Nine Pacific Island researchers and extension officers from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Pacific Community (SPC) are on a study tour to the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Trinidad to learn and exchange practices covering staple crops such as yam, taro and sweet potato.

The exchange is supported by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and SPC through the European Union supported Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP).

SPC’s Adviser for PAPP, Vili Caniogo, said these south-south exchanges were extremely valuable given the similarity in climatic conditions, the much needed focus on food staples and common goals for the agriculture sector in both regions.

Mr Caniogo stated that a recent review by SPC of national agriculture sector policies covering 15 Pacific countries showed that food security and climate smart agriculture were key goals for many countries and, as such, exchanges will help implement these strategic goals.

“This exchange is extremely topical and is selected for strategic reasons. There’s evidence that Pacific crop staples such as dasheen (taro), sweet potatoes and breadfruit and related cropping practices are relatively resilient to projected climate change, hence the need to increase their role in meeting food demand,” Mr Caniogo said.

“We hope that these south-south learnings will help officers from both regions exchange, adopt and disseminate new, proven methods,” he said.

Sustainable development across both the Pacific and Caribbean regions is increasingly focused on food and livelihood security.

A recent spate of damaging disasters, including tropical cyclones Pam and Winston in the Pacific, and most recently Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, have highlighted the extreme vulnerability of small island states to such disasters.

The extent of devastation from disasters has been widespread, adversely affecting thousands of households, infrastructure and farming systems.

“As part of SPC’s programmatic efforts to improve resilience to the impacts of climate change and disaster in our region, climate smart agriculture is at the forefront of our contribution to the global agenda on sustainable development,” SPC Deputy Director-General, Dr Audrey Aumua, said.

“We are grateful to our valued donors such as the European Union and our partners, CARDI and CTA through the Intra-ACP PAPP for the significant collaboration on this technical exchange,” she said.

The two-week exchange in the Caribbean (9-27 October) will also involve interaction with farmers and exposure to root crops value chains, such as the University of the West Indies -Columbia cassava flour project, Red Stripe cassava beer initiatives and production of the traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread, called bammy.

The exchange is the third of a series of ‘south-south’ initiatives for knowledge sharing and learning across the two regions.

It follows two previous attachments by Caribbean researchers and extension officers with SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) in Suva, Fiji in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The exchange is being hosted at The Biotechnology Centre at the University of the West Indies and the Scientific Research Council.

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Salome Tukuafu – Information and Communications Management Officer, [email protected] or [email protected]