SPC-CePaCT article: Pacific promotes its unique diversity at the internatio​nal treaty

 

The uniqueness of Pacific diversity was promoted at a side event during the 5th Meeting of the Governing Body of theInternational Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture held in Oman in September. The side event was coordinated by the Pacific contracting parties to the Treaty and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

 

Banners, flyers and promotional material were displayed and there was a regional presentation led by William Wigmore, Director for Research in the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture, assisted by Valerie Tuia of the SPC Land Resources Division. The session was chaired by Luigi Guarino, Chief Scientist in the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) and former SPC Genetic Resources Adviser. Panel members were Mereia Lomavatu of Fiji, Takena Redfern-Viala of Kiribati and Dr Seuseu Tauati of Samoa.

 

The presentation highlighted activities undertaken by the SPC Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network (PAGPREN) and the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT). This included the taro improvement programme, climate change and food security projects, promotion of nutrient-rich bananas and breadfruit as well as work carried out on under-utilized crop species. The presentation also covered Pacific support of global food security through several partnerships, including those with international agricultural research institutes and the SPC-EU International Network for Edible Aroids network.

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Unique banana and breadfruit diveristy in the Pacific including under utilised species

 

The presentation highlighted the issue of the taro leaf blight devastation of Samoa's traditional varieties in 1993 as a'wake-up call' for the Pacific. It showed that, even though the region has many accessions of many crops, this does not guarantee protection against all outside threats, as some crops have proved vulnerable to pests and diseases.

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Photo (L) taro leaf blight disease (M) Moafanua Tolo Iosefa, SPC/USP taro breeder based in Samoa demonstrating breeding techniques in a training held in Fiji in 2008 (R) Samoan breeding lines tolerant to taro leaf blight using material from Asia-Pacific

 

The presentation also reminded countries of the need to realize that the genetic diversity we have in the Pacific is narrow.The region is now faced with climate change, which will bring another set of problems, and the only way to tackle these problems is for Pacific countries to support a wide collection of crops – from within the region and from outside it.

The SPC CePaCT Centre located at Narere, Fiji, together with its tissue culture and virus-testing units, has become the transit centre for crops passing into and out of the Pacific. In recognition of the work being done, the centre has funding in perpetuity from the Global Crop Diversity Trust for conservation and sharing of the collections maintained.

An agreement was signed at the 3rd Meeting of the Governing Body of ITPGRFA in June 2009, placing CePaCT collections in the purview of the Treaty. It acknowledged that plant genetic resources are a precious inheritance of humankind to use and to pass to future generations, and that as no one country is sufficient in plant genetic resources, sharing is a priority.

 

Ms Tuia of SPC CePaCT was invited to represent the Pacific region in another side event organized by both the Treaty Secretariat and the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) on 'Building a global food system'. Her presentation focused on the highlights of SPC CePaCT's work implemented with GCTD funding support, especially the core values of conservation, regeneration, repatriation and the impacts of such work on the region and the global community.