy J. Motley, Nyree Zerega, and Hugh Cross

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cup/catalog/data/023113/0231133162.HTM

    Publisher's blurb: Darwin's Harvest addresses concerns that we are losing the diversity of crop plants that provide food for most of the world. With contributions from evolutionary biologists, geneticists, agronomists, molecular biologists, and anthropologists, this collection discusses how economic development, loss of heirloom varieties and wild ancestors, and modern agricultural techniques have endangered the genetic diversity needed to keep agricultural crops vital and capable of adaptation. Drawing on the most up-to-date data, the contributors review the utilization of molecular techniques to understand crop evolution. They explore current research on various crop plants of both temperate and tropical origin, including maize, sunflower, avocado, sugarcane, and wheat. The chapters in Darwin's Harvest also provide solid background for understanding many recent discoveries concerning the origins of crops and the influence of human migration and farming practices on the genetics of our modern foods.

    The following chapters concern crops of interest to the Pacific:

    Molecular evidence of sugarcane evolution and domestication.
    Laurent Grivet, Jean-Christophe Glaszmann, and Angelique D'Hont. pp. 49-66.

    Breadfruit origins, diversity and human-facilitated distribution.
    Nyree Zerega, Diane Ragone, and Timothy J. Motley. pp 213-238.

    Genetic Relationships Between Dioscorea alata L. and D. nummularia Lum. as revealed by AFLP markers.
    Roger Malapa, Jean-Louis, Noyer, Jean-Leu Marchand, and Vincent Lebot. pp. 239-268.

    Evolution, domestication, and agrobiodiversity in the tropical crop cassava.
    Barbara A. Schaal, Kenneth M. Olsen, and Luiz J.C.B Carvalho. pp. 269-284.

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    Philippines bans Pacific coconuts

    From Saturday's Fiji Times.

    Coconut palm seedlings, plants and germinated seed nuts from Solomon Islands and nine other Pacific Island Countries are prohibited from entering the Philippines.

    The Philippines Government made the move in a bid to prevent the spread of coconut leaf beetle (Brostista longissima) in its coconut-growing areas.

    The importation of palm seedlings, plants and germinated seed nuts from countries with known and reported infestation of the fest is strictly prohibited until such time that ecological balance between the pest and its natural enemies has been established, the Manila Bulletin reported early this week.

    It reported that the Philippines’ Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has ordered a quarantine of areas planted to coconuts that are infested by the coconut leaf beetle, Brontista longissima, and prevent its spread to coconut-growing areas in Mindanao.

    The Department of Agriculture has Brontista longissima (Gestro) as an invasive quarantine pest of coconut, Cocos mucifera.

    This was announced recently by BPI officer-in-charge (OIC) Lealyn A. Ramos even as her office has already moved its crop personnel and quarantine officers in containing the pests with biocontrol agent it has been multiplying and using.

    The quarantine order provides measures to regulate and prevent the spread of brontista. The other Pacific Island Countries on the list of banned countries are: American Samoa, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.

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    Thursday, January 05, 2006


    Teaching taro cultivation in Hawaii

    From the Honolulu Star Bulletin, 25 Dec. 2005.

    Six island residents have been named "Living Treasures" for contributions to preserving the traditions and teaching of cultures in the islands. They join a list of more than 100 island residents recognized for perpetuating the traditions, spirit and values of Hawaii since the program was begun 30 years ago by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. One of these is Edward Kaanana. He uses the loi - the taro patch - to teach traditional Hawaiian values about the environment. "Uncle Eddie" works with UH students as a manaleo, native speaker, and created a curriculum for teaching taro cultivation. He serves as the kupuna at Anuenue School, a Hawaiian immersion school in Palolo. He advises faculty on cultural and protocol issues. He serves as an adviser to several cultural organizations including Bishop Museum, the UH Hawaiian studies department, the statewide Taro Farmers' Association and other groups.

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    Coconuts in Fiji

    Two recent stories on coconuts in Fiji from fijivillage.com.

    Dec 16, 2005

    Major plans are underway to ensure a complete revival of the ailing coconut industry in Fiji.

    According to the Executive Director of the Coconut Industry Development Authority, John Teiwa proposals have been put forward for the drawing up of a 25 year master plan which they hope will be taken up by the Indian government.

    Teiwa said CIDA is currently in negotiations with their overseas counterparts, and has managed to secure overseas markets for coconut timber. He said a coconut timber yard is currently being built in Savusavu with machinery and equipment expected to arrive in the country early next year.

    However Teiwa said they are now in a major "plant breeding" awareness program with farmers so that they can rehabilitate the current status of trees in the country. He added that they are also conducting trials on coconut oil being used as fuel and also making virgin and extra virgin coconut oil which is fetching huge prices over seas.

    Dec 28, 2005

    A 20 year plan for the Coconut Industry which aimed at raking in around $120 million dollars annually for the Government is expected to be unveiled next year.

    The Coconut Industry Development Authority said that plans are in the pipe-line to secure funding from the Indian government and other overseas investors to revitalize the industry.

    According to Executive Director John Teiwa they wish to venture into the health markets overseas in the form virgin and extra virgin coconut oil.

    Teiwa said that plans for this new venture are currently being put together and will be introduced next year.

    Meanwhile Teiwa adds that trials for the generation of fuel from coconut oil are expected to be completed soon.

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    Illegal logging and trade

    From Mongbay.com.

    Australia warned its neighbors to crack down on illegal logging in their rainforests or face trade restrictions according to an article in The Australian. Federal Forestry Minister Ian Macdonald said that Australia was trying to persuade Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to agree to international standards on sustainable logging.

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    Forest Fires Ravage Rare Species in New Caledonia

    January 04, 2006 — By Associated Press

    Fires whipping through rainforests in New Caledonia are wiping out rare plant species and overwhelming firefighters, and environmental groups and local leaders appealed Tuesday for help. The fires, which have been blazing for nearly two weeks, have engulfed more than 4,000 hectares (11,000 acres) in southern Noumea, the main island on the French Pacific Ocean territory, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

    "Several rare plant species are being wiped from the planet," said Regis Dick of WWF. Some unusual plants that thrive in the cobalt- and nickel-rich soil of Noumea are disappearing, and a species of palm exclusive to New Caledonia is also under threat, he said in a telephone interview. The damage to the rainforests and forests also endangers the animals they house, including local parrot species and the cagou, a bird native to New Caledonia that features on the national emblem, he said. The small local firefighting force quickly appealed for help. France's government sent a military plane over the weekend loaded with equipment and 82 people, but local leaders said Tuesday that it was not enough.

    "We need human action on these sites, with shovels and material on the ground to get to the root of it," Hamel-Francis Mekachera, a New Caledonia official, told France's LCI television. Mekachera said helicopters dousing water on the site could not sufficiently soak the charred soil. Dry, hot weather and strong winds have hampered firefighting efforts and spread the blaze. "But fires are only lit by humans," Dick said.

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    Wednesday, January 04, 2006


    Recognizing food crop varieties

    The following article by Lois Englberger et al. is now available here on the website of the IPGRI-FAO PGR Newsletter.

    Cultivar recognition in Micronesia: banana, breadfruit, giant swamp taro and pandanus
    by Lois Englberger, Maureen H. Fitzgerald and Geoffrey C. Marks
    PGR Newsletter 142: 1-9

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    Diversity on Futuna

    Frank & I thought you might be interested in the following quote from "The Melanesians: People of the South Pacific" by Albert B. Lewis (1951, pp. 72-73), Assistant Curator, Melanesian Ethnology, Chicago Natural History Museum 1907-1940:

    "Gunn (1914) reports that in the small island of Futuna ... there are 87 varieties of yams, 90 of taro, 70 of bananas and plantains, 75 of breadfruit, 12 of sweet potatoes, and 38 other roots used as food. The Sulka of New Britain are reported to distinguish by name 450 varieties of taro, besides hundreds of varieties of other kinds of cultivated plants.

    Many of these varieties differ greatly in size, appearance, and flavor. Some of the bananas are small, not more than an inch or two in length, but with a delicious flavor, while some of the huge coarse plantains may be nearly as large as one's arm. These are always cooked. Some of the varieties of yams may grow up to six or eight feet in length, with a weight of 100 lbs or more."

    Of course, we don't know now how many of these varieties were duplicate names, but the numbers are still pretty impressive. Thanks to everyone out there in different islands for doing your best to save what's left! And by doing that, mutations will eventually give rise to future varieties.

    Cheers,

    Angela & Frank

    Dr. Angela Kay Kepler
    Pacific-wide Ecological Consulting
    PO Box 1298, Haiku
    Island of Maui
    Hawaii 96708
    USA
    Tel. 1-808-573-5847
    Fax 1-808-572-1242
    E-mail akk@pacificwideconsulting.com

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    Cutting-edge potatoes for Zimbabwe (and the Pacific?)

    Another article from the latest Spore from CTA of possible relevance to the Pacific.

    "Born again" sweet potato plants developed by a team of local scientists employed by Zimbabwe company Agri-Biotech are helping small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe to weather the country’s food crisis. The plants make it possible for a 30-m square plot to feed a family of seven all year round. Over 35,000 people have benefited in the past 2 years and supplies have reached eight of Zimbabwe's 56 districts.The scientists 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 literally employ cutting-edge science. They dissect out the 0.25 mm tip of the bud, which is free from viruses and other micro-organisms, and throw the rest away. They then grow the bud tip in a test tube for 9 months into a virus-free plant, and keep 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, which funded Agri-Biotech to supply 3,000 starter plants to 160 nursery farmers. The virus cleansing is not permanent and farmers return for new clean material every few years.

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    Surviving the blight: socio-economic consequences of taro leaf blight (TLB) disease in Samoa

    Journal of South Pacific Agriculture Vol. 10 No. 1 & 2, pp 1-9.

    V Naidu
    Professor, Development Studies
    Victoria University
    Wellington
    New Zealand

    M Umar
    Director IRETA
    USP
    Alafua Campus
    Samoa

    Abstract

    Samoa’s staple food taro has disappeared from family meals, ceremonial functions and markets. How can a country cope with a debacle of this magnitude? The Samoan experience has lessons for other small developing island states, although this study was conducted some years back.
    A Survey was carried out during 1999 to ascertain the socio-economic impact of the 1993 taro leaf blight disease on the people of Samoa. Using a questionnaire farmers were interviewed in randomly selected village districts in both Upolu and Savaii. Government officials in departments of agriculture, customs, finance and planning as well as commercial farmers, representatives of inter-government organisations and representatives of business were also interviewed.

    The devastation of taro crop, a basic staple food had serious consequences for the economy of Samoa, the life of the people, their dietary habits and ceremonial functions. However, because of the country’s diverse primary production base including strength inherent in small holder agriculture, various other opportunities for alternative sources of income, government measures and the people’s resilience and adaptability helped Samoans cope. A potentially life threatening pestilence was out-maneuvered by these factors. Alternative starchy crops normally grown along with taro for food security and animal feed, such as, taamu Alocasia macrorrhiza, taro palagi Xanthosoma sagittifolium, yams Dioscoria alata, breadfruit Artocarpus altilis and bananas Musa spp became more prominent food sources in cultural exchanges and for income. The Samoan experience of successfully meeting the loss of a major food staple provides useful lessons for small island states and developing countries.

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    Melanesian farmers conserve banana diversity

    The following article by Michel Fanton appeared in the latest issue of CTA's Spore magazine. Dr Mary Taylor of SPC's Regional Germplasm Centre, who is a regional representative on the banana genetic resources network BAPNET, adds that SPC/BAPNET will be providing some funds in 2006 to evaluate this collection and look at the carotenoid levels.

    A local NGO on the island of Makira in the southeastern Solomon Islands is helping subsistence farmers to conserve their hundreds of banana varieties. Thanks to the initiative of the Manivovo Rural Training Centre, several precious varieties, thought to have been lost, have been restored. While everyone in Melanesia eats bananas and plantains, the Makirans rely on the crop to such an extent that neighbouring islanders teasingly call them huki after their favourite food.

    Makira has very few roads, so the first collecting expedition was made by motorised canoe. Villages with radio access were invited to donate their ancestral banana suckers to the collections. Local students were asked to bring 10 suckers each from their villages to the training centre, one of three collection points on the island. They documented the names and provenances of all varieties after being given training in the use of scientific descriptors. The students are paid a small fee for each variety they describe. So far, 55 out of 108 varieties have been characterised, using local names such as “three heads” and “eight heads” (referring to multi-headed bunches) or “5 minutes” (referring to cooking time).

    The initiative was launched with support from the Kastom Garden Project in the Solomon Islands and the Seed Savers Network in Australia.

    Michel Fanton
    The Seed Savers Network
    PO Box 975
    Byron Bay
    Australia
    Email: michel@seedsavers.net
    Website: www.seedsavers.net

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