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The Programmes and Activities of the Agriculture Programme

(Seumanutafa Malcolm Hazelman)


This paper focuses on providing a brief overview of the South Pacific Commission's (SPC's) Agriculture Programme (formerly the Food and Materials Programme) which is based in Suva, Fiji. It is intended that the information will fill the gaps in the discussion papers that were prepared for this Consultation and also highlight areas/programmes that are relevant to the Consultation's focus on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in relation to South Pacific Small Island Developing States.

The Agriculture Programme is one of five programmes of SPC - (others include Fisheries, Community Health, Community Education and Socio-economics), and involves five sections:

Programme Management: concerned with programme management, coordination and consolidation of programme activities, representation and networking.

General Agriculture: involved mainly with crop diversification focused on coconuts and coconut processing, bananas, root and spice crops, management and leadership training, technical support for training in extension, extending linkages, and providing consultancy support.

Animal Health and Animal Production: concerned with programme management, coordination and consolidation of programme activities, representation and networking.

Agricultural Information: involved with general information support, library services, training, information packaging, networking and publications.

Plant Protection (PPS): the largest technical support tool for the Region as regards plant protection matters. Apart from implementing project specific work, the PPS also represents the Region on several international plant protection bodies, most important of which are the Committee of Experts on Phytosanitary Measures, and Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Organization and the Regional Plant Protection Organizations, both bodies that deal with plant protection including quarantine matters regionally and globally.

The primary objectives of the SPC's Agriculture Programme are mainly based on the recommendations made at the biennial Heads of Agriculture (PHALPS) meetings. In 1996, a total of 20 prioritized recommendations were made at PHALPS 12 held in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Others are highlighted at meetings of Government Representatives (CRGA and Conference) or as a result of emergencies or via country requests.

Currently, the Programme employs 31 staff members which includes 18 professional officers and 13 support staff. Sixteen of these staff are based in Fiji, two in Pohnpei, Federal States of Micronesia, eight in Honiara, Solomon Islands, two in Papua New Guinea, (one in the Solomon Islands and the other in Vanuatu). An important and urgent need is for a publications/information position for the programme as well as staff (and funding) for the PAIS project.


The goals and strategies for the Agriculture programme during the current SPC Corporate Plan (1996-1998) are as follows:

Goal 1: To promote land and agricultural management practices which are currently acceptable and both economically and environmentally sustainable:


- disseminate information via training, publications and other appropriate communications channels;
- provide technical support to national crop diversification efforts;
- liaise with and cooperate with relevant national, regional and international agencies and institutions involved with similar goals.

Goal 2: To strengthen national capabilities to reduce losses due to crop pests (insects, pathogens and weeds) and animal diseases already present, and prevent the introduction of new pests and diseases.


- undertake appropriate research, advisory and technical support to selected countries targeted at priority problems and needs;
- facilitate quarantine campaigns regionally and nationally.

Goal 3: To facilitate trade through improved quarantine procedures.


- provide secretariat support for the Pacific Plant Protection Organization;
- facilitate country dialogue and promote the use of quarantine protocols;
- undertake research, advisory and training support to countries on quarantine and post-harvest concerns.

Goal 4: To strengthen access to, and use of, sound sustainable development information for all stake holders.


- provide library and information support services to member countries;
- collect, package and distribute appropriate information relating to sustainable development;
- train staff of Government Ministries, NGOs, farmers and farmer groups in information packaging, dissemination and use;
- promote dialogue and interchange between specialists, NGOs and stake holders via multiple communications channels.


To meet the above-mentioned goals and objectives, the Programme currently implements a range of projects on behalf of the Region. These include the following:


- Crop Diversification which provides coordination and technical support to Pacific Island Countries (PICs) in crop diversification efforts.

- Coconut Processing Technologies which, under a Phase 2, aims to carry out market studies on potential coconut commodities (selected under Phase 1) and train staff from the private sector in these commodities/technologies.

- Coconut Germplasm Conservation and Utilization which involves collaboration with ADB and COGENT in collecting, describing, conserving and utilizing local coconut germplasm.

- Banana Black Sigatoka Evaluation which aims to make available Black Sigatoka and other banana and plantain cultivars.

- Gender Sensitization Training for Research and Extension Heads which aims to provide gender training for Ministry of Agriculture staff from at least seven PICs.

- Management/Leadership Training for Heads of Agriculture which aims to provide (at biennial meetings) management/leadership training for Heads of Agriculture.

Animal health

- Animal Health Service which provides general veterinary services support to PICs such as clinical services and information on quarantine legislation.

Plant protection

- SPC/EU Pacific Plant Protection Service Project which is aimed at preventing crop losses due to new or existing agricultural pests and diseases using environmentally friendly techniques. Several special projects are included such as that on Plant Protection Curriculum in High Schools, quarantine protocols, nematodes in root and tuber crops, viruses and yams and taro virus indexing.

- SPC/AusAID/UNDP/FAO Regional Fruit Fly Project which aims to upgrade the technical knowledge and understanding of the impact of fruit flies on production and export of agricultural products, reduce levels of damage, strengthen quarantine services and private sector capacities to overcome quarantine restrictions and to improve the technical skills and capacity of national staff.

- C/EU Taro Beetle Biological Control Project which undertakes research and extension relating to the biological control of the Taro Beetle.

- SPC-German Biological Control Project which aims to ensure biological control through integrated pest management. The target pests include the major Cabbage pests (the Diamond Back moth and the Asian cornborer, the Corn Borer, the Bean podborer), and the biocontrol of two weeds - Lanatana camara and Mimosa invisa. In addition, the project focuses on the analysis of pest outbreaks, such as the outbreak of the Rhinoceros Beetle.

- SPC/AusAID Plant Protection in Micronesia Project which focuses on providing technical support in plant protection especially regarding all aspects of plant quarantine for Federal States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

Agriculture information

- Pacific Sustainable Development Networking Programme which aims to facilitate the access of Pacific island countries to information on sustainable development.

- Pacific Agriculture Information System Project which aims to collect, package and distribute soils and crops information for use in decision making relating to cropping and cropping systems options.

Multidisciplinary projects

The programme is also active in multidisciplinary projects of the Commission, especially those related to rural development (currently being implemented in the Cook Islands, Kiribati and Palau), household food security and nutrition projects.


Formal linkages have been initiated with appropriate regional and international agencies/bodies which have similar interests to that of the Programme. To date, formal memoranda of understanding have been signed with ADAP, ACIAR, FAO, APPPO, USP, GTZ, ORSTOM, the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) in Taiwan, and with IBSRAM's PACIFICLANDS project. These linkages have enabled collaboration and support in projects and activities that have benefited the Region. Several others are in the pipeline (e.g. CIRAD).

The Programme also represents the Region on a number of regional and international bodies/networks which also bring support to the Region. These include INIBAP/ASPNET for bananas and plantains, BUROTROP for coconuts, COGENT for coconut germplasm concerns, OIE for animal health concerns, APPPO, CEPM and IPPO for plant protection concerns.



The Programme has, over the past several years maintained close contact with the FAO/UNDP Pacific Regional Forestry Programme via attendance of annual meetings of Heads of Forestry and has collaborated on several activities (such as co-sponsorship a Sandalwood workshop and in information-related activities). As well, the Programme has taken steps to upgrade its library collection to cater to forestry/agroforestry needs. The Programme has also been identified as a possible host for the FAO/Regional Forestry Programme.

FAO's World Food Summit

The Forum Meeting held in 1995 in Madang, Papua New Guinea agreed to support FAO's World Food Summit to be held in November 1996. At the SPOCC meeting held in Fiji in November 1995, it was agreed that the SPC coordinate and facilitate the Region's position and preparations for the World Food Summit. Consultation activities have commenced with FAO and Forum Secretariat to start planning for this important international initiative where the input of governments and administrations will be required. It will certainly require follow-up projects and activities.

Regional coordination in agriculture

At the 10th PHALPS (Heads of Agriculture) Conference held in 1994, attention was given to the important issue of coordination of agricultural efforts and programmes in the Pacific Region. This was in acknowledgement of the fact that there were projects, sponsored by different donors, implemented and/or proposed which often lead to duplication and competition which in the climate of diminishing resources is something to be avoided. PHALPS was promoted as a possible "super coordinating body" with a strong emphasis on its independence from any other institution.


The SPC's Agriculture Programme is already active in many areas relating to priority concerns of member countries and those related to sustainable development of South Pacific Small Island Developing States. To avoid duplication and competition, linkages and collaboration is needed. It currently collaborates and networks with a number of national, regional and international bodies/ agencies having similar goals and interests. SPC looks forward to continuing collaboration with FAO and other organizations.

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