18th COGENT SC meeting and workshop, Fiji

SAVING THE PACIFIC’S COCONUTS

Coconut-producing countries and international organizations meeting in Fiji from 31st October to 4th November 2017 to discuss the future of coconut genetic resources conservation

The Steering Committee of the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT)  met with other international coconut stakeholders at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi, Fiji from the 31st October to 4th November 2017, to determine how best to sustain the conservation and use of coconut genetic diversity for the Asia-Pacific region and globally. The workshop i) finalised and launched a new Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources (the Strategy), particularly exploring how this relates to the Pacific region; ii) discussed measures to assure the technical and organizational underpinning for conservation and use of coconut genetic diversity in the Pacific and globally, and iii) considered how best  to address key biotic (pests and diseases) an threats to coconut diversity in the Pacific, as well as other regions. Achieveing these three objectives over the longer term were encapsulated in 10 steering committee recommendations:

 

  1. Interim coordination of COGENT
  2. New Hosting arrangement for COGENT Secretariat
  3. New COGENT Secretariat and Coordinator recruitment
  4. Global Coconut GR Conservation and Use Strategy Implementation (plus annex 4.1)
  5. Coconut Genebanks Audit
  6. Securing Coconut Genebanks’ land tenure for the long term
  7. Managing Key Biotic stresses threatening coconut
  8. Accessing Coconut Genomics Mapping Populations (in Côte d’Ivoire)
  9. Safe coconut germplasm exchange- via in vitro zygotic embryos
  10. Towards an upgraded Coconut Genetic Resources Database

 

Apart from its obvious importance to Fiji and the Asia-Pacific region (which accounts for 80% of global production), coconut is grown in around 100 tropical countries, on more than 12 million hectares and by countless homesteads, and is culturally and economically important to many millions of smallholder households. Annual global output is estimated at around 61 million tonnes (copra, coir, water and oil), with a gross value of more than US$50 billion. Coconut diversity is conserved as around 1,500 accessions in 24 field genebanks across the world, which face various threats. The future of coconut production and associated livelihoods critically depends on growers having ready access to the broad genetic diversity of this crop. Most plantations’ and smallholders’ palms are senile and relatively unproductive, and need replanting.  Many growers do not even know what variety they have planted, nor how to best replace their old palms with elite and disease-free planting material, that will fulfil their needs in terms of productivity and quality, and traits to resist climate change, droughts and pest and diseases. We need to plant more than 700 million palms to replace senile stocks, and further investment is needed to build coconut stakeholders’ capacity and resources across the value-chain, particularly for genetic resources conservation. In addressing these challenges, The Strategy marks a route to enhanced wellbeing for millions of coconut smallholders across the globe.

Representatives from the Fijian government and the Pacific Community (SPC) inaugurated the meeting. The Pacific Community (SPC)  (co-)hosted the meeting, which was held directly after the Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) Ministerial Session in Kiribati, and the Pacific Week of Agriculture in Vanuatu. In the week following , a meeting in Samoa, supported by the UK’s Darwin Initiative,  looked at technical issues associated with identifying and conserving coconut diversity in the Pacific region.

The 27 participants in the COGENT meeting represented 12 coconut-growing countries (Fiji, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga and Vanuatu) and 6 international organizations: the Australian Centre for Agricultural Research (ACIAR), APCC (Indonesia), Bioversity International/CGIAR (France and India), CIRAD (France and New Caledonia), the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) (Germany) and SPC (Fiji). Sri Lanka will be represented by the COGENT SC Chair Dr Lalith Perera, Deputy Director (Research) of the Sri Lankan Coconut Research Institute (CRI). The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) provided a pre-recorded presentation on article 15 of the Treaty, as the 7th Session of the Governing Body was taking place the same week in Kigali, Rwanda (see http://www.fao.org/3/a-mv091e.pdf).

  1. The SC meeting effectively revived an ‘esprit de reseau’ for Coconut genetic resources, and for considering priority actions for COGENT in the coming decade.
  2. The 2014 recommendations were reviewed, to consider what progress has been made since then, and ten new recommendations were drafted and agreed by members during the SC meeting (see above for hyperlink)

The three meeting objectives were largely acheived: 

  1. Finalise  the coconut GR conservation strategy : a) The overall narrative was finalised and brochure published, but issues are still to be resolved over whether to include/exclude some content in chapter 3 (Where do we want to go); b) COGENT’s International thematic Action Groups (ITAGS) will be revitalized- the make up and leadership nominations will be completed Q1 2018; and c) The Global  Strategy implementation plan was discussed, and will be elucidated and then implemented via revitalised ITAGs Q3 2018 onward. The brochure is availablke on the website 
  2. Agree a  more sustainable hosting arrangement for the COGENT Secretariat, this was discussed, agreed and  will be implemented in the coming months: a) SC members have agreed that APCC will act as host with technical inputs from CIRAD and SPC, but transparent and independent COGENT governance needs to be articulated; and b) transitional support will be needed,
  3. Outline  a work plan to address key biotic threats to coconut diversity in the pacific region (phytoplasma and rhino beetle)  - the discussions expanded what had already  been discussed during the pacific week of Agriculture held in early October, and will be summarised in the meeting report

The 39 COGENT member countries gratefully acknowledge the support of ACIAR, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), APCC, Bioversity international, CIRAD, the Fijian Government, SPC and the UK Darwin Initiative.

 

Date: 31st October to 4th November 2017

Some external participants attended open sessions (see agenda at link) or know more contact: cogent.secretary@cgiar.org or via the above contact numbers

Websites:
APCC: http://www.apccsec.org/cocotech-2014.html
Bioversity International http://www.bioversityinternational.org/
CGIAR http://www.cgiar.org/
CIRAD http://www.cirad.fr/
COGENT http://www.cogentnetwork.org/
CRI http://www.cri.gov.lk/web/index.php?lang=en
GCDT www.croptrust.org
SPC www.spc.int
UK Darwin Initiative http://www.darwininitiative.org.uk/