Batches of open-pollinated (OP) vegetable seeds needed in the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Niue to support crop production under the Capacity Building for Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific Project were handed over to organic farmer’s associations in Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Niue.
The seeds will help farmers meet crop production standards prescribed in the Pacific Organic Standard (POS).
The Pacific Organic Standard (POS) specifies that seeds and planting materials must be propagated under organic management for one generation in the case of annual plants and for two growing periods or 12 months for perennials before being certified as organic seed and planting material.
Open pollination is when pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans or other natural mechanisms. Because there are no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals, open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year.
Packets of long-bean, eggplant cucumber, watermelon, long bean, French bean, radish, cabbage and lettuce seeds were supplied through the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Capacity Building for Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific project.
The IFAD project is being implemented in the three countries to build farming systems that are resilient to climate change through the adoption of organic agriculture.
Founding member of Titikaveka Growers Association and a pioneering contributor to the POS, Teava Iro of the Cook Islands, said sourcing OP seeds in Cook Islands is next to impossible.
‘This is a great start, as we don’t have much option in the Cook Islands for OP’, Mr Iro said.
‘We will keep this in production and will make our own seeds to comply with organic standards.
We are also looking at the bigger picture in terms of sustainable use and the need to encourage farmers to use their own seeds and not rely on imports’, he added.
Importing seeds is expensive. The Marshall Islands Organic Farming Association (MIOFA) has had to grapple with costs of seeds at times reaching up to USD 80 for a kilogram.
MIOFA Coordinator Jabukja Aikne said that while they have encouraged farmers to plant more crops and there is strong demand from the community for seed supplies, accessing any variety of seed for cultivation is difficult let alone meeting organic standards.
In Niue, Peter Funaki is a member of the Niue Island Organic Farmers Association board and he said the seeds will be put to good use by encouraging more farmers into organic certification.
“We have 47 certified farmers but over the years as people got old, some moved on, it feels like we are starting again and as we make the call for more organic, the seeds are here to support that call.
“This is the first time we are given seeds like this and we are thankful.”