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?



    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Taro variety release recommendations for Papua New Guinea based on multi-location trials

    D. Singh1,2, *J. Guaf2 T. Okpul3 G. Wiles2 D. Hunter1
    1 Secretariat of the Pacific Community Suva, Fiji
    2 National Agricultural Research Institute, Lae, Papua New Guinea
    3 The University of Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea

    *Present address: Plant Breeding Institute Cobbitty, The University of Sydney, Private Mail Bag 11, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia. email: dsingh@camden.usyd.edu.au


    Multi-location trials were conducted on six elite lines originating from the third cycle of the Papua New Guinea taro (Colocasia esculenta) breeding programme based on modified recurrent selection. The trials identified the multi-trait superiority of line C3-E10 over other five elite lines on the basis of high yield, taro leaf blight resistance, yield stability over a range of environments, and good eating quality. Line C3-E10 also showed an added advantage of rare flowering, which is helpful in restoring corm shape and better suckering ability. Based on this superiority, line C3-E10 has been released to farmers of Papua New Guinea (under the name NT 04) and for regional multi-location trials for the South Pacific region.

    New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 2006, Vol. 34: 163–171

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    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Phylogeography and genetic structure of Hibiscus tiliaceus — speciation of a pantropical plant with sea-drifted seeds

    Molecular Ecology (2006) 15, 2871–2881


    * Botanical Gardens, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, 3-7-1 Hakusan, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0001, Japan,
    † Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiba University, 1-33 Yayoi-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba 263-8522, Japan,
    ‡ Faculty of Education, University of the Ryukyus, 1 Senbaru, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0129, Japan


    Phylogenetic relationships and the spatial genetic structure of a pantropical plant with sea-drifted seeds, Hibiscus tiliaceus L., and its allied species were investigated. The combined distribution range of these species is over almost the entire littoral area of the tropics worldwide, which might result from the dispersal of their sea-drifted seeds and from recurrent speciation in local populations. A phylogenetic tree constructed using the nucleotide sequences of a c. 7500-bp portion of chloroplast DNA suggested the possibility that recurrent speciation from H. tiliaceus has given rise to all of its allied species. Three major sequence haplotypes of H. tiliaceus had wide and overlapping distributions throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions. This distribution pattern was also confirmed by PCR-SSCP (polymerase chain reaction amplification with single-strand conformation polymorphism) and PCR-SSP (PCR amplification with sequence specific primers) analyses performed on more than 1100 samples from 65 populations worldwide. Statistical analysis using FST and analysis of molecular variance did not show significant genetic differentiation among the H. tiliaceus populations in the three oceanic regions. The results reported here suggested substantial gene flow occurred between populations in the different oceanic regions due to sea-drifted seeds. A strong genetic difference between the Pacific and Atlantic populations of Hibiscus pernambucensis Arruda was observed, which indicates that gene flow in this species between the two regions has been prevented. The wide and dominant distribution of a haplotype shared by H. pernambucensis and H. tiliaceus in the Atlantic region suggests significant introgression between the two species in this region.

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    Nutrition documentary in Pohnpei

    From Dr Lois Englberger

    We are happy to share with you that Sight and Life, a humanitarian initiative of DSM Nutritional Products, based in Switzerland, has featured Pohnpei and island foods in an article in its current issue, 2/2006 on pages 39 and 40.

    This article presents information related to their visit to Pohnpei for filming a nutrition documentary, as led by Dr. Klaus Kraemer, head of Sight and Life.

    We are happy to share with you that there are many colorful photos in the article including the Sight and Life team, an aerial view of Pohnpei; a Pohnpeian schoolgirl of Mand Community smiling and eating Karat, the State Banana of Pohnpei; Governor Johnny P. David of Pohnpei with Dr. Klaus Kraemer; Welsihter Hagilmai of the College of Micronesia-FSM Land Grant program teaching a Class 4 group of Mand schoolchildren how to prepare Three Banana Fruit Salad (with Karat); Pohnpei tuna at a small fish market; myself measuring a waist circumference; and a farewell luncheon for the Sight and Life team hosted by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei.

    Thank you again Sight and Life for the great article and your support for promoting island foods and thank you to all our partner agencies featured in the article and film!


    Lois Englberger, PhD
    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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    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Putting life back into coconuts

    CIDA has big plans to revive the industry in Fiji

    By Dionisia Tabureguci, Island Business

    After being pushed to the edge of oblivion and almost falling over, Fiji’s coconut industry is ready for a comeback.

    And those who are moulding the cast for this revival are doing so with big plans in mind, a sympathetic ear for critics but with a forceful resolve that the industry, far from being a sunset one, is on its way to a brighter future.

    The steam that is left, it seems, is about new opportunities, a total makeover by shifting the focus to propel the industry away from traditional copra production to one where coconut farmers are involved in value-added products, more specifically health foods and cosmetics.

    The outfit behind this revival is the industry regulator, CIDA (Coconut Industry Development Authority), an entity set up in 1998 to regulate and bring back to life what by then had become a faded economic icon.

    CIDA’s chief executive officer John Teiawa, not often one to call for media attention on the affairs of the entity, was nevertheless a little more accommodative when approached by FIJI ISLANDS BUSINESS to discuss the direction, if there was such a thing, of Fiji’s coconut industry.

    A week before the approach, FIJI ISLANDS BUSINESS had been told by a former politician and long-time coconut planter Leo Smith, that the coco-peat factory project mooted by him and endorsed by CIDA late last year had been shelved “for reasons that are not clear to us”.

    Smith had called on CIDA to get off what he called “its civil service mentality” and start doing something about the industry.

    If nothing was done quickly, he feared for the survival of what had once been the cornerstone of the economy and hundreds of small farmers in the outer islands who send their children to school from copra money.

    Having been in the coconut business since he was a child, Smith was familiar and still experiences first hand the gradual decline of the coconut industry. And he says one big worry is the decision by a growing number of plantation owners in Vanua Levu, an area that supplies most of the country’s copra, to either diversify into other crops or worse, subdivide their properties and sell them off. Chances are the new owners “don’t give a damn about coconuts”.

    What follows is a significant drop in production when the trees are cut down to make way for property development.

    “It’s a sunset industry if nothing is done about it,” Smith predicts. His prognosis on this dim future is based on his argument that CIDA is not doing enough or moving fast enough to turn anything around.

    He himself had been a victim of this ‘inaction’ when he took his proposal to CIDA for a Fiji-first cocopeat factory. Based on a “whole nut” philosophy, the plan required that CIDA gather whole nuts from farmers for 10 or 15 cents a nut, sell the husks to Smith and his Australian/Sri Lankan partners (cocopeat is a form of organic fertiliser derived from coconut husk fibre), then re-sell the nuts for both domestic consumption and copra production.

    “After a series of meetings with them (CIDA), we are still waiting for them to get back to us,” Smith says.

    But seen against the laid out plans of CIDA, Smith’s proposal may be honourable and logical but not up to the mathematics of the regulatory authority.

    Teiawa argues that Smith’s plan “just won’t work” because of the logistic and financial constraints CIDA already faces and will face when gathering coconuts simply to sell back to Smith and his outfit for two cents a nut.

    It would heavily tax an entity already burdened by lack of funds and resources. But that is not to say that nothing has been done, Teiawa argues.

    On CIDA’s estimate that some 100,000 people—mostly in the rural areas—still depend on income derived from the copra industry, it would be unfair to say that nothing has been done.

    On CIDA’s estimate that some 100,000 people—mostly in the rural areas—still depend on income derived from the copra industry, it would be unfair to say that nothing has been done.

    A more reasonable way of looking at the coconut industry would be to look at the challenges pitched against it, which makes any effort to advance its interest equivalent to moving about in a pool of glue.

    At field level, according to CIDA, the greatest threat is the depleting coconut plantation as real estate booms in Vanua Levu, making it more attractive for plantation owners to sell their land rather than do something about the coconuts.

    When in the 1950s coconut was a thriving industry capable of producing over 40,000 tonnes of copra a year, estate owners were responsible for the production of up to 60 percent of that figure, Teiawa points out. Now, we are lucky if we can do 20,000 tonnes a year and in fact, after Cyclone Ami in 2003, CIDA’s Copra Millers of Fiji (sole producer of copra and coconut oil, the two main coconut products) recorded a depressed output of just 9000 tonnes of copra at the end of that year. Out of the figures of production nowadays, smallholder farmers are the ones who are producing the most.

    Another weighty challenge is the lack of coordination between Fiji’s agriculture ministry and CIDA, which makes it difficult to ascertain the number of coconut trees on the ground, their age, their production and whether the owners are serious about planting coconut for commercial purposes. And if they are, do they follow proper crop husbandry practices?

    This challenge was partly overcome last year when all coconut-related matters handled by the ministry were officially handed over to CIDA. CIDA is now in the process of putting in place two enabling arms to help charter its course—a farm extension division to gather all relevant field information and a research and development arm to help realise the new goals set in regards to developing value-added products.

    At field level therefore, CIDA’s retraced steps into the coconut groves now involves the careful documentation of farmers, the type of planting that they do, the areas taken up by coconut palms as well as a comprehensive replanting programme to supply seed-nuts to these farms.

    Another infamous challenge faced by this industry is the decline in the prices of copra and coconut oil, an adversity now worsened by the rise in freight costs brought on by the global fuel price hike.

    Needless to say, this has lent credence to critics who call copra production a “sunset industry” on account of farmers moving away from it due to low returns.

    To CIDA, however, the industry is a long way away from its last breath. Indeed copra may not be the most attractive commodity right now. But the plan, in its entirety, is to shift away from that very notion that coconut planting in Fiji is all about producing copra and coconut oil.

    “The industry has a vision, although it will take a while to achieve it,” says Teiawa.

    “Our vision is to reinstate the coconut industry as one big business in the country and I can assure you we will all live long enough to see the fruit of that vision.”

    This optimism has its roots in the entity’s grand design. First, the CIDA of 2005 is really a reformed entity, quite unlike its 1998 self in terms of size, structure and defined goals.

    Second and more importantly, global developments in coconut-based commodities have already made a U-turn into newer products like virgin oil and coconut timber and these are two commodities that a greater part of CIDA’s plan now revolves around.

    Virgin coconut oil, in particular, is something of a fetish for health food lovers in more developed countries and CIDA hopes to construct a comprehensive infrastructure in place to link itself and its registered coconut farmers in time for both to ride on the bandwagon of this development and reap similar benefits countries like Philippines and Sri Lanka are already gaining from this craze.

    Virgin coconut oil, sold at retail outlets for about A$12 per 300-gram bottle, has also been put forward by some authorities as a natural wonder-drug, with a wide range of capabilities that include the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and skin protection among a host of others.

    This, says Teiawa, makes virgin oil an attractive alternative right now and should be reason enough for farmers to want to get back into coconut planting.

    For those that do, CIDA aims to equip them with portable virgin coconut oil mills so that they produce the oil without having to go far.

    “Farmers will husk the coconuts and they will end up having access to water, husk and shell. Copra Millers will eventually have no copra (its fate is yet to be decided) and CIDA will instead go to these small mills and take all the shells, water, oil and husks and then we will do the downstream processing with them and our own marketing.” Teiawa explains.

    “In the end, we want to change copra trading into whole nut trading where people will talk about the industry in terms of whole nuts. Once we have the small mills established, it would then be the right time for people like Leo Smith and the kind of venture that he is proposing, to come in because the infrastructure would have been in place already. Right now, it is premature and too costly.”



    • Coconut area - 60,000 ha or 6 million trees, 10% hybrids (1990s), the rest - Fiji Talls. 2/3 of trees become unproductive in 20 years, average yield of trees 20 - 25 nuts per tree per year.
    • Pre-Ami production - 15,000 mt (2002), highest copra production over past 10 years - 17,000 mt in 1998. Production in 2003 - 9,506 mt, 2004 10,763 mt and 2005 - 12,058, 11% up. Forecast for 2006 -14,000 mt.
    • Annual foreign exchange earnings from CNO exports over last 5 years - $6m to $15m per year.
    • 100,000 plus people depend partly or wholly on copra forlivelihood, average income lowest in the country (estimated less than $500 per household per year).
    • Current CNO world market price volatile and now hovering below US$600 pmt. Trend expected to continue for the rest of the year.
    • Local millgate price $500 F1, $450 F2, Govt support price $500 pmt.
    • Two CNO mills (Ocean Soaps & Copra Millers) under capacity, milling costs high.
    • Bulk of CNO is exported, about 30% used locally for food and cosmetics.
    • Small holder producers supply 80% copra, plantation owners 20% - a complete reversal in the supply trend.


    • Industry based on single export - oil from copra.
    • Distance from market (high freight), small volume (unattractive to shippers), declining productivity, volatile market, poor husbandry.
    • Lack long- term policy for: Planting/replanting based on coconut based farming system; product diversification; market promotion of products
    • Lack structure conducive to commercial production of all parts of the whole nut
    • Lack focus in support services for production, processing and marketing

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    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems for Health

    I am happy to share with you that a 4-member team from our Pohnpei Traditional Food for Health project just attended the Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems for Health: 2006 Meeting of Case Study Partners, August 10-13, 2006, in Montreal, Canada. Our team included Mr. Adelino Lorens and Mr. Kiped Albert as the Community Partners, myself as the Academic Partner, and Ms. Amy Levendusky, as Peace Corps Volunteer working with our Island Food Community of Pohnpei.

    This global health meeting was hosted by the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), based at McGill University, as directed by Professor Harriet Kuhnlein, who recently visited our Island Food Community of Pohnpei-coordinated project, June 3-9, 2006, accompanied by Chief Bill Erasmus, Chair of the CINE Board (see our previous email and newspaper article on this).

    To summarize, Pohnpei was invited last year to join this project as the 12th of the 12 case studies from around the world. The other case studies include the Nuxalk, Inuit, and Gwich’in from Canada, Igbo from Nigeria, Dalit and Bhil from India, Karen from Thailand, Aguaruna from Peru, Inganu from Columbia, Ainu from Japan, and Maasai from Kenya. The purpose of the overall project is to improve health through the increased use of traditional foods and to produce scientific documentation of the impact of this for presenting to the United Nations in order to help indigenous peoples.

    The overall plan of the project includes 3-4 months of documentation of the traditional food system and assessing the health and diets, and then 2 years of an intervention to improve diets and health, followed by a final assessment of the diets and health. Our meeting in Montreal focused on producing the first documentation paper of the project, which will be published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

    As many of you know, the Pohnpei case study centered in Mand Community, in Pohnpei. One of our major findings was that the traditional food system is greatly neglected. Yet, there was a great diversity of foods, 381 distinctly different food items. The study has raised great community interest and signs of project impact have already been recorded.

    What a great meeting this was in Canada! We learned much about the many similarities as well as the differences between the case studies and the respective food systems. Each session was opened by a prayer, from those of different religions around the world. We shared rooms and shared thoughts. One session was held outdoors at the home of Professor Kuhnlein, with participants sitting around a fire. After the meeting one participant emailed that he had gone back home and told everybody he had met his old cousins!

    Thank you again CINE for inviting us here in Pohnpei to join this project!


    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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    Conservation of traditional crops at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii

    I recently visited three sites and four gardens belonging to the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTNG) in Hawaii at the invitation of Dr Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute and I'd like to share with you some of the intersting things I saw:
    1. The Headquarters of both NTBG and the Breadfruit Institute (BFI, a division of NTBG, with its own trustees) is at the McBryde Garden on the south coast of Kauai (adjacent to the Allerton Garden, which also belongs to NTBG). Some 35 breadfruit trees (mainly duplicates from the main collection at Kahanu Garden, see below) are maintained at McBryde, and there is also an interesting Pandanus collection at Allerton.
    2. Limahuli Garden is on the north coast of Kauai. Ancient taro terraces found within the garden have been restored and the director, Kawika Winter (kwinter@ntbg.org), is growing traditional Hawaiian taro and sweet potato varieties there. The idea is to manage the whole watershed in which the garden is located along the lines of an “ahupua’a” (“an ancient Hawaiian land division system which contained strips of land that extended from the mountain to the sea and supported a self-contained community working with a spirit of cooperation of caring and revering the land to meet the needs of all”).
    3. Kahanu Garden is on the north coast of Maui, near Hana. It houses BFI’s collection of about 200 accessions (mainly of A. altilis but also of A. camansi, A. mariannensis and A. altilis x mariannensis) and a small field station of BFI. There are 1-3 trees of each accession, mainly in one block but with some trees elsewhere in the garden. All are well labelled. Morphological descriptions have been completed (by BFI technician Julie White julieulu@gmail.com, who is based at Kahanu) and some molecular characterization done. There are fruiting phenology data going back several years. A “core collection” of varieties which as a set produce fruits the whole year round has been identified. The garden also houses a kava collection and the Wishard Coconut Collection. A “canoe garden” has been established in front of the famous Hale Pi’ilani Heiau (temple mound) containing traditional varieties of taro, sweet potato, sugar cane and other crops (see photos below). The director of Kahanu Garden is Kamaui Aiona, an ethnobotanist (kaiona@ntbg.org) trained at UH.

    Luigi Guarino, PGR Adviser, SPC

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    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Coconut delight on the highway

    Fiji Times, August 08, 2006.

    WHENEVER you are travelling to Ba and happen to be at Matawalu Village, about 20 kilometres from Lautoka, you should try the fresh green coconuts on sale by the roadside.
    The person who sells them, Seini Batiuvi, will only be too eager to tell you how popular this highway delight is.

    Mrs Batiuvi said the majority of her customers were locals, even though coconut trees can be found in most compounds in Fiji.

    The 42-year-old mother of two stumbled onto the idea of selling green coconuts after she realised that just being responsible for the housework was not the only way to look after her family.

    Selling green coconuts daily for the past two years, Mrs Batiuvi said her earnings supplemented her husband's salary from his work at Bekana Island Resort, located off the coast of Lautoka.
    Mrs Batiuvi said that since she started selling coconuts she had enjoyed good sales to locals and tourists.

    "A lot of people want to drink from green coconuts and as they drive towards Ba they usually stop," she said.

    "Even though it might be growing in their compound, hardly anyone has the time to climb a coconut tree so that everyone in the family could enjoy the sweet juice and flesh," she said.

    "So when they are driving along the road and see our stall, they stop and want to try it out."

    "Some people do not like the flesh but they enjoy the juice. Every morning, I walk around our settlement buying coconuts for at least $4 to $5 per dozen. And almost daily we sell every coconut," said Mrs Batiuvi.

    She sells the coconuts for $1 each.

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    Lebot on UK joining EU Kava ban - Vanuatu must act

    From Port Vila Presse. By Vincent Lebot, August 14, 2006.

    A local expert on kava, Vincent Lebot says there is a need for Vanuatu and the other regional countries to make a policy decision to put an end to the ban on kava imposed by European countries.

    Dr Lebot commented this week following the decision of the United Kingdom to uphold the ban on kava following the completion of the results of the study and research done by UK scientists following the ban imposed by Germany and France.

    The action taken by the two European countries in 2002 followed allegations made by the health authorities in Germany that kava may cause liver cancer.

    "Now kava is illegal in Germany, France and England and the scientists do not know what they are going to do. In this situation, I think there is a need to make a political decision. Germany, France and England are sovereign nations and we cannot change how they are thinking. If they are afraid of kava, it is finished," Lebot says.

    He says that in the region, people know that kava is safe but they also know that kava will not be safe if preparations are not correctly carried out. Flaking of the skin can occur. Europeans have no knowledge of how to prepare kava.

    "What we, the countries in the region, have to do now is to ask the scientists in Europe to come over and conduct a proper study on kava in the countries that grow it," says Vincent Lebot.
    The UK authorities took the decision last month that herbal kava is to remain banned in both medicinal and food products following a review of the latest evidence weighing up its reputed benefits for alleviating anxiety and inducing sleep, against the risk of liver toxicity.

    In Europe they don't use the term 'kava', but 'kava kava'. It is a herb from the pepper family with a long history of use in the in some Pacific islands countries and more recently in some EU countries, the US and Australia, as herbal medicine and in foods such as tea, cereal products, smoothies and sport drinks.

    The UK's Food Standards Agency, FSA, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, MHRA, both dismissed the reinstatement of the UK kava kava market last month, even though some within the herbal products industry have maintained that grounds for the ban were unmerited.

    However at the time of the original ban Professor Edzard Ernst, chair of complimentary medicine at Exeter University said that it went too far. For him, kava is proven to be effective in treating anxiety. Looking at the total risk, it is safer than synthetic drugs. He said that if we are going to ban kava today, then we should have banned Valium twenty years ago.

    In Vanuatu, kava is one the main sources of income for the population in the rural area and, since the ban in 2002, there has been a great effort to improve and to maintain good quality in kava with the initiative taken by government and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to encourage the planting of 10 noble varieties of kava.

    On 28 July, there was a signing of financial convention between France and Vanuatu. Under this convention, the government of France is giving the money and the scientists to carry out a study on Vanuatu kava in order to control and improve the quality.

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    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    Hawaiian Roots

    "Hana Hou!", Hawaiian Airlines in-flight magazine, has an interesting story by Paul Wood on traditonal taro cultivation on Maui, with great photos by Monte Costa.

    Nearly a million drivers a year pass through the Ko‘olau, the greatest taro-growing region on Maui and perhaps—because it has been farmed in the same way by the same families right through all the cataclysmic changes of Island history—the most important living relic in all of Hawai‘i.

    It flashes along the road to Hana in a few scenic glimpses. Suddenly there’s Ke‘anae—a lava peninsula that juts like a fat thumb almost a mile into the sea. Then, there goes Wailua Nui—an exceptionally wide valley mouth confined on each side by sea-thrusting ridges. Most drivers slalom through without understanding the place. How could they? The Ko‘olau has few places for the visitor to visit, few places even to stop the car. There are three scenic overlooks, each one limited to a few vehicles. From them you look down hundreds of feet to see the pond-farms of old Hawai‘i, the landscapes that fed a great culture. You see lo‘i, shining rectangles of channeled streamwater, laid out like playing cards slapped down from the dealer's deck. You see that about half of these lo‘i are grassed-over, no longer under cultivation. There’s no village; few residents in sight. You might instantly wonder: Is the place headed for collapse?
    Or is it hanging on by its fingertips?

    Then you might wonder: Or is it actually a flag of promise, a reminder of what we are all supposed to be doing? Is it we, not the taro farmers, who have slipped out of sync with life?

    Depending on whom you talk to, the answer to all of these questions is yes.
    The kahawai (natural stream) that runs through Kyle Nakanelua’s taro farm feeds his plants then crashes down on the side of the Hana road and rushes beneath it, flowing down to water the lo‘i of Wailua Nui far below. The traffic passes so close here that, if you wanted, you could leap down onto the unsuspecting roofs of the many tourist vans that pass. “Sometimes I stand on that edge and watch the traffic,” says Kyle. “People drive by and don’t even notice I’m there. I like that.”

    Although it is set on a vertiginous rainforest slope, the farm is surprisingly open to the sky, wide and almost flat, full of clean, gleaming ponds connected by narrow deep rivulets. The earth is moist, almost spongy, and covered with a buzz-cut of broad-leafed grass that curves with the land meticulously down to every water-edge. There’s a stand of fat-stemmed sugarcane and a few banana clumps. There’s a small plywood house built up on concrete blocks, the open lower level for tools and workrooms. Around the house grows an old mango tree, red and green ti, a large ‘awa bush and a coconut that’s loaded with nuts, not at all like the safety-trimmed trees you see in downtown parking lots. Three mallard ducks come gabbling out from under the house, swaying like saloon-buddies, heading out to hunt for snails in the lo‘i....

    Continue reading here.

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    Genetic resources workshops in the Pacific

    As you may remember, a workshop was organized by Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and SPC this May in Fiji to discuss the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and other PGR policy issues as they affect the Pacific Island Countries and Territories. That was followed by a workshop on animal genetic resources conservation in the Pacific. An edited version of the press release we prepared for these workshops, including a photo, has now been published in the latest issue of Island Business here.

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    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Award-Winning Businesswoman Revives Tongan Taro Trade

    From Manukau City's website.

    After being crowned last year's Pacific Business Person of the Year, Sulia Va'enuku has not rested on her laurels.

    She has embarked on a new entrepreneurial challenge - that is both growing her business and helping lift the economic prospects of her struggling home country, Tonga.

    Sulia, who runs Otahuhu-based Morning Star Freight Ltd, says the award was 'a big surprise' and gave her renewed confidence in her business abilities.

    Sulia and her late husband set up the company 15 years ago to service the Auckland Pacific Island community. When he died in 2000 Sulia took over the reigns, and later enrolled in tertiary studies to expand her business and shipping knowledge.

    She is currently completing a diploma in shipping logistics at the Manukau Institute of Technology, a diploma in shipping and freight at the New Zealand Maritime School and a post-graduate diploma in business at Auckland University.

    Today, 90 per cent of the cargo the company carries is for Pacific Island individuals and businesses and the bulk of it consists of household items.

    The company now employs six staff and has two offices in Tonga, another in Australia and one in Samoa. It operates throughout the Pacific region.

    She was lucky to put her talents for innovation and business to a fresh challenge when she visited Tonga in June last year. But it was adversity that presented her with this new business opportunity.

    During her visit home she was devastated to see the plight of taro farmers, who were finding it hard to make ends meet as one of the key export markets for this South Pacific staple food had suddenly dried up.

    "It was so sad," Sulia says. "I could see many farmers and their families starting to really suffer financially.

    "On many farms the taro was no longer being harvested and lay in the ground."

    When presented with this hopeless scenario, Sulia - a well-known member of the Auckland island community because she is often the person they turn to when they want to send goods back home - knew she had to do something to help.

    Carving Out New Market for Taro

    What she ended up doing was to create a new market for taro in New Zealand. Turning taro importer, Sulia came up with an innovative way of boosting taro sales - by freezing the vegetable.

    She says this had never been done before because taro does not lend itself to traditional freezing preparation methods.

    Sulia came up with a new method based on skills she learnt while studying for the diploma in shipping and freight.

    As well as carving out a new market for taro, frozen taro brings other benefits. One of the biggest drawbacks of importing fresh taro is that it has to be fumigated before it can be sold. This not only raises importing costs and therefore pushes up prices but also affects its taste, Sulia says.

    Sulia's frozen taro sells at lower wholesale prices than the fresh variety and is also now being exported to Australia, where she has set up a branch. In New Zealand, Auckland is the main market for the taro and it also sells in Hamilton, Tauranga and Gisborne.

    In developing the market, Sulia had to educate retailers and consumers about the benefits of frozen taro and she has been pleased to receive lots of positive comments. "People generally say that it tastes better because it is free from the chemicals and they find it more convenient to cook because it has been peeled."

    During the past two months she has shipped more than 80 tonnes of frozen taro to New Zealand and Australia. Her next step is to expands it sales in New Zealand market and develop more international markets for frozen taro.

    She is also planning to expand her core freighting business. This means exploring new markets for Morning Star's cost-effective shipping and high level of personalised service that ensures customers can feel secure that their belongings will arrive in one piece.

    Sulia honed her customer service skills while working as a valet at the former five-star Regent Hotel (now Stamford Plaza) in the 1980s.Here she received formal training in providing excellent customer service and looked after the needs and wants of VIP guests. She met many movie stars and other celebrities and international statesmen while working there, including Rajiv Gandhi, General Sitiveni Rabuka, Luciano Pavarotti and Olivia Newton-John.

    Morning Star Freight's office and warehouse complex is located down a drive in a residential area of central Otahuhu. In the main office, a tapa cloth adorns the wall behind Sulia's desk, and on this she has hung a framed copy of her award.

    Sulia is excited about the company's future growth. As well as working long hours at work, Sulia teaches Sunday school at her local Tongan church. This busy mother of three children aged 16,10 and 8 often wonders how she does it all.

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    Radio programme on pandanus in Kiribati

    From Betarim Rimon in Kiribati.

    Last night on the Agriculture Programme on Radio Kiribati, a message on nutrition was shared with the whole of Kiribati. The results of Dr Englberger's studies were also presented. The programme is part of the Ministry’s efforts to promote production of local food crops and to encourage locals to prefer traditional foods or foods that are locally and organically grown.

    Pandanus was the focus last night, and do note that this is not the first promotion work of this kind on pandanus. It was explained in the programme that local foods are fresher and more nutritious than imported food. Then the programme went on to explain the outstanding work of Dr Lois Englberger on the Kiribati pandanus, ‘te tou’.

    In describing the information provided by Dr Lois on our Pandanus Poster, which had been widely circulated throughout the country, plus her other reports on pandanus, it was stressed that pandanus fruit, the brightly red and yellow coloured cultivars are so rich in Vitamin A. This is the very vitamin being confirmed by our health Ministry as most lacking in the country and hence highly linked to diseases, especially in children, such as night blindness, diabetes, high-blood pressure and certain cancers.

    The programme went on to encourage locals to plant more pandanus, especially the type so rich in Vitamin A. It also reminded parents to pay extra attention to the foods of their babies and children and to have a special place for local foods, especially pandanus fruit, in the meals of their children.

    In the programme, acknowledgements to Dr Lois were expressed. It was her work on the Kiribati pandanus that have greatly helped the I-Kiribati to rediscover their near-neglected food crop. This is fair and just to publicly acknowledge the outstanding work of Dr Lois and Kiribati will remain rely on her in the future in this area.

    Mr Betarim Rimon
    Senior Project Officer and FAO NC for Kiribati
    Project and Planning Office
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    PO Box 234 Bikenibeu Tarawa
    Republic of Kiribati
    Email: betarimr@melad.gov.ki

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    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Experts put bite on dalo beetles

    VERENAISI RAICOLA, Fiji Times, 19 July 2006

    Beetle-damaged dalo cannot be exported or sold to supermarkets.

    Badly damaged dalo cannot even be cooked for home consumption that is how bad it can get.

    So one can imagine the loss incurred when any farmer loses his or her crop to the dalo beetle.

    The dalo beetle has been a serious pest in Fiji and other Pacific countries for several years now.

    It is a direct threat to Fiji's multi-million dollar dalo export industry.

    While the beetle has not been found on Taveuni, it is widespread in Naitasiri and Tailevu where farmers have lost their livelihood as a result.

    It is widespread along the east coast of Viti Levu, including outer islands.

    The pest lives in the soil and burrows inside the dalo corm, leaving behind a maze of tunnels.

    The corm rots soon after beetle contact, destroying from 4 to 25 per cent of the crop.

    For subsistence farmers, this is a big chunk of their livelihood, causing psychological strain as money thought to be in hand is lost once infestation spreads.

    Farmers who have suffered heavy losses to dalo beetle damage can breathe a sigh of relief now with an effective pesticide treatment now available.

    Two chemical treatments for fighting dalo beetles have been identified after years of research pioneered by the Taro Beetle Management project.

    The collaboration between the South Pacific Commission and island states affected by the beetle resulted in the good news.

    The two insecticides imidacloprid and bifenthrin will be launched tomorrow at Tokotoko, in Navua, after approval was given for the chemicals to be registered locally as pesticides.

    A chemical residue analysis carried out by the University of the South Pacific shows acceptable levels of pesticides in treated dalo corms, indicating it is safe to eat.

    These results will not only reassure consumers but boost exports.

    SPC entomologist Sada Lal, who was involved in the research, said recommendation of the insecticides was the result of several years of research.

    A Pacific Regional Agricultural development project funded byEU from 1989 to 2000, and based in Solomon Islands, worked on several aspects of beetle management, but by the end there was no effective control measures recommended to growers.

    "Picking up from that, a four-year project funded by the Australian Centre forInternational Agricultural Research (ACIAR), started in 2002," Mr Lal said.

    "SPC, taking the lead role in collaboration with research workers in Fiji and PNG, worked on a few selected insecticides and bio agents, plus giving consideration to cultural and other practices," he said.

    Mr Lal said in the first year of field experiments, imidacloprid showed that over 95 per cent of harvested taro corms were undamaged.

    "The insecticide was further evaluated in laboratories and field experiments.

    "Another insecticide, bifenthrin showed similar results in controlling the beetle."

    Residue analysis studies were conducted to check the levels of the insecticide residue in the harvested corms.

    Mr Lal said if the insecticides were used as recommended, there should be no problem of any residues in the harvested crop.

    Similar work was conducted in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and New Caledonia with funds provided by EU.

    "These insecticides are now recommended for use for control of the taro beetle. It took us four years and about $F1m to come up with this solution," he said.

    ACIAR has extended the program for two years in Fiji and PNG for adaptive research work.

    The proper uses of the recommended insecticides are now being demonstrated to dalo growers.

    The Ministry of Agriculture is finalising the program for the launch, which will see more than 300 farmers from Navua to Naitasiri attend an occasion they have dreamt of for years.

    The integrated and holistic approach adopted for a solution to the dalo beetle problem involved input from thematic areas groups of LRD including bio-security, plant health, crop production and information and extension.

    The beetle is the biggest threat to the dalo industry, which earned $19million in export revenue last year.

    It is estimated 40 per cent of dalo harvested is unmarketable because of damage caused by the beetle.

    Several other insecticides were tested using typical grower techniques as SPC and ACIAR research scientists worked with Ministry of Agriculture staff to identify relevant control measures. Farmers were continuously consulted on their views on the use of the insecticides.

    Recent testing of the two insecticides was carried out on fields, with an emphasis on following safety rules for mixing chemicals.

    These on-farm trials, in Naitasiri, Ovalau, Navua and Tailevu, gave farmers hands-on experience in learning the correct techniques for mixing and applying the chemicals.

    SPC staff and Koronivia research staff worked together to fine-tune the dosage for applying the chemicals.

    The pesticide is applied at planting time then at three-month intervals.

    At the launch, more farmers will have a chance to see first hand how the insecticide is mixed and how to apply it. They will practice the mixing procedure to give them confidence in safe handling of the chemicals.

    AgChem and MH Ltd are the local firms that registered Imidaclorprid under the names Suncloprid and Confidor.

    Their representatives will be available to explain the proper handling of chemicals to people in Fijian and Hindi at the launch.

    The two companies will have on display other products used for dalo cultivation.

    Fiji Agromarketing chief executive Epi Tulele said when the dalo plants were infested it could not be marketed and, therefore, had a negative impact on farmers.

    Mr Tulele said they simply avoided buying infested dalo. "To make sure our products are safe we have stringent measures in place and we really check the crops we market.

    "We empty all dalo bags and examine each one to make sure there are no holes when we bring it from the farmers," he said.

    Mr Tulele said when the dalo on Viti Levu was infested with beetles they started buying supplies from Taveuni farmers.

    "Taveuni dalo farmers breached the gap so it did not directly affect export markets when production from Viti Levu was reduced because of the beetles."

    He said every now and again there was an oversupply or shortage of dalo so farmers were encouraged to plant more to meet the growing demand.

    Mr Tulele said the breakthrough in solving the beetle problem would benefit subsistence farmers, more than commercial farmers.

    He said while the overseas dalo market was competitive, it was well serviced by suppliers. The opportunity to expand overseas markets is limited and a lot of people prefer Taveuni dalo. But more supply is certainly needed for our local outlets."

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    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Carotenoid content of pandanus fruit cultivars and other foods of the Republic of Kiribati

    Dr Lois Englberger says she now has a pdf of this paper in Public Health Nutrition: 9(5), 631–643.

    Lois Englberger, William Aalbersberg, Usaia Dolodolotawake, Joseph Schierle, Julia Humphries, Tinai Iuta, Geoffrey C Marks, Maureen H Fitzgerald, Betarim Rimon and Mamarau Kaiririete

    Submitted 1 March 2005: Accepted 10 August 2005


    Background: Kiribati, a remote atoll island country of the Pacific, has serious problems of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). Thus, it is important to identify locally grown acceptable foods that might be promoted to alleviate this problem. Pandanus fruit (Pandanus tectorius) is a well-liked indigenous Kiribati food with many cultivars that have orange/yellow flesh, indicative of carotenoid content. Few have been previously analysed.

    Aim: This study was conducted to identify cultivars of pandanus and other foods that could be promoted to alleviate VAD in Kiribati.

    Method: Ethnography was used to select foods and assess acceptability factors. Pandanus and other foods were analysed for b- and a-carotene, b-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and total carotenoids using high-performance liquid chromatography.

    Results: Of the nine pandanus cultivars investigated there was a great range of provitamin A carotenoid levels (from 62 to 19 086mg b-carotene/100 g), generally with higher levels in those more deeply coloured. Seven pandanus cultivars, one giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) cultivar and native fig (Ficus tinctoria) had significant provitamin A carotenoid content, meeting all or half of estimated daily vitamin A requirements within normal consumption patterns. Analyses in different laboratories confirmed high carotenoid levels in pandanus but showed that there are still questions as to how high the levels might be, owing to variation arising from different handling/preparation/analytical techniques.

    Conclusions: These carotenoid-rich acceptable foods should be promoted for alleviating VAD in Kiribati and possibly other Pacific contexts where these foods are important. Further research in the Pacific is needed to identify additional indigenous foods with potential health benefits.

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