Twenty six participants from across the Pacific are currently in SPC's Pasifika Conference Room, Suva, attending a regional consultation to evaluate crop diversity as a tool for managing climate variability.

In his opening remarks, Acting Director of SPC's Land Resources Division, Mr Inoke Ratukalou, said, 'SPC's Climate Change Engagement Strategy identifies ways in which SPC will apply its technical expertise across the different sectors to assist Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) in their climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

'Changes in temperature, rainfall, loss of agro-biodiversity, salt water intrusion, extreme weather-related natural disasters and changes in pest and disease regimes will have severe repercussions for agricultural production,' Mr Ratukalou said, and explained that under all these climate change projections, crop and food production losses will occur, but the level of damage will depend on the adaptation responses and risk reduction measures put in place across various food production systems.

In 1996, Pacific Ministers of Agriculture recognised the importance of a regional effort in maintaining the unique diversity of Pacific crops to support food security. This led to establishing a climate-ready collection under the International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ICAAI), funded by the Australian Agency for International Development.

ICAAI provided funds to SPC's Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), which houses the collection, to help farmers better manage climate change through crop diversity.

The collection consists of crops and varieties that have demonstrated climate tolerant traits; they are available to PICTs for distribution and evaluation to determine their effectiveness in their own local conditions.

The meeting this week will hear some of these evaluations, as well as other components of the ICCAI-funded project, such as developing a methodology for screening for drought and salinity tolerance, and breeding for drought tolerance. In addition, presentations will come from countries that have been conducting agrobiodiversity studies, working with local communities to record their observations on climate variability and the response of local crop varieties and imported material to this variability.

Other presentations will cover the Pacific Climate Change Science Programme, and two reports from studies funded by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency under the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Adaptation Programme (PASAP).

Both studies have produced some very interesting results; one assessed the economic value of germplasm and crop improvement as a climate change adaptation strategy, while the other considered the key drivers for determining the uptake of crop diversity within the context of adaptive capacity analysis.

The consultation which will conclude on 30th March is organised by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community with funding from AusAID-funded ICCAI.