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Lex Thomson2

The first phase of SPRIG was a three-year AusAID-funded project (1996-2000) focussed on the conservation, enhancement and wise use of priority forest and tree genetic resources in the South Pacific. Project countries included Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The Australian managing contractor (AMC) consisted of a consortium of CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products (Managing Agent), Queensland Forest Research Institute and FORTECH. Phase 1 of SPRIG acted as a catalyst and focal point in raising awareness throughout the region of the importance of conserving forest and tree genetic resources and the possibilities for their better utilization and development. It also contributed in more tangible and substantial ways through:

  • Provision of basic training in key subject areas of forest genetic resources,
  • Planning for conservation and sustainable utilization of priority species, and
  • Initiation of R&D activities on key indigenous and exotic tree species leading to identification and production of superior tree germplasm.

    A comprehensive review of SPRIG Phase 1 recommended a continuation of the project to a second phase with an increased emphasis on development and sustainability.

    The proposal for SPRIG Phase 2 follows a strongly supported recommendation from the eighth Pacific Heads of Forestry meeting held in Nadi, Fiji, (Sept., 1998) that the SPRIG project continue beyond the initial pilot phase (Phase 1). A second phase of SPRIG was also strongly endorsed at the Pacific Sub-Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources held in Apia, Samoa in April 1999 and subsequently recommended in the AusAID mid-term review report of SPRIG Phase 1. Three relevant regional organisations viz Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP), have recognized the importance of conservation and management of forest and tree genetic resources. Each organisation is keen to be further involved in SPRIG, welcoming an opportunity for greater collaboration, leading to integration of regional components of the project. Requests for extension of SPRIG activities to smaller PICs in Phase 2 were also received from several Pacific Island Countries (PIC) Governments, including Kiribati and Cook Islands.

    SPRIG Phase 2 has been designed as a five-year regional project. The project goal is to "help PICs conserve, improve and better promote the wise use of the genetic resources of priority regional trees species to enhance environmental protection and to promote economic and rural development". The project purpose is to "strengthen the capacity of the participating Departments and regional organisations to conserve, improve and better promote the wise use of priority genetic resources in order to promote sustainable rural development". The five components of SPRIG Phase 2 are:

  • institutional strengthening and regional networking,
  • conservation and sustainable management of priority species,
  • tree improvement,
  • demonstrating linkages between conservation, tree improvement and enhanced rural incomes,
  • project management

    The design of SPRIG Phase 2 differs from Phase 1 in that greater emphasis has been placed on development and sustainability issues at both the national and regional levels. The project aims to develop local institutional capacity and facilitate regional and national arrangements and cooperation such that the project's activities will be technically and administratively sustainable at national/regional level at the end of Phase 2. Institutional strengthening will be mainly through development of local personnel with a balance of hands-on training, technical short courses and tertiary training in key subject areas, and building on skills developed in Phase 1.

    Important development elements of SPRIG Phase 2 include:

  • development of local germplasm sources (seedling seed orchards and clone bank) and ex situ gene conservation stands,
  • development and demonstration of model plantings of the region's priority tree species, including sandalwood (village level plantings in Vanuatu and Tonga), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and Terminalia richii (semi-operational clonal plantings in Samoa),
  • enhanced Government extension nurseries, including development of vegetative propagation facilities in Samoa,
  • promotion of small demonstration outgrower schemes; whereby a few selected lead farmers are encouraged to plant clones of genetically superior tree material, and
  • development of income-generating forest genetic resource activities in support of community-based conservation initiatives in Tonga (Ha'apai group)

    The South Pacific Regional Forest Genetic Resources Expert group, an informal group of experts from Government, industry and NGOs, met twice during Phase 1 and provided technical guidance and information on regional priorities. During implementation of Phase 1, a very broad and diverse group of organizations and persons working on and/or with responsibility for forest and tree genetic resources in the South Pacific was identified, contacted and included in a SPRIG-maintained database. It is planned that these organizations and individuals be further involved and updated on SPRIG Phase 2 through the Pacific Islands Forests and Trees newsletter and electronically (through e-mail), and given all opportunity to input ideas and exchange information. The Pacific Sub-Regional Plan for the "Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use of Forest and Tree Genetic Resources" developed in Apia in 1999, will continue to provide an overview of regional priorities for Phase 2 of SPRIG.

    It is planned that the project's regional activities will be successively adopted or taken up by regional organizations, especially during the latter years of Phase 2. Representatives from SPC, USP and SPREP will be invited to participate in the SPRIG Regional PCC meetings, and to develop plans progressively for SPRIG regional activities to be incorporated into Regional organization's plans and budgets during Phase 2 and upon its completion. Political events and uncertainties in Fiji and the Solomon Islands have delayed the commencement of phase 2. It is anticipated that the second phase of SPRIG will commence in early 2001.

    1Received January 2000. Original language: English
    2CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Canberra, Australia

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