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A global strategy for the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources

Thembili, or King coconut is a well-known source of carbohydrates, vitamin E, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Credit: Bioversity International/C. Zanzanaini

An updated global strategy launched by the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network/Bioversity International aims to advance research, conservation and production of rich coconut biodiversity to boost linked livelihoods.

The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT)/Bioversity International has just published an updated version of the Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources compiled by Dr Roland Bourdeix and Dr Alexia Prades of CIRAD, which will be formally launched at the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community 48th COCOTECH meeting in Bangkok 20–24 August 2018. An implementation plan will be discussed at a COGENT side meeting on 25–26 August.  

COGENT is an independent network embracing 39 coconut-producing member countries, representing more than 98% of global production. COGENT aims to strengthen international collaboration in the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources, to promote improving coconut production on a sustainable basis, and to boost livelihoods and incomes of coconut stakeholders in developing countries. 

The Strategy is the product of extended consultations with more than 90 key expert stakeholders in the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources. More than 400 contributions were received over seven years. With the support of Bioversity International, CIRAD, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)/Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, COGENT has continued to coordinate the refinement of this progressive global strategy for conserving and harnessing coconut germplasm, aiming to cost-effectively optimize the conservation and use of as much representative diversity as possible. 

Quoting Professor Gabrielle Persley (ACIAR Commissioner) from her Strategy foreword, "coconut is indeed the 'Tree of Life'. More than 100 million people living in fragile coastal areas of the Indo-Pacific region, including the coastal lands bordering South and Southeast Asia, the islands of the Pacific Ocean and the coastal areas of Africa and Latin America, depend on coconut for their livelihoods. Coconut provides food and water, timber and leaves to build homes, and oil and copra for fuel and as a source of income. In times of environmental disasters, such as cyclones and tsunamis, coconut is often the last tree standing, able to protect and sustain communities in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, providing food, water and shelter while people rebuild their lives. Globally, the demand for coconut products is growing exponentially. The estimated global market for coconut water alone is predicted to be in the order of US$10 billion by 2030. This growing export market for a wider range and higher value of coconut products offers new opportunities for increasing incomes for millions of small-scale coconut producers. Increasing productivity and profitability of coconut as both an essential 'tree of life' to sustain livelihoods in fragile environments and as a source of increasing income through the sale of coconut for higher value products is now feasible. At a time when the demand for coconut and coconut products is growing worldwide, it is important to conserve and utilize the rich biological diversity of the crop."

"It is timely now for COGENT/Bioversity International to be launching a new Global Strategy for Coconut Genetic Resources for the next ten years and beyond. It is also pleasing to learn that the Asia-Pacific Coconut Community will be joining with Bioversity International, the Pacific Community (SPC), the Global Crop Diversity Trust, ACIAR and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in support of this new strategy and its implementation through COGENT and its partners across the coconut producing world." 

It is hoped that, as an evolving document, this Strategy will provide the benchmark for effectively implementing the comprehensive conservation and research agenda proposed by the international coconut research community, as a route to the enhanced wellbeing of the millions of coconut smallholders across the globe.

This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Donors.