“To remind ourselves of the importance of protecting the health of plants.”
A resolution which was adopted by the UN General Assembly sets out that healthy plants constitute the foundation of all life on Earth, as well as ecosystem functions, food security and nutrition, adding that plant health is key to the sustainable development of agriculture required to feed a growing global population by 2050.
It will also be an opportunity to highlight the significance of plant health as part of the FAO One Health approach, involving how the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are linked to one another. We must also not neglect the health of plants because keeping them healthy will help us achieve the sustainable development goal (SDG) 2 on Zero Hunger of the UN 2030 Agenda.
These facts have been consolidated in the observation often quoted, that human life and associated developments are solely dependent on plants because they provide food, proper nutrition, economic development and improved standards of living.
It is estimated that a total of 40% of crop plants grown for food worldwide is lost to pests and diseases every year. The main means of entry and spread of pests and diseases affecting agricultural crops and the environment are through the trading of goods, visiting tourists and business visitors. An example of this that we still have not forgotten was the destruction of our favourite Taro Niue and Taro Manu’a varieties by the Taro Leaf Blight disease in 1994. This is why we need to be proactive now and protect our plant resources.
Another issue of contention we currently face is the continuing damaging effects of Climate Change, especially to the environment and the crop plants that we depend on.
There are many pests and diseases that have entered Samoa in the past due to our carelessness and lack of interception and surveillance capabilities then. They include the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, Banana diseases of Black Leaf Streak and Bunchy Top, Giant African Snail, Taro Leaf Blight and many others that destroy and limit the potential local production of our horticultural crops, mainly our vegetables and fruits. These pests and diseases continue to be difficult to eradicate, and managing (controlling) them is costly and time consuming.
Our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been working hard in the last several years to protect Samoa from unwanted pests and diseases. A comprehensive process of undertaking this work is by close adherence to the guidelines and regulations for the movement of plant materials between countries as stipulated in the International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC.
It is important that we all work together to stop the entry of unwanted pests and diseases into our country as well as their potential establishment and spread. As part of our collective efforts, we also need to stop the practice of bringing in plant materials or seeds when we return from a visit overseas, or via mail or post, that we intend to grow, without the knowledge of our Ministry, or without following the proper procedures as stipulated in our Quarantine (Biosecurity) Act 2005, as they will expose Samoa to new pests and diseases which we may not be able to eradicate or control.
I therefore call on all our stakeholders in the agriculture space – those involved in farming as producers and business operators, those handling and processing plant products for the markets and retailers, to work with our Ministry to safeguard our food supplies and prevent losses of income, from these unwanted pests and diseases.
As part of the celebration of the International Day of Plant Health, public awareness programmes and activities are being organized not only in Samoa but in other Pacific island countries. In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to commend and acknowledge FAO for the tireless efforts expended to protect our Pacific island countries from unwanted pests and diseases, via financial and technical assistance and advice.
I now wish you all a blessed and successful commemoration of the International Day of Plant Health.
Soifua ma ia Manuia!