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
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008
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.
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