Photo: A CePaCT laboratory technician in 2011
The Pacific Community turned 75 on the 6th of February 2022. As we mark 75 years of the Pacific Community’s Service to the region, on the 6th of each month we will feature a key moment in history for the organization.
The 1996 Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services meeting focused on the importance of safeguarding the region’s important plant genetic resources for food and agriculture from major pest and disease threats, such as the Taro Leaf Blight that completely wiped away Samoa’s most important food security and export crop, taro, in 1993. The Heads meeting took action with the establish of the Regional Germplasm Centre in 1998, which in 2007 became Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) in recognition of the importance of tree species to sustainable livelihoods in the Pacific.
CePaCT has grown into a world-class genebank since the name change, and has reached a number of milestones over the past 15 years.
- 2009 – Pacific countries through SPC sign an agreement with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) signalling the inclusion of CePaCT collections under the ITPGFRA Multilateral System.
- 2009 – CePaCT is globally recognised as the World Centre for Taro in recognition of holding the largest taro collection in the world.
- 2010 – CePaCT relocates from its Fiji home at the SPC Nabua Campus to SPC Narere Campus to larger facilities, signalling an expansion of its activities.
- 2012 - the Pacific Island Tree Seed Centre (PITSC) is established by SPC LRD, in response to a regional recommendation from Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry. In 2020, PITSC is integrated into CePaCT as one CePaCT.
- In 2022, CePaCT has over 2,300 accessions of 18 crops and 33 tree species with 23 staff (with an additional 10 expected to arrive in 2023), increasing from 865 accessions and 7 staff in the first year of statistical reporting in 2003.
- CePaCT facilities have expanded greatly in its first 15 years, moving from tissue culture facilities and two small screening houses to establishment of a virus indexing lab in 2010. In 2020 and 2021, a seed laboratory, molecular laboratory and quarantine greenhouse were opened. In 2023, CePaCT will establish a new regional cryopreservation laboratory.
- When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption devastated several Tonga islands in early 2022, CePaCT sprung into action, working with LRD partner programme Seeds4Life to deliver 1.4 tonnes of vegetable seeds within two weeks of the event.