The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resource Division (LRD) is organising a workshop to help Pacific Island countries and territories strengthen their production of valuable crops by better managing pests.

The workshop, which is tied to the launch of a new project with the same goal, will take place from 20 to 24 February in Sigatoka, Western Fiji.

According to Tony Gunua, SPC Plant Health Coordinator, the workshop and the new project aim to build and sustain the capacity to develop integrated crop management strategies to support the sustainable intensification of high-value crop production for export and domestic markets in the Pacific Islands.

He added that the project plans to accomplish this by establishing advisory groups, strengthening information and support to stakeholders, strengthening research and development and raising awareness among stakeholders.

Previous projects looked at specific problems such as diamondback moth in Brassica crops in Fiji and Samoa, pests and diseases of squash in Tonga, soil borne pathogens of ginger in Fiji and integrated crop management for vegetables in Solomon Islands.

Certain issues constrained the development of the projects and prevented them from reaching their full potential and becoming sustainable. These included challenges relating to land tenure, lack of research capacity, rapid turnover of staff at national research organisations, weak links to extension providers and under-resourcing of these providers.

Therefore, Mr Gunua said, the new project will emphasise integration and include activities such as developing coordination and information-support systems for intensified horticulture, diagnosing emerging pest and disease problems and also developing management tactics and integrated approaches for intensifying vegetable production.

The new project will address a longer list of crops than SPC's previous Integrated Pest Management (IPM) project, which ended last year.

The new initiative will complement existing projects funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research(ACIAR) and implemented by SPC LRD: the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Marketing Access (PHAMA) project, which focus on strengthening the market supply chain to support agri-business development and improve market access while protecting human health and ecosystems from impacts of pesticide residues.

Fifty participants from around the region are expected to participate in the workshop, and the project will be implemented in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands.