National Tropical Botanical Garden presents breadfruit check to Samoa
KALAHEO, Kaua‘i — The Government of Samoa received a check for sales of a Samoan breadfruit cultivar as a result of a landmark benefit-sharing agreement entered into over four years ago. The check was presented in early December by Dr. Diane Ragone, Director of the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), which is headquartered in Hawai‘i, to the Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries of Samoa, in the capital of Apia.
In 2008, NTBG entered into a memorandum of understanding with government of Samoa that the nonprofit NTBG is designated as Samoa’s agent/representative to distribute Samoan breadfruit varieties globally through Cultivaris/Global Breadfruit, a horticultural partner with growing facilities in California, Europe, and Central America. For each tree sold, NTBG receives a net licensing fee and, in turn, gives half of that fee to the Samoan government.
The foundation for the agreement stems back to the 1980s when Dr. Ragone spent years of collecting breadfruit varieties throughout the tropical Pacific. NTBG established a comprehensive collection of trees at its Maui garden in 1989. In order to put greater emphasis on the conservation and study of this important food crop, NTBG formed its Breadfruit Institute in 2003 with Dr. Ragone at the helm. After conducting a number of studies in nutrition and seasonality, the Institute began collaborating with Dr. Susan Murch, now at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, an expert in in vitro micropropagation. Breadfruit is generally propagated vegetatively, from root shoots. Dr. Murch’s tissue culture work thus far has put two Samoan varieties, Ma‘afala and ‘Ulu fiti, into mass production by Cultivaris. In addition to those originating in Samoa, Dr. Murch has had success with several other varieties from the Pacific.
The $5,203 check is the result of the first full year of tree sales.
“At this critical time of global food security issues, these exciting partnerships now make it possible for the Breadfruit Institute to make significant advances in promoting the cultivation and use of breadfruit,” said Ragone. “We now have the means to produce and distribute millions of breadfruit trees for tree planting projects in the tropics, where hunger and lack of food sustainability are prevalent. In the past two years, trees of a superior variety have been distributed by Global Breadfruit to 14 countries, including Haiti, Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria, and Myanmar.”
“This landmark agreement underscores NTBG’s commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The agreement will support conservation and capacity building with the countries of origin for breadfruit varieties at the NTBG. It will use this incomparable collection to return benefits to Pacific nations and their people, helping to perpetuate traditional crop varieties, knowledge, and cultural practices involving breadfruit. It’s a win-win.”
National Tropical Botanical Garden, www.ntbg.org, is a not-for-profit, non-governmental institution with nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida. Its mission is to enrich life through discovery, scientific research, conservation, and education by perpetuating the survival of plants, ecosystems, and cultural knowledge of tropical regions. NTBG’s Breadfruit Institute, breadfruit.ntbg.org, promotes the conservation and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation. NTBG is supported primarily through donations and grants.