On May 17-18, 2011, Harbest Corporation's Julius Alfie Barcelona (right) receives his certificate of course completion from Dr. Kan-Shu Chen, Director of TARI, Fengshan, Kaoshiung during the closing ceremonies of the recent training course on genebank management.
Dear FFTC Management and Staff,
The recent FFTC workshop I attended was held in response to the fears that world biodiversity is slowly being damaged by commercial preference for "elite" species of crops. Here in the Philippines, farmers practice kaingin or slash-and-burn of forest and jungle areas to clear the land for mono-cropping. The workshop stressed the importance of the preservation of genetic materials especially in Asia where countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia have been tagged as biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of, as yet unknown species of flora and fauna are there, waiting to be discovered. Commendably, the various speakers refrained from talking about abstract principles. Instead, the speakers' talk focused on practical information like requirements and procedures in setting up a genebank, to the many ways of preserving genetic resources.
The workshop also discussed many of the complicated issues affecting genetic resource preservation. Reports from Malaysia, India and the Philippines highlighted many problems such as minimal support from local authorities, lack of available resources, etc. In my opinion, one drawback of this workshop is the location where it was held. Taiwan, while very agriculturally advanced, is a small country and the percentage of land which can be devoted to agriculture is small. It is therefore impractical for Taiwan to invest in large-scale genetic resource facilities. While we were able to take in many of the successful agricultural regions of the island, we found many of the farmers are still devoted to commercial mono-cropping of "elite" varieties. Despite this shortfall, however, the whole workshop became a springboard for many of us who were hoping to begin or improve on our genebank operations. In fact, our lecture discussions became the avenue for us to give our opinions regarding the many obstacles blocking our respective operations. One realization struck me. Out of 100 varieties of potatoes, we are only eating a few. When someone asks us for fruits, we automatically think of apples and oranges, not of marang or an abiu. I believe that we have been sitting on a wealth of opportunities all along, and it is waiting for us to reach out and grab it, if we only choose to care and protect it. Thank you very much and more power to your team!
Julius Alfie Barcelona