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By ILIESA TORA

Apia, SAMOA – October 1, 2019: 3.25pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Use technical research to help build resilience and improve food and nutrition security in the Pacific.

That was the message from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Deputy Director General Dr Audrey Aumua this morning.

Speaking at the 6th Regional Meeting of Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) at the TATTE Conference Centre this morning, Dr Audrey said the SPC has been able to help in these areas, through its Land Resources Division (LRD).

“I am proud to say that with your support, SPC has been able to gear up to respond to the call for more diverse and resilient climate smart production systems,” she said.

“I would like to point out here that, over the years, LRD has built up core competencies in thematic areas that are unique in the Pacific – even at global level – for example the work on genetic resources, Participatory Guarantee Systems for organic certification,  the ground-breaking soils work on atolls with our esteemed partners. SPC is proud that these services are available to the region.

“I call on you to tap into these and other potentials for building resilience and improving the food and nutrition security and that you explore pathways to overcome some of the most pressing challenges and establish long term integrated impacts on your respective Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“To do so we need technical and financial support and more importantly we need to work together.”

Dr Audrey said the SPC’s genetic resources centre – CePaCT has assisted the region in adapting better to climate change.

And its ‘Seeds for Life’ program is helping increase the opportunities for countries to have access to healthy seed.

She said the key threats to the Pacific Community are climate change; erosion of food systems and their consequent public health implications; the increased incidences of pests and diseases and continued pervasive barriers to trade – some of them climate change related – others due to the context we operate in.

She highlighted the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Guam biotype problem.

“We have assisted national efforts in both the Solomon Islands and in Vanuatu to curb the spread of this pest,” she said.

“We also worked with our partners in establishing a regional strategic plan to guide the research agenda, increasing training to national biosecurity services, developing guidelines for phytosanitary measures, and providing extensive coordination and technical assistance leveraging financial support for a Pan-Pacific coordinated response to the plight of the CRB.”

She added that the LRD Division has been working with the region, at both national and regional levels to strengthen biosecurity systems and preparing for biosecurity threats that would affect trade relationships in the region.

“Over the last two years we have seen an increasing interest and budding partnerships in building capacities on biosecurity and fundamental sanitary and phyto-sanitary systems and standards that are required for effective trade,” she said.

“The above are just a few examples of how LRD as your catalyst can assist you both at regional and country level not only in providing technical – research for development services but also to address country specific needs on a more bilateral basis.”

Dr Audrey said the SPC is committed to working in partnership with stakeholders and called on the region to work together as a united group.

“The cornerstone of the Pacific Community is the recognition that we are stronger with One Voice, and that we can be more efficient and effective when we choose to work together to achieve regional outcomes which will benefit us all,” she said..

She pointed to the ongoing climate negotiations and the recently completed Climate Action Summit in New York as important examples “of our strength as a united region in tackling the critical issues”.

“I invite you to actively work with us, steering and regularly conferring, so that we strengthen partnerships and multi-lateral initiatives to maximise the benefits of our many programmes and projects for the benefit of all of our citizens,” she added.

Today’s program focused on discussing what has happened since the Vanuatu meeting two years ago and what needs to be taken on board in the next two years.

Note: Iliesa Tora is a participant at the ACIAR and ABC International Development  ‘Celebrating Agriculture in the News’ Masterclass, supported by Australian AID.

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