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Statement by Dr. Audrey Aumua
Delivered at the Launch of 'Pacific Seeds for Life' and funding announcement for Regional Genebank
27 May 2020
The Honourable Minister of Agriculture Fiji, Dr Mahendra Reddy,
His Excellency, The High Commissioner of New Zealand, Mr Jonathan Curr,
His Excellency, The High Commissioner, Australia, Mr John Feakes,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the official launch of the Pacific Community’s new regional initiatives under its Land Resources Division and the hand over of Seeds to the Fiji Government - and to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to respond to our invitation.
Today’s event comes at a crucial time when a significant portion of our population is in dire need of support in meeting their immediate food security needs due to disruptions in food supply chains caused by COVID-19 and widespread destruction of food gardens by TC Harold across parts of Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
The Pacific Community remains committed to working with our member states to achieve their development aspirations. Agriculture and forestry play a significant role in sustaining livelihoods, food and nutrition security and enhancing resilience for most of our vulnerable Pacific communities.
The projects launched today are examples of how we can respond to changing conditions, prepare to build a new level of resilience and achieve our common goals for food secure, healthy Pacific people and sustainable communities.
We are grateful for the support from DFAT and MFAT, key partners to SPC’s work in this work, for backing these two regional initiatives. These initiatives will not only to improve seed systems in the region but also support in the rapid provision of seeds and seedlings to support member states’ current response plans to COVID-19 and TC Harold.
The two regional initiatives are:
The Pacific Seeds for Life (PS4L) a project funded by the Government of New Zealand and implemented by the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (MWLR) in partnership with the Land Resources Division (LRD) of SPC. The project covers six Pacific Islands of Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to address the Food and nutrition Security (FNS) of many vulnerable communities in the Pacific.
Support to our Regional Genebank, the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This funding will focus primarily on the implementation of a Genebank Quality Management System for the Centre to help meet its current efforts to align itself to the level of other international genebanks with an ultimate aim for improved efficiency in its operations and thereby its services.
Today, we are also handing over the seeds made available under these initiatives to the Fiji Government.
The handover of these plant tissue culture materials and vegetable seeds are part of a much broader scope of projects being carried out here at the Pacific Community to support both COVID-19 and TC Harold response plans for our member countries. We have received a total of 8 country requests so far including Fiji for a total of 166 thousand kilogram (kg) of vegetable seeds and over 10,000 tissue culture seedlings from CePaCT. We are expecting more requests to come in for COVID-19 and TC Harold response.
In the near future, we will be launching another important regional initiative, funded by MFAT on “Pacific Awareness and Response to the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle or PARC project, which aims at combating the threats to the coconut industry, a vital industry that over 60% of the rural population depend on for livelihoods and food security.
Once again, I extend my sincere thanks to the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy for accommodating the launch of these initiatives and to receive the handover of the seeds made available under these regional initiatives. Utmost appreciation to our ongoing partners the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for their continued support in the area of promotion of sustainable agricultural production through support for seed systems and plant health.