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.

Vegetable seedling manual to assist farmers in post-disaster rehabilitation
Monday, 13 May 2013 12:32

One outcome of a collaborative effort of national and regional organisations and the private sector to improve farmer’s access to seedlings after a natural disaster was the publication of Fiji’s first practical guide for growing vegetable seedlings.

Launched in Nadi last week, the publication was produced by the Small and Micro Enterprise Development Project for Sustainable Seedling Supply, a collaboration of SPC and AusAID, which aims to establish new nurseries throughout Fiji and improve famers’ access to seedlings.

To quickly return a nation’s food production to normal levels after a natural disaster such as a flood or a cyclone is critical for food security and income generation. A major constraint to achieving this is lack of seedlings, especially for quick-growing cash crops. Seedlings are generally better then seeds for growing crops, as they already have an established root system, leading to a more robust crop in a shorter time.

Fiji has weathered many a natural disaster in recent times, causing interruptions to the food supply at critical times. There is a limited number of nurseries in the country, and those in operation are vulnerable to strong winds and flood damage, rendering them inadequate to supply seedlings immediately after a natural disaster. 

At the official launch of the seedling manual, Australian Acting High Commissioner Glenn Miles described the SPC-AusAID collaborative effort to assist farmers rehabilitate their farms after a natural disaster and also to promote the farming of new fruits and vegetables.

He said that the project faced significant challenges in raising awareness about the benefits of using seedlings and the development of appropriate nursery designs and management guidelines to promote the sustainable supply of seedlings to local farmers. However, challenges were overcome and progress was made.

‘I am proud to point out the achievements of the project to date – over 550 farmers have been trained on basic seedling production, 11 new nurseries have been established throughout Fiji and an additional four nurseries have been upgraded. Of the 15 nurseries assisted under the project, six (40%) are owned by women or women’s organisations, and during the period 2011 to 2012 these nurseries produced in excess of one million seedlings.’

The Acting High Commissioner said another key component of the project was the development of a disaster mitigation strategy for nursery enterprises. This involved the design and construction of new ‘cyclone-ready’ nurseries that could be quickly dismantled, with seedling trays transferred into customised shipping containers, where they could be safely packed away.

‘Two prototype designs were put to the test during Cyclone Evan last December and I’m proud to say that nursery owners who dismantled their nurseries suffered minimal damage. Also, through the use of the new storage containers, approximately 49,000 seedlings were saved, which assisted nurserymen and farmers to immediately begin rehabilitation of their crops after the cyclone.

‘The Australian Government is proud to have been a part of this project and, while we acknowledge the successes to date, we also realise that this is yet another stepping stone in the development of the nursery industry in Fiji and there is still much more work to be done.’

SPC Land Resources Division Director Mr Inoke Ratukalou said, ‘Fiji is one of 22 Pacific Island countries and territories that LRD provides technical assistance to. Fiji being an agricultural economy, the agriculture sector plays a major role in the lives of Fijian people. During the period 2009–2012, there were three cyclones and three floods in Fiji, and the Nadi area was severely affected. Agriculture sustained heavy damage. Developing partners, donor-agencies and the government collaborate during these challenging times to put in measures for quick recovery of agriculture. The decision to venture into a nursery seedling enterprise is a great help in post-disaster rehabilitation efforts.’

Recognised for their contributions to the project is Koko Siga Fiji Ltd Managing Director, Dr Andrew McGregor, for his technical assistance in the design and implementation of the project. Mr Sant Kumar of Bula Agro Enterprises was local technical coordinator and farmer nursery chief trainer, and he contributed to the design of the new cyclone-ready nurseries. Others who made significant contributions to project implementation or as workshop trainers include staff of the Ministry of Primary Industry, Kyle Stice of Kokisiga and publication author, BP Syna, Roger Goebel, Steve Corderio and Saten Reddy.

The launch at the Nadi-based Bula Agro Enterprises was organised by SPC Land Resources Division.

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