A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands



This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.

The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.

SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).




PAPGREN coordination and support

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

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

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    Kava and coconut in Vanuatu

    Vanuatu chiefs own kava - not Bule and VCMB

    By Hilaire Bule, Port Vila Presse, 30 May 2006.

    Two chiefs of Batnapni and Melsisi in Central Pentecost said they totally disagree with the re-prescription and the monopoly imposed on kava by the government through Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board (VCMB).

    Chiefs Reuben Viredal and chief Chanel Molbung said that people of Pentecost had not been consulted by the minister for trade and commerce, Jame Bule and VCMB general manager, Georgy Calo, before the introduction of the kava on the list of prescribed commodity.

    Chief Viredal and chief Molbung said that they are also convinced that other islands which grow kava plants are not aware of what is happening with their traditional beverage.

    They say that people of Pentecost who represent the main suppliers of the product at local and international markets, should have a "say" in the future of kava.

    "We are surprised that Mr Bule and Mr Calo want to take control of the market for kava. For us, the government is stealing the result of the sweat of the people in the village when they take over control of kava.

    We chiefs own the kava and not Mr Bule and Mr Calo; and so far we don't see any financial assistance from the government to the farmers," said the two chiefs.

    They believe that the current government policy on kava will not last long because it does not follow and respect custom and traditional rules.

    For them, everything starts from the bottom and not from the top.

    Chief Viredal and chief Molbung said that the current government policy on kava will not discourage the middle man as claimed by Mr Bule because VCMB is now taking over their role.

    They said their people want to see the construction of a kava factory in Batnapni and control of the product given back to the farmers.

    Concerning the introduction of kava on the list of Codex Alimentarius rules, the two chiefs said it is wise to consult the people in the islands before penalising them like the imposed government policy and the monopoly of the kava.

    Batnapni is the main port on Pentecost and supplies approximately 200 bags of fresh and green kava, each week for more than 300 kava consumers and bars in Port Vila.

    Vanuatu government eyes the export of coconut oil as fuel for motor vehicles

    Radio NZ International, 30 May, 2006.

    The Vanuatu government says its promotion of the local use of coconut fuel is groundwork for what it hopes will become a major international export product.

    Trade Minister James Bule, who is encouraging farmers to replant their ageing plantations, is confident they can sell all the copra being produced in the country and maintain a stable price.
    This follows a government announcement that it will run all its vehicles on one hundred percent coconut fuel from next month.

    Mr Bule says the best way to secure the increase in the price of copra which farmers are demanding is to add value to the product.

    He says they are already selling oil to the French-owned local electricity provider UNELCO.

    “We are still in the early stage and we are testing it in the local markets... like in the Electricity supply of UNELCO. At this point in time, we are supplying 16-thousand litres a month. Progressively we are going to increase and over 5 years we will reach the target of supplying 100% biofuel to UNELCO."

    * Comments:

    Interesting post about kava.I read some articles about kava dieback disease.Is that problem under control?
    It is definitely still a problem in many places. SPC is doing research on the subject. You can contact Richard Davis at RichardD@spc.int for information.
    Post a Comment

    New project in Pohnpei

    From Dr Lois Englberger.

    Our submission to the GEF Small Grants Program- Micronesia (MSGP) coordinated by Okean Ehmes was successful!

    This project is titled “Mand Community Project for Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation”. It is providing funds for activities like the nurseries for planting material and equipment that will promote local food production and consumption and agricultural biodiversity and at the same time protect the environment. The development of the smokeless charcoal ovens for Mand is also a part of this project.

    Okean has provided us with the comments by the reviewers of the project proposal and I would like to share these with you all.

    The reviewers gave some very constructive advice for the project. For example, they pointed out that free things should not be handed out to community members but should be for demonstration purposes or should require some payment by community members for ownership.

    The comments were in general very positive, noting for example that “there seems to be some momentum built up in the community in their activities to promote the local foods. The MSGP funds will maintain or even boost the project in this community and take it further to other communities on the island.”

    We can learn from the comments and build upon these insights in our further endeavors to access funds for and implement this project.

    It is significant as it is the first project in FSM that has been funded by this new funding opportunity, the UNDP-supported Global Environment Facility (GEF).

    Thank you Okean again for encouraging us to submit the GEF proposal and for your advicel!! Now on to the project!

    Lois Englberger, PhD
    P. O. Box 2299
    Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941 FM
    Tel: 691-320-8639 Fax: 691-320-4647
    Website: http://www.islandfood.org

    * Comments:

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    Banana blight hinders export

    By Cheerieann Wilson, Fiji Sun.

    Fiji bananas exported to Australia market could prove to be difficult because of the Banana Leaf Streak blight, also known as the Sigatoka disease.

    The Agriculture Ministry's director for extension services, Apisai Ucuboi, said this after a concerned traveller said that the country should tap into the market. "It is a very long process that for us to export our bananas overseas and this will first have to be sorted out through the Fiji and Australian quarantine serv­ices," he said.

    "In the early 60s, banana exports collapsed because of the introduction of the blight, which is still in existence today." Mr Ucuboi said the Central Division alone had a huge pro­duction of bananas yearly.

    "Most bananas sold in our local markets are immature and have been ripened and sold at the markets and that is one of the disadvantages of the blight which does not allow for the fruit to fully ripen on the bud," he said.

    "Fiji would have to go through a lot of consultations with the Australian Quarantine Inspection Services and they requirements that they need in order for Fiji to export bananas to them."

    Bananas are sold in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia for as much as $1.90 each. Meanwhile, new varieties of bananas are being screened at the various research stations around the country to find out a suitable variety for marketing purposes overseas.

    * Comments:

    And a reply from the letters page of the Fiji Times:

    Ministry of Agriculture's director for extension services Apisai Ucuboi must be really dreaming when he talks about exporting bananas from Fiji to Australia (FT 27/5) when, in fact, there are not enough bananas for the people of Fiji.

    I have been visiting the Sunday vegetable markets and one can get bananas in Queensland for as low as $1.80-kilogram.

    There are other countries closer to Australia that can ship better quality bananas to Australia.

    The other reason Fiji bananas will never ever enter Australia is because there are numerous quarantine pests in Fiji bananas that Australia does not have. So stop dreaming Mr Ucuboi.

    If Mr Ucuboi wants to be productive and do some thing, he must be reminded that many hundreds of millions of dollars of fruit and vegetables are imported into Fiji every year.

    He should draw strategies to grow these crops in Fiji. It will assist in food security and improve the living standard of the people.

    Large areas of excellent fertile land is lying idle all over the country and if ministry officials cannot see these good crop lands, I can show them the areas.

    Crops like carrots, capsicum, lettuce, beans, spinach, cabbages, celery, potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, rockmelons, rice, maize, watermelons, oranges, lemons, limes-citrus and all tropical fruits can be grown in huge quantities, both for local consumption and export.

    I understand he has spent many years of his term as a civil servant researching on these crops at Sigatoka Research Station and it is time now that the taxpayers saw some definite results and not just big talk. The Ministry of Agriculture has had many agricultural development aid projects in the past with hundreds of millions of dollars and all projects have completely failed and funds gone down the drain.

    If today the Fiji agriculture ministry were to close up, it would have no effect on agricultural productivity.

    Some serious thinking is required whether the ministry is really advancing agriculture.

    Agriculture will remain the foundation of Fiji in terms of food security and rural development for a very long time and the Government, especially the new Minister Gyani Nand and State Minister Ratu Josefa Dimuri, both should handle the agriculture sector properly.
    Post a Comment

    Monday, May 29, 2006

    Policies to address food security in small island economies in the Caribbean and the Pacific

    FAO / Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , 2005

    This paper presented to a special FAO ministerial session in 2005 outlines policies for food security in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) based around three main criteria:
    • food availability – depends on domestic food production or food importation, with vulnerability to, respectively, macro-economic factors or natural disasters
    • food access – depends on the availability of income to purchase food or availability of land and water to produce food
    • food utilisation – depends on affluence or poverty and can result in, respectively, overnutrition or under-nutrition.
    Policy recommendations for enhancing food security are grouped as follows:

    Food availability:
    • economic resilience
    • adapting to the new world trading environment
    • establishing entrepreneurships
    • diversification of agricultural produce
    • market development
    Food access and utilisation:
    • social resilience
    • addressing land tenure problems
    • sustaining rural household livelihoods
    • agricultural linkages with tourism
    • reversing malnutrition
    Sustainable food supply:
    • environmental resilience
    • promoting role of traditional food systems
    • responsible and sustainable fisheries
    • sustainable forest management
    • agricultural systems adapted to climate change
    • developing capacity to deal with threats on biodiversity and biosecurity
    Integrated policy development:
    • a coherent policy framework for sustainable development
    • national policy consistency and ministerial cooperation
    • regional cooperation
    • international coherence

    * Comments:

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    Locally Grown Foods Used in New Recipes

    By Amy Levendsuky (Island Food Community of Pohnpei) in Kaselehlie Press.

    On Thursday, April 27, 2006, members of the Mand Community Working Group met to discuss the progress of the on-going project titled, “Pohnpeian Traditional Food For Health”, sponsored by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei. This project is focusing on promoting the production and consumption of local foods in Mand. In order to help increase the production of local foods, training is given on the health values of local food, planting materials are distributed to interested community members, and instructions on planting are given. Trainings on healthy and delicious cooking using locally grown foods are also offered to interested community members to help increase their consumption of local foods on a daily basis.

    A new recipe of fish soup mixed with green papaya was prepared by Maria Edward (see recipe box below). She used fresh tuna mixed with locally grown papaya and local spinach. Maria learned this recipe as a result of her participation in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) training provided by the College of Micronesia-FSM Cooperative Extension Service during March 2006. The training course focused on developing home gardens and how to use locally grown vegetables and other local foods in new, innovative and healthy recipes.

    The IFCP thanks the Mand community and our collaborating partners and support agencies.

    Fish Soup with Green Papaya and Spinach

    3 cups fish meat, cut into pieces
    2 cups green or unripe papaya, grated
    1 onion chopped
    2 cups spinach (or any green leafy vegetable), chopped
    2 cups water
    3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (karertik/calamansi)
    pepper to taste

    Saute onion with a little oil in a pot.
    Add fish and stir until fish is almost cooked.
    Add water and cover pot with a lid. Wait for water to boil.
    As soon as the water comes to a boil, add green papaya, lime juice, and pepper.
    Cook until papaya turns red, about 1-2 minutes.
    Add green leaves, stir in. Serve.

    Note: Chaya or tapioca leaves should be cooked for 10 minutes.

    * Comments:

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    Intern at Island Food Community of Pohnpei

    From Dr Lois Englberger.

    I would like to share with you that Angela Parvanta, student at the University of Hawaii, is now here with us in Pohnpei to do a 3-month internship with the Island Food Community of Pohnpei.

    Angela is majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Management and is interested in issues of agro-biodiversity and health.

    Her project here will be to carry out a market study for the volumes of the different banana varieties marketed. This will provide baseline data for our program of promoting the unique Pohnpei bananas, some of which are now rare and few are marketed.

    Her focus will be to collect information on the number of pounds of bananas that the markets purchase from farmers. She will also be collecting other relevant information to help describe market practices in Pohnpei. Up to this time she has contacted 14 markets.

    She has met with relevant agencies such as Pohnpei Agriculture of the Office of Economic Affairs and the College of Micronesia-FSM Land Grant Program for their ideas and assistance.

    Also she is interested in other related IFCP and environmental activities and joined the Youth to Youth Fair on Friday 26 May 2006, and the Environmental Club meeting on Saturday 27 May, 2006, as led by the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP).

    Thank you again CSP for involving us in both those exciting events, and thank you Angela for coming! We welcome you and hope that your experience here with us will be fulfilling!

    * Comments:

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    Vacancy: Network Coordinator, Melanesia Farmer First Network

    The Melanesia Farmer First Network, started in 2001, promotes food security, sustainable agriculture, rural livelihoods and health through its network of member non-government organizations in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. The Network supports exchanges of regional expertise, capacity building of partners, advocacy and development of national, regional and international networks to support the aims of the partners – improving the livelihoods of rural communities of Melanesia through sustainable agriculture development.

    Main areas of responsibility:
    • Management and administration of the network project
    • NGO capacity building and support to partners.
    • Representation and advocacy
    • Implementing the plans of the network management committee
    Necessary skills and qualifications:
    • Management experience including finance and project cycle management
    • Experience with small farmers, Melanesia agriculture, & sustainable agriculture
    • Experience in advocacy, negotiation and partnerships with aid donors, government departments and regional and international organizations.
    • Good communication, coordination and leadership skills
    • Capacity building skills and track record, prepared to undertake extensive travel
    • Have a passion and commitment to the needs of rural farmers and grass roots rural development
    • At least 5 years experience in sustainable agriculture or closely related field working with NGOs
    • Melanesia experience
    • Understanding and experience in the interaction of policy, international aid and its relationship to farmers and rural livelihoods

    Will be responsible to and accountable to the management committee made up of representatives of the partner NGOs.


    The network is housed by one partner NGO: Kastom Gaden Association in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The NC will be employed under the KGA wages structure and conditions – ie a management level Solomon Island NGO package. Relocation costs and the package are negotiable depending on the qualifications and experience of the applicant.

    For more information on the network refer to website: http://www.terracircle.org.au/mffn

    Apply via email by sending your up to date CV, contacts of at least 2 referees and support letters if possible, and a letter explaining the key points of why you are applying for this position and what you would bring to the network. Must be available to start work for a handover period starting no later than 19th June 2006.

    Send to: kirstenm@kastomgaden.org with the subject: NC Vacancy application

    Enquiries to: tonyj@kastomgaden.org

    Applications close 2nd June 2006. Short listed applicants will be interviewed 7th June.

    * Comments:

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    New in vitro conservation paper from RGC


    Rajnesh Sant, Mary Taylor, Anand Tyagi


    In vitro shoot-tips of three cultivars of tropical taro (Colocasia esculenta var. esculenta (L.) Schott) were successfully cryopreserved by vitrification. Different conditioning treatments were required for each of the cultivars, while the vitrification protocol was constant for all. For the cultivars E399 and CPUK, shoot-tips from three-month-old in vitro plants grown on solidified MS were preconditioned on MS with 0.3 M sucrose in the dark for 16 h at 25oC. For the cultivar TNS, donor plants were preconditioned on solid MS with 90 gL-1 sucrose for seven weeks before cryopreservation. For vitrification, the shoot-tips were loaded with a solution of 2 M glycerol plus 0.4 M sucrose for 20 min at 25oC, dehydrated with PVS2 for 12 min at 25oC and plunged in liquid nitrogen. Vials were warmed by rapid shaking in a water bath at 40oC for 1 min 30 sec. Shoot-tips were rehydrated in liquid MS with 1.2 M sucrose for 15 min at 25oC then plated on recovery medium. Shoot-tips resumed growth within a week and developed into plantlets six to eight weeks later without any callus formation. Best percentage mean recoveries for the three cultivars were 21, 29 and 30% for E399, CPUK and TNS, respectively. This protocol was evaluated with five other taro cultivars with no success. However, this study has shown that vitrification has potential for cryopreserving tropical taro.

    Keywords: shoot-tips, cryopreservation, vitrification, tropical taro (Colocasia esculenta var. esculenta (L.) Schott), preculture, preconditioning

    * Comments:

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    Activists oppose UH's patenting of taro plants

    The university owns the rights to three varieties of the traditional staple

    By Stewart Yerton (syerton@starbulletin.com), Star Bulletin.

    Arguing that the patents were wrongly obtained, local and national activists opposing the patenting of taro plants are asking the University of Hawaii to relinquish the rights it owns for three varieties of the traditional Hawaiian food staple.

    Walter Ritte, a Molokai-based activist, plans to join Kauai taro farmer Chris Kobayashi and representatives of the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., for a news conference at UH to air their grievances concerning the university's patenting of the three taro varieties, which are called Palehua, Paakala and Pauakea.

    Issued in 2002, the patents protect the university's ownership rights of the varieties, which were developed by scientists at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The patent requires farmers wanting to grow the varieties to pay a licensing fee to the university, prohibits farmers from selling the seeds and requires farmers growing the plants to let UH officials onto the farmers' property to study the plants.

    But the critics contend that the university should not exercise intellectual property rights on plants that are derived from species that Polynesians brought to Hawaii more than 1,000 years ago. In traditional Hawaiian culture, the taro plant is viewed as a spiritual ancestor, a crop that sustained the people who cultivated and cared for it. Given this context, Ritte said, any kind of genetic alteration, experimentation or patenting of Hawaiian taro is offensive.

    "The taro is not a commodity; the taro is our very person," Ritte said. "It's almost like they're buying and selling us."

    But these cultural issues are not the crux of the argument made by Ritte and Kobayashi. Instead, the opponents argue the patents should not have been issued under U.S. patent law.
    For example, the opponents assert in a statement that the UH patents should be invalid because the plants are not much different from varieties already invented by Hawaiians. Such previous inventions are called prior art in legal parlance, and the existence of prior art similar to the invention can make it impossible for an inventor to obtain a patent.

    Of particular importance to the argument is a variety called Maui Lehua, which was used to cultivate UH's patented hybrid taro plants.

    "The qualities of the patented varieties derive to a considerable extent from Maui Lehua, whose properties are the result of many centuries of breeding efforts by native Hawaiians," the opponents contend. "Thus, the patent claims for the three patented varieties are invalidated by considerations of prior art."

    The statement also claims that the UH scientists failed to validate properties they claimed the taro contained, another essential element to obtaining a patent.

    Finally, the statement takes issue with the several aspects of the licensing agreement, including royalties that farmers selling the taro would have to pay to UH.

    "The collection of royalties from farmers whose taxes already support the university's operations, including taro breeding activities, is abhorrent," the statement said. "It represents a superfluous and unjust levy on Hawaiian taro farmers."

    Although the patents have existed for years, they came to the attention of the activists only recently, said Bill Freese, a scientific consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety, which opposes the genetic alteration of food crops.

    "It's a sign of how these things often take place without public awareness, and I think that once people know that with a plant like the sacred taro plant -- that the University of Hawaii is claiming to own these varieties -- I don't think people will be happy about it," Freese said.

    Andy Hashimoto, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, was not available for comment yesterday. Anya Wieczorek, a biotechnology specialist for CTAHR, said that under university policies, the patents belonged to the scientists and the university's Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development, and that the college would not have the power to relinquish them. Officials of the technology transfer office were not available for comment.

    Last year, Wieczorek said, the university said it would not conduct genetic engineering research on Hawaiian taro until it could set up a process for obtaining guidance from a native Hawaiian advisory committee. No university scientist has expressed a desire to conduct such work, she said, so there has been no need to establish the advisory group.

    GOING FURTHER (compiled by GRAIN)

    Manolo Morales, "Protestors lock UH regents out of board meeting", Khon2, Honolulu, 18 May 2006.

    Jan TenBruggencate, "UH seeks solution to taro patenting", Honolulu Advertiser, 17 May 2006.

    University of Hawaii at Manoa, "Taro patent discussions advancing", UH News, Honolulu, 16 May 2006.

    Jan TenBruggencate, "Many questioning why UH should own hybrids", Honolulu Advertiser, 2 May 2006.

    Center for Food Safety, "University of Hawaii told to give up taro patents", Washington DC, 12 January 2006. [Provides links to further materials: the patents, the licencing agreement and the letter of protest to the University of Hawaii] http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press_release1_12_20062.cfm

    * Comments:

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    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Lobby On International Kava Standards

    Friday: May 26, 2006

    (Port Vila Presse/PacNews) - Vanuatu kava stakeholders have unanimously agreed to lead the lobby for improved quality of the product, locally and internationally, Port Vila Presse reports.

    This is based on the many kava varieties in Vanuatu compared to Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the French territory of Wallis and Futuna.

    At a meeting in Port Vila, organised by the department of quarantine, it was explained to kava traders that it was now time to introduce kava on the Codex Alimentarus rules.

    It was also agreed during the meeting to set-up a committee to write a draft on standards, guidelines, codes of practice and recommendations on kava.

    If the Vanuatu traditional drink is to adhere to the Codex Alimentarius rules, it would mean that the country has a lot to do in improving the quality and the infrastructure in rural area.

    The total value of kava exports for 2005 was VT300 million (US$2.7 million).

    The Codex Alimentarius standards relate to product characteristics and deal with all government-regulated characteristics appropriate to the commodity.

    In 1963, the Eleventh Session of the FAO Conference and the Sixteenth World Health Assembly both passed resolutions to establish the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

    Source: http://www.news.vu/en/business/Agriculture/060524-Vanuatu-will-head-lobby-on-international-kava-standards.shtml

    * Comments:

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    Unchecked logging in parts of Solomons harms livelihoods

    From Radio New Zealand International, 18:39 on 26 May, 2006 UTC

    A report from Makira province in Solomon Islands says unchecked logging is spoiling water supplies, streams, food gardens.

    The report compiled by an NGO delegate says local people believe that the Malaysian logging company, Yamkin Bayan, that has been logging their forests, has failed to comply with most of the license condition.

    They say it is also felling a tree known locally as ngali nut which is a delicacy.

    Communities in Ward 6 and 7 have protested against Yamkin Bayan but they do not have access to legal advice from the Honiara-based public solicitors office to clarify whether forest regulations have been violated.

    The report says people have raised complaints and compensation claims against logging companies operating in other parts of Makira.

    It says, however, that they are happy with the Middle Island logging company because it helps them with their community projects.

    News Content © Radio New Zealand International, PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

    * Comments:

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    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    Grandson follows giant yam steps

    Thursday, 25 May 2006, Fiji Times.

    Mua Mesulame, 27, shows the giant Komaiele and Jamani yams that he pulled from his farm in Dilkusha yesterday

    HIS grandfather was known for harvesting giant yams in their village of Noatau in Rotuma in his young days.

    Mua Mesulame of Nausori, a former mine driller, is glad to be continuing the tradition.

    He harvested about 20 giant yams from his backyard last week.

    The heaviest he weighed in on Tuesday was 100 kilograms.

    Mr Mesulame said he did not use any secret technique in planting the crop but had heeded the advice passed down from his grandfather and father in planting them.

    I have been planting the crop in my backyard for the past three years and I harvest giant fruit all the time, a delighted Mr Mesulame said.

    I dont use any special technique or fertilisers in planting them. I guess its just a gift passed down from my forefathers.

    His family had distributed the crop to unfortunate families living in the area and to some church ministers. He said they always looked forward to harvesting the crop during the Methodist Churchs Thanksgiving Sunday of fruits and crops when they take the crops to church.

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    Essay competition


    CTA and the University of the South Pacific announce an essay competition on "Tapping the Potential of Science, Technology and Innovation in Agro-food chains - Creating Employment and Wealth for Youths in the Pacific" (closing date 15 July 2006).

    Read the guidelines

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    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Improved planting materials distributed in PNG Highlands

    From the DIDINET Newsletter. Contributions can be sent to the Editor (seniorl.anzu@nari.org.pg), PNG National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).

    Improved planting materials and technologies of food crops for the highlands were multiplied and distributed to farmers at a Field Day at Aiyura, Eastern Highlands Province, late last month. These included varieties of drought tolerant and early maturing sweet potato, high yielding cassava (with low cyanide content) and corn varieties and the popular African yam.

    The National Agricultural Research Institute’s (NARI) Main Highlands Programme at Aiyura made this possible through a project under AusAID’s Agricultural Innovations Grant Facility (AIGF). The event was aimed at showcasing and distributing improved planting materials to the highlands farming communities to improve their food security and income.

    Farmers also had the opportunity to see research and development work on peanut and highland rice varieties, post harvest and food processing techniques using locally available food resources, yam mini-setting, nursery management skills, basic soil management and crop protection practices, improved crop propagation and multiplication skills using tissue culture techniques and the demonstration of the rope washer pump technology.

    More than 1000 people participated, including farmers from the Kainantu and Obura~Wonenara Districts, representatives from the Coffee Industry Corporation, Highlands Fisheries, Aiyura National High School, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Basenangka Vocational School and agriculture advisers from the local governments.

    NARI Aiyura Research Programme Leader Akinnapally Ramakrishna said the activity was held to promote nutritive food for good health and further agricultural development in rural communities. Dr Ramakrishna said any form of development in the country would be stagnant without healthy diets. He said a new rice miller and a peanut sheller would be placed soon at the station for people to process their own produce at low costs.

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    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    A conservation vision for New Guinea's wetlands

    From WWF, 17 May 2006

    Madang, Papua New Guinea – A conservation "vision" to protect one of the Asia-Pacific region's largest, richest and most pristine wetlands on the island of New Guinea has been officially launched today, with governments, community leaders, scientists and conservation organizations declaring their commitment to support it.

    “The vision highlights and strengthens the need to conserve this globally significant environment and its biodiversity,” said Terry Warra, Acting Managing Director of the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority

    “It will not only assist the communities that live in the TransFly, but also provides a powerful symbol of the cooperation and friendship between our two countries.”

    Straddling the border of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, this unique coastal landscape of grasslands, savannas, wetlands and monsoon forest habitats spans 10 million hectares. The TransFly is home to over half of New Guinea’s bird species, including 80 that are endemic to the island, as well as numerous species of birds of paradise. There are also endemic marsupial cats, flying possums and a rich diversity of reptiles.

    However, the protected habitats and species that help identify the TransFly as an outstanding area of biodiversity are increasingly under threat from logging, agricultural expansion, and road and settlement development.

    “Until now, there has been no attempt to prioritise conservation efforts in the region, properly document its biodiversity values or identify how conservation efforts can proceed hand in hand with development,” said Michele Bowe, WWF Papua New Guinea's TransFly Coordinator. “The vision is a blueprint for conservation and development in the TransFly over the next 50 years.”

    The launch of the TransFly Biodiversity Vision represents the culmination of three years of consultation, data collection, mapping and analysis by WWF to identify and prioritise the habitats and species, and document the importance of the region's traditional cultures, local landowner groups and their livelihoods. The lives, customs, beliefs, languages and knowledge of over 60 cultural groups are linked inextricably with the geography of the TransFly.

    “Our culture is precious to future generations,” said Abia Bai, a community leader from Papua New Guinea.

    "Commitment to the vision will stop the destruction of our land. We have many sacred places that mark the route of our ancestors’ spirits, the preservation of which has now been recognised.”

    Today’s announcement coincides with the launch of a new WWF publication Beyond Belief – Linking Faiths and protected areas to support biodiversity conservation, which explores the relationship between sacred areas, spiritual beliefs and protected areas, like the TransFly.

    For further information

    Christian Thompson, Communications Advisor
    WWF Papua New Guinea
    Tel: +675 852 1763
    E-mail: cthompson@wwfpacific.org.pg

    Michele Bowe, TransFly Ecoregion Coordinator
    WWF Papua New Guinea
    Tel: +679 3315 533
    E-mail: mbowe@wwfpacific.org.pg

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    South Pacific plant may be missing link in evolution of flowering plants

    Novel reproductive process may point to ancestors of angiosperms, says University of Colorado study.

    A new University of Colorado at Boulder study involving a "living fossil plant" that has survived on Earth for 130 million years suggests its novel reproductive structure may be a "missing link" between flowering plants and their ancestors.

    The Amborella plant, found in the rain forests of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, has a unique way of forming eggs that may represent a critical link between the remarkably diverse flowering plants, known as angiosperms, and their yet to be identified extinct ancestors, said CU-Boulder Professor William "Ned" Friedman. Angiosperms are thought to have diverged from gymnosperms -- the dominant land plants when dinosaurs reigned in the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods -- roughly 130 million years ago and have become the dominant plants on Earth today.

    "One of the biggest challenges for evolutionary biologists is understanding how these flowering plants arose on Earth," said Friedman, a professor in CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department, whose study appears in the May 18 issue of Nature. "The study shows that the structure that houses the egg in Amborella is different from every other flowering plant known, and may be the potential missing link between flowering plants and their progenitors."
    In basic terms, Amborella has one extra sterile cell that accompanies the egg cell in the female part of its reproductive apparatus known as the embryo sac, according to the study. The discovery of the unique configuration of the egg apparatus, which is thought to be a relic of intense evolutionary activity in early angiosperm history, "is akin to finding a fossil amphibian with an extra leg," according to a May 18 Nature perspective piece accompanying Friedman's article.

    The novel embryo sac described in Nature is the first new type of egg-bearing apparatus to be discovered in flowering plants in more than 50 years, according to Friedman. "The unique four-celled egg apparatus in Amborella could represent a critical link between angiosperms and gymnosperms," he wrote in Nature.

    The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    The origin and evolution of flowering plants has long confounded scientists, he said. Nearly 130 years ago, Charles Darwin, known for developing the theory of natural selection, called the appearance of flowering plants "an abominable mystery."

    The surprising new finding suggests flowering plants may have arisen on Earth during a time when plant evolution was "particularly flexible," Friedman said.

    The peculiar egg-forming structure seen in Amborella may eventually link the odd South Pacific shrub to gymnosperms such as conifers, said Friedman. "We associate this structure with a relatively primitive reproductive process," he said.

    Amborella is a small shrub with tiny greenish-yellow flowers and red fruit that grows only in the understory of New Caledonia rain forests. Amborella plants are unisexual, meaning they will produce either all male or female flowers. Cross-pollination between plants is required for fruit production.

    Plants used in the study were from both New Caledonia and from specimens cultivated in a CU-Boulder greenhouse. Friedman used a combination of laser, fluorescence and electron microscope techniques during the study.

    "My research and teaching go hand in hand, and this is the kind of science that goes directly into the classroom," said Friedman, who oversees the work of six CU-Boulder undergraduates and graduate students. "The kinds of discoveries we make in the lab have a profound effect on the material taught in my courses."

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    UH seeks solution to taro patenting

    Honolulu Advertiser, Wednesday, 17 May 2006

    By Jan TenBruggencate, Advertiser Science Writer

    The University of Hawai'i, criticized for obtaining patents on new varieties of taro, will research ways to gain an exemption to its policy of automatically patenting new strains of the plant.

    Native Hawaiians and taro growers recently erected a stone cairn on the UH-Manoa lawn, with a carving that memorializes the connection between taro and Hawaiian culture. Protesters argued that it is inappropriate to patent a crop that has such a significant place in native culture.

    UH's vice chancellor for research and graduate education, Gary Ostrander, said the university "has come to both recognize and appreciate the unique place that taro occupies in the lives and culture of indigenous peoples and in particular our Native Hawaiian community."

    Ostrander said that while the institution has not determined how it will do so, "we can unequivocally state the intention of Manoa to make an exception to the process relating to patenting and licensing surrounding taro."

    Taro patent protester Walter Ritte, of Moloka'i, said taro growers and Hawaiians still plan to attend the UH Board of Regents meeting tomorrow to express their dismay with the school's policies. If the university is serious about finding a way to resolve the issue, "maybe we can help them figure it out," Ritte said.

    The taro varieties in question are not genetically modified. They were created through traditional breeding techniques. The three patented varieties have been bred to be resistant to a fungal leaf blight. Under UH union contracts, such developments must be protected through patent applications. Ostrander said one concern has been that if the university doesn't obtain a patent, a commercial entity could readily obtain one and control the release of the hybrid.

    "Manoa now must find a way to simultaneously be responsive to our faculty, their union, potential predatory commercial patents, and of no less importance, our greater Native Hawaiian community," he said.

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    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    The future of Pacific agriculture

    January 2006 Pacific 2020 background paper on agriculture by Andrew McGregor here.

    "This paper is one of a series of nine background papers written for the
    Pacific 2020 project, which was conducted by the Australian Agency for
    International Development (AusAID) in 2005. Pacific 2020 examines various
    components of the economies of the Pacific, Papua New Guinea and East Timor. It
    aims to generate practical policy options to contribute to stimulating
    sustainable, widely shared economic growth in these countries.

    This paper is based on the discussion at a round table meeting of
    regional practitioners and experts, which occurred in June 2005. The findings,
    interpretations and conclusions expressed in this paper are based on the
    discussion at this round table, and from a subsequent peer review process. They
    are not necessarily the views of any single individual or organisation,
    including AusAID, the Pacific 2020 Steering Group, contributing authors, round
    table participants or the organisations they represent.

    More information on Pacific 2020 is available online at www.ausaid.gov.au."

    There's another intersting paper by Andrew McGregor here: Linking market development to farming systems in the Pacific Islands (FAO-SAPA, 1999)

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    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Micronesian Challenge Kicks Off

    From Pacific Magazine, 9 May 9 2006

    (FSM Information Service) - The meeting on Friday, April 28, with the Environmental and Sustainable Development Unit was the Vice President's follow through on the role of the Federated States of Micronesia in the Micronesia Challenge that was recently issued in Brazil during the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity.

    The Micronesian Challenge commits at least 30% of the marine areas and 20% of the forest areas of the signatories of the Micronesian island countries and territories by 2020 as "protected areas."

    The protected areas represent 20% of the Pacific islands region and, when implemented, the Micronesian Challenge will protect 10% of the world reef area and 462 coral species, which represents 58% of all known corals.

    A total of US$6 million was pledged during the Conference by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, two of the world's leading conservation organizations, to fund the Micronesian Challenge conservation initiative.

    The Micronesian Challenge was presented by President Tommy Remengesau Jr of Palau and Vice President Redley Killion of the Federated States of Micronesia at a dinner attended by nearly 500 delegates attending the 8th CBD Conference.

    The guests at the unveiling ceremony included Brazil's Minister of Environment in her capacity as President of the Conference, Executive Secretary of the Montreal-based CBD Secretariat, representatives of various conservation organizations and conservation financing institutions such as the Global Environment Facility, donor countries, SPREP, delegates of island countries and countries with islands from the Pacific and other regions.

    The signatories to the Micronesian Challenge are the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Territory of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The regional conservation initiative was conceptualized by the Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT), headquartered in the FSM, and other stakeholders.

    In his remarks at the unveiling ceremonies, Vice President Killion described the Micronesian Challenge as a "collaborative initiative that exemplifies the best in the Micronesian spirit of working together toward common objectives and shared concerns," adding that the initiative is a "regional framework that is aimed at poising the Micronesian island governments toward achieving the targets and objectives set forth in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Millennium Development Goals."

    In his prepared statement, President Remengesau remarked: "To address the islands' unique biodiversity challenges, we need a unique approach and unique response. The Micronesian Challenge is our shared response."

    The Micronesian Challenge was launched at a time when the international community, in the context of the CBD COP processes, is confronted with the alarming rate of degradation of the global biological diversity.

    In particular, it has been estimated that 30% of the world's coral reefs are extensively damaged and the extent of the damage will double by the year 2030 if no conservation measure is undertaken immediately.

    Moreover, approximately 50% of the species in the world that have become extinct are island species.

    An estimated amount of US$18 million is required to fulfill the targets of the Micronesian Challenge. The US$6 million pledged by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International is intended to generate matching funds from other sources including donor countries, GEF, regional financing institutions such as the Asian Development Bank.

    As Steve McMormick, President of the Nature Conservation remarked, "Our pledge is inspired by the leadership shown by the Micronesian islands in committing to the establishment of protected areas [...] We now challenge others - governments, funders, communities and NGOs - to join this rising tide and support these islands as they strive to protect the natural resources on which they depend." In announcing the pledge by Conservation International, President Russell Mittermeier also stated: "We are delighted by this commitment made by the governments of this region, which is part of the globally very important Polynesia-Micronesia biodiversity hotspot."

    Vice President Killion alluded to the need for additional support and partnership when he remarked at the launching of the Micronesian Challenge: "This evening I delightfully join my colleagues from the Micronesian region, particularly President Remengesau, [...] in reaffirming our commitment to the goals and objectives set forth in the Micronesian Challenge initiative. In reaffirming our collective commitment, we acknowledge the critical importance of the donor community and like-minded countries as partners in contributing to the success of the initiative. Therefore, we welcome and appreciate any support that can be extended to us so that, in the true spirit of partnership, we can move the Micronesian Challenge forward."

    Source: http://www.fsmgov.org/press/pr05020a.htm

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    Thanks for this informative post. This is a good project for restoration that is so needed... and I am wondering about the on-going motivation to sustain the support that is needed. What will that be... as you see it.
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    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Coconut-eating rats plague Tuvalu

    See also the FAO website.

    UNITED NATIONS, May 8 (UPI) -- The United Nations will funnel $200,000 to a tiny Pacific Island country to help it fight the biggest threat its local economy faces: tree-leaping rats.

    Young coconuts are at risk on the nine coral islands of Tuvalu, where nimble black rats jump between palms and gnaw through the shells, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported Monday. Coconuts and copra (a coconut oil) are a major island export.

    The rats -- whose scientific name is Rattus rattus -- are not only eating the country out of its prized crop. Their insatiable appetites are also destroying the diet of the world's largest land invertebrates, the agency said.

    Coconut crabs, usually the size of small cats, dine on fallen coconuts, which they wrangle with claws capable of lifting rocks weighing 30 kilos. Once ubiquitous in the Pacific Islands, their numbers are dwindling because of their slow growth rates and their popularity on some islands as a culinary delicacy.

    The FAO is bringing Tuvalu's rodent expert out of retirement to oversee its pesticide plan. The agency will fill recycled Australian pineapple cans with poisoned bait and dangle the cans just above the ground -- too high for coconut crabs but within reach of the rats, who can leap up to a meter into the air. The agency will also wrap the island's palm trunks in metal sheets, to keep rats from scurrying to the top.

    The rats, however, do not threaten Tuvalu's most reliable revenue source. The country has leased its internet domain suffix -- .tv -- to an American Web hosting company for $50 million.

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    SPREP and the Island Biodiversity Programme of Work

    From Island Business.

    A team of specialists from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has strongly supported the cause of Pacific Islands nations at the important 8th Conference of Parties (COP8) on the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in Brazil. They were among 4000 delegates from over 150 countries who came together to discuss the need to protect the Earth’s collective range of microbial, plant and animal species - commonly known as biodiversity. Important policy initiatives have been taken with far-reaching consequences for governments, businesses and communities in the Pacific Region.

    Asterio Takesy, the Director of SPREP, led the delegation of four and is buoyant about the outcome of the conference. Many months of preparation have paid off (earlier references to this have been made in the February and March issues of ISLANDS BUSINESS). SPREP’s main role in this was to support its Pacific countries members who are States Parties to the Convention, and whose role it was to plead the Pacific cause.The key outcome of COP8 for the Pacific was the adoption of the Island Biodiversity Programme of Work (IBPOW). As discussed in a previous ISLANDS BUSINESS issue, this programme recognises that all islands, and small islands developing states in particular, are special because they:
    • rely on biodiversity for sustainable development;
    • have close links between culture and environment;
    • have special concerns, particular vulnerability and limited land area; and
    • contain high levels of endemism (species that don’t occur anywhere else) and extensive coastal and marine biodiversity.
    Adoption of the IBPOW will lead to better support for National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. And that’s good news for Pacific islands states, Takesy said.

    In addition, an island biodiversity community network was established; the conference showcased leadership in conservation of island biodiversity by Pacific Islands Countries; the importance of marine biodiversity was highlighted; and new conservation concepts were discussed.

    The conference also provided an opportunity for delivering “Postcards from the Future” to high-level decision-makers. These innovative postcards carried messages from Pacific youths to indicate what kind of future they wanted in their region—an important means of community involvement, Takesy said. Dominique Benzaken, SPREP’s Coastal Management Adviser, said the protection of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (in “the high seas”) had been hotly debated at the conference. Deep seabed environments contain many unique species that are very vulnerable to overexploitation, particularly bottom trawling. Protecting them is a high priority for the United Nations and important to our region, Benzaken said, because of the impact of high seas on countries’ adjacent exclusive economic zones.

    Also of great significance was the announcement of the new Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific. Palau had already presented their Micronesian Challenge to conserve 30 percent of their nearshore marine resources and 20 percent of their forest resources by 2020. At the conference, Kiribati rose to the challenge by announcing the establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, now the third largest marine protected area in the world. This will conserve an archipelago of some of the Earth’s most pristine coral reefs and set a great example for others to follow, Benzaken said.

    Clark Peteru, SPREP’s Environmental Legal Advisor, highlighted an important new concept discussed at the conference: that of “Payment for Environmental Service”. What it means is that resource owners or custodians are compensated for keeping environments such as forests and coral reefs in a viable condition, particularly where there are global benefits. This, of course, would make it more attractive to conserve forests and seas in the long term, while still obtaining financial benefits in the short-term, such as payments from logging or fishing licences. This would probably push the price of such licences up because of more realistic valuing of natural resources—but it should result in the reduction of reckless exploitation of pristine areas.

    Funding for this mechanism would come from the Global Environment Fund, which has a contributor in the United States. Hence, the presence of an American delegation, even though the United States is not a party to the Convention for Biological Diversity. Much legal work is to be completed to bring the conference’s proposals to fruition, Peteru said, and this would go on in working groups now that the main meeting was over.

    Kate Brown-Vitolio, SPREP’s Action Strategy Adviser, was excited about the outcome of a side event to the conference. Hosted by SPREP, it was aimed at networking established practitioners who are working “on the ground” in conservation. This brought together many strands of what biodiversity conservation means for us as Pacific islanders. Some critical factors identified were: direct stakeholder involvement; funding mechanisms; the importance of traditional social and economical knowledge, and of leaders who possess that knowledge.

    One of these leaders is Ratu Aisea Katonivere, chief of the Macuata community in Fiji, home to 100,000 people and the world’s third largest barrier reef. His presence at the Convention for Biological Diversity conference, funded by SPREP, brought the following key message:“For the islands, this is a new dimension on how to preserve our fragile resources for future generations. Our traditional way of conserving has been reawakened through this global concern to protect our fragile resources,” Katonivere said. “For us, in Fiji, this is about our survival. Our life.”

    And, of course, Katonivere spoke for all Pacific Islanders at this international platform, Brown-Vitolio said. She too, was excited about the acceptance of the Islands Programme of Work and positioning SPREP for the work that lies ahead. While the conference of parties is over, the implementation of agreed initiatives can now begin.

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    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Pacific islands see coconuts as potential biofuel source

    Companies in Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa testing blends of vegetable, diesel oils

    006-05-06 Reuters By Michelle Nichols

    Palm trees conjure an enduring image of the South Pacific, providing shade on a white sandy beach as the water gently laps the shore and coconuts for cocktails garnished with small brightly colored paper umbrellas.

    But many impoverished Pacific island nations are also looking to coconuts to combat soaring world oil prices and cut severe balance of payment deficits by using coconut oil to make biofuel.

    Electricity companies in Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa are testing blends of coconut oil and diesel to run power generators.

    A report by the 20-member South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) has found that if Pacific island countries were to replace 50 percent of diesel imports with coconut oil then the region's average import bill would be cut by 10 percent.

    Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands and Palau spend more than US$800 million a year on fuel imports, SOPAC says.

    In half of those countries fuel imports account for more than a quarter of total imports.

    "Given the expected continuing rise in fuel prices and the increasing demand for energy supplies, without any indigenous fuel substitutes, Pacific island countries' balance of payments can be expected to further deteriorate," the SOPAC report says.

    Australia, New Zealand and 18 Pacific island countries and territories are members of SOPAC.
    The price of oil hit a record high of US$75.35 a barrel in April.

    Coconut oil - extracted from copra, or coconut meat - can be used to make biodiesel to directly substitute diesel, or be blended with diesel. SOPAC said engines only need to be adapted for diesel blends of more than 10 percent coconut oil.

    Biodiesel is made by enhancing the chemical composition of vegetable, seed or animal fats and oils. The process known as transesterification, removes glycerol from the oil or fat and replaces it with an alcohol.

    In the troubled Solomon Islands, which relies on aid for 70 percent of its budget and has a population of 500,000, fuel for electricity and transport makes-up one-third of imports, Finance Minister Peter Boyers told Reuters in an interview.

    Boyers says the Solomons must explore "creative solutions" to ease external pressures on a struggling economy.

    One such solution is a plan by the Australian Biodiesel Group to produce biodiesel using coconut oil that was last month approved by the Solomons Foreign Investment Review Board.

    "We're hoping that industry can come in and consume the copra production ... they would produce all that into biofuel, which would be an import subsidization against fuel," Boyers says.

    "But most importantly it will stabilize the rural man's income by having a base line price per kilo (for copra). That's very important because that affects 80 percent of the population, which is involved in our rural informal sector."

    Boyers says the government is currently finalizing incentive programs for the Australian Biodiesel Group investment, which he valued at about SB$250 million (US$33 million).

    Australian Biodiesel Group Chief Executive Officer Len Humphreys told Reuters the company was considering similar projects in other places in the South Pacific, like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

    "We assist the Pacific island in some sort of independency on diesel fuel and in return we take some sort of reciprocating deal on raw materials like coconut oil and palm, that we can bring back into Australia," Humphreys says.

    He says the company is still in the early stages of planning a biodiesel plant to satisfy local need in the Solomons, but that the project will be reassessed following rioting in Honiara last month sparked by the election of a new prime minister.

    "It's a great shame because there are a lot of benefits the islands can gain from the growing biodiesel industry if properly managed," he says.

    But SOPAC has warned that while using coconut oil can cut fuel import bills, Pacific island countries need to consider how much revenue can be lost from import taxes and customs duties.

    "(Our study) suggests that some duty on locally grown biofuels will be required to offset this loss," SOPAC says.

    "Import substitution can have a positive impact on government revenues if both impact on trade balance, duties and taxes are taken into account."

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    Friday, May 05, 2006

    The International Treaty on PGR for Food and Agriculture

    The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced on Friday that Iran has ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, bringing the number of countries that have officially ratified the Treaty to 100. This includes 3 Pacific countries: Cook Islands, Kiribati and Samoa. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has signed the Treaty, signalling the intention to ratify it. See the full list of Countries here: http://www.fao.org/Legal/TREATIES/033s-e.htm.

    A workshop is being organized by Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and SPC later this month in Fiji to discuss the Treaty and other PGR policy issues as they affect the Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

    You can find out more about the Treaty here: http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/itpgr.htm.

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    Micronutrients in Micronesia

    From Dr Lois Englberger.

    I would like to share with you that Micronesia is listed in the “2005 Global Report on Activities Related to Micronutrient Deficiencies for the 2006 United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) Working Group on Micronutrients”, which was presented at the 2006 SCN conference in Geneva this past March 2006.

    This report lists Pohnpei (and Mand), FSM, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands, and many of our partner agencies, describing activities and resources available as presented in the format required.

    The report can be accessed from the Iron Deficiency Project Advisory Service (IDPAS) website (http://www.idpas.org/SCNReportSite/). The link will take you to a map where you can click on a region or country. You will be taken to the corresponding position on the summary table for that country, where you will be able to access the information each organization working in that area submitted.

    For a more direct link you can go to this website: http://www.idpas.org/SCNReportSite/PacIslands.html which brings you to the map for this region. You can see there the countries that submitted reports on their micronutrient work, including the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Click on FSM and you will come to the Summary Table. This information I submitted along with comments provided by some of our partner agencies.

    For the work in all three countries scroll down to Table 5, listing the work relating to Dietary Diversity to Improve Micronutrient Nutrition.

    Thank you to Dr. Martin Bloem, WFP Chair of the UN SCN Working Group on Micronutrients for the recent communication on this and to all those working on this global report and for including Micronesia along with the other countries listed, and thank you also to all of our IFCP partner agencies for your contributions to our joint efforts.

    Lois Englberger, PhD
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    P. O. Box 2299
    Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941 FM
    Tel: 691-320-8639 Fax: 691-320-4647
    Website: http://www.islandfood.org

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    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Protesting a patent on taro

    Kaleo.org, May 02, 2006

    Protesters gathered at Bachman Hall Saturday to protest the patent on taro. Many members of the community showed up to participate in the event that included hula, singing and pounding kalo among other things.

    "The University's genetic altering on taro is an assault on our genealogy," said Andre Perez, one of the organizers of the protest.

    Protesters built an altar on the lawn of Bachman Hall that remained there through yesterday afternoon.

    "Putting a patent on taro is like putting a copyright on Jesus, and every time you pray to him you have to pay me with bread and wine," said participant Mario Perez.

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    A Survey of Marshallese Nutrition


    This study was conducted in 2002 by David Huskins, of the Center for Policy Studies, at the University of Akron.

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    Many questioning why UH should own hybrids

    By Jan TenBruggencate, Honolulu Advertiser Science Writer

    The University of Hawai'i's acquisition in 2002 of patents on three taro hybrids has launched a series of protests by farmers, Hawaiians and others concerned about the cultural, environmental and economic impacts of taro research.

    University officials agree it's a difficult issue and want to launch discussions to determine how to proceed.

    "The conversation needs to occur right now," said Gary Ostrander, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for research. "Given how important taro is, I think it's a moment at which everyone involved should sit down and come to a solution."

    Demonstrators upped the ante with a rally Saturday on the UH campus at which they erected a stone ahu, or altar, with a carved figure of a man holding a taro plant aloft. The figures represent Haloa, in Hawaiian tradition the elder brother of the first human, from whose body grew the first taro, or kalo.

    Moloka'i activist Walter Ritte said the taro issue is a sensitive one.

    "They're going to first manipulate it, then patent it and then own it. They're telling us Hawaiians what's going to happen to our own biodiversity," Ritte said.

    Kaua'i taro farmer Chris Kobayashi said growers for years have participated in UH taro-breeding experiments, and there never was a question of someone owning the resulting hybrids.
    "We pay taxes for the university, we help them grow it and now suddenly they own it. We have to pay a licensing fee if we use it," at a time when farmers' costs are rising fast, she said.
    UH officials said the patents may actually protect the taro industry. Patents are included in faculty union contracts, which provide that the inventor or breeder gets half the patent fees after the university's patenting costs are covered.

    "If we don't patent it, Monsanto or someone else could slightly modify it and patent it. The thing, from our perspective, is how do you protect the intellectual property," said Andy Hashimoto, dean of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

    He said the rules are not unreasonable. If farmers want to buy a patented cultivar from the university, it costs $2 per huli — the planting stock — which covers the university's cost of production. Thereafter, farmers can grow it for three years and then must pay 2 percent of their profits from its use to UH. Any taro that is for home use or is obtained by trading with other farmers has no cost.

    Some of the roughly 200 people who attended Saturday's demonstration on the lawn near Bachman Hall said they also are concerned about the university's activities in the genetic manipulation of taro.

    "I think that genetic manipulation poses threats environmentally. I don't think enough testing has been done at all to determine if it's safe," said Sarah Sullivan of Hawai'i Seed, a statewide coalition of groups opposing genetic modification of crops.

    Kobayashi said researchers are inserting into taro the genes from corn, wheat, rice and other crops. "You don't know what's in it anymore. It's not taro anymore," she said.

    Hashimoto said UH has a moratorium on any genetic manipulation of Hawaiian taro varieties, although work is being performed with Chinese taro, bun long, which is not used for poi.

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    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Pacific Conservation Conference

    Mark your calendars: the Australasian section of the Society for Conservation Biology invites you to its inaugural regional meeting of conservation scientists

    When: July 10-13, 2007

    Where: University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    Topic: The Biodiversity Extinction Crisis, a Pacific and Australasian response

    The world faces its sixth great extinction event, driven mainly by humans. Our region faces special challenges including: island ecology, rising sea levels, changing rainfall, and land and water degradation. These issues are overlaid by the general problems of habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, pollution and overharvesting.

    This conference identifies the major problems for biodiversity conservation in our region, existing and potential solutions and links to the global biodiversity initiatives. Real opportunities can be found in the nexus between conservation science and policy-makers, managers and the community. There will be five major themes: (1) Regional challenges (particular issues for our part of the world); (2) Managing threatening process of universal importance; (3) Case studies of conservation in action, including biodiversity monitoring and assessment; (4) Conservation science and policy and; (5) Conservation science and the community (non-government organisations, indigenous people).

    Information on the meeting, as well as registration and abstract submission will be forthcoming.

    We look forward to seeing you in Sydney in 2007

    On behalf of the SCB-Australasia 2007 Conference Organizing Committee

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    NARI to stage Open Day

    From the DIDINET newsletter (Editor (seniorl.anzu@nari.org.pg), PNG National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI).

    The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) will stage its 2006 Open Day this Friday. This popular outreach and information sharing activity will be held at the Sir Alkan Tololo Research Centre at Bubia outside Lae City on May 5 and will coincide with the Institute’s 9th Anniversary.

    This year’s Open Day and celebration, themed “Improved Technologies for Agricultural Development,” is expected to be a bigger one with wider participation by farmers and other shareholders. The Institute is aiming for a successful one-day event with displays, demonstrations and official releases of a number of improved agricultural technologies and knowledge arising from research efforts for the PNG farming community.

    According to the organizing committee, preparations are going well and a huge turnout is anticipated. NARI has so far released 28 new and improved technologies to the farmers and most of these plus other research and development activities from different agro-ecological zones will be showcased for the public. NARI will also show and demonstrate how it is contributing and planning to contribute to the development needs and aspirations of the nation and its people, both at the micro and macro levels.

    The Open Day will be held for the Momase region and neighbouring Highlands provinces. Activities planned for the event will include field visits, training, demonstrations and displays of improved food crop varieties, emerging food and cash crops, livestock production and management practices, and resource management practices with information packages.

    All NARI research programmes/stations in the country will participate with exhibits of their research and development activities. A number of partner and collaborating organizations in research and development, the private sector, educational and training institutions, extension providers, NGOs, and community groups will also participate by putting up exhibits on their efforts in contributing to agricultural development through improved technologies.

    Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Hon Don Polye will give the keynote address. Agriculture and Livestock Minister Hon Mathew Siune, Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, and a number of government officials and private sector representatives have been invited to the occasion.

    Among the many activities planned for the day, the release of three new and improved technologies, presentation of staff award for recognition of excellence, ground breaking of Alan Quartermain hall (funded by the Morobe Provincial Government) and launching of NARI Strategic, Strategic Implementation and Corporate Plans will be the major highlights.

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