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
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Friday, June 30, 2006
Posted 6:25 PM by Luigi
Cook Islands and the ITPGRFA
From Charles Pitt, the Cook Islands Herald Weekly.
When it comes to agriculture, the Cook Islands is among the thick of it
The Cook Islands delegation has just returned from attending the first session of the Governing Body on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which was held in Madrid, Spain from 12-16 June 2006.
Arthur Taripo, CEO to the Minister for Agriculture attended in place of Minister Aunty Mau and he was accompanied by Mr Avaiki Mataio Aperau a Field Service Supervisor with the Ministry.
The Cook Islands attendance comes on the back of some good work done by William Wigmore and Agriculture Secretary Nga Mataio at an earlier workshop held in May 2006 in Fiji. That workshop was driven by the Australians to foster discussions with Pacific nations on plant genetic resources activities ahead of the Spain meeting. The Solomons, PNG, American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, NZ, Guam, Palau, Kiribas and the Cook Islands. Oddly enough, of these nations, only Australia, Kiribas, Samoa and the Cook Islands have ratified the treaty. These four went to Spain where Taripo said Australia took the lead. Like the Cook Islands, the Australian Minister of Agriculture did not attend. Taripo says most of the work was done by officials anyway although separate meetings were organized for Ministers.
According to Taripo, the Cook Islands ratified the treaty because the country imported plant genetic resources. The treaty covers a variety of crops including apples, taro,bananas, beans, cabbages, breadfruit, carrots, citrus fruit, cocnuts, egg plants, corn, peas, potatoes, rice, strawberries, sunflowers, kumeras, wheat and yam. A number of crops are not included for example soybeans, garlic, tomatoes and peanuts.
For a country implementing the treaty, it means ensuring the continued availability of the plant genetic resources that a country needs to feed its people. These resources need to be conserved so that future generations can have access to the genetic diversity that is essential for food and agriculture.
There are a number of benefits for countries that ratify the treaty. Among them is access to information, research and development. Members can share in global decision-making on plant genetic resources. Members can also share the monetary benefits from the commercial use of genetic resources. There is also access to financial support.
Naturally, member countries have responsibilities which include; monitoring, promoting participatory plant breeding, broadening the genetic base of crops and promoting the use of a diversity of varieties.
Taripo says this was an important meeting attended by over 200 delegates from many nations.
The treaty, which is a global treaty for food security and sustainable agriculture, was originally adopted by the 31st session of the conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations on 3 November 2001.
And for those interested in internet connection speeds, Taripo says that his Hotel in Madrid offered free internet access with the wifi and broadband speed being 700 kilobytes per second compared with the 30 kps for wifi and 5 kps for dial up in the Cook Islands. Read that and weep Cook Islanders!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Posted 2:14 PM by Luigi
WHO warns betel nut chewers of cancer risk
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 28) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday warned Pacific islanders, including Papua New Guineans, that chewing betel nut with tobacco is a deadly habit. While scientific evidence has classified betel nut to be a human carcinogen - an agent that promotes cancer and is linked to mouth cancer - the United Nations agency and the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC) said mixing betel nut and tobacco heightens carcinogens and increased the chewer’s mortality rate. WHO resident representative Dr. Eigil Sorensen was blunt about the dangers of the mix: "We know from studies in India, Pakistan and Taiwan that chewing of betel nut alone is carcinogenic, but with tobacco in the mix, it becomes absolutely deadly." Mixing betel nut and tobacco is popular in Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and on a small scale in PNG though mixing betel nut and locally grown tobacco leaf "brus" is common in some regions.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Posted 3:30 PM by Luigi
Pacific Science Journal
From Curt Daehle, Editor, Pacific Science
Over the past few years we have been working make the journal Pacific Science a highly attractive outlet for publication of your research. I am pleased to announce the following recent enhancements:
We allow (and prefer) a completely paperless submission and review process, and I hope you will consider Pacific Science as an outlet for your research. More information on how to submit a manuscript can be found on our website.
Editor, Pacific Science
Department of Botany
3190 Maile Way
University of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI 96822
Monday, June 26, 2006
Posted 7:47 PM by Luigi
A master yam grower
Seema Sharma (Fiji Times, Friday, 16 June 2006)
AN AWARD winning yam farmer of Muanicula, in Macuata, has taken a long and hard journey to settle in his wife's village and make a living from rocky bush land to educate his children and secure their future.
Fifty-four-year-old Tuqeta Rabanakadavu has won the best farmer award for 10 years since the competition started in the village.
His specialty is the Philippine's yam, which he sells at the Labasa Market once a week.
With the little income he gets, he manages to shop for his family and send money to a daughter who is studying at the Lautoka Teacher's College.
His eldest son has graduated from LTC and is teaching in Bua while one child is in form five and two in primary school.
Mr Rabanakadavu said he had spent many sleepless nights when he first moved to Muanicula from Vaturova more than 15 years ago.
He said he moved to his wife's village because of the shortage of land in his village.
"You know village land is not prepared and many of us who are farmers in the village are working on bush land after clearing it.
"The first few years were very hard but I managed to make enough money. "When my children started going to school I had to sometimes borrow from friends and relatives," said Mr Rabanakadavu.
He said life was improving slowly and with three children in school now he had little to worry about because the two elder ones would support them.
During the yam show last week Mr Rabanakadavu was optimistic well before the announcements were made. He had displayed his best crops and waited for the Ministry of Agriculture officials to make an announcement. "It is through these competitions that I have been winning basic farming equipment like, forks, knives and wheelbarrows.
"Otherwise I have not received any other support from the Government but do hope that our roads are improved soon. "Apart from yam I plant bananas and cassava which I take to the market to sell after hiring a carrier.
"My farm is in the interior and vans cannot go there so I have to either carry my crop to the village or borrow a horse. A lot of people living in the interior end up moving to town because of road and water problems.
"We are lucky that we have a river flowing beside our village but something needs to the done about the road.
"There is no bridge, so each time it rains heavily we are stuck with our crops in the village and the children cannot go to school."
Recalling his young days, he said he had two elder sisters and one brother.
He said being the youngest, he was pampered at times but they all had to help their father in their vegetable farm.
Mr Rabanakadavu said it was always good to do hard work from a young age so that one was prepared for the future.
He said he was educated up to class eight and had to drop out of school because there no money in the family.
"I was an above average student and would have continued studying if my father could afford to send me to school."
Posted 7:34 PM by Luigi
The Joy of Poi
By Benton Sen, Spirit of Aloha (Aloha Airlines Magazine) May/June 2006
As a horizontally challenged individual, my only handicap is overindulging in the fine art of lying down. Such a feat often requires the predictable necessities of life: chocolate peanut butter cups, double burgers, potato chips, caffeinated drinks and, of course, chest pains and a skyrocketing blood pressure. Several weeks ago, I was engaged in my familiar state of repose, surfing the cable channels in a compromised position. I was flat on my back on a hospital bed in intensive care. The only movement I could muster was raising my bed up and down. On my right, a heart monitor regulated the ebb and flow of my life and, on my left, a bag of saline solution hung from a pole on wheels, my new traveling companion.
An hour before, having failed a treadmill test, I lay motionless on a table and was given an injection to simulate a workout and stress my heart. If there was ever an easier way to exercise, this was it, and I was all for it. Then the cardiologist said I would feel a little hot and uncomfortable. As the drug coursed through my veins, I felt anxious, nauseated, my breathing accelerated and my heart raced. I looked at the doctor. "Relax," he said, "it will all be over in six minutes." Instead of asking him to explain the ramifications of his remark, I simply grasped the metal railing and held on for the roller coaster ride. Sensing that I was probably contemplating the arc of my life, one nurse said to the other: "I had a dream that you left the hospital to become a flight attendant." This restored confidence, because I laughed, the moment relaxed and the cardiologist looked at the nurse and said, "You would probably make more money," then turned to me and said, "You're done.
Back in my hospital room, I looked at the pared-down ration called lunch, a low-sodium affair, and reviewed the current station of my life. There, in the middle of the tray, was a container of poi. I had read that poi is a Hawaiian phenomenon, a tradition in the Islands, but, most important, it is considered a valuable part of an effective cardiovascular health regimen. It wasn't Godiva, but it would get me upright and out of the hospital. As I dipped my plastic spoon into the purple paste, I got a taste of my future days, realizing I would now be the living embodiment of a national health report.
Back in the 1700s, when Capt. James Cook first stepped foot in the Islands, he made a discovery that thwarted his taste for adventure. He tried poi, and said, "The only artificial dish we met with was a taro pudding, which, though a disagreeable mess from its sourness, was greedily devoured by the natives." Although Cook had a distaste for poi, like Hawai'i, he considered it a rare find. He described Hawaiians as exceptionally healthy, consuming substantial quantities of poi every day. In fact, early Hawaiians not only used the taro plant for food, but also used various parts for medicinal purposes, treating insect bites, fevers, heart problems and stomach disorders.
Taro was first brought to the Islands by Polynesians in double-hulled sailing canoes around 450 A.D. In ancient times, taro was associated with the god Kane, procreator and life giver, provider of water and sun. Wrapped in ti leaves and banana sheaths, the taro root, or corm, was cooked for hours in an underground oven then pounded into poi in troughs called papa ku'i 'ai made from hollowed-out logs. Water was added to the poi, mixed and kneaded to the consistency of a purple paste, then served in wooden bowls or hollowed-out coconut shells. Poi was considered so important and sacred in Hawaiian life that, whenever it was served at a family dinner, many believed the spirit of Haloa, ancestor of the Hawaiian people, was present.
As with many culinary rituals, there is an etiquette involved in eating poi. Westerners hold a fork, Easterners use chopsticks and Hawaiians use two fingers. Proper table manners dictate that the index and middle fingers should be held tightly together and dipped into the poi, rotated two times before bringing them to your mouth. If two people are sharing the same poi bowl, the first must remove his hand from the bowl before the second can put his in. When I was a kid growing up in Nu'uanu, my mother practiced a different tradition. She drove to Times Supermarket, lifted up a bag of poi and brought the plastic bag to her nose to examine its freshness. When we got home, she would squeeze the contents into a large bowl, add water from the kitchen faucet, mix it, then serve us bowls of poi with spoons and sugar. Was she defying ancient gods and a traditional way of life? I think she was simply taking the necessary shortcuts to expedite Hawaiian culture.
In this age of 24-hour gyms, personal trainers, organic foods and a predilection for smaller waists, lower cholesterol and hip-hugging water bottles, our culture is infatuated with prevention and promoting better health, and poi is part of the phenomenon.
In 1925, poi became the first breakfast of champions, served at the Moana Hotel, with cream and honey. That same year, a newspaper article touted it as a cure for seasickness and hangovers. In 1965, a State Taro Conference convened. Doctors, nutritionists and government officials determined that poi was a good baby food, responsible for saving the lives of several children with severe food allergies.
In Arizona, 4-month-old Teresa Mary Morrison had what doctors could only explain as a rare digestive difficulty-everything she ate came back up. Her parents tried everything, but Teresa kept losing weight, so a friend suggested poi. They found a jar in a Tucson gourmet store and Teresa kept it down. She began eating a pound of poi a day, gained weight and eventually graduated to other foods.
In New York, Ian House, a toddler, had an allergy to all foods, except mother's milk and poi. But poi was scarce in New York, so a newspaper editor there contacted the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and a case of freeze-dried poi was rushed to New York.
Closer to home, Hawaiian physician Terry Shintani launched the Wai'anae Diet Program in 1989. One participant, who tipped the scales at 425 pounds, lost 150 pounds after just one year on the program. His health drastically improved on the poi diet. He no longer needed daily insulin for diabetes or medication for hypertension.
"If dieters replace all other carbohydrates in their diet with poi, they'll probably lose weight," says Alvin Huang, associate researcher at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Like oatmeal, poi has been proven to reduce cholesterol. Taro and poi are excellent sources of fiber and vitamins C and B-1 as well as potassium, magnesium and iron-plus, they have half the calories of rice.
Today, poi can be served with a sprinkle of sugar and a dash of hoe, because evidence suggests that it may also help fight colon cancer. In a laboratory experiment, a poi extract, placed in a test tube with colon cancer cells from rats, inhibited the cancer cells from dividing. "But it's way too early to assume that taro products would have similar effects in live rats and mice, much less in humans," says researcher Amy C. Brown, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Hawai'i's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. "It's not known what factor in the poi might be causing the effect." Previous studies indicate Native Hawaiians have lower rates of colon cancer than other ethnic groups, and Brown says she thinks poi might be a factor.
Although some health tests are inconclusive, taste tests aren't. One of Hawai'i's largest poi manufacturers, HPC Foods, maker of Taro Brand poi, has expanded its repertoire to include Hawaiian Poi Powder. An instant hit, you just add water and microwave. The company also makes taro bread and pancake mixes, taro haupia pie, along with taro pineapple, taro pumpkin pies and taro pan, a takeoff on Japanese an pan, sold most places there's a cash register, including, in Hawai'i, Star Markets, Longs Drugs and ABC Stores.
Based on the island of Maui, Hawai'i Taro Co. sells Maui Taro Burger throughout Hawai'i and on the Mainland. Through its Web site, you'll find recipes for taro tacos, taro parmesan and taro stir fry. "This is just the beginning," says owner Robert Mitnick. He's planning a new plant in Ha'ikü, Maui, which will produce 8 million burgers a year, intended for national and international distribution.
Taro can be bottled, but not contained. Now there's Hawaiian Lü'au Savored Taro Oil, made from a mix of taro leaves and sunflower oil. It's so high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, that taro oil weighs in as being healthier than olive oil. Of course, to capture all the flavors of the Islands, you'll also find poi ice cream, poi bagels, poi cookies, kiwi-flavored poi, poi cheesecake, even poi dog biscuits.
With all the varied and wonderful evolutions through which this Hawaiian delicacy has gone, I still subscribe to evolution's original theory: survival of the fittest, not the fattest. Before I left the hospital, after surviving 'round-the-clock blood-pressure readings, plastic medication cups and late-night infomercials, the discharge doctor looked at my chart, then at the nutritionist's suggestions, and told me to lose 60 pounds. I thought about the white Styrofoam container of poi on my lunch tray the day before, my new best friend, and silently catalogued its health and dietary benefits, content with the knowledge that I would no longer have to see my weight displayed in kilos in Magic Marker on a white board. I put all my belongings in a plastic bag, shook the doctor's hand and asked if I needed to wait for a wheelchair. He said I could walk.
"You need the exercise," he said.
BENTON SEN was the recipient of a Walker Foundation scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and a writing fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center-both for a memoir-in-progress. He lives in Honolulu.
Posted 5:43 PM by Luigi
Lots of news from Pohnpei
Various bits of news from Dr Lois Englberger...
Posted 3:42 PM by Luigi
Activists tear up 3 UH patents for taro
By Susan Essoyan firstname.lastname@example.org, Honolulu Star Bulletin.
Chants honoring the Hawaiian people's kinship with kalo, or taro, began a ceremony yesterday that culminated in Hawaiians tearing up copies of patents on the staple plant that the University of Hawaii had decided to relinquish.
"It is as if the patents were never filed," said Gary Ostrander, vice chancellor for research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who attended the event. "Anyone throughout the world may now plant them, may propagate them, sell them."
Since January, Hawaiians have been pushing the university to give up patents it had obtained on three varieties of disease-resistant taro it developed. The Hawaiians argue that kalo as the "elder brother" of the Hawaiian people should not be owned.
"Today is a victory," said activist Walter Ritte of Molokai, who helped lead the effort to end the only patents on Hawaiian taro. "The university has taken a big step by listening to the people they should be listening to. It's a huge example for other people to follow."
After a leaf blight wiped out 90 percent of the taro in Samoa in the 1990s, Ostrander said, University of Hawaii scientists were asked to help.
They used traditional breeding techniques to cross Palauan and Hawaiian taro to produce three strains resistant to the disease, and the university obtained plant patents on them in 2002.
In January, Ritte and Kauai taro farmer Christine Kobayashi sent a letter to the university demanding that the patents be dropped. Their protest grew, and on May 18, Hawaiians clad in malo padlocked the entrance to the university's medical school in an effort to make their point.
"UH did not invent taro, and they had no right to own it or license it to farmers," Kobayashi said in a written statement yesterday.
After behind-the-scenes negotiations, the university filed "terminal disclaimers" with the U.S. Patent Office that dissolved its proprietary interests as of last Friday. It had issued 13 licenses to use the plant, but licensees no longer owe royalties or any other obligation to the university, Ostrander said.
"I hope this is an opportunity to continue to develop our existing relationship based on mutual trust and respect, as undoubtedly we will face other issues as we go forward," Ostrander said, adding that he had come to appreciate the Hawaiians' point of view on the issue.
"The Hawaiian people have been modifying and growing taro for 1,000 years, and probably 5,000 years before that in Polynesia," he said. "What seems counterintuitive now is that a faculty member can make an improvement now and patent it."
At yesterday's event at the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawaii-Manoa interim Chancellor Denise Konan handed the copies of the patents on three varieties of taro to Kobayashi, Ritte and Jon Osorio, director of the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies. In unison, the three tore them in half.
The patents were on taro plants named "Paakala," "Pauakea" and "Palehua," all known for their vigorous growth, good taste, and resistance to taro leaf blight.
Manu Kaiama, director of the Native Hawaiian Leadership Project, welcomed the university's move, but said it wasn't making a big financial sacrifice.
"They don't have much of a market," she said. "I wonder if the administration would have been willing to give up a patent that was going to make millions of dollars."
Ostrander acknowledged that the patents are "not a big money maker right now" but said interest had been expressed in using the kalo varieties in baby food.
Graduate student Kelii Collier called the patent fight just the first step in a broader movement against other UH undertakings such as a proposed military research center on the campus.
"It is the beginning for the university to do the right thing," he said. "The next time we meet it will be to rip out the UARC (University Affiliated Research Center) contract."
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Posted 7:14 PM by Luigi
Combating illegal logging from the ground up
From Sydney Morning Herald, June 8, 2006
Choosing different species can reduce the sale of illegally harvested timber, writes Nick Galvin.
When Rodney Hayward addresses a new woodworking class at ANU's School of Art, the students could perhaps be forgiven for thinking they had strayed into a philosophy or ethics class.
Hayward, head of the university's wood workshop, believes, above all, that his students need to feel a deep respect for their chosen material.
"We make sure the first thing the students understand is that timber is not acquired in a supermarket or is some sort of sterile material that comes from a mysterious source," he says. "The material comes from a living organism that has probably been killed and other things have died in association with it.
"They must not lose sight of the relationship they have to the tree and their own responsibility - it is not something to be wasted or trivialised."
This has been taken to heart by Henry Wilson, an honours student at the school of art. He used plantation-grown beech from Europe and plantation hoop pine from Australia for his chair designs.
Hayward articulates what generations of woodworkers have known instinctively - that harvesting and using timber comes with a serious responsibility to the environment. And it's a responsibility that applies as much to consumers and homeowners as it does to fine furniture makers.
In recent decades, however, the advent of indiscriminate clear felling in many of the world's most environmentally sensitive regions has derailed this intimate connection with timber.
Part of Hayward's approach with his students is to insist they discover the origins of their materials. That way, he says, they will know the fine furniture they produce will not have been at the expense of "devastating a mountainside and leaving the villagers starving or having to move on somewhere else".
A report prepared last year for the Federal Government by Jaakko Poyry Consulting found the global market in illegal or suspect timber is worth $30 billion. Each year, about 9 per cent of the timber imported into Australia has been illegally harvested.
The report says: "Of particular concern to Australia are its hardwood imports from the regions identified as having problems, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and smaller nations that are struggling economically, such as Papua New Guinea."
As well as the clear-cut cases of illegal logging, there is an even bigger problem of timber that is technically harvested legally but at a terrible cost to the environment and local communities.
It's a pattern Sydney carpenter Shane Ritchie witnessed when he helped to establish a European Union-funded eco-forestry program in Papua New Guinea in 1998.
Ritchie says the concept of cutting down trees in large numbers was alien to the people there until large commercial logging companies arrived.
"In the past there was no need for them to cut down the bush except [to make space] for their gardens but since us great white guys have gone up there and started logging on a large scale, now there is a threat to their bush," he says.
When the timber is harvested, many food trees are lost, which in turn means an exodus of native animals from the area.
"You also start to have erosion which causes big washouts and affects drinking water," Ritchie says. "Often the people are promised [a lot of things] by the logging companies, like medical centres and schools and in a lot of situations these are not supplied. By the time the bush is gone, they've got the royalty for it but there is nothing else left. They haven't really improved their lifestyles."
One of the most notorious logging projects in the region and the subject of high-profile protests was in the area between Kiunga and Aiambak in PNG's Western Province. In 1993, Malaysian logging company Concord Pacific began building a road between the two centres that was widely regarded as a thinly veiled excuse to conduct an extensive and illegal logging operation.
After 10 years of protests, the project was halted but not before huge areas of forest were devastated.
Community-based eco-forestry projects are one response to the threat of unsustainable logging from logging companies.
"This process is about [the communities] managing and organising their own lives with their own money from their own bush so they're making a decision about how their community is going to grow," Ritchie says. "It's bringing power back to the people to control their lives and their future."
In Australia, one of the main wholesalers and retailers of timber from these projects is Peter Mussett, who owns The Woodage, a Mittagong timber merchant.
Mussett, who trained as a cabinetmaker, focuses his efforts on timber from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands because "nowhere needs it more than these sorts of places".
"We purchase material from PNG villagers who cut the timber and process it into a green sawn board; that money goes to them, not to some foreign logging company feathering its own nest."
The challenge for the consumer buying floorboards or outdoor furniture is determining where the wood came from and whether it was harvested sustainably.
The system supported by Mussett and many others interested in sustainable forestry is Forest Stewardship Council certification. The council claims to have certified more than 73 million hectares worldwide.
FSC certified timber is guaranteed to have been harvested sustainably, respecting the rights and interests of the community that produces it. The timber has also followed strict "chain of custody" provisions, which ensures the timber has not been substituted at any point in the import process.
"We get audited once a year," Mussett says. "If we have imported 100 cubic metres of certified timber and our invoicing shows we sold 150 cubic metres, then we have to answer a lot of serious questions."
Sydney architect Michael Robilliard is an enthusiastic customer of The Woodage and uses FSC timber wherever possible in his houses.
"It enables these smaller countries to export highquality timbers without people like me seeming to be some sort of raping and pillaging rich first-world country person wastefully using their timbers," Robilliard says.
In an award-winning Palm Beach house completed in 2003, Robilliard made extensive use of sustainable timbers, including malas from PNG on the floor and brazilian mahogany grown in Fiji for the ceiling.
Mussett says getting Australian consumers accustomed to unfamiliar species is a big part of the battle to reduce the use of illegal or destructively harvested timber.
"We see it as our challenge to find a market for those species [people have] never seen before because, if you are going to maintain the biodiversity of a forest, then you have to be able to use what the forest is giving up so it can be sustainably managed. There are some beautiful timbers that the market does not know anything about."
The power of Australian consumers to force change on logging companies in PNG or the Solomons has not been lost on Greenpeace, which has shifted some of its focus away from high-profile direct action to educating consumers to choose "good wood".
Greenpeace campaigner Grant Rosoman points to developments in China as evidence consumers have the ultimate power to make a difference.
China remains the centre of a massive trade in converting unsustainably harvested timber into furniture and other items for export. However, it is also the biggest growth area for FSC-certified timber, because of demand from shoppers and homebuyers in Britain and the US.
"Australia has been slow on the uptake of FSC products compared to, say, the UK," Rosoman says. "There, if you go into any DIY place you'll find up to half the products or more are FSC [certified]."
Greenpeace aims to educate consumers and promote demand with its "Good Wood" campaign (www.greenpeace.org.au/goodwoodguide), which lists "good" and "bad" wood according to its source, and where to buy it in Australia.
Rosoman says: "When you talk to someone who has gone to the effort of buying good wood in a chair it is very satisfying [for them]."
Build it from the ground up
It was a chance meeting with a logging company worker that first made Mark Lillyman determined to do something about the destruction of forests in Papua New Guinea.
On my way to Bougainville through the Solomon Islands one day I ran into a Malaysian logger who proudly boasted to me that he had just bought a persons forest for some chickens, fish and rice, Lillyman says.
That was in the mid 1990s. In 1997, Lillyman, who was born in PNG and educated in Australia, set up his own community sawmill at Lae on the east coast, helping locals to manage their own forests sustainably.
He has established a business called Wildtimber that invests in community forestry businesses and imports timber into Australia. He deals in such species as kwila, rosewood, malas and taun.
I identify small community groups within PNG that have company registration and find whether they need help, Lillyman says. I might help them with the purchase of a piece of equipment in return for marketing through me.
I try to make sure they are not under the misapprehension that the market has to accept what they produce but rather that they mill for the demands of the market. Then they can become players.
Lillyman broadly supports the efforts of many of the NGOs trying to set up sustainable forestry projects in PNG. However, he says, when it comes to practical matters, well-meaning environmental groups can be overbearing.
"Their benefit is in the dissemination of information and marketing techniques rather than showing people how to mill timber on their own land, he says." " I find it interesting that people from Brussels can come over and tell Papua New Guineans how to manage their resources. Youve got to sit down and do the business in the dirt. Youve got to build it from the ground up."
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Posted 6:35 PM by Luigi
Palau, Taiwan partnership targets agriculture
SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 7) – Palau’s Bureau of Agriculture and the Taiwan Technical Mission in this Pacific island nation have launched a new partnership that will combine their resources and expertise in the development of agriculture programs here. The partnership is in line with the government’s 2020 National Master Development Plan that aims to increase agricultural activities in Palau. The ceremony to announce the partnership was attended by Minister of Resources and Development Fritz Koshiba and Ambassador Clark Chen of the Taiwan. The partnership involves the collection of important data regarding imported and locally produced agricultural commodities, long-term agriculture survey for animal husbandry, forestry and horticulture. It also includes state nursery and improvement projects, extension programs in invasive weed control project as well as crop management.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Posted 6:24 PM by Luigi
NZAID: Major partnership to help manage local resources in the Pacific
On World Environment Day, June 5, NZAID, the New Zealand Government’s aid and development agency, and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), are jointly announcing a major environment and development funding programme to help Pacific communities manage environmental resources.
“Helping Pacific Island communities to manage local resources, such as coral reefs, local fisheries and native forests, is an important way New Zealand can help the Pacific towards a prosperous future,” NZAID executive director, Peter Adams said today.
Over the next three years, NZAID will be contributing NZ$6 million to the GEF SGP, a corporate programme of the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“The fund works by encouraging communities to apply for funding support up to US$50,000 per project. Typical projects would involve enabling communities to access information and new technologies, sustainably develop natural resources, rehabilitate local ecosystems, improve livelihoods, and reduce vulnerability to natural disasters,” said Frank Pinto, executive coordinator, UNDP/GEF.
“We want to help Pacific communities conserve and draw lasting benefits from their local resources, which are so crucial for day to day livelihoods. Our partnership with NZAID is a great opportunity to do this,” said Delfin Ganapin, global manager of the programme, who represented Mr Pinto in New Zealand.
The agreement was signed at the start of a 6-day workshop for Pacific grant managers in Auckland, New Zealand, jointly hosted by GEF SGP and NZAID.
The grant programme operates in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands. Programmes are expected to be established in Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Nauru, and Solomon Islands over the coming year.
For more information contact:
Catrina McDiarmid, NZAID
+64 4 439 8314 or +64 21 588 827
Marie Khan, GEF SGP
+1 212 906 5842
Posted 4:22 PM by Luigi
More on Hawaii taro patents
By Alexandre Da Silva (Honolulu Star Bulletin).
Farmers say the University of Hawaii got the wrong message from protests when it decided last week to start transferring three of its taro patents to Hawaiians.
Walter Ritte, a Molokai farmer and staunch opponent of UH's involvement in taro research, said yesterday that Hawaiians do not want the disease-resistant strains of taro bred by the school.
"Hawaiians are saying that the taro cannot be owned, so why would the Hawaiians want to own it?" Ritte said.
UH announced in a news release Friday that it would "assign" the patents on its crossbred taro varieties to Hawaiians. It said discussions were under way within the Hawaiian community to determine the appropriate entity to receive the patents.
Gary Ostrander, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for research and graduate education, declined to elaborate on the negotiations.
Ritte said some groups had been concerned about rescinding the patents, fearing others outside the university could claim them. But he said lawyers have assured him that it would be "almost impossible" for that to happen.
For months, activists, farmers and students have been demanding that the university give up the patents and stop altering taro, a plant many Hawaiians consider sacred. Last month, protesters chained the entrances to the university's medical school in Kakaako.
Chris Kobayashi, whose family has been commercially farming taro on Kauai for 60 years, said patents of the plant, which is used to make poi, should be rescinded because of its cultural significance.
"I don't think anyone should be allowed to patent any life form," said Kobayashi, who farms taro on 10 acres. "Specially taro, it's such a sacred and spiritual plant for Hawaiians."
The patents arose from work conducted by a university faculty member in the 1990s to help Samoan taro growers whose crops were hard hit by a leaf blight.
Plants from Hawaii and Palau were crossbred, producing three strains with increased disease resistance.
Posted 2:41 PM by Luigi
The EU and Biodiversity in the Pacific
Alex Rheeney, PACIFIC Magazine, June 5, 2006
The European Commission (EC) has submitted a proposal to the European Council and the European Parliament to save the Pacific region’s rapidly depleting biodiversity.
Tropical forests and marine resources in the region are being targeted by mainly foreign-owned fishing vessels and logging companies.
EC director-general for development Stefano Manservisi told the African Caribbean Pacific-European Commission (ACP-EC) Joint Ministerial Council summit in Port Moresby that the European Union (EU) needed to act to save the region’s biodiversity.
“You have immense and irreplaceable biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean and in your forests. They are truly global public goods because they are of global importance. However, a combination of greedy owners of fishing vessels and ruthless industrial logging companies – mostly foreign – and weak regulation and enforcement means that we are faced with a tragedy now. Your region is losing biodiversity at a very high rate. Important parts of the creation are being destroyed and lost forever. The whole of humanity is getting poorer in the process and sadly your children and grandchildren will be affected most directly by this destruction,” Manservisi said.
Manservisi’s conversation-oriented proposal that is now being submitted to the European Council and the European Parliament calls for strengthened partnership with the Pacific Islands due to the region’s immense biodiversity and its possession of the only fishery resource in the world yet to be heavily over-fished including the world’s largest tuna stocks.
Papua New Guinea’s tropical forests, which is reportedly being chopped at a rate of 120,000 hectares a year through commercial selective logging, is highlighted in the proposal as being of global significance due to its biodiversity and impact on climate change.
The Pacific is not alone in the race against time to save the region’s biodiversity; Manservisi said and indicated that “sustainable management of natural resources” should be the central theme for the region’s next co-operation program with the EU.
“We shall also continue to discuss it with you, especially in the context of the ongoing programming of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). I know the blue-green theme will appeal to the people in Europe, especially the young people. Just as they will not allow Europe to stand aside when your islands are threatened by climate change and rising seas, they will not accept continued loss of biodiversity. It is a fact that the prosperity and the future of your region depends on sound management and protection of the environment – and our co-operation has to reflect this reality.”
While environmental groups will welcome this latest attempt by the EU to crack down on the rampant trade of illegal logging and fishery with the Pacific, the region’s 14 ACP states are now being put on notice that access to the recently approved €22 billion ($US28.4 billion) aid package under the 10th EDF for the period 2008-2013 could be tied to individual state’s performance in conserving its biodiversity.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Posted 12:46 AM by Luigi
UH agrees to give up 3 patents on taro
Native Hawaiians are determining which entity will receive the patents
Associated Press, Honolulu Star Bulletin.
The University of Hawaii announced yesterday that it will give three patents on genetically enhanced, crossbred taro plants to native Hawaiians.
Discussions were under way within the Hawaiian community to determine the appropriate entity to receive the patents, UH officials said.
Native Hawaiian activists, farmers and students have held protests demanding the university give up the patents and stop genetically altering taro, which many Hawaiians consider a sacred plant.
"The University of Hawaii has a strong desire to maintain appropriate respect and sensitivity to the indigenous Hawaiian host culture," said UH-Manoa Vice Chancellor for Research Gary Ostrander.
"Taro is unique to the Hawaiian people in that it represents the embodiment of their sacred ancestor," he said. "As such, it is appropriate to make an exception to our standard policy of holding all patents."
Sarah Sullivan of Hawaii Seed, one of the groups involved in the taro protests, said there are still concerns over the concept of "patenting life."
"A major issue is that culturally significant plants such as taro should not be owned," Sullivan said. She added that she also has concerns about who gets the university patents.
The patents arose from work conducted by a university faculty member in the 1990s to help Samoan taro growers whose crops were hard hit by a leaf blight.
Plants from Hawaii and Palau were crossbred producing three strains that were shown to have increased disease resistance. The patents were granted in 2002.
Farmers using the patented taro varieties are required to pay licensing fees to the university if they are running a business, according to Cy Hu, associate dean of the university's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Posted 9:38 PM by Luigi
A Retail Revolution in Asia-Pacific
The latest issue of USDA's Amber Waves magazine has an article which
"assesses the causes and impacts of the rapid spread of modern retail outlets in the developing Asia-Pacific region. These modern outlets are contributing to food-system modernization and efficiency, lower food costs, and higher food quality and safety standards. Enhanced food-system distribution chains needed to support these supermarkets also overcome the logistical challenges arising from rapid urbanization. Specialized suppliers are emerging to help modern supermarkets do business with small-scale producers and traditional market channels, thus being an important force for food-system modernization."What are the consequences for plant genetic resources conservation? Can this retail revolution support the development of local crops or will "food-system modernization" inevitably mean "food system homogenization" and the disappearance of traditional crops and varieties? And what are the consequences of this for the income of small farmers and the health of consumers in the Pacific islands?
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Posted 7:30 PM by Luigi
Malaita Islanders Reportedly Facing Food Shortage
Thursday: June 1, 2006
(SIBC/PacNews) - Malaita province of the Solomon Islands is reportedly facing food shortage.
The people of Ontong Java are reportedly in desperate need for relief food supplies.
Community leader, Gabriel Kemaiki said the problem of food shortage had gone on since the islanders food crops were damaged by big waves. He said the unusual high waves from bad weather experienced in the country earlier this year destroyed the islanders staple food crop, the swamp taro.
Mr Kemaiki said islanders are barely surviving on dry coconuts and fish and what little food they could lay their hands on.
Mr Kemaiki claims that the Malaita Provincial Government Disaster Management Council had not made any efforts to assist the islanders, although it had already received a report on the survey and assessment of the situation.
At the same time Mr Kemaiki challenges the new Parliament member for Malaita Outer Islands Constituency, Patrick Vahoe Junior to do something about the sufferings of his people.
SIBC was unable to get comments from both the Malaita Provincial Disaster Management council or the MP for Malaita Outer Islands.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.