The Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN) is meeting this week in Pacific Harbor, Fiji to finalise the PAPGREN Charter and Pacific Seed Systems Roadmap and update the region on Plant Genetic Resources conservation to set out its work for the next five years. PAPGREN is a vital body working to provide food and nutritional security to Pacific Island countries and territories though a professional network that ensures long-term conservation, easy access to, and sustainable use of plant genetic resources of crops and trees.
- Director of Land Resources Division, Karen Mapusua
- Respected development partners from DFAT, Elena Avila Martin, and MFAT, Guy Redding
- Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and speakers, and esteemed colleagues.
It is an honour to stand before you today to address a pressing issue that affects us all – the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture in our Pacific region.
The Pacific region is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, rich biodiversity, and vibrant cultures. However, it also faces significant challenges in ensuring the long-term viability of its agricultural systems and the preservation of its invaluable plant genetic resources.
In recent years, we have witnessed the growing recognition of the vital role that plant genetic resources play in global food security, human well-being, and environmental sustainability. These resources encompass the diversity of plant species, varieties and their associated genetic material that underpin our agriculture providing us with essential food, feed, fibre, fuel. They are the building blocks of resilience, adaptation, and innovation for future generations.
The Pacific region is home to a wealth of unique plant genetic resources, many of which are adapted to specific local environments and possess traits that are critical for addressing the challenges of climate change, pests, and diseases. However, these resources are under threat due to various factors, including changing land use patterns, habitat destruction, invasive species, unsustainable agricultural practices, and the erosion of traditional knowledge systems.
To address these challenges effectively, we must enhance coordination and collaboration at all levels – within and among countries, research institutions, indigenous communities, regional and international organisations. Cooperation is key to unlocking the full potential of plant genetic resources for sustainable food and agriculture in our Pacific region.
First and foremost, we need to strengthen national and regional efforts to conserve and manage plant genetic resources. This requires the development and implementation of comprehensive strategies and policies that promote the in-situ and ex-situ conservation of native plant species and traditional crop varieties. It also necessitates the establishment and maintenance of gene banks and seed repositories to safeguard genetic diversity for future generations.
Furthermore, we must invest in research for development to enhance our understanding of plant genetic resources and their potential applications. This includes studying the genetic traits of local crops and wild relatives, conducting breeding programs to develop resilient and high-yielding varieties, and exploring innovative techniques such as biotechnology and genomics to accelerate the conservation and utilization of our plant genetic resources.
In addition, we must recognise and value the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous communities in the Pacific. Indigenous people have been stewards of plant genetic resources for millennia, possessing a wealth of knowledge about plant species, their uses, and their cultural significance. We must foster partnerships and engage in meaningful dialogue with indigenous communities to ensure their active participation in decision-making processes and the equitable sharing of benefits derived from plant genetic resources.
International collaboration is equally crucial in addressing the challenges faced by our region. We must forge partnerships with global institutions, donor agencies, and technical experts to access expertise, funding, and technology transfer. Collaboration can facilitate the exchange of information, best practices, and capacity-building initiatives, enabling us to build a robust network of support for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.
Distinguished guests, the path ahead is not without its obstacles, but it is one that we must traverse together. By enhancing coordination and collaboration, we can unlock the full potential of our plant genetic resources in our region, ensuring food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture, and the preservation of our natural heritage. Yes, let’s make it our responsibility!
Let us commit ourselves to this shared vision. Let us work hand in hand to protect our plant genetic resources, empower our local communities, and build a sustainable future for our Pacific region and beyond.
I trust you will make progress on these fronts this week, and I wish you an impactful, and enjoyable discussion ahead, and look forward to closer collaboration now and into the future.