PGR networks have been instrumental in strengthening national programmes and international collaboration in all regions of the world. There is especially strong rationale for a network in the Pacific, because the region is made up of small, isolated countries which nevertheless share many crops, agricultural systems, and indeed problems. This combination of isolation and commonalities is well-suited to a network which can facilitate the sharing of resources and information. This was recognized by the Pacific Ministers of Agriculture, who in 1996, resolved “to put in place, both in their countries and through regional cooperation, policies to conserve, protect and best utilize their plant genetic resources,” and asked the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to help. The SPC LRD responded to this resolution through the establishment of Regional Germplasm Centre (RGC) in 1998 – this is now the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), and also by putting in place the Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network, or PAPGREN. The concept of a PGR network was endorsed by Pacific Directors of Agriculture in 2001.
A Pacific Agricultural PGR Action Plan was developed by PAPGREN partners at a regional workshop in September 2001. Funding for the network was provided by ACIAR and NZAID during Phase 1 and NZAID during Phase 2. Bioversity International has provided technical support throughout both Phases. PICTs participating in PAPGREN: American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, (CNMI), Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The overall objective of PAPGREN has been: “To promote the conservation and use of the genetic resources of crops of local importance in order to ensure long-term conservation and access to these genetic resources by Pacific Island populations, which in turn will contribute to sustainable development, food security and income generation. The key outputs of Phase 1 and Phase 2 have focused on:
- Development of appropriate management strategies for agricultural PGR in the Pacific
- Promotion of the safe exchange of germplasm within and outside the region
- Development and coordination of documentation of agricultural PGR
- Increased awareness of the importance of PGR at the national and regional level
- Support for the development of national and regional policies to promote the conservation and sustainable use of PGR with adequate sharing of benefits