SYDNEY, September 22 (IPS) – Securing an abundant, nutritious food supply for the current generation of Pacific islanders and future arrivals is a primary goal in this context. pandemic situation and the continued threat of extreme climate to farming on the island. But the region, where 50 to 70 percent of its people depend on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihood and income, is now one step ahead in that goal. The region’s agricultural gene bank, established by development organization, Pacific Community (SPC), is now considered world-class and a leader in building food supplies. real in the future.
The Pacific Community’s Pacific Crops Center manages a large research center for plant genetic biodiversity and an archive of seeds, tissue cultures, and DNA. The gene bank, which currently preserves more than 2,000 varieties of plants and crops in the Pacific Islands, is the winner Innovative Island Research Award at the Island Global Innovation Awards in April this year. The new awards program was launched last year by former President Bill Clinton and was endorsed by him in New York. Clinton Global Initiative.
“We have won awards for our strong research programs and the use of tissue culture to preserve plant genetic material. Through research, we are developing tissue culture as a means to sustainably preserve genetic material in the long term. Through tissue culture, we can also improve mass propagation and replication of genetic resources to meet high demand. Tissue culture is also better for the safe distribution and exchange of plant materials across national borders,” Logotonu Waqainabele, Program Manager for Pacific Community Genomes in Fiji, told IPS.
The award aims to reward and enhance the reputation of individuals and organizations that are leading positive changes in the lives of people in island nations and communities around the world. They are also part of the Clinton Foundation’s mission to advocate for creative and effective solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing the world. This year, the twenty judges include Anote Tong, former President of the Republic of Kiribati and James Michel, former President of the Seychelles Republic, along with Peter Thompson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Oceans, and Maria Concepcion . , Program Director of Oxfam USA.
Karen Mapusua, Director of the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division in Fiji, believes this award will also provide more certainty for the future of her work. “I think one of the key benefits will be funding and operational sustainability for the gene bank. To move to an increasingly sustainable funding model, we need to invest more. And raise awareness of what we can offer, so that people know what we hold in the Pacific, its materials and availability, for the world to see,” she told IPS. .
“Expanding our partner base and attracting other partners willing to support our programs, research and distribution will help us achieve full food security,” Waqainebele added. .
The gene bank’s services are global: it provides tissue culture, seeds and planting material services to countries in every region. These countries include all 22 Pacific island nations, but also African countries, including Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, the Caribbean, and in Asia the Philippines, India and Indonesia, among others. Other countries.
This year, Pacific Community opened two new facilities to support its international distribution. A molecular laboratory, which offers pathogen testing of genetic material according to international standards, and an isolation greenhouse, will be the center for receiving new plant imports.
“The important role of gene banks is to provide safe and clean materials. Our molecular lab screens genetic material, so that it can be safely sent to other disease-free countries,” explains Mapusua.
The importance of SPC’s work in the field of genetic resources cannot be overestimated. There is no food without seeds. And, looking to the future, ‘crop improvement and the supply of high-quality seeds and planting materials of selected varieties to growers are necessary to ensure improved crop production and meet the challenges of growing crops. environmental awareness is increasing’, the report of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The Cook Islands are among the beneficiaries of gene banks. It is vital to the “long-term conservation of the important genetic resources of the Cook Islands. There are more than 50 lines of taro, banana or banana and sweet potato from the Cook Islands at the Center for Plants and Crops of the Pacific for long-term conservation and future breeding to improve the genetic resources of crops in the Pacific. and other parts of the world,” William Wigmore, Director of Crop Research at the Cook Islands Department of Agriculture, told IPS.
“We are also getting new varieties with higher yield potential and better adaptability, resistance to pests and diseases, and better climate. These are important food crops for food security,” he added.
Now, as Pacific islands struggle to weather the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, it becomes even more important to provide reliable seeds to grow food. Unemployment and inflation rose, incomes plummeted, and food supply networks were widely disrupted. One World Bank A survey in Papua New Guinea in 2020 shows that around 25% of people who worked before the virus outbreak have lost their jobs and 28% of households have reduced food consumption. In the Solomon Islands, survey shows that 60% of households with children under 5 years of age have reduced their food intake.
In response, many Pacific island governments have placed a high priority on encouraging families to grow staple foods. For example, in TuvaluWorkshops have been organized by the government to train youth in agriculture, such as taro cultivation, and the Fiji Department of Agriculture has launched a program to provide seedlings directly to households.
“It is important to provide planting material for recovery. Mapusua told IPS is crucial to maintaining food security in the region. “It is very difficult during the pandemic because we have to ship these planting materials to different countries, but we are still able to maintain the collection and delivery of these materials to other countries. “.
However, even before COVID-19 emerged, island nations were already facing many threats to agricultural productivity, such as high exposure to extreme climates, natural disasters, pests and diseases. and the tendency to consume more imported processed foods. According to the latest findings of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)The Pacific island nations are among the ‘most vulnerable to and affected by climate change’, including more frequent and extreme tropical cyclones, heat waves and droughts, increasing food and water insecurity as well as loss of marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
To address all these challenges, the Pacific Community has a long-term vision and action plan that begins with investments in plant research and crop development for the last century. “Our role is conservation for the future, but also the development of new varieties. For the future, climate change, food security and nutrition are the biggest issues. So we have a big focus on conserving our plant diversity to help us develop new varieties that are highly climate tolerant,” emphasized Waqainabele.
Report of the United Nations Office IPS
© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service