Vanuatu is prioritising seed as an important sector for revitalising its food security resilience after signing a Direct Grant Agreement (DGA) between the Vanuatu Government and The Pacific Community (SPC), in partnership with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research New Zealand.
Made under the New Zealand funded Pacific Seeds for Life (PS4L) Programme, the direct grant will assist in seed production and will serve as a national level enabling support mechanism to strengthen Vanuatu’s seed systems.
“This DGA will complements the efforts and groundwork already done in Vanuatu,” said Mr Moses Amos, the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity. “Over 80 percent of our population depend on agriculture for income and sustainable livelihoods but the sector is the most vulnerable to natural disasters. We must build a resilient agricultural system to sustain income and the food security of our people.”
A team of seed specialists from SPC and Landcare New Zealand met with officials from Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Centre (VARTC) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to identify priority areas and capacity building needs.
“Vanuatu is a key partner under the PS4L Programme that also covers Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati,” said Gibson Susumu the SPC Programme Leader for Sustainable Agriculture. “Given that it is ranked one of the most vulnerable countries in the world in terms of natural disasters and climate change, it has recognised and prioritised its seed system. With SPC’s Land Resources Division mandated in the region to support Pacific agriculture, we want to strengthen seed systems at all levels.”
Effective seed systems are crucial to ensuring that plant genetic resources are available, accessible, and usable. Farmers are motivated to upskill on open pollinated seed growing and work within the organic crop guidelines endorsed at their national level. VARTC and DARD research and training work will support these province-based initiatives in Vanuatu.
Dr Gary Houliston, Portfolio Leader, Plant Biodiversity and Biosecurity at Manaaki Landcare Research New Zealand, added that these seed systems will have to be tailored for member country needs, including biosecurity channels, risk assessments and biosecurity regulations.
“The dedication of the VARTC and DARD staff is a huge asset to Vanuatu, and we need to look at how we can support them,” said Houliston. “Our short-term goal is to get the DGA working well and support it, with Landcare NZ technical input and training. We have six member countries in the programme, and we want to listen to all of them to provide the support they require.”
The PS4L programme is funded by the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs and Trade New Zealand and implemented by SPC.