Pacific consultation on underutilised crop species

Farming, Normal


Underutilised species will come under microscope during a regional consultation aimed at assisting the Pacific communities to improve food, nutritional, income and environmental security.
The consultation will be held in Nadi, Fiji,on Sept 21-22.
Agricultural experts from Asia-Pacific, including senior scientists from PNG’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) will deliberate on issues relating to underutilised or neglected species of the Pacific.
Underutilised species are crop species with under-exploited potential for contribution to food security, health (nutritional/medicinal), income generation, and environmental services.
With an underlying theme to promote and expand genetic diversity, the two-day meeting is titled ‘Crops for the future: Towards food, nutritional, economic and environmental security in the Pacific’.
It is jointly organised by NARI, the Fiji-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), Biodiversity International, and Crops for the Future (CFF).
The objective is to formulate a regional strategy on ‘Crops for the future in the Pacific’.
Participants will be from the Pacific Plant Genetic Resource Network (PAPGREN), APAARI and its members in the Pacific region (PNG, Fiji, New Caledonia and Samoa), CFF, SPC, and Bioversity International.
Experts in the field and donor representatives will also be invited.
NARI will lead the presentations with a paper on the importance of genetic diversity in meeting the challenges facing the Pacific.
PAPGREN has been identifying critical constraints to promoting the use of underutilised and neglected crops, which include : 
* Lack of information/documentation on underutilised species in the Pacific; 
* Absence of region based priority list of underutilised species; 
* Lack of policy support from various government agencies; and 
* Poor awareness at all levels about the value and potential of underutilised species.
The consultation will address these constraints, explore the potential of underutilised species in the Pacific region and highlight the areas/gaps that would benefit from immediate action.
Participating organisations will present key papers on status of underutilised species in the various countries in the region, with regards to conservation, research, and utilisation; and raising awareness on the importance of underutilised species at all levels from the community to the policy maker.
Following the presentations will be discussions on information sharing, training needs assessment, concept note development and time frame for the full scale proposal development.
With over 7,000 plant species grown or collected for food, worldwide, less than 150 have been commercialised and just three crops ñ maize, wheat and rice supply half of the world’s daily protein and calories.
Placing too much reliance on a handful of crops is risky in the context of increasing population pressure and changing climate.
 The recent food crisis, financial and economic losses, and the growing impact of climate change have highlighted the importance of strengthening the self-reliance and resilience of Pacific communities through improving local food production.
Diversity can make a significant contribution to the resilience of food production systems.
Creating awareness on the benefits of these underutilised species and at the same time, improving their access and availability will strengthen self-reliance in food production, and make a significant contribution to improving the health of Pacific households and communities.