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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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Posted 1:53 PM by Tevita
A documentary by SeedSavers - Our Seeds: Seed Blong Yumi
From : City Farmers News
A 57 minute documentary by SeedSavers on traditional diets and how they are grown and eaten in eleven countries.
Our Seeds: Seed Blong Yumi
A small crew comprising Seed Savers directors, Michel Fanton and Jude Fanton, and occasionally a local soundperson took a hundred and sixty hours of footage in eleven countries: Spain, France, Italy, India, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
There are interviews of farmers and expert commentators and documented seed saving, farming methods and cultural activities in both first world and tribal locations. Peasants in advanced countries, such as Taiwan, Spain, France and Italy share the same sentiments as indigenous Pacific farmers when it comes to traditional varieties.
Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi
“Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi” is a fifty-seven minute film made for Pacific audiences that celebrates the diversity of plants, empiric seed saving practices and diverse farming cultures around the world. The film explores the relationship between traditional biodiversity and traditional culture in the wide-ranging locations and shows that there are the same problems and solutions in each of them.
It is a David and Goliath story where resilience and persuasive logic triumph over seemingly invincible corporate agribusiness.
Reasons for the film
Today indigenous farmers around the world are facing increasing pressure from agribusiness corporations that push their low-diversity seed stock. Many of these varieties require high external inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
Pacific islanders are facing the same great challenges to their way of life, their culture and their traditional cultivation methodologies. They fall into the trap of replacing resilient seed crop varieties with modern hybrids and the innumerable varieties of root staples with imported low quality starch such as white rice, biscuits and noodles.
In screening and promoting “Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi” we seek reverse this trend. What better way to demonstrate value than by celebrating indigenous seed keepers in a film to be seen by themselves?
In our experience Pacific islanders easily make the connection between biological diversity and cultural diversity. We enjoy their “savoir faire” and ancestral dexterity. This features strongly in the film.
Content of the Film
The film seeks to introduce to people of the Pacific the varied people who save seeds, standing at the source of humanity’s diverse food heritage. We show the importance of a broad genetic base of diversity in our food for reasons of disease resistance, cultural preservation, nutrition, taste and enormous ensuing conviviality. We show how important is the genetic diversity these farmers hold to the whole world and the future of food.
A small crew comprising Seed Savers directors, Michel Fanton and Jude Fanton, and occasionally a local soundperson took a hundred and sixty hours of footage in eleven countries: Spain, France, Italy, India, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
There are interviews of farmers and expert commentators and documented seed saving, farming methods and cultural activities in both first world and tribal locations. Peasants in advanced countries, such as Taiwan, Spain, France and Italy share the same sentiments as indigenous Pacific farmers when it comes to traditional varieties. Likewise there are developed instructive motion graphics and a rich sound track using both indigenous and western music. Most of the music comes from our footage.
The audio options are original English soundtrack and Pacific Pigin (a melange of Bislama of Vanuatu, Tok Pisin of PNG and Solomons Pigin). Subtitle options are English and French.
We encourage viewers to work in solidarity with indigenous farmers around the world to restore traditional farming and plants to their rightful place as highly important assets of local communities and indigenous peoples. We encourage the further development of local seed saving groups and seed exchanges.
The final product of this project will be 1 000 DVDs that will be distributed for free to tribal schools, colleges, churches, hospitals and non-government agencies in the Pacific. The intention is for these agencies to show the film to their constituencies out in the villages. The premiere of the film will be at the Pacific Arts Festival in American Samoa. We will also travel to Western Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands this year to screen the film and train community workers to take it to the villages for screening. We are providing work papers that will allow these community workers to apply the lessons of the film to their current challenges and to inventory their unique food plant assets and to start their own local seed organisation or network.
Into the future
We will make continuing efforts to tell the stories of the lives of traditional seed guardians and their importance on the world stage.
Seed Savers Foundation is first and foremost an educational organisation. Seed Savers’ mission has been to help traditional seed guardians hold their farming traditions in high esteem. We have produced handbooks and manuals, run courses and trained interns to help gardeners and farmers in several countries share and preserve their seeds and farming knowledge. Seed Savers has helped to establish local seed networks in several dozen countries, with a hundred around Australia. Now the message will be spread through film.
Film clips can be found at youtube.com/seedsavers and our website: www.seedsavers.net
[Note: “seed” in this document is used for the broader meaning of propagule, including tubers, cuttings, rhizomes, bulbs and scions.]
Posted 1:24 PM by Tevita
Sagrex to market banana fries to fast-food chains
From : Sun Star, Davao
By Joy Romares-Sevilla
THE Sagrex Foods Corp., the only company based in Mindanao that produces frozen cardava banana, said the company will introduce frozen banana fries to fast-food chains in the international market.
Ferdinand Marañon, Sagrex chair, told Sun.Star Davao his company is targeting food chains outside the Philippines for banana fries, which can be considered as a snack food like potato fries.
"Gradually, maybe we can also introduce the product to fast-food chains here, but all of our products kasi are mainly produced to be marketed abroad," Marañon said, adding that Sagrex is into introductory shipment of its products, such as frozen ripe cardava banana, frozen turon (ripe banana glazed with sugar), and frozen banana fries to various supermarkets in the USA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Korea.
Marañon said Sagrex has a distributor in these countries. In fact, they are now distributing their products to Asian-Filipino supermarkets in the US.
"There are more than 1,000 Asian Filipino supermarkets in the US," he said.
Marañon said they are also planning to expand to other foreign markets where there are Filipinos.
"Filipinos are our initial target. There is no more resistance from them to buy our products," Marañon said.
Marañon was among the 14 businessmen who went to Saudi Arabia last year for a trade mission, which was spearheaded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
He said his products are very saleable to many Filipinos in the area considering that Saudi has 1.4 million Filipinos.
Sagrex is now in its advocacy of planting more cardava banana to idle lands.
Marañon earlier admitted that cardava banana has a huge demand in the world market, saying that it is going to be the country's next gold mine.
Posted 1:14 PM by Tevita
Farmers reap from banana fibres
From : AFRICA Science News Service
When Njihia Kamau embarked on full scale banana cultivation over a decade ago, little did realise that he would reap more money beyond the banana fruit.
Mr. Njihia, 52, who owns a two-acre farm in Maragua district, 70 kilometres north of the capital, Nairobi, makes a fortune from banana fibre.“We realised that there’s more money in fibre products than in the fruit itself, from a single stem, you can get four times more from the fibre product,” Njihia explained.
He said the banana fibre has added to the farmers’ creativity in their quest to earn bit money.
From the fibre, farmers weave the traditional baskets (kyondosi), photo albums, table mats, ear rings, wall mats, fruit mats, bible carriers, picture frames, among other products.
Farmers also make honey care packaging materials, which are used to wrap honey bottles. These articles sell from Ksh200 each and farmers sell up to Ksh3, 000 per day during the peak of the tourism season.
During elections, farmers make fly-whisks which are popular with politicians.A former teacher, Mr. Njihia said banana fibre has enabled his family earn decent income besides the sale of the banana fruit.
“From fibre, I have invested in buildings and tissue culture nursery,” he said.Fibre has also created employment opportunities for the youth in the country.
“Farmers are very innovative,” Njihia said at his exhibition stand during the Banana 2008 international conference in Mombasa.
Njihia who leads the 1,000-member strong Highridge Banana Growers and Marketing Association in the central province, however, bemoaned the fluctuations on the market.
He said that tourists were the major clients of the fibre products and business tended to be slow when tourism was off peak.
He said that during the recent political stand off in the country, which led to clashes among the rival political groups, tourism was heavily affected, so were the sales of their products.
“Global warming also has an effect, when it is too dry, we have difficulties in getting good fibre materials,” Njihia said.He expressed his members’ frustrations at the failure to penetrate the European and United States markets due to stringent procedures.
Njihia cites lack of patenting of their products as a drawback in their business because other merchants from other countries and continents easily imitated their products.
The utilisation of fibre products has added to unity among banana growers, as they are able to share experiences. Mgenzi Byabachwezi, a Ugandan scientist, said utilisation of banana fibre was similar in the Eastern African community.
Byabachwezi said farmers in Tanzania also make bags, mats, roofing materials, ropes as well as recycling it to make mulch which kills weeds in the field. Mwenebanda, a Malawian research associate, echoed his sentiments.
Stella Mwashumbe, a technical assistant at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, based at Mtwapa Research Centre, said banana varieties like bokoboko and mzdzavudza produce the best fibre because they are straight and strong.
She said while bokoboko was used for wrapping of tobacco, mzdzavudza was used to make ropes for tying animals like goats.
With competition emerging, Njihia says farmers should take advantage of tissue culture to plan for the markets. “With tissue culture, you can have many harvests at the same time, get better bunches and good tasting bananas,” he said.
He called for the change of eating habits in Kenya to take advantage of the more nutritious banana products.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 October 2008 )
Posted 1:02 PM by Tevita
Report: EU trade deals 'threaten' wildlife
From : EurActiv.com
Published: Tuesday 21 October 2008
The much-hyped trade and development agreements currently under negotiation between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries could put forests and the livelihoods of communities dependent on them at serious risk, argues a new report by Friends of the Earth.
The NGO warns that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) designed by former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson would impose an economic model on developing countries based on the export of raw materials that could seriously devastate their forests and wildlife.
One of the most controversial elements of the agreements highlighted in the report is an obligation for developing country signatories to lift rules limiting the export of logs and other raw materials. This already seems to be happening in Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon, which have initialled interim EPAs, according to the report. In addition, a requirement to liberalise investment in the forestry and agricultural sectors would give European corporations improved access to ACP natural resources, potentially leading to deforestation and the expulsion of small farm owners in favour of more export-oriented agriculture.
Although the EU has acknowledged the adverse environmental effects of trade liberalisation in previous Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIA), any mention of the impact on forests is conspicuously absent from SIAs of EPAs, Friends of the Earth points out. The bloc is overlooking "some very serious environmental and social concerns" by prioritising access to natural resources in order to safeguard European competitiveness and is sacrificing its commitment to sustainable development in the process, it states.
The NGO urges the EU to seriously rethink its trade strategy towards the developing world after new Trade Commissioner Baroness Ashton takes over (EurActiv 21/10/08). It believes that now is the right moment to act, as the passing of the 2007 deadline for the EPA negotiations and reluctance to sign off the ACP with little to gain mean that the political pressure to continue has diminished.
"The EU needs a new trade strategy which takes into account the needs of poor countries and allows them to protect their economies and environment from the worst excesses of the market," concluded Friends of the Earth's trade campaigner Sarah-Jayne Clifton.
The EU says it wants to put an end to global forest cover loss by 2030, with a 50% reduction in tropical forest destruction by 2020. Last week, it proposed to set up a new global fund, known as the Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM), which could provide developing countries the incentives necessary to undertake actions against deforestation (EurActiv 20/10/08). Deforestation accounts for 20% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The EU chose to negotiate EPAs which guarantee trade reciprocity as it became clear that preferential arrangements with the ACP were no longer feasible following the expiry of the legal WTO waiver on 1 January 2008
Posted 12:42 PM by Tevita
High Food, Fuel Prices a Threat where protection limited : IMF
From : PACNEWS
Pacific Islands particularly vulnerable to swings in commodity prices
*Inflation fuels concern in islands due to large social implications
*High food, fuel prices risk undermining past gains in region's poverty reduction
Inflation has been rising in the Pacific Islands on the back of strong increases in commodity prices. Even though commodity prices have declined from recent peaks, food and fuel prices are still above historical levels and remain a concern in the islands as most have only limited social protection systems.
Headline inflation in the islands has picked up since end-2007 beyond most central banks' comfort zone (see Chart 1). The inflation seems largely imported: Local fuel prices have increased steadily since December 2007.
As of September 2008, the pass-through of international gasoline prices to domestic retail prices has been complete for Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.
Food price inflation has also increased substantially. The large share of food in the various consumer price index baskets has magnified the impact. Moreover, because of low income levels, much of the food basket includes products that are unprocessed or have little value added, causing a relatively high pass-through of increases in imported food prices. This is due to a low elasticity of demand for these products compared to those with higher value added.
Higher food and fuel costs are a serious issue in the Pacific Islands as pressure is put on household budgets. Rising fuel and food costs put pressure on household budgets. Food-related expenditure is a large share of household spending. The food share in total household spending is on average 50 percent for these islands—about twice as much as in the emerging markets.
There are also signs of home-grown demand pressures. Credit growth remains high and excess liquidity pervasive in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Fiscal policies appear to have turned expansionary in the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu.
Core inflation has already started to trend up. Second-round effects are emerging in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Tonga, indicating that inflation has become more entrenched. Higher input costs (of animal feed and fertilizer, in addition to energy) have created upstream pressures on prices. Wage pressures are mounting, notably in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Balance of payments impact
The impact of the higher commodity prices on the Pacific islands' domestic and external balances has been uneven. Most of the islands rely heavily on imports—mostly of food and fuel (see Chart 2)—while their export base remains narrow. As a result, their external balances are vulnerable to commodity price spikes. The Pacific island countries rely almost exclusively on oil-based fuel for their energy needs, limiting the scope for substitution in production and consumption.
Net food and oil importers such as Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, and Tonga have been hit the hardest and these countries are currently facing wider current account deficits. The Marshall Islands have received an emergency foreign loan to support the domestic energy
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Posted 5:40 PM by Tevita
Conservation congress kicks off with dire warning on biodiversity
From : AFP
BARCELONA (AFP) — The world must act quickly if it is to brake an unprecedented die off of the Earth's animal and plant life that could have dire consequences for humans as well, top conservationists warned on Sunday.
"There is a clear sense of urgency," Valli Moosa, president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and a former environment minister from South Africa, told the opening session of the World Conservation Congress here.
"We must push our conservation movement to step up to the 21st century challenges, and meet the twin menace of climate change and the degradation of ecosystems," he said at the opening ceremony.
More than 8,000 ministers, UN officials, NGOs, scientists and business chiefs have gathered in the Spanish city of Barcelona to brainstorm for 10 days on how to slow the rate of species extinction and steer the world onto a path of sustainable development.
The congress, held every four years, will release an update on Monday of the benchmark "Red List", deemed the global standard for conservation monitoring.
The 2007 edition already shows more than a third of 41,000 species surveyed are facing extinction: a quarter of all mammals, one out of eight birds, one out of three amphibians, and 70 percent of plants.
The new biodiversity "bible" -- compiled from the work of 1,800 scientists -- is even grimmer, say researchers who took part in the effort.
Conservation work can no longer be confined to the narrow task of saving animals and plants from extinction, Nobel Peace laureate Mohammad Yunus told AFP before addressing the convention.
"Conservation of nature cuts across everything -- the sustainability of the planet, of the lives of poor people, and the environmental degradation that is harming nations," said Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel for helping to spread the practice of microcredit for poor people around the world.
With 11,000 volunteer scientists and more than 1,000 paid staff, the IUCN runs thousands of field projects around the globe to monitor and help manage natural environments.
Posted 5:25 PM by Tevita
Launch of an Enhanced Strategic Partnership to Benefit Life on Earth
From : The Nature Conservancy
Joint Efforts of UN Convention on Biological Diversity and The Nature Conservancy to
Help Governments Implement Global Conservation Treaty, Increase Protected Areas
BARCELONA, SPAIN — October 7, 2008 — The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and The Nature Conservancy announced they have entered into a groundbreaking partnership agreement to support the 191 United Nations CBD signatories in enhancing the implementation of the objectives of the Convention.
This new agreement formalizes collaboration between the Conservancy and the Secretariat of the UNCBD to support governments in need of assistance in achieving their agreed commitments under the UN Convention, which is administrated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This unique legally binding instrument was opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The Convention aims among other things to develop global strategies for conservation and protection of biological diversity by implementing national systems of protected areas, protecting island, freshwater and forest biodiversity, preventing invasive species, and addressing the impacts of climate change on people and nature.
In 2004, The Nature Conservancy was one of seven international non-governmental organizations that made a joint commitment to supporting governments to implement the newly adopted Program of Work on Protected Areas. Since then, in over 25 countries, the Conservancy has been an instrumental force in helping governments establish national partnerships among government agencies and civil society organizations to implement the Programme of Work in support of stronger and more effective protected areas.
“The Nature Conservancy has lined up behind the CBD and its government parties because that is a key place where conservation gets done,” said Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “This collaboration demonstrates how civil society organizations like the Conservancy can work in tandem with governments to help countries achieve significant progress in conservation and sustainable development.”
“The Bonn Biodiversity Summit held in May opened a new era of enhanced engagement of all stakeholders for meeting the global biodiversity challenges facing mankind. Achieving the 2010 biodiversity target which aims to reduce substantially the current rate of loss of biodiversity is possible but requires the active engagement of all stakeholders. We in the Secretariat are grateful for the support that The Nature Conservancy is offering, as a strong organization with global reach. We hope that other organizations will follow their lead.” said Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD.
Currently, the Conservancy is supporting implementation of various CBD programs across five continents and in more than 30 countries, and has worked with governments and other organizations under the provisions of the CBD to create more than 22 million hectares of new protected areas.
Through this new agreement, the CBD and The Nature Conservancy will:
• Continue to strengthen implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas, in collaboration with the Programme of Work on Protected Areas Friends Consortium.
• Continue to catalyze commitment and implementation of the Programme of Work on Island Biodiversity, in connection with the Global Island Partnership.
• Broaden collaboration to catalyze government action on forests, marine and coastal biological diversity, invasive alien species, inland waters, sustainable use, biodiversity and climate change, and other relevant programmes in consortium with other interested actors.
• Analyze common factors of success for catalyzing and implementing commitments under the Convention, particularly in the area of national, regional and international collaboration.
• Strengthen the science and understanding of linkages among biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
A significant new area of work through this agreement will be to understand and communicate to governments the significant linkages among biodiversity conservation and solutions to climate change. For over a decade, The Nature Conservancy has been a leader in helping develop tangible projects, such as Noel Kempff Mercardo National Park in Bolivia and Kimbe Bay Marine Protected Area Network in Papua New Guinea, to demonstrate conservation solutions to the challenges of climate change. The science, tools and learning from those and other projects will be synthesized and disseminated to governments to help them tackle the challenges posed by climate change.
The Conservancy has closely aligned its own conservation goals with those of the CBD. Doing so has enabled the Conservancy to work hand-in-hand with governments on shared conservation outcomes. For example, The Nature Conservancy is working towards a “2015 goal” to effectively conserve at least 10% of all major habitat types on Earth.
The Convention on Biological Diversity is one of the most broadly subscribed international environmental treaties in the world. Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro Brazil in 1992, it currently has 192 Parties—191 States and the European Community— who have committed themselves to its three main goals: the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The Secretariat of the Convention is located in Montreal. www.cbd.int
The Nature Conservancy a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres (7 million hectares or 70,000km2) in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres (47 million hectares or 470,000km2) in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Posted 2:19 PM by Tevita
Increasing local fruit production in Tonga.
From : SPC
A recent scoping study (2006/7) funded by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in Tonga found that, given the current low levels of production and the domination of the current industry by subsistence and part-time growers, there is significant scope to increase the production of the Tongan fruit industry, and to increase household income levels. The outcomes from this study were used to formulate a follow-up project of three years’ duration “Tongan Tropical Fruit Production – Improving Genetic Diversity and Production Capacity Building” funded by ACIAR. A planning workshop is being conducted at Vaini Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries
(MAFFF) to officially launch this project, which is a collaborative effort between MAFFF and SPC Land Resources Division (Genetic Resources and Information, Communication and Extension Teams). Expert advice on tropical fruit trees will be provided by Roger Goebels, who has extensive experience in the propagation and cultural management of tropical fruit tree species. Participants at the workshop will represent the public and private sector, civil society and the relevant sectors, such as agriculture, women, health, education, youth and tourism.
The tropical fruit project aims to increase the production, productivity and technical capacity of the Tongan tropical fruits industry with an emphasis on the local market. Specifically, the project will help improve genetic diversity and build capacity of local farmers and agricultural staff in production techniques, postharvest technologies, and marketing of local fresh fruits. Marketing of local fruits will require promoting the health benefits of fruit consumption, which will in turn strengthen the agriculture, health and nutrition linkage. Increased fruit consumption will contribute to a healthier population.
In the light of recent concerns about global food prices the small island countries of the Pacific have to increase and improve local food production systems, so that they become less reliant on imported foodstuffs. This project will make a significant contribution to local food production, thereby strengthening food security and self-reliance.
For more information, please contact Dr Mary Taylor at MaryT@spc.int. & Dr. Viliami Manu MAFFF Tonga (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.