Implementing the strategy for the conservation through use of underutilised crops in the Pacific
The Pacific region, home to an estimated 9.5 million people, is geographically, ecologically, sociologically and economically diverse. The region also faces numerous social and physical challenges simply by nature of the size of the islands, and their geographical isolation. The increasing reliance on imported food products has significantly affected the health of Pacific communities. Climate change poses further challenges to food security, through its impact on food production, health, infrastructure, the ability of countries to import food, and the ability of households to purchase food. In 2009, members of the Pacific Plant Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN) met to identify the constraints which specifically impact on the development of underutilised species as significant part of food and nutrition security strategy of the region. As a result, the regional strategy “Crops for the Future in the Pacific” that supports the conservation through use of specific underutilised species was put in place. The regional strategy contained the following six key elements: i) Generation and collection of knowledge/research; ii) Communication and dissemination; iii) Policy advocacy; iv) Market development; v) Partnerships; vi) Capacity building and institutional strengthening. At the same time, the network identified the following crops as the target species important in food and nutrition security, breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), bananas of the Fe’i group and/or Pacific plantain, Polynesian chestnut (Inocarpus fagifer), Pometia pinnata, giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii), bele (Abelmoschus manihot), the lesser aroids Alocasia and Xanthosoma and, particularly for the atoll islands, Pandanus spp. Research and development activities were similarly prioritised to include increased regional exchange of information to determine gaps and identify areas of future research focus. Increasing capacity for plant breeding and the use of traditional knowledge for the conservation and utilisation of these important crops were also seen as key to effective utilisation of these crops. This paper reports on the strategy and the progress made in implementing its various components.