Introduction to COGENT
The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network aims to promote collaboration for the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources. COGENT currently is made up of 39 country members: Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sultanate of Oman, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad y Tobago, Vanuatu and Viet-nam.
Coconut, Cocos nucifera L., is the 'tree of life'. Each part of the coconut palm can produce items of value for the community. Coconut products provide food, shelter and energy to farm households, and can be made into various commercial and industrial products. Fully developed and strategically used it would increase food production, improve nutrition, create employment opportunities, enhance equity and preserve the environment. Coconut culture faces several problems that can affect its production and competitiveness: low yield and yield security, unstable markets for its traditional products, among others. Pests and diseases, repeated natural calamities, ageing of palms and genetic erosion further aggravate the dire situation.
Coconut-producing countries lack both human and material resources to conduct expensive and time-consuming research that could solve these problems. The world's research community has recognized that international support is essential if coconut is to be made more productive to benefit resource-poor coconut farmers. Genetic resources have been identified as the most urgent and strategic area to increase productivity and yield security.
On the suggestion of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and its Technical Advisory Committee, representatives of 15 coconut- producing countries at an international workshop in Cipanas, Indonesia in October 1991, recommended establishing an international coconut genetic resources network. In 1992, Bioversity International, with the endorsement of the CGIAR and its donors, established COGENT to promote an international collaborative programme on genetic resources conservation and use.
COGENT's goal is to improve coconut production on a sustainable basis and to increase incomes in developing countries through improved cultivation of the coconut and efficient utilization of its products.
COGENT aims to develop and implement an international mechanism to coordinate research activities of national, regional and global significance, particularly in germplasm exploration, collecting, conservation and enhancement. It also aims to establish a basis for collaboration on the broader aspects of coconut research and development.
The Network will function at the national, regional and global levels to strengthen the capacity of national programmes to conserve and utilize coconut genetic resources.
More specifically COGENT:
- Establishes and maintains an international database on existing and future collections;
- Encourages the protection and use of existing germplasm collections;
- Identifies and secures additional threatened diversity by developing and adopting suitable technologies and conservation strategies;
- Promotes greater collaboration among research groups in producer countries and advanced technology sources in the exchange of germplasm and the development of new techniques; and
- Conducts appropriate training, information dissemination and secure necessary funding for network activities.
Current problems and immediate concerns
- Collect, preserve, evaluate and enhance coconut germplasm of national agricultural researches (NARs) of member countries and International Coconut Genebanks (ICGs);
- Genetic diversity studies and germplasm evaluation using morphometric and molecular biology techniques and long-term conservation by cryopreservation;
- Research to facilitate safe germplasm exchange such as pest risk assessment, pathogenicity testing, pathogen detection and indexing, refinement of embryo culture technique and coconut physiology;
- Develop and update guidelines on coconut breeding research techniques, and coconut collection and conservation strategies;
- Conduct multi-location trials within and among coconut-growing countries to identify productive and adapted varieties and hybrids based on yields and multipurpose uses under different production niches;
- Collect additional passport and characterization data to enhance the usefulness of the international coconut genetic resources database (CGRD);
- Develop databases on farmers’ varieties and multipurpose uses of coconut;
- Refine and fund sourcing for the coconut regional projects for the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC), and Africa-Indian Ocean sub-networks;
- Develop new initiatives for collaborative research on drought tolerance, cold tolerance and others;
- Promote public awareness on activities towards sustainable development of coconut and poverty alleviation among smallholders; and
- Human resources development of coconut researchers by conducting short-term courses on specific areas that require strengthening and long-term courses up to Master of Science levels.