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?
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Posted 2:35 PM by Tevita
Updated leaflets promoting Pacific Foods - NEW
From : SPC
The Healthy Pacific Lifestyle Section produces a range of resources such as posters, leaflets, information booklets and videos for use in the Pacific. Most of the visual resources are available in English and French.
Leaflets and posters are designed to complement existing activities, they will not change behaviour on their own, use them as part of other activities/projects.
All resources cost money – so don’t waste them. Try to use them effectively.
Costs: A limited number of copies of most of the resources are available free of charge. A maximum total of 5 free items can be ordered per year (10 for institutions). All limits for free publications apply per year, records will be kept at SPC of orders. (Institutions/organisations e.g. Colleges, Departments of Health, Nutrition Departments).
They are available in English and French. If you are a person residing within the SPC region, and this order is beyond your resource allowance, posters will be 140cfp (US1.4$) per copy.
If you reside outside the SPC region, copies will cost 280cfp (US2.8$) each. All these prices include second class air mail postage
Promoting Pacific Foods
It includes information on growing the crop, storage, nutritional content, preparation and also a few recipe ideas.
No. 1 - Taro No. 7 - Banana No. 13 - Sweet potato
No. 2 - Pawpaw No. 8 - Coconut No. 14 - Yam
No. 3 - Mango No. 9 - Breadfruit No. 15 - Nuts and seeds
No. 4 - Guava No. 10 - Pineapple No. 16 - Legumes
No. 5 - Cassava No. 11 - Citrus fruits No. 17 - Fish
No. 6 - Green leaves No. 12 - Pumpkin No. 18 - Seafood
Updated leaflets promoting Pacific Foods - NEW
No. 1 - Dessert banana [pdf ] No. 4 - Coconut [pdf (1.8 Mo)]
No. 2 - Cooking banana [pdf (2Mo)] No. 5 - Taro [pdf (2.3 Mo)]
No. 3 - Breadfruit [pdf (2.4 Mo)] No. 6 - Pandanus [pdf (1.8 Mo)]
They are available in English. If you are a person residing within the SPC region, and this order is beyond your resource allowance, posters will be 190cfp (US1.9$) per copy.
If you reside outside the SPC region, copies will cost 400cfp (US4$) each. All these prices include second class air mail postage
Posted 1:46 PM by Tevita
President Manny Mori calls on the people of FSM to eat more local food to offset higher rice prices
From : Island Food Network
Palikir, POHNPEI (FSMIS) - President Manny Mori has called on the people of the FSM to be conscious of the rising price of rice in world markets, and has urged FSM citizens and residents to consume more local foods instead.
President Mori was reacting to international news reports that the price of rice has increased by as much as 50 percent in the past year due to world-wide shortages caused by drought and other natural and economic changes in key production countries.
The President noted that Australia is reported to have suffered a catastrophic 90 percent reduction in rice production due to the recent drought conditions there and major Australian companies are even importing rice from China and other South East Asian producers for sale within Australia. This has had an impact on FSM because a large portion of FSM rice is imported from Australia.
President Mori noted that as a result of world-wide and regional shortages, the price of rice has risen considerably in most areas and supplies are sometimes short even for those willing to pay higher prices. This is having a global impact on consumers in poorer countries in particular as rice is a major portion of their regular diet.
“We cannot control the world price and supply of rice,” President Mori said, “but we if the FSM should not panic and feel desperate as long as we have the abundance of local foods available to us.”
President Mori called on businesses in FSM not to exploit the situation by raising prices unreasonably. He urged businesses to instead work closely with local farmers to increase the supply and quality of local food for sale locally at reasonable prices.
President Mori said the people of the FSM are very fortunate that our islands still produce an abundance of local food crops including breadfruit, bananas, taro, yam, sweet potato, cassava and a range of local food plants that are more nutritious and tasteful than rice.
The President also called on government and community leaders, including in churches, schools and medical facilities, to show the lead by personally consuming more local foods and reducing their reliance upon rice as a staple food and to educate other members of the community, especially young people, about the health value, growing technology and preparation methods of local food.
“For too long our children have been fed on rice as a staple food because of the convenience of preparation and storage. We have neglected our responsibility and even contributed to their lower health standards by failing to teach them to appreciate the natural food bounty of our islands,” President Mori said.
“Now, the rise in the price of rice gives families greater incentive to do the right and healthy thing”, President Mori added.
President Mori also urged tourists and foreign residents of the FSM to also sample and use more local food items in their meals
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Posted 2:41 PM by Tevita
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD)
From : Institute of Development Studies
Joanna Glyde –16 April 2008
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) has published a report that proposes a fundamental re-thinking of our approach to agricultural knowledge, science, and technology.
The IAASTD is the latest in a line of high-profile global assessments, others include the Nobel prize winning International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the less well known Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). However the conflicts that led to the report’s publication suggest that major global collaborations on these crucial issues need to change.
John Thompson, IDS Research Fellow has taken an indepth look at these conflicts at The Crossing, the blog for the STEPS Centre. Below is an extract.
‘In recent years, global assessments have become the focus of considerable international scientific interest and the mobilisation of vast institutional, technical, human and financial resources. These frequently attempt to combine ‘expert-driven assessment’ with processes of ‘stakeholder engagement’ to address critical issues of major international importance. They are often presented as transparent, objective exercises where the politics of knowledge and debates about the legitimacy, credibility and salience of different points of view are set aside in favour of building a consensus towards scientifically informed policy making.
But what happens if the fundamental differences between conflicting visions of the right course of action remain? Can papering over the cracks allow diverse voices and sometimes clashing perspectives to reach agreement on vital issues of global concern? Or do we have to leave behind the exclusivity given to scientifically produced rational knowledge and acknowledge and address the elemental divisions, the positionality of the different players, and the framings that drive their agendas and privilege some viewpoints over others from the very start of these assessment processes?’
Read the article in full at The Crossing, the IAASTD report was also covered in The Guardian’s Change in farming can feed the world.
Joanna Glyde is Communication Officer at IDS
Image: Sean Sprague/ Panos
Posted 2:27 PM by Tevita
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY IN THE PACIFIC A CASE STUDY IN THE REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
From : FAO SAPA
Muliagatele Joe Reti
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has identified the development of subsistence agriculture as a key strategy for the support of its rapidly growing population. The most important food crops are copra, breadfruit and pandanus. These crops used to be abundant during their seasons but harvests are reported to have been disrupted by climatic extremes such as typhoons and droughts in recent years. Prolonged periods of drought over the past twenty years caused changes to the water tables which in turn affected taro and breadfruit production during the period. This situation is expected to worsen with future climate change and has the potential to seriously affect the government’s strategy for the development of the subsistence agriculture sector.
The steady shift away from the use of traditional subsistence crops especially in the urban and more populated centers is also making efforts to revive the agriculture sector difficult. Increased preference and reliance on imported foods on the other hand is putting pressure on the national economy and have implications for nutrition and health. Given these situations, the local processing of traditional crops would appear to be a reasonable and viable goal for efforts to revive the agriculture sector.
Coconut is by far the only traditional crop that has potential for commercialization although breadfruit chips have recently been developed. However, decreasing world market prices has had an adverse impact on the copra industry to the extent that very little copra has been produced in recent years.
It is not clear whether increased temperatures will directly affect subsistence and commercial crops in the RMI. The scenarios of future temperature change for the middle of the next century indicate a rise of 1.6 – 2.9°C, implying a climate that is considerably different from that of the present. While changes in crop production and behavior are expected to occur as a result of temperature changes, what and how much of such change will occur remains unclear.
Unlike temperatures, there is strong evidence in the RMI that rainfall variations directly affect crop yield and production. For example, during the El Nino season of 1997-1998, significant reductions in most crop yields was reported. It is not known if El Nino events will increase in frequency and intensity in future or whether average rainfall will decrease. However, if they do, it is highly likely that agriculture production will be adversely affected and hence traditional food crops will be in short supply.
The scenario of higher rates of sea level rise and increased incidence of extreme events such as droughts and tropical cyclones could result in increased salinity of the soils and freshwater lens, thus impairing food production. This impact could have severe effects on pit taro which is an important subsistence crop for much of the RMI.
Importantly, the increasing population particularly in the urban centers is putting a lot of pressure on land available for agriculture and human activities are having devastating effects on the coastal and marine environments of the islands.
Immediate actions are required to minimize the adverse effects of climate change and sea level rise on an already vulnerable atoll environment in the RMI.
The government of the RMI is to be commended for the actions it has already taken and
those that are planned to adapt to climate change. It is noted however that this will be a long and difficult battle for the atoll nation and in this regard, the international community is duty-bound to assist the RMI with its efforts to adapt to climate change.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Posted 7:44 PM by Tevita
Biofuel production, renewable energy expansion, other mitigation measures uprooting indigenous peoples in many regions
From : world Change Cafe
Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to world greenhouse gas emissions and have the smallest ecological footprints on Earth. Yet they suffer the worst impacts not only of climate change, but also from some of the international mitigation measures being taken, according to organizers of a United Nations University co-hosted meeting April 3 in Darwin, Australia.
Impacts of climate change on indigenous people worldwide include:
In tropical and sub-tropical areas, an increase in diseases associated with higher temperatures and vector-borne and water-borne diseases like cholera, malaria and dengue fever;
Worsening drought conditions and desertification, leading to more forest fires that disrupt subsistence agriculture, hunting and gathering livelihoods, as well as serious biodiversity loss;
Distinct changes in the seasonal appearance of birds, the blooming of flowers, etc. These now occur earlier or are decoupled from the customary season or weather patterns;
In arid and semi-arid lands: excessive rainfall and prolonged droughts, resulting in dust storms that damage grasslands, seedlings, other crops and livestock;
In the Arctic, stronger waves, thawing permafrost and melting mountain glaciers and sea-ice, bringing coastal and riverbank erosion;
Smaller animal populations and the introduction of new marine species due to changing animal travel and migration routes;
In Boreal Forests, new types of insects and longer-living endemic insects (e.g. spruce beetles) that destroy trees and other vegetation;
In coastal regions and small-island states, erosion, stronger hurricanes and typhoons, leading to the loss of freshwater supplies, land, mangrove forests and dislocation (environmental refugees);
Increasing food insecurity due to declining fish populations and coral bleaching;
Crop damaging pest infestations (e.g. locusts, rats, spruce beetles, etc.), and increasing food costs due to competition with the demand for biofuels;
Extreme and unprecedented cold spells resulting in health problems (e.g. hypothermia, bronchitis, and pneumonia, especially for the old and young).
As well, indigenous people point to an increase in human rights violations, displacements and conflicts due to expropriation of ancestral lands and forests for biofuel plantations (soya, sugar-cane, jatropha, oil-palm, corn, etc.), as well as for carbon sink and renewable energy projects (hydropower dams, geothermal plants), without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people.
Specific instances of indigenous people being harmed by climate change mitigation measures include the case of a Dutch company whose operations include planting trees and selling sequestered carbon credit to people wanting to offset their emissions caused by air travel. In March 2002, its project was certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and from 1999 to 2002 over 7,000 hectares of land were planted in Uganda.
The Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), responsible for managing all national parks, forced indigenous people to leave the area. Forced evictions continued to 2002, leading indigenous people to move to neighboring villages, caves and mosques. Over 50 people were killed in 2004.
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples in Malaysia and Indonesia have been uprooted by the aggressive expansion of oil palm plantations for biofuel production. Likewise, nuclear waste sites and hydroelectric dam-building displace indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.
Participants in Darwin, Australia will hear first hand the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples and how they are adapting to a warming world. They will also explore factors that facilitate or obstruct the participation of indigenous peoples in international processes and deliberations related to reducing emissions and emissions trading.
Entitled the International Expert Meeting on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, the event is being organized by UNU’s Japan-based Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in conjunction with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFII) and the North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA).
(Papers / documentation are available online at www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/EGM_CS08.html)
Specific objectives of the meeting:
Exchange information on the effects of climate change;
Draw attention to the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, their livelihoods, cultural practices and lands and natural resources;
Identify options and advance plans to address migration and many other issues faced by indigenous peoples due to climate change;
Identify international institutions interested in partnership with indigenous peoples;
Highlight good practice models; and
Identify information gaps and prescribe a way forward.
The meeting’s final report will be to be submitted to the seventh session of the UNPFII.
“Indigenous peoples regard themselves as the mercury in the world’s climate change barometer,” says UNU-IAS Director A.H. Zakri. “They have not benefited, in any significant manner, from climate change-related funding, whether for adaptation and mitigation, nor from emissions trading schemes. The mitigation measures for climate change are very much market-driven and the non-market measures have not been given much attention. We hope this meeting will help address that imbalance.”
Adds Dr. Zakri: “Most indigenous peoples practice sustainable carbon neutral lives or even carbon negative life ways which has sustained them over thousands of years.
“There are at least 370 million indigenous people throughout the world living relatively neutral or even carbon negative life styles. While not a large number when compared to the world population of 6 billion, it does have a substantial impact in lowering emissions. Compare this to the impact of the United States, with a population of 300 million — only 4% of the world’s population - but responsible for about 25 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions.”
The meeting will also hear how indigenous people are adapting to changing climate conditions.
In Bangladesh, for example, villagers are creating floating vegetable gardens to protect their livelihoods from flooding. In Vietnam, communities are helping to plant dense mangroves along the coast to diffuse tropical-storm waves.
Additional background follows.
A brief overview of climate change effects on indigenous people:
There are 2.5 million kilometers of dunes in southern Africa covered in vegetation and used for grazing. However the rise in temperatures and the expected dune expansion, along with increased wind speeds, will result in the region losing most of its vegetation cover and become less viable for indigenous peoples living in the region.
As their traditional resource base diminishes, traditional practices of cattle and goat farming will disappear. There are already areas where indigenous peoples are forced to live around government-drilled bores for water and depend on government support for their survival. Deteriorating food security is a major issue for indigenous peoples residing in these drylands.
In Asia’s tropical rainforests, a haven for biodiversity, as well as indigenous peoples’ cultural diversity, temperatures are expected to rise 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, rainfall may decrease, prompting crop failures and forest fires.
People in low-lying areas of Bangladesh could be displaced by a one-meter rise in sea levels. Such a rise could also threaten the coastal zones of Japan and China. The impact will mean that salt water could intrude on inland rivers, threatening some fresh water supplies.
In the Himalayas high altitude regions, glacial melts affect hundreds of millions of rural dwellers who depend on the seasonal flow of water. There might be more water short term but less long term as glaciers and snow cover shrink.
The poor, many of whom are indigenous peoples, are highly vulnerable to climate change in urban areas because of their limited access to profitable livelihood opportunities and will be exposed to more flood and other climate-related risks in areas where they are forced to live.
Central and South America and the Caribbean
This very diverse region ranges from the Chilean deserts to the tropical rainforests of Brazil and Ecuador, to the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes.
As elsewhere, indigenous peoples’ use of biodiversity is central to environmental management and livelihoods. In the Andes, alpine warming and deforestation threaten access to plants and crops for food, medicine, grazing animals and hunting.
Earth’s warming surface is forcing indigenous peoples in this region to farm at higher altitudes to grow their staple crops, which adds to deforestation. Not only does this affect water sources and leads to soil erosion, it also has a cultural impact. The uprooting of Andean indigenous people to higher lands puts their cultural survival at risk.
In Ecuador, unexpected frosts and long droughts affect all farming activities. The older generation says they no longer know when to sow because rain does not come as expected. Migration offers one way out but represents a cultural threat.
In the Amazon, the effects of climate change will include deforestation and forest fragmentation and, as a result, more carbon released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. The droughts of 2005 resulted in western Amazon fires, which are likely to recur as rainforest is replaced by savannas, severely affecting the livelihoods of the region’s indigenous peoples.
Coastal Caribbean communities are often the center of government activities, ports and international airports. Rapid and unplanned movements of rural and outer island indigenous residents to the major centers is underway, putting pressure on urban resources, creating social and economic stresses, and increasing vulnerability to hazardous weather conditions such as cyclones and diseases.
The relationship between climate change and water security will be a major issue in the Caribbean, where many countries are dependant on rainfall and groundwater.
The polar regions are now experiencing some of Earth’s most rapid and severe climate change. Indigenous peoples, their culture and the whole ecosystem that they interact with is very much dependent on the cold and the extreme physical conditions of the Arctic region.
Indigenous peoples depend on polar bears, walrus, seals and caribou, herding reindeer, fishing and gathering not only for food and to support the local economy, but also as the basis for their cultural and social identity. Among concerns facing indigenous peoples: availability of traditional food sources, growing difficulty with weather prediction and travel safety in changing ice and weather conditions.
According to indigenous peoples, sea ice is less stable, unusual weather patterns are occurring, vegetation cover is changing, and particular animals are no longer found in traditional hunting areas. Local landscapes, seascapes and icescapes are becoming unfamiliar.
Peoples across the Arctic region report changes in the timing, length and character of the seasons, including more rain in autumn and winter and more extreme heat in summer. In several Alaskan villages, entire indigenous communities may have to relocate due to thawing permafrost and large waves slamming against the west and northern shores. Coastal indigenous communities are severely threatened by storm-related erosion due to melting sea ice. Up to 80% of Alaskan communities, comprised mainly of indigenous peoples, are vulnerable to either coastal or river erosion.
In Nunavut, elders can longer predict the weather using their traditional knowledge. Many important summer hunting grounds cannot be reached. Drying and smoking foods is more difficult due to summer heat undermining the storage of traditional foods for the winter.
In Finland, Norway and Sweden, rain and mild winter weather often prevents reindeer from accessing lichen, a vital food source, forcing many herders to feed their reindeer with fodder, which is expensive and not economically viable long term. For Saami communities, reindeers are vital to their culture, subsistence and economy.
Central and Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Trans-Caucasia
Survival of indigenous peoples, who depend on fishing, hunting and agriculture, also depends on the success of their fragile environment and its resources. As bears and other wild game disappear, people in local villages will suffer particular hardships. Worse, unique indigenous cultures, traditions and languages will face major challenges maintaining their diversity.
Indigenous peoples have noticed the arrival of new plant species that thrive in rivers and lakes, including the small flowered duckweed which has made survival difficult for fish. New bird species have also arrived and birds now stay longer than before.
Changes in reindeer migration and foraging patterns, sparked by fluctuating weather patterns, cause problems also in this region, whose indigenous people have witnessed unpredictable and unstable weather and shorter winters.
About 1.2 million North American tribal members live on or near reservations, and many pursue lifestyles with a mix of traditional subsistence activities and wage labour. Many reservation economies and budgets of indigenous governments depend heavily on agriculture, forest products and tourism.
Global warming is predicted to cause less snowfall and more droughts in many parts of North America, which will have a significant impact on indigenous peoples. Water resources and water quality may decrease while extended heat waves will increase evaporation and deplete underground water resources. There may be impacts on health, plant cover, wildlife populations, tribal water rights and individual agricultural operations, and a reduction of tribal services due to decrease in income from land leases.
Natural disasters such as blizzards, ice storms, floods, electric power outages, transportation problems, fuel depletion and food supply shortages will isolate indigenous communities.
Higher temperatures will result in the loss of native grass and medicinal plants, as well as erosion that allows the invasion of non-native plants. The zones of semi-arid and desert shrubs, cactus, and sagebrush will move northward. Finally, fire frequency could also increase with more fuel and lightning strikes, degrading the land and reducing regional bio-diversity.
Most of the Pacific region comprises small island states affected by rising sea levels. Environmental changes are prominent on islands where volcanoes build and erode; coral atolls submerge and reappear and the islands’ biodiversity is in flux. The region has suffered extensively from human disasters such as nuclear testing, pollution, hazardous chemicals and wastes like Persistent Organic Pollutants, and solid waste management and disposal.
High tides flood causeways linking villages. This has been particularly noticeable in Kiribati and a number of other small Pacific island nations that could be submerged in this century.
Migration will become a major issue. For example, the people of Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville atoll island of Cartaret have asked to be moved to higher ground on the mainland. The people of Sikaiana Atoll in the Solomon Islands have been migrating primarily to Honiara, the capital. There has been internal migration from the outer islands of Tuvalu to the capital Funafuti. Almost half of Tuvalu’s population now resides on the Funafuti atoll, with negative environmental consequences, including increased demand on local resources.
Warmer temperatures have led to the bleaching of the Pacific Island ’s main source of survival - the coral reefs. The algae that help feed coral is loosened and, because the algae give them colour, the starved corals look pale. Continued bleaching ultimately kills corals. Coral reefs are an important shelter for organisms and the reduction of reef-building corals is likely to have a major impact on biodiversity. Tropical fishery yields are on the decline worldwide and it is now clear that the conditions may become critical for the local fish population.
Agriculture in the Pacific region, especially in small island states, is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to heat stress on plants and saltwater incursions. Hence, food security is of great concern to the region.
UNU Institute of Advanced Studies
The Institute of Advanced Studies is part of the United Nations University’s global network of research and training centres. IAS undertakes research and postgraduate education on leading sustainable development issues, convening expertise from disciplines such as economics, law, biology, political science, physics and chemistry to better understand and contribute creative solutions to pressing global concerns. UNU-IAS works to identify and address strategic issues of concern for all humankind, for governments and decision makers and, particularly, for developing countries.
United Nations University
Established by the U.N. General Assembly, UNU is an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training and the dissemination of knowledge related to pressing global problems. Activities focus mainly on peace and conflict resolution, sustainable development and the use of science and technology to advance human welfare. The University operates a worldwide network of research and post-graduate training centres, with headquarters in Tokyo.
Posted 7:36 PM by Tevita
House votes to kill taro moratorium
Posted: Thursday, April 10th, 2008 4:22 AM HST
House votes to kill taro moratorium
By Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) _ A bill that would have created a five-year moratorium on genetically modifying Hawaiian taro has been killed by state lawmakers.
The decision comes after the House Agriculture Committee passed the moratorium last week as a compromise between researchers and farmers who consider taro a sacred plant. Farmers also worry that genetically modified varieties could adulterate Hawaiian taro.
The bill would have allowed genetic research on non-Hawaiian taro to continue, which scientists say is needed to protect the crop from disease.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Clifton Tsuji says the House's decision squashing the bill was ``in the best interest of all.''
Taro is used to make the starchy food poi, a staple of island cuisine.
Posted 7:00 PM by Tevita
UN scientists say industrial agriculture has failed
From : The East African
By JOHN MBARIA
As Africa prepares for its own version of the “green revolution” being championed by US-based foundations, a new UN report paints a gloomy future for industrial farming.
The report, titled The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, decries the current tendency to emphasise agricultural research into variety improvement, biotechnology and productivity, saying such research ought to be redirected towards addressing social inequities and environmental problems. It is also apparent that the report recognises that indigenous knowledge has something to offer to agricultural progress.
Most importantly for the development of agriculture in East Africa and elsewhere on the continent, the report cautions against exposing developing countries to unregulated international competition as is about to happen once the European Union and the Africa, Carribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries adopt the Economic Partnership Agreements.
The report says that such competition is likely to have long-term negative effects on food security, poverty alleviation and the environment. The future of farming lies in making agriculture sensitive to the world’s environment, it says.
Prepared by a panel of scientists, the report was released last week during a UN conference in South Africa. The conference was attended by scientists and government representatives from all over the world to discuss the final UN report.
In his address, Achim Steiner, the executive director of Unep said; “Agriculture is not just about putting things in the ground and then harvesting them.” He argued that growth in agriculture has continued to depend largely on increasing use of social and environmental resources, which will determine its future capacity to provide for billions of people.
The report is the culmination of a three-year assessment carried out by several hundred scientists who have been taking stock of the current state of farming in the world. The report has unflattering things to say about large-scale commercial agriculture, which it claims has failed, and calls for a systematic reassessment of past and ongoing agricultural research, with a view to steering it towards addressing hunger, severe social inequities and contradictions as well as environmental problems.
If adopted, it will largely inform the future of global agriculture and could be the death knell of large-scale commercial agriculture. But though there is optimism that it will be formally adopted by UN member states, there are also fears that powerful Western governments might employ muscle to water down its scientific findings and tailor it to suit their interests.
The report challenges the basic tenets of the green revolution, which are based on the use of increasingly aggressive and expensive chemicals that seem to not only threaten the very soils they are supposed to protect but also water resources, the air and even the farmers themselves. To the authors of the report, “the ecological footprint of industrial agriculture is already too large to be ignored.”
Owing to such radical thinking, it has come under criticism by the US, the World Bank, the global genetic engineering industry and other supporters of the green revolution who term it “unbalanced and one-sided.”
However, all those criticising the report were involved in the process of selecting the participating scientists and editors of the report.
The latter were selected by a multi-stakeholder bureau comprising industry, governments and international organisations, to guarantee a balanced selection of the scientists. The US is particularly criticised for crying foul allegedly because it was unable to handpick its own spin-doctors.
The import of the report is that it provides an opportunity for the world to debate the need for a fundamental change in the way farming is handled. That the future of agriculture lies in securing biological diversity and in adopting labour-intensive farming that works with nature and the people, not against them.
However, Africa is generally catching up with the rest of the world in embracing chemical-intensive agriculture. The report equates such farming to mining since it extracts as much economic value as possible from each piece of land.
It argues that while such farming may provide short-term gains in production, it is not sustainable and compromises the dwindling agricultural area upon which global future food supply depends. Besides, it fails to fails to offer food security and a healthy, diverse diet to local communities.
The report is also an indictment on what some of the participants at the Johannesburg conference termed the “false promise” of genetic engineering. Without saying so, the report asks all concerned parties to support a real revolution in farming if agriculture is to meet the needs of local communities and the environment, restore the largely degraded land (particularly in Africa) and enable the poor to combat hunger, displacement and depletion of their resources and culture.
Posted 2:51 PM by Tevita
The global food fight
From : ISN
The biofuel craze, commodity speculation, growing demand in emerging economies and soaring energy prices coalesce to boost food prices, with mass hunger and political instability looming, Simon Roughneen writes for ISN Security Watch.
By Simon Roughneen for ISN Security Watch (14/04/08)
"A hungry man is an angry man" - this was Brenda Barton's (the World Food Programme Deputy Director for Communications) apposite summing-up to ISN Security Watch last week.
Jacques Diouf, Head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), took this further, wondering aloud to the world's press why he had not been asked to brief the UN Security Council about a looming crisis that leaves 37 countries without enough affordable food.
In recent weeks protests have taken place in Indonesia, Peru, Mauritania, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Bolivia and Uzbekistan. In Egypt and Haiti riots turned deadly, with seven and four people killed, respectively, in both countries in the past 10 days, while over 40 died in Cameroon's February food unrest.
Even as far back as August 2007, the quashed Saffron Revolution in Burma was sparked in the first instance by the junta's overnight doubling of essential food and fuel prices.
Despite government attempts to shelter domestic food from soaring global cereal prices, essentials such as bread, rice, maize products, milk and soybean have continued to become more expensive, all over the world.
The facts are stark: The global price of wheat has risen by 130 percent in the past year, and dairy prices have doubled since 2005. A combination of factors is making basic food and fuel too expensive for people in poorer countries - even as projected world cereal production for 2008 is a record 2,164 million tonnes, up almost 3 percent from last year.
But with across-the-board world food price rises averaging at over 80 percent during the last 24 months, this volatility could acquire a dangerous political counterpart, in countries where 60-75 percent of people's income is spent on food.
On Saturday, 12 April, 20,000 Bangladeshis took to the streets - angered over low wages and high food costs - wrecking vehicles and attacking police, after last years rice crop was ruined by another of that country's periodic floods.
A changing world
Growing demand for more food - in terms of quality and quantity - as well as general rising living standards in India, Brazil, Russia and China, where vast new middle classes are emerging, has part-prompted the price increases.
In both countries, oil demands are up, contributing to the US$100+ per barrel costs, as more people can afford to own a car, which in turn fuels the food price ramp-up by increasing transport costs and making fertilizer more expensive.
Thomas Friedman's flat-world thesis seems relevant here - with consumers in emerging economies seeking to match western affluence. This means more cars, more meat and more high calorie, high protein foods - all of which puts pressure on oil supplies and prices, not least as more meat equals more fuel consumption for cooking, as well as increased demand for the grain feed for livestock and chickens.
Such changes are not irreversible, however.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), got no demurral from the 24 finance ministers on his steering committee when he warned on 12 April that ongoing price inflation could undermine much of the recent pro-poor development gains in many countries.
This echoed fears outlined in a World Bank policy paper Rising Food Prices - Policy Options and World Bank Response - released on 9 April. Group President Robert B Zoellick was quoted as saying: "In some countries, hard-won gains in overcoming poverty may now be reversed."
'The Politics of the Belly'
Jean Francois Bayart's above-named treatise took its title as a metaphor for the corrupt and patronage-addled nature of post-colonial African politics. But there seems to be a more literal application these days.
Politics has at least partly caused the food price increases, with corrupt administrations unwilling to maximize food-production potential, and other developing economies unable as yet to improve yields - with the worst performers squandering their thriving agriculture systems.
More directly, producer governments are restricting exports - notably rice - to meet domestic demand, but leaving neighboring importers in a quandary.
C Peter Timmer, visiting professor at Stanford University's Food Security and Environment Institute, gave ISN Security Watch access to his work-in-progress analysis of the current food price situation. He wrote, "The newly elected populist government in Thailand did not want consumer prices for rice to go up, so they started talking about export restrictions [...]. On March 28 rice prices in Thailand jumped US$75 per metric tonne. They have risen another US$200 per metric tonne since. This is the stuff of panics [...]."
David King is secretary-general of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. He told ISN Security Watch that "for example, only one-quarter of the irrigation potential along the Niger river valley is being exploited" and that "yields in Africa are very low compared with other regions, but there is massive potential for improvement."
In 1998, food price increases brought people onto Zimbabwe's streets, accelerating Robert Mugabe's turn to demagoguery as a diversion from his regime's frailties, and sparking his ruthless suppression of any political opposition. Zimbabwe was once called "the breadbasket of Africa," but now cannot feed its own people, much less function as a swing supplier, helping meet demand and reduce prices.
Burma was once the world's biggest rice exporter, now many of its people hunger under the quixotic and brutal dictatorship ensconced in its jungle hideaway-fortress capital in Napyidaw.
Politically expedient choices made by governments - donors and recipients alike - contribute to the structural issues undermining food supply in vulnerable locations.
As David King puts it, "it is much easier for developed countries to send their food surpluses as aid to somewhere like Ethiopia, than it is to make focused long-term investments in water management technology to reduce that country's drought vulnerability. It is also easier for any recipients to divert attention from their own administration to external factors - such as food aid - when things go wrong."
Eaten bread is soon forgotten
The impact of food price increases could well be serious instability in many countries.
Pakistan's pivotal parliamentary elections were depicted as a policy-wonkish litmus-test for Muslim democracy and counterterrorism policy. But ordinary people voted for who they thought best able to help them make ends meet. The incumbent coalition led by President-General Pervez Musharraf took a hammering, as voters fused his anti-democratic policies with rising inflation now hitting consumers in the pocket. These days, Pakistani troops are guarding rice warehouses against looting, with similar scenes in the Thailand and Vietnam - the world's number one and three rice exporters, respectively - and in the Philippines and Indonesia, both rice importers.
In Manila, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently jailed nine coup plotters, but legitimately expressed disaffection with her administration simmers on. She recently admonished rice traders against hoarding - saying that "anyone who steals rice from the people" will be jailed. Arroyo is clearly hoping that rice supply can be maintained on the domestic market, heading off any further price increase or shortage, which could bring people onto the streets. Such "people power" manifestations have twice changed governments in the Philippines, in 1986 and 2001 - the latter bringing the incumbent Mrs Arroyo to power.
But with Thailand, India and Vietnam all more or less ceasing rice exports, and China rebuffing Manila's request for additional wheat, urgent calls were being made over recent days for high-level pan-Asian talks on the food price crisis.
David King's timely warning to ISN Security Watch that "this type of thing can bring down a government in a developing country," was realized on Saturday, 12 April, with Haiti's Senate sacking the prime minister in a deliberate snub to President Rene Preval over his response to Port-au-Prince's deadly food riots.
The most vulnerable: Crumbs from the table
The price spike provoked "tortilla riots" in middle-income Mexico, and wealthy consumer groups in Italy staged a one-day protest at the price of pasta. But it is the world's poor who are feeling the pinch. Most vulnerable could be the aid-dependent in Darfur, Somalia, North Korea and elsewhere.
Brenda Barton told ISN Security Watch that “on 20 March the WFP appealed to donors for an extra half-billion dollars - just to enable us to meet the needs we projected back in June 2007."
"This does not even account for any emergency or contingency funding needed, say, if another Niger-type scenario came about," she added, referring to the August 2005 near-famine in that impoverished Sahelian country, which left over three million people verging on starvation.
But the overall global economic downturn and rising inflation means less money, and with demand elsewhere soaring, food aid might be squeezed - bad news for the 73 million people across 78 countries that need WFP-sourced assistance.
As Barton explains, malnutrition has some serious spin-off effects: "While the food shortages and potential malnutrition are deadly serious in themselves, this issue affects development issues across the board, with at least six MDGs compromised: take education- children cannot learn when hungry, and with money tight, kids get pulled from school so parents can pay for food."
"A slow onset of malnutrition can have a devastating impact: Even as families cut from three to two to one meal per day, economizing on quality as well as quantity, and the very young are worst-affected," she added.
Hot money trumps hot weather?
"Green" subsidies for biofuel crops are diverting agri-output away from food. American farmers have diverted over 30 percent of corn as part of a government-sponsored ethanol production scheme - aiming to reduce oil dependency and offset man-made global warming.
The US was the world's fourth largest rice producer, the knock-on from divestment into corn is lifting rice prices amid greater demand, while reduced US corn-for-food output has put pressure on corn importer countries to diversify into ever more expensive wheat and sorghum, the latter needed to replace corn as animal feed.
Another stark fact: Over 240kg of corn would feed one person for a year. This same amount is required to produce just the 100 liters of ethanol needed to fill a SUV tank.
But on 4 April the BBC reported that no increase in global temperatures has been recorded by the World Meteorological Organisation since 1998, despite growing levels of carbon in the atmosphere, instead linking the 1998 recorded all-time high with El Nino, and the recent cooling with La Nina - two vast Pacific Ocean currents.
With those natural factors seemingly decisive to recent weather, and after bitterly-cold winters in China - its coldest in a century - and in central Asia and across North America - the biofuels gambit thus seems doubly-questionable, as it fuels food price increases more efficiently than its does enviro-friendly automobiles.
Meanwhile, the falling dollar has put pressure on commodities denominated in that currency, especially when import-export deals are signed off months in advance of delivery, with costs based on a now outdated dollar valuation.
More debilitating might be the fall-out from the subprime collapse and slowing global economy. Both have prompted a commodities bubble, with real economy speculation leading farmers to divest into crops they anticipate to reach higher prices, fuelling the supply and demand crisis.
Elsewhere, with the tech bubble a mid-term memory and the real estate downturn still biting hard, return-seeking investment funds have moved money in and out of petroleum and then food commodities, inflating the price of wheat by 70 percent between 2005-2007.
What's on the table now?
The impact on the global economy remains to be seen - but the IMF warned last week that commodity price increases were feeding the inflation beast, curtailing what policy options were available to deal with an overall global slowdown. This too can have political ramification. China's communist rulers, now shaken by Olympic and Tibet protests doubtlessly also recall the inflation-driven unrest culminating in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
On 10 April, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on his Japanese counterpart and current G-8 chairman Yasuo Fukuda to take the lead on devising an international plan to deal with the food spike.
David King believes that "policymakers should use this [price increase] as a catalyst to develop agriculture, especially in low-yield, high-potential regions," echoing a call from the International Rice Research Institute for "a second Green Revolution," replicating the improvements in the 60s and 70s in agricultural technologies that boosted production across Asia.
But C Peter Timmer concluded on a sober note: "[T]here is already substantial evidence that significant increases in production, if they are attainable at all, will require development of new crop technologies that are not on the shelf or even in the pipeline [...]. The prospect is that very high food prices, perhaps near current levels, will be a market reality for many years."
Monday, April 07, 2008
Posted 5:14 PM by Tevita
The Western Solomon Islands Conservation Programme
From : Solomon Star (Monday, 07 April 2008)
The Western Solomon Islands Conservation Program (WSCP) was previously known as the “Roviana and Vonavona Marine Resource Management and Development Programme”.
It was designed in 1999 to create, expand, and consolidate community-based marine protected areas under customary land/sea tenure in the Western Province.
The central objective, building upon 15 years of research, conservation, development, and educational activities, was to create a network of marine protected areas to conserve marine habitats.
The Western Solomon Islands is covered by a variety of habitats rich in biodiversity.
They include shallow coral reefs, outer coral reef-drops, grass beds, freshwater swamps, river estuaries, mangrove, coastal strand vegetation, and lowland rain forests.
These habitats are increasingly threatened by human activities such as logging, industrial fishing, and prospects of increasing mining activity in the region.
Overall, the programme has a three-way approach that emphasises:
(1) resource management/conservation,
(2) education/training ,
(3) rural development.
It draws funding support from donor assistance abroad.
The WSCP is headed by Shankar Aswani, an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Marine Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in America.
This is through a partnership arrangement established with the Roviana Conservation Foundation, the Christian Fellowship Church and currently working to liaise with United Church and Seventh Day-Adventists.
The ‘Roviana Conservation Foundation is a ‘home grown community-based organisation. It is working with WSCP to safeguard the interest of the Roviana and Vonavona Lagoon communities in marine conservation and sustainable rural development.
The current conservation network is composed of 28 permanent and temporary Marine Protected Areas in Roviana, Vonavona, Marovo, and Rendova.
This is specifically designed to protect critical habitats and species. In particular, the prime habitats of flagship species including vulnerable or endangered bumphead parrotfish, maori wrasse, coconut crabs, green and hawksbill turtles, and dugongs among others.
The educational programme integrates urban Pacific Islands students (particularly from across the United States and its overseas territories) into research and cultural activities. For Solomon Islanders joining the yearly field school is a free educational opportunity and experience. It expands the student’s knowledge of natural and social sciences, and increases their environmental awareness.
Rural Community Development
The WSCP also promotes rural development in the Western Solomons.
It has assisted some communities with development needs, particularly in biodiversity-rich areas in which communities have been unwilling to forfeit income from fishing unless alternatives were offered.
WSCP expects that expanding the network of reserves will, beyond protecting endangered and vulnerable species, provide protection for habitats and for heavily exploited marine organisms.
This programme is expected to:
(1) enlarge, expand, and consolidate the marine protected area network;
(2) result in the first comprehensive plan for eco-regional marine biodiversity conservation in the Solomons;
(3) provide technical assistance and training in monitoring;
(4) foster scientific and environmental education at the local, national, and international levels; (5) improve the development infrastructure of many regional villages;
(6) gazette all marine protected areas and other regional coastal co-management plans;
(7) result in a comprehensive set of guidelines for implementing marine conservation initiatives in this region.
Posted 4:51 PM by Tevita
Bills on GMO taro, await votes
From : Honolulu Advertiser.com
The House will also vote this week on the controversial bill that would put a five-year moratorium on genetically modifying any Hawaiian taro in the state.
However, since the bill does not include non-Hawaiian varieties of taro, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Clift Tsuji said it would not prohibit or discourage research, testing and planting of genetically modified non-Hawaiian taro.
The draft — a compromise between researchers and farmers who consider taro a sacred plant — is unacceptable to many opponents of genetic modification and those worried about cross-pollination between GMO taro and Hawaiian taro, so if Senate Bill 958 SD1 HD2 makes it back to the Senate, it could end up in conference committee.
Posted 4:08 PM by Tevita
Private sector urged to play greater conservation role
From : ABC
The Victorian Government wants the private sector to play a more active role in protecting Victoria's environment.
It is one of the suggestions in the Land and Biodiversity Green Paper that was released by the Government yesterday
Public submissions about the document will be taken until the middle of the year and the white paper, or final draft, will be released early next year.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment's deputy secretary, Kevin Love, says many farmers are setting a good example by making improvements on their properties that revitalise the land and water catchments.
"There's great opportunities for other parts of the private sector, particularly companies that want to get involved in corporate social responsibility, super funds that may want to take a long-term view around sustainability, companies that want to off set their activities somewhere else by investing in improved natural resource management in Victoria," he said.
An alliance of eight environment and conservation groups says land clearing, weeds, feral animals and climate change are causing substantial problems for threatened plants and animals.
The spokeswoman for the Victoria Naturally Alliance, Carrie Deutsch, says land-holders who are protecting native vegetation deserve more support from the Government.
"It's clear that communities across regional Victoria are working incredibly hard to help save threatened species and it's a huge job and they need help," she said.
"So the Victorian Government has to show leadership and they have to come up with the funding and resources necessary to ensure our wildlife is here for future generations
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.