Suva, Fiji - Pacific Island countries and territories must take a common approach to tackle challenges relating to the region’s widespread decline in soil quality.
This is one of the key outcomes agreed to by members of the Pacific Soil Partnership (PSP) at their second bi-annual meeting held recently in Nadi, Fiji which was hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC) with support from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO Australia), Landcare Research (NZ) and the European Union supported Pacific Agriculture Policy Project, implemented by SPC.
The meeting resulted in the development of the Nadi Communique on the 2nd Pacific Soil Partnership meeting which establishes an agreement by all members of the Pacific Soil Partnership (PSP) on existing challenges faced by the Pacific in soil management and productions.
The document also outlines measures to address these challenges, including regular reviews of the status of soils in each member country (with specific areas of focus and the establishment of a working group to prepare a draft regional implementation plan for the Pacific Soil Partnership (PSP).
Members of the partnership also agreed on three major areas of focus for soil management in the region:
1. Improving nutrient and water management in both high volcanic islands and low lying atoll
2. Proceeding with the development of the Pacific Soil Portal
3. Promoting innovation in capacity building and training with the particular focus on extension services for smallholder farmers
The Communique also reaffirms the PSP’s focus by referencing priorities identified in the Suva Communique (developed at the first meeting of the Pacific Soil Partnership in 2014). These priorities include ensuring soil information security is available to protect regional data assets, and building local and regional capacity grounded in the region’s cultural context.
In acknowledging the collaboration facilitated by the soil partnership, SPC’s Director, Land Resources Division, Inoke Ratukalou, noted that “partnership is so vital for us, no organisation can do this work on its own. Through partnerships, we can provide better opportunities and lasting impacts for our Pacific people”.
Senior Research Manager for CSIRO, Neil McKenzie, while addressing the meeting, highlighted the significance of CSIRO involvement in the Global Soil Partnership and other groupings such as the Inter-Governmental Technical Panel on Soils According to McKenzie, the PSP supports “the capacity for us to cooperate and work together in a way that we never have before”. Highlighting the significance of the PSP for marginalised groups such as women, PSP representative from Tonga, Luseane Taufa stated, “as a woman and a mother, we need to be aware of the status of soils as the basis for agricultural production. We play a significant supportive role in families and communities and must recognise the link between soils and our ability to provide nutritious food, to address food security and ultimately, non-communicable diseases and other development issues”.
“As Pacific islands, we cannot do this alone, it is a regional initiative. With partners such as CSIRO, we will have more opportunities to get global recognition for this work on soils in our region,” Ms Taufa added. The PSP, established in 2014 under the umbrella of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) is hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC). The partnership intends to build on existing regional soil networks linking national and local networks, partners, projects and activities to ensure that the partnership process is country-driven.
The second Pacific Soil Partnership workshop, held 11-12 April, brought together participants representing key stakeholders in soils research and development from across the region. These included participants from SPC, the Solomon Islands; Fiji; Tonga; Samoa; Tuvalu; the Federated States of Micronesia; Australia and New Zealand.