Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced the first investment from the recently boosted $1.3 billion climate aid fund, a contribution of $10 million to the conservation of Pacific crop seeds impacted by climate change.
$10 million will be allocated to the Fiji based Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), which since 1998 has been conserving the regions collections of 17 crops including yam, coconut, and 70 percent of the world’s taro varieties.
“Climate change is a major threat to Pacific agriculture, putting our regions food security at risk. This investment will increase the Pacific’s resilience by ensuring our regions seeds and plant materials are preserved and protected for future generations,” said Ardern.
“We are now seeing the knock-on effect of climate change with more extreme weather events like cyclones and droughts leading to outbreaks of pests and diseases that can be devastating for food production.”
Ardern explained that climate change and extreme weather are impacting crop yields and reducing supply which exacerbates food insecurity and increases food prices.
“This is an investment in the long-term food security of our region.
“CePaCT is part of the Pacific’s leading scientific and technical agency — the Pacific Community (SPC). As the Pacific’s crops and trees gene bank, CePaCT plays a vital role in conserving and facilitating access to the region’s plant genetic resources.
“The investment will help the Centre to scale up its work, which also includes conducting research into developing new climate resilient varieties of crops that are resistant to drought, pests, and diseases.”
Another important function of the Centre is the distribution of seeds and plant materials to farmers across the region, and part of this additional funding will also be utilised to improve those distribution systems, noted Ardern.
“As such the funding will help Pacific farmers to get improved access to the seeds and planting materials that will maintain and hopefully increase their yields despite the impacts of climate change,” continued Ardern.
“In announcing Aotearoa New Zealand’s support to CePaCT today, I would also like to recognise the work of two exceptional women at SPC, Karen Mapusua, Director of Land Resources, and Logo Waqainabete, Programme Leader for Genetic Resources, who are leading CePaCT’s drive towards becoming an international centre of excellence.”
Nanaia Mahuta added that the CePaCT support is made possible through Aotearoa New Zealand’s $1.3 billion climate financing commitment for 2022–2025, half of which is dedicated to mitigation and adaptation measures in the Pacific.
“It will see $5 million provided to CePaCT directly and $5 million provided to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, for the world’s plant genebanks,” Mahuta said.
Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw said the investment will help communities protect important crops for generations to come.
“By investing in crop diversity, we’re helping to boost the overall resilience of Pacific food systems in the face of climate change. A warmer planet will make it much harder to grow many of the crops that families across the Pacific rely on for their livelihoods. A warmer, wetter or drier climate can also lead to more pests or diseases that reduce crop yield.
“We can still limit the impacts of climate change on food crops by doing everything we can to limit warming. That means taking a leading role in cutting climate pollution, which is exactly what this Government is doing. But we also need to provide communities with the tools they need to prepare for the future and for the climate impacts we know we cannot avoid, which is what this investment will support.”