By James Laraki (September 29, 2013)
PLANT Genetic Resources (PGR) useful for food and agriculture are crucial in feeding the world’s growing population. These are the raw material that farmers and plant breeders use to improve the quality and productivity of our crops.
But no country is self-sufficient. This means all countries depend on crops and the genetic diversity within these crops from other regions or countries. And this makes regional and international collaboration and open exchange of genetic resource mechanisms essential.
Such mechanisms allow international and regional collaboration in exchange of the crops and their wild relatives.
Collaborative research and development efforts, especially in conserving and utilizing PGR for sustainable agricultural development and food security forms an essential part of this process.
In PNG, NARI is implementing a number of projects to enhance conservation and use of genetic resources locally, as well as contributing to regional efforts through partnership and collaboration with regional networks.
NARI is a partner to number of regional networks in the Asia-Pacific region that aim to promote regional collaboration for strengthening PGR for food and conservation. Key networks include the South Asia Network on Plant Genetic Resources, the East Asia PGR Network, Regional Cooperation for Plant Genetic Resources in Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Plant Genetic Resources Network.
There are also several commodity focused PGR networks, including the Banana Asia Pacific Network, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, Cereals and Legumes Asia Network, the International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice, and the Asia Pacific Forest Genetic Resources Program.
Working closely with these regional networks is essential as there are many common issues and concerns that need to be addressed collectively. It allows us to contribute to regional issues as well as benefit from the experience of partners. Identifying roles of participating countries and mobilizing funding are other areas that are possible through these collaborations.
The region is also fortunate that the Suwon Agrobiodiversity Framework is now in place. Our research and development efforts are now set to be pursued through this framework. This framework provides a strategic approach, towards both management and use through regional collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders.
The framework developed and adopted during the international symposium on ‘Sustainable Agricultural Development and Use of Agrobiodiversity in the Asia-Pacific Region’ in 2010 at Suwon in South Korea, will be the basis for all partner countries to develop their own national programs for conservation and sustainable use of PGR.
The framework proposes an integrated approach which seeks to ensure the continued availability of critical genetic resources. This is not only for the improvement of agricultural productivity and resilience of the production systems, but also to improve the quality of the supply chains, and achieved through effective collaboration of stakeholders working on a broad range of genetic resources for food and agriculture.
It also builds on current partnerships and regional experiences involving national and international organizations, integrating partnerships across the different sectors of genetic resources.
Moving forward, the framework is expected to: encourage all partner countries to adopt the framework in their national efforts; develop regional collaborative projects; donor/funding agencies to use it as the basis of support; strengthen capacity of sub-regional and regional networks members, and support activities that promote the use of underutilized crops and their wild relatives.
Some of the research projects that have been identified for implementation in the region include: enhanced utilization of germplasm for sustainable crop production in the Pacific region; collection of wild relatives of crops to increase availability and access to biodiversity for conservation and to improve livelihood of farmers; enhancing use of underutilized species for improved livelihoods and diversified diets; and to understand and manage changes in diversity.
Apart from maintaining the current germplasm collection of a number of staple crops, NARI is implementing a number projects and also making efforts to expand the crop improvement program. We have an important role to play on this front as PNG is considered to be the centre of diversity of many important species of crops.
Our effort towards collection, characterization, and evaluation, conservation and use of PGR needs to be up-scaled. Policy to support PGR development in Papua New Guinea has been drafted and we need to ensure enhanced development of PGR in research and development through prioritization and allocation of sufficient resources.
NARI is already part of regional networks for PGR action, and is implementing a number of projects relating to PGR. The new modern biotechnology facility will further advance activities in this area. With such facilities, we can to expand our crop improvement program, an important area of science and technology addressing food and nutrition security.
Development of global trends in light of climate change, increasing world population, and rising food prices will have an impact on food and nutrition security. PGR for food and agriculture has a crucial role and we need to exploit the potential in our PGR. In doing, we will contribute greatly to our food and nutrition security as well as contributing to the needs of the region and the globe.