Genetic Resources

The GR thematic team contributes to the LRD objectives through facilitating access to both traditional and improved agrobiodiversity. The Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) is the genebank for the Pacific region. It houses a globally unique collection of taro, conserving diversity for present and future generations. The CePaCT also plays a key role in ensuring that the countries of the Pacific have access not only to traditional diversity but also to improved crops, which can be crucial in the management of pests and diseases, and in securing food production within a changing climate. Crop diversity can also assist countries in taking advantage of market opportunities.

SPC Treaty-funded project supports first Pacific breeders' network
Thursday, 12 June 2014 11:40

At a recent workshop (28–30 May) for the project
Strengthening the resilience of Pacific agricultural systems to climate change through enhancing access to and use of diversity, held at the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Training Centre (VARTC) on Espirito Santo, participants established the first Pacific breeders' network.

The network is the way forward to address the lack of breeders in the Pacific to sustain breeding research, and to strengthen the capacity of countries to carry out breeding. As a long-term solution to address current challenges to food security, it is vital to breed a generation of resilient varieties of food crops that are rich in nutrients and tolerant to climate change and emerging pests and diseases.

The project is implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Land Resources Division's Food and Nutrition Security Programme and its Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT). It is funded by the Benefit-sharing Fund of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Treaty).

One of the components of the project includes a training-of-trainers workshop on participatory plant breeding and plant varietal selection. The workshop was conducted by SPC plant breeder, Tolo Iosefa, and VARTC technical experts (Tiata Sieye, Marie Melteras and Tari Molisale), with technical support provided by Dr Roger Malapa, Acting Chief Executive Officer  of  VARTC and root crop breeder, and Dr Abraham Kauttolamathil, yam breeder consultant from India.

The workshop participants were contracting parties to the Treaty (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau and Samoa), a participant from Marshall Islands, which is about to become an official party, and staff from VARTC and SPC. They were all excited about the newly formed Pacific breeders' network. The Pacific lacks breeders and there was no existing network before this.

Through this project SPC has established strong partnerships with its country members to strengthen the regional breeders' network. For example, VARTC has produced some new hybrids of sweet potato with short nodes that are tolerant to atoll sandy conditions and produce good yields. Some of these new varieties have been sent to the SPC Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees for virus indexing and sharing with Pacific Island countries and the global community. Palau, too, is interested, as Dr Aurora Del Rosario, Research Scientist from Palau explains.

'In Palau, women are farmers and they would love to do breeding of taro, sweet potato, cassava and yam – something they haven’t done before. They would be excited to produce their own new varieties,' he said.

One of the project outcomes is the sharing of climate-resilient varieties to support food security in the Pacific and the global community. This is done under the auspices of the Treaty’s multilateral system through the SPC CePaCT.

The current SPC breeding projects are funded by the Australian Government, the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the European Union, supported by SPC plant breeder Tolo Iosefa, based in Samoa, and Dr Vincent Lebot, CIRAD Scientific Coordinator for the EU International Network for Edible Aroids, based in Vanuatu. These projects are focussed mainly on taro and xanthosoma.

At an inception project meeting held immediately prior to the workshop, participants discussed sending some seeds from this project to the Svalbard Global Vault in Norway, in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Treaty. The aim is to ensure that Pacific crop diversity for its future generations is conserved.


For more information, please contact Valerie S. Tuia, Coordinator – Genetic Resources ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and or Tolo Iosefa, Plant Breeder,  SPC LRD; or Dr Roger Malapa, Acting Chief Executive Officer,  VARTC, or LRD helpdesk ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Photo captions: Photos by SPC

1 – 3 Participants of the first Pacific Breeders Network attending the training-of-trainers workshop

4 – 9 Participants practising breeding of taro, yam, sweet potato and cassava supported by Tolo Iosefa, SPC plant breeder, Dr Abraham Kauttolamathil, yam breeder consultant, and VARTC breeders providing training to participants