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, July 17, 2008


    From : Genet News


    Greenpeace will lay objection

    Munich/Hamburg, 16 July. - The European Patent Office in Munich is today
    granting an extensive patent (EP 1651777) on a method of breeding pigs
    despite international criticism and lack of clarity on the patent's
    legality. According to Greenpeace's analyses the genetic conditions
    described in it occur in all European pig breeds. The claims have been
    formulated in such a way that not only do they include the breeding method;
    the patent owner can in a dispute also make claims on pigs themselves and
    all their progeny.

    Greenpeace will lay an objection to the patent because it is in violation of
    the ban on patenting "mainly biological processes" for breeding. The
    European Patent Office is at present examining the extent to which patents
    on the breeding of normal plants and animals may in principle be granted at
    all. A decision on this is expected in 2009.

    "Corporations can use patents like this to go a long way towards
    monopolising animal breeding in Europe," says the patents expert Christoph
    Then on Greenpeace's behalf. "It is incredible that the European Patent
    Office is issuing a patent which is based on normal breeding and does not
    include any inventive steps whatsoever. This takeover of food production
    through patents must be halted."

    The US corporation Monsanto had originally applied for the patent in 2005.
    Making it known that it was collaborating closely with Monsanto, the US
    corporation Lengsham Choice Genetics bought the patent while the application
    was being examined.

    In Greenpeace's view the patent infringes patent law rules in part because
    it is neither inventive nor is there an adequate description of how the
    breeding method can be used.

    Greenpeace is opposed to patents on seeds and beneficial animals as part of
    an international coalition (No patents on seeds) in which over 50
    agricultural organisations have joined together.

    * Comments:

    Post a Comment

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Another Inconvenient Truth

    How biofuel policies are deepening poverty and accelerating climate change

    From : Oxfam

    Biofuels are presented in rich countries as a solution to two crises: the climate crisis and the oil crisis. But they may not be a solution to either, and instead are contributing to a third: the current food crisis.
    Meanwhile the danger is that they allow rich-country governments to avoid difficult but urgent decisions about how to reduce consumption of oil, while offering new avenues to continue expensive support to agriculture at the cost of taxpayers.
    In the meantime, the most serious costs of these policies – deepening poverty and hunger, environmental degradation, and accelerating climate change – are being ‘dumped’ on developing countries.
    Neither a solution to the climate crisis…
    Rich countries’ biofuel policies currently offer neither a safe nor an effective means to tackle climate change. By increasing aggregate demand for agricultural land, they will drive the expansion of farming into critical carbon sinks such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, triggering the release of carbon from soils and vegetation that will take decades and in some cases centuries of biofuel production to repay, at a time when emissions need to peak and fall within the next 10 to 15 years:
    • Analysis published in the journal Science calculates that the emissions from global land-use change due to the US corn-ethanol programme will take 167 years to pay back.
    • European Union (EU) biodiesel consumption is driving spiralling demand for palm oil both for use in biodiesel, but also to replace rapeseed and other edible oils diverted into the European biofuel programme. Oxfam estimates that by 2020, the emissions resulting from land-use change in the palm-oil sector may have reached between 3.1 and 4.6 billion tonnes of CO2 – 46 to 68 times the annual saving the EU hopes to be achieving by then from biofuels.
    Even ignoring land-use change, biofuels are an overly expensive way of achieving emissions reductions from transport. Improving car efficiency is far more cost effective: while the costs of avoiding a tonne of CO2 through biofuels run into the hundreds of dollars, ambitious improvements in vehicle efficiency can yield profits, as reduced fuel costs exceed technology costs. Biomass can be used far more efficiently in static applications such as commercial boilers or combined heat and power.
    …nor a solution to the oil crisis
    Rich countries’ biofuel policies currently offer neither a safe nor an effective means to address fuel security. Consumption of oil in rich countries is so huge that for biofuels to be a significant alternative requires massive amounts of agricultural production. If the entire corn harvest of the USA was diverted to ethanol, it would only be able to replace about one gallon in every six sold in the USA. If the entire world supply of carbohydrates (starch and sugar crops) was converted to ethanol, this would only be able to replace at
    2 Another Inconvenient Truth, Oxfam Briefing Paper, June 2008
    most 40 per cent of global petrol consumption. Global oilseed production would be unable even to reach a 10 per cent share of diesel consumption.
    Moreover, the costs of using biofuels to improve fuel security are prohibitively expensive. The European Commission’s own research body has estimated that the EU’s proposed 10 per cent biofuel target will cost about $90bn from now until 2020, and will offer enhanced fuel security worth only $12bn. Policies to reduce demand for transport fuels, such as regulation to improve vehicle efficiency, are far safer and more cost effective.
    Meanwhile 30 million people are dragged into poverty
    Biofuel mandates and support measures in rich countries are driving up food prices as they divert more and more food crops and agricultural land into fuel production. Meanwhile sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, production of which has a far less significant impact on global food prices, is excluded through the use of tariffs.
    The World Bank estimates that the price of food has increased by 83 per cent in the last three years. For the world’s poor people, who may spend 50–80 per cent of their income on food, this is disastrous. Oxfam estimates that the livelihoods of at least 290 million people are immediately threatened by the food crisis, and the Bank estimates that 100 million people have already fallen into poverty as a result. Thirty per cent of price increases are attributable to biofuels, suggesting biofuels have endangered the livelihoods of nearly 100 million people and dragged over 30 million into poverty.
    The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that by forcing up food prices, rich-country support for biofuels acts as a tax on food – a regressive tax felt most by poor people for whom food purchases represent a greater share of income. Last year, it is estimated that industrialised countries spent $13–15bn ‘taxing’ food, equal to the amount of funding required to assist those immediately threatened by the food crisis. These amounts will continue to spiral as rich countries increase their consumption of biofuels.
    Herein lies the true attraction of ethanol and biodiesel for rich-country governments – an avenue for continued support to agriculture.
    Oxfam calls on rich countries urgently to dismantle support and incentives for biofuels in order to avoid further deepening poverty and accelerating climate change.
    Specifically, rich countries should:
    • introduce a freeze on the implementation of further biofuel mandates, and carry out an urgent revision of existing targets that deepen poverty and accelerate climate change;
    • dismantle subsidies and tax exemptions for biofuels and reduce import tariffs;
    • tackle climate change and fuel security through safe and cost-effective measures, prioritising regulation to enforce ambitious vehicle-efficiency improvements.
    Another Inconvenient Truth, Oxfam Briefing Paper, June 2008 3
    An opportunity for developing countries?
    For poor countries that tend to have comparative advantages in the production of feedstocks, biofuels may offer some genuine development opportunities, but the potential economic, social, and environmental costs are severe.
    Oxfam recommends that developing countries move with caution and give priority to poor people in rural areas when developing their bioenergy strategies.
    Specifically, developing countries should:
    • prioritise bioenergy projects that provide clean renewable energy sources to poor men and women in rural areas – these are unlikely to be ethanol or biodiesel projects;
    • consider the costs as well as the benefits involved in biofuel strategies: the financial costs of support, the opportunity costs of alternative agriculture and poverty reduction strategies, and social and environmental costs.
    If they decide to proceed with biofuel strategies, developing-country governments should:
    • carry out their obligations under international law and conventions, including obligations to protect the right to food, to ensure decent work, and to ensure that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected communities is obtained before biofuel projects commence;
    • give priority to feedstocks and production models which maximise opportunities for men and women small farmers.
    And companies and investors operating in developing countries should:
    • ensure no biofuel project takes place without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of local communities, and that men and women workers at all stages of production in their value chains enjoy decent work;
    • treat men and women smallholder farmers fairly and transparently;
    • provide smallholders in their value chains sufficient freedom of choice in their farming decisions to ensure food security for them and their families.
    4 Another Inconvenient Truth, Oxfam Briefing Paper, June 2008

    © Oxfam International June 2008
    This paper was written by Robert Bailey. Oxfam acknowledges the assistance of Sonja Vermeulen, Sophia Murphy, John Wilkinson, and Selena Herrera in its production. It is part of a series of papers written to inform public debate on development and humanitarian policy issues.
    The text may be used free of charge for the purposes of advocacy, campaigning, education, and research, provided that the source is acknowledged in full. The copyright holder requests that all such use be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re-use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, permission must be secured and a fee may be charged. E-mail publish@oxfam.org.uk.
    For further information on the issues raised in this paper please e-mail advocacy@oxfaminternational.org.
    The information in this publication is correct at the time of going to press.

    * Comments:

    Post a Comment

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Northern Lau biodiversity survey results 2007 released

    From : USP

    Around 30 Turaga-ni-koro (village spokesperson) from the Lau Province attended a seminar organized by the Institute of Applied Science, to listen to results of biodiversity surveys and community engagement efforts that was undertaken in Northern Lau, in September 2007.

    The Turaga-ni-koros who are currently in Suva for the Lau Provincial Council meeting attended the seminar that was held at the Marine studies lecture theatre recently.

    The Northern Lau survey in September 2007 had a holistic approach to addressing biodiversity related issues, by looking at three key components; terrestrial biodiversity, marine biodiversity and socio-economic aspects of marine resource use by local communities in the area. To fully achieve this mammoth task over a three week period required team effort by researchers from the Institute of Applied Science, Department of Fisheries, Department of Forestry and Nature Fiji (Mareqeti Viti), totaling ten Fiji researchers, and two from Georgia Tech university, who were undertaking research on algae.

    Surveys looked into the following areas:
    1) Terrestrial biodiversity surveys
    a. Mammals & herpetofauna
    b. Vegetation & flora
    c. Avifauna & invertebrates
    2) Marine biodiversity surveys (corals, fish & invertebrates)
    a. Rapid assessment in 14 fishing grounds by IAS
    b. Rapid assessment by Fisheries Department around Vanua balavu
    3) Marine sponge and alga research

    The outcomes of the terrestrial and marine surveys highlights the biodiversity and endemism of the northern Lau group as well as the threats faced by the region from invasive species, detrimental anthropogenic activities including agriculture and cattle grazing, overfishing, and the use of inappropriate marine harvesting techniques.

    Four islands or island groups in the Northern Lau group are currently preliminarily listed as Sites of National Significance: Wailagilala, Kibobo Islets, Sovu Islets and Nukucikobia. Based on the results of this survey, an additional five islands or island groups are to be added to this list: Tuvuca (based on plants and vegetation, marine invertebrates), Namalala (plants, vegetation and aesthetic value), Susui (plants, vegetation and turtles), Qilaqila Bay of Islands (plants, vegetation and aesthetic value), and Nukutolu Islets (birds, marine invertebrates).

    The Institute of Applied Sciences thanked organizations for providing the personnel for various trips and assisting with the preliminary assessment of data collected:

    Organisations involved includes The South Pacific Regional Herbarium, NatureFiji-Mareqeti Viti, Fiji Department of Forestry, Fiji Department of Fisheries, the Environment Unit and the Natural Products Unit of the Institute of Applied Sciences, and the National Trust of Fiji.

    The core funding for the survey was provided by the Institute of Applied Sciences through their Natural Products Research Program. Additional funds were provided by a generous donation from Conservation International (Fiji Program). TOTAL (Fiji) limited supplied all fuels and lubricants required for the trip at a special concession price and the Department of Fisheries provided at no cost the use of their research vessel the “Tuiniwasabula” and its crew.

    Tuesday, July 08, 2008

    Fortified Cassava Could Provide A Day's Nutrition In A Single Meal

    From : Science Daily

    ScienceDaily, June 30, 2008

    Scientists have determined how to fortify the cassava plant, a staple root crop in many developing countries, with enough vitamins, minerals and protein to provide the poor and malnourished with a day's worth of nutrition in a single meal.

    The researchers have further engineered the cassava plant so it can resist the crop's most damaging viral threats and are refining methods to reduce cyanogens, substances that yield poisonous cyanide if they are not properly removed from the food before consumption. The reduction of cyanogens also can shorten the time it takes to process the plant into food, which typically requires three to six
    days to complete.
    Studies also are under way to extend the plant's shelf life so it can be stored or shipped.

    The international team of scientists hopes to translate the greenhouse research into a product that can be field tested in at least two African nations by 2010. Funded by more than $12.1 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the group of researchers is led by Richard Sayre, a professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State University. Sayre presented an update on the BioCassava Plus project June 30 at the American Society of Plant Biologists meeting in Mérida, Mexico.
    "This is the most ambitious plant genetic engineering project ever attempted," Sayre said. "Some biofortification strategies have the objective of providing only a third of the daily adult nutrition requirements since consumers typically get the rest of their nutritional requirements from other foods in their diet. But global
    food prices have recently gone sky high, meaning that many of the poorest people are now eating just one meal a day, primarily their staple food.

    "So what we're working on has become even more important in the last year than it was when we started, not just in regions where people are malnourished, but across developing countries where food has gotten so expensive that people can't afford the diverse diet that they're used to."

    Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the primary source of calories for an estimated 800 million people worldwide, including 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, the current focus of the Gates-funded project. But the plentiful crop has several drawbacks. It is composed almost entirely of carbohydrates so it does not provide
    complete nutrition.

    "So what we're working on has become even more important in the last year than it was when we started, not just in regions where people are malnourished, but across developing countries where food has gotten so expensive that people can't afford the diverse diet that they're used to."

    The roots can be banked in the ground for up to three years, providing food security, but the plant must undergo time-consuming processing immediately after harvest to remove compounds that generate cyanide. Unprocessed roots also deteriorate within 48 hours after harvest, limiting the food's shelf life. And a plant disease caused by the geminivirus reduces yields by 30 percent to 50 percent
    in many areas in sub-Saharan Africa, a major blow to farm productivity.

    Sayre and colleagues from multiple institutions set out to tackle virtually all of cassava's problems to make the plant more nutritious and to increase the crop's revenue-producing potential for farmers.

    Sayre reported that the research team has been able to address each of the plant's deficiencies in individual transgenic plants. The next step will be to combine some or all of the bioengineered traits into a single, farmer-preferred cultivar, with the goal of eventually developing cassava varieties that carry all of the improvements developed by the researchers.

    "We've begun field trials in Puerto Rico to make sure the plants perform as well outside as they do in greenhouses, and we hope to start field trials in the target countries of Nigeria and Kenya by 2009," Sayre said.

    The labs in the project have used a variety of techniques to improve on the model cassava plant used for the research. They used genes that facilitate mineral transport to produce a cassava root that accumulates more iron and zinc from the soil. To fortify the plants with a form of vitamin E and beta-carotene (also called pro-vitamin A because it converts to vitamin A in the body), the scientists
    introduced genes into the plant that increase terpenoid and carotenoid production, the precursors for pro-vitamin A and vitamin E. They achieved a 30-fold increase in pro-vitamin A, which is critical for human vision, bone and skin health, metabolism and immune function.

    Adding protein to the cassava plant has posed a challenge, Sayre said. The scientists discovered that most of the nitrogen required to make the amino acids used for protein synthesis in roots is derived from the cyanogens that also cause cyanide toxicity. So their strategy for increasing protein levels in roots focuses on accelerating the conversion of cyanide-containing compounds into protein rather than completely eliminating cyanogen production, which would hinder the efforts to increase protein production, Sayre explained. To further address the cyanide problem, the scientists have also developed a way to accelerate the processing methods required to remove cyanide -- a days-long combination of peeling,
    soaking and drying the roots before they are eaten.

    To strengthen the cassava plant's resistance to viruses, the scientists introduced a protein and small interfering RNA molecules that interfere with the viruses' ability to reproduce. Prolonging cassava's shelf life has involved the development of a
    hybrid species that crosses two related plants native to Texas and Brazil. The strategy, still in development, will combine the properties of these plants and additional genes that function as antioxidants, slowing the rotting process that has been traced to the production of free radicals that damage and kill cells in newly
    harvested cassava roots.

    The first cassava product the team plans to develop for investigations in the field will likely include the virus resistance, elevated protein, elevated beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) and elevated minerals (iron and zinc), Sayre said.

    "These traits have been working the best in the greenhouse, and the virus resistance is critical to success in the field," he said. "The thinking behind starting with these four traits is driven by science and by the impact they can have."

    The BioCassava Plus project was launched with a $7.5 million grant from the Gates Foundation and recently received an additional $4.6 million in supplemental funding from the foundation to accelerate the application of this research in Africa by African scientists. The supplemental funding will support the training of African
    scientists so they can produce the transgenic plants in African institutions for use on African farms.

    "It will not only be an improved staple crop eaten as a main source of nutrition, but we're also looking at the transformation of cassava from a staple crop to an income-generating crop," Sayre said. "That lifts people out of poverty, allows families to send kids to school and build infrastructure in their villages, so this
    is an important way to cross cultural barriers. There are many different cultures and languages in Africa, but higher crop yield, productivity, longer shelf life and making money are things that everyone understands." The BioCassava Plus research team includes Claude Fauquet, Nigel Taylor, Dan Shachtman, Ed Cahoon and Paul Anderson of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis; Willi Gruissem and Peng Zhang of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich; John
    Beeching of the University of Bath in England; John Fellman of Washington State University; Martin Fregene and Hernan Ceballos of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia; Ivan Ingelbrecht, Alfred Dixon and Bussie Maziya-Dixon of IITA-Nigeria (an African research organization); Caroline Herron of IITA-Kenya; Simon Gichuki of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute; Ada Mbanaso of the National Root Crops Research Institute in Nigeria; Dimuth Siritunga of the University of Puerto Rico; Mark Manary of Washington University; and independent consultant Jeff Stein. Mary Ann Abiado and Kristen Mosier of Ohio State provide administrative oversight.


    * Comments:

    Post a Comment

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Are you on the Frontlines of Climate Change?
    A Forum for Indigenous Peoples, Small Islands and Vulnerable Communities

    From : On the Frontlines of Climate Change

    Changing Climate – Shifting Seasons

    The first posting on the Frontlines of Climate Change Forum asked people to send in their observations of climate change impacts. One theme raised by several contributors is how seasons are changing and becoming increasingly unpredictable. Below are highlights from this discussion:

    I am very concerned about climate change, since I live on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Praslin, reports Michael Jean-Louis of the Seychelles. With the current climate change, what we have suffered from the most is the El Nino phenomenon. It has destroyed a large percentage of reef structures due to coral bleaching, which in turn affects tourism and the fish population. The reef structure acts as a barrier whereby waves crash on it and dissipate most of their energy. After the great El Nino of 1998, this coral barrier has been structurally weakened and in some instances has collapsed. The barrier is lower and less effective at wave breaking. So now more water with more energy is coming into the lagoon and this is creating, to a certain degree, coastal erosion.

    Climate change has had adverse affects on water availability in parts of India, notes S.K. Sharma. Famed as the world’s wettest point because of its abundant rainfall, Cheerapunji remained unusually dry during 2006. The glaciers in Ladakh, which account for 13% of Kashmir’s land area, are now fast receding. The impacts of these changes, including on agriculture, are already visible in India.

    During the last few decades, the hurricane season has become more extreme, writes Solangel Gonzalez from the Dominican Republic (Caribbean). Last year, the Dominican Republic was struck by two tropical storms during October and November, with precipitation in some parts of the country exceeding regular monthly levels by as much as 300%. The storm Olga happened out of season - during December. Precipitation patterns are changing. During a normal year, the highest rainfall occurs in May, but this year May was dry.

    The rains that once fell between March and September have now been reduced to only thrice or four times a year, writes Nataan Lomorukai from western Kenya. Subject to drought and famine for the last two decades, the vast and arid Turkana District - once a savannah - is now a no-go zone. The water table is sinking and pastoralists have to trek up to 70 kms in search of water. Climate change is worsening problems already created by human activity. Irrigation and hydropower schemes have reduced the flows of the Omo and Turkwell rivers and contributed to the decline of Lake Turkana. This has resulted in the dying of indigenous trees and plants along the river where the Turkana people live. Even tree pods which enabled the livestock to live are no more. Animals are dying from the severe drought. Furthermore, the famous Ferguson Gulf in Lake Turkana – once a breeding ground for tilapia fish - has disappeared. The fisherfolk in the area now have nothing to eat. The area once occupied by the Gulf has been invaded by foreign plants called acacia prosophis. When local donkeys eat them, they become toothless after some months and die. Inhabitants have opted to move to urban areas to work as labourers, while others have resorted to making charcoal from the dying trees to supply refugee camps in Kakuma and urban areas. Turkanas are now dependant on emergency relief aid from the international community through the World Food Programme as a result of this catastrophe.

    * Comments:

    Post a Comment

    The Appetite for Biofuel Starves the Poor

    Published on Friday, July 4, 2008 by The Guardian/UK

    by Benjamin Senauer

    The evidence linking biofuel production to rising food prices can’t be ignored. Between the start of 2002 and early 2008, basic global food commodity prices rose by 220%. The global production of biofuels - ethanol and bodiesel - rose from less than 8m gallons in 2004 to an estimated 18m gallons in 2008. The most rapid increase has been in the production of ethanol derived from corn in the US: rising from about 3.5m gallons in 2004 to an estimated 9m in 2008. This year ethanol production is forecast to consume 30% or more of 2008’s entire US corn crop.

    Because of the surging price of agricultural commodities, Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program, has warned that a “tsunami of hunger” is sweeping through the poorer countries of the world. Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, has said that as many as 100 million people in the world have been forced into poverty and hunger because of the dramatic increase in food prices. These are people who live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day and whose households spend 70% or more of their meagre budgets on basic food staples. A debate is raging over the role biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol, have played in increasing food prices, and hence in the rising number of people going hungry.

    Ed Schafer, the US Secretary of Agriculture, has said that biofuels account for only a few percent of the rise in the price of food, an estimate that would seem unbelievably low. One of the most reliable independent estimates comes from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). IFPRI maintains the most sophisticated model of global agricultural commodity supply and utilization, referred to by the acronym Impact. Based on that model, IFPRI estimates that 30% of the increase in the prices of the major grains is due to biofuels. And now we learn that the World Bank’s own unpublished forecasts suggest that biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75%.

    The increasing US output of ethanol, by raising the price of corn, pulls land from the production of other crops and leads to substitutions elsewhere, so more wheat and other grains may be used to feed livestock. Moreover, for many countries food price inflation is so high that it has become a serious political problem. There have been food riots and protests in over 15 developing countries. A number of major food-producing countries have restricted their agricultural exports in an attempt to hold down the increase in domestic prices. India and Vietnam, usually major rice exporters, have cut off exports, thus reducing the global supply and pushing rice prices through the roof on world markets.

    Grains are the staple food of most people in the developing world, although which particular cereal depends on the region. We can combine IFPRI’s estimate that biofuels account for 30% of the rise in grain prices and the World Bank president’s figure of 100 million more hungry people due to higher food prices. This combination suggests that biofuels are responsible for 30 million more people going hungry in the world. The IFPRI model also allows us to estimate the number of malnourished children less than age five under various conditions. Based on the model there are some 2.4 million more malnourished pre-schoolers in the developing countries in 2008 due to the impact of biofuels. Current research, that I and colleagues are working on, suggests that 390,000 additional children under the age of five will die because of this increase in malnutrition due to biofuels. If current biofuel development trends continue, child deaths will rise to 475,000, almost one-half million by 2010. If the leaked World Bank figures are more accurate, then that figure could be even higher.

    Oxfam has called for a moratorium on biofuel mandates, and an end to subsidies - under the latest US farm bill the ethanol subsidy is 45 cents per gallon. Even the International Monetary Fund calls for a re-examination of these subsidies. The biofuel policies of the presumptive candidates for the US presidency have received little attention so far. However, both Barack Obama and John McCain need to re-examine their positions in light of the devastating impact biofuels are having on global hunger.

    Benjamin Senauer is a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota. These are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the University of Minnesota.

    © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

    rom ; The Guardian

    * Comments:

    Post a Comment


    October 2002

    November 2002

    December 2002

    January 2003

    February 2003

    March 2003

    April 2003

    May 2003

    June 2003

    July 2003

    August 2003

    September 2003

    October 2003

    November 2003

    December 2003

    January 2004

    February 2004

    March 2004

    April 2004

    May 2004

    June 2004

    July 2004

    August 2004

    September 2004

    October 2004

    November 2004

    December 2004

    January 2005

    February 2005

    March 2005

    April 2005

    May 2005

    June 2005

    July 2005

    August 2005

    September 2005

    October 2005

    November 2005

    December 2005

    January 2006

    February 2006

    March 2006

    April 2006

    May 2006

    June 2006

    July 2006

    August 2006

    September 2006

    October 2006

    November 2006

    December 2006

    January 2007

    February 2007

    March 2007

    April 2007

    May 2007

    June 2007

    July 2007

    August 2007

    September 2007

    October 2007

    November 2007

    December 2007

    January 2008

    February 2008

    March 2008

    April 2008

    May 2008

    June 2008

    July 2008

    August 2008

    September 2008

    October 2008

    November 2008

    December 2008

    January 2009

    February 2009

    March 2009

    April 2009

    May 2009

    June 2009

    July 2009

    August 2009

    September 2009

    October 2009

    November 2009

    January 2010

    RSS Feed
    Alternative feed
    Contact Tevita


    Something new:

    Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.  

    PestNet: For on-line information, advice and pest identification for the Pacific and beyond. Contact: Grahame Jackson.



    Pacific Mapper: For on-line mapping of point data over satellite images of the Pacific provided by Google Maps.



    DIVA-GIS: For free, easy-to-use software for the spatial analysis of biodiversity data.


    Locations of visitors to this page