Biodiversity is a precondition for sustained food security and livelihoods of people.
Indeed, according to the Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resource Division Mr Aleki Sisifa, it is essential for the very existence of humankind.
Sisifa made these comments during the official opening of the regional workshop on improving the governance and building capacities for the safe movement of tree germplasm between Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTS) in Nadi, Fiji.
‘The loss of agricultural and forestry biodiversity contributes to a deterioration of human health and nutrition, the spread of unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices and an inexorable narrowing of future options.
‘No country in the world is self-sufficient in genetic resources – it is not possible for a country to sustain its crops, livestock and forests solely on the genetic resources found within its borders,’ Mr Sisifa said.
‘Therefore’, he added, ‘we are all interconnected and dependent on one another for genetic resources.’
‘What would have happened, for example, to the food security and livelihoods of the people of Samoa, had Palau and the Philippines refused to share with SPC their taro genetic resources, after the taro leaf blight hit Samoa?’
‘Safe and equitable sharing is the rationale behind the most important international initiative in the field of genetic resources in the past decade, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA),’ Sisifa said.
The Pacific region has become the first in the world to agree on sharing its genetic materials, clearly demonstrating that the region is committed to cooperate when it comes to biodiversity.
‘This positive spirit began 13 years ago when the Pacific Heads of Agriculture at a regional meeting resolved “to put in place, both in their countries and through regional cooperation, policies to conserve, protect and best utilise their plant genetic resources,’ Sisifa added.
In response to the recommendation of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry, a two-phase project was developed: the South Pacific Regional Initiative on the Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG I and II).
These two phases of SPRIG have made excellent progress, collaborating with regional ministries, the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the UN Food and Agriculture Program (FAO) and SPC in fulfilling their goal of helping PICTs conserve, improve and better promote the astute use of the genetic resources of priority regional tree species to enhance environmental protection and to promote economic and rural development.
Since the phasing out of SPRIG in mid-2006, SPC’s Land Resources Division, through its Forests and Trees programme, has sustained the project’s work in the area of forest genetic resources (FGR), including formulating the regional action plan on FGR in 2007. The plan was endorsed in 2008 by Heads of Agriculture and Forestry meeting in Apia, Samoa.
Further, the Regional Germplasm Centre, following the recommendation of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry meeting in 1998 was renamed the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), emphasising the fact that forest genetic resources are an important component of the centre’s work.
The current facility, which boasts state-of-the-art equipment, is located in Narere, a 10-minute drive from SPC’s office in Nabua, Fiji.
The expected outcome of this workshop is to lead formal training in pest risk analysis and prepare a set of general and country-specific recommendations related to building core capacities among relevant government officers and developing specific recommendations for changes in practical procedures that will facilitate efficient and safe exchanges of wild and improved tree germplasm among PICTs. The workshop will also review progress among each of the project PICTs in their implementation of relevant parts of the ‘Priorities, Strategies and Actions, 2007–2015’ forest genetic resource plan.
Twenty participants from the region are attending the weeklong workshop organised by SPC’s Land Resources Division and is supported by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and AusAid.
For further information please contact Vinesh Prasad on telephone (679)3370733 or (679) 9938746, email
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SPC’s 26 member countries and territories include American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, France, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.