Responding to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) incursion in Vanuatu

crbg_beetle.jpgThe recent incursion of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) into Vanuatu involved a rapid response from SPC Land Resources Division to support local biosecurity efforts to manage and contain the spread of this pest.  The CRB incursion happened in the village of Mangaliliu, in Efate Island. National Plant Protection Officer (NPPO) Biosecurity Vanuatu contacted SPC with confirmation of the first CRB field samples. The samples were then send to Landcare NZ for ID authentication.  SPC through the EU Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP) and its Plant Health team engaged technical expertise and financial help that enabled the delimiting and containment of CRB within the initial incursion site. Ongoing stakeholder collaboration through awareness, mass trapping, field sanitation, biological control and surveillance ensured that CRB was contained, suppressed and potential eradicated from Vanuatu.

Background: The coconut industry in the Pacific poses unique potential with its advancement along with several opportunities for creating sustainable livelihoods, income generation and development.

Coconut industry in Vanuatu has unique community-level value and is the second largest contributor to foreign exchange earnings, contributing 45% towards Vanuatu’s GDP.

The CRB has the potential to devastate the country’s coconut industry as well as the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of people who depend upon it. In the Pacific, the CRB-G (Guam Biotype) is resistant to the virus bio-control.  With no natural enemies, it is spreading into new areas.  The CRB strain in Vanuatu is susceptible to both virus and fungus allowing for potential eradication.

Our Role: SPC through the Land Resources Division provided funds for containment, strengthening coordination, awareness, and capacity building to Biosecurity Vanuatu on the importance of the coconut industry and the threat from CRB.

What we aspired to do and how we did it?

Containment – Suppression and eradication (through mass trapping, breeding site clean-up, and biological control) and ongoing monitoring and surveillance.

Strengthened coordination mechanism. Biosecurity Vanuatu have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) but did not have the capacity or resources to translate the ERP into field activities.  Activities required a robust system of feedback loops between field people to managers and to the executive level.   This was the foundation for a Whole-of-Government approach for a State Of Emergency.

Technical capacity improvements through strengthening and enhancing social networks and skills, building knowledge and awareness.  Specific skills training involved building of traps and lures, mass producing of the biological control fungus, recognising CRB larvae and damage, recognising and effectively destroying CRB breeding sites and knowledge of the incursion pathways for CRB and other pest and diseases.

fereti_atu_crb_vanuatu_0.jpgCoordination of the 26 member countries of the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation (PPPO) with the Vanuatu National Plant Protection Officer (NPPO) to ensure effective regional support and coordination for the eradication of CRB.  This information feeds up into the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to ensure international awareness and support.

Coordinating support from Agresearch NZ on the virus biocontrol, international donor agencies, CRB scientific networks, CSO, NGOs, and private sector groups and coconut stakeholder organisations.

Capacity Building - Training provided to the Vanuatu Biosecurity officers and the key stakeholders carrying out the field sanitation.

Biosecurity Vanuatu staff have the confidence and capacity to assess and undertake ongoing monitoring of the original incursion site and manage CRB early warning traps in other potential incursion sites.

Early/incremental change demonstrate through statistics – evidence

Biosecurity services officers are confident to lead teams in the sanitation process, delimiting and have a debriefing.

Increased social skills and confidence to seek CRB information and collect data from different sources.

Community value of coconuts increased with recognition of coconuts worth as a major contribution to their livelihoods.

Increased in awareness of Pest and disease incursion pathways and the CRB life-cycle.

The approach LRD undertook was an asset-based process that was people centric and worked on development the strengths available. Partnership with the Government in capacity building, information and knowledge management, and building a sustainable system were key focal areas.

Lessons Learned

The political will and commitment of government is paramount, as there was limited resources and an emergency timeline to deliver the results.

Coordination of the Whole-of-Government approach and involvement (Government, Community, international stakeholders, CSOs, NGOs, Private sector, Regional Organisation) was critical for eradication to be possible during the State of Emergency as it affects the livelihood of people.

Building capacity, install a management hierarchy, and knowledge and processes that are transferrable to other regions and countries is important when a CRB incursion occurs and for other non-CRB pest and disease incursions.



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