COGENT as a programme within the International Coconut Community (ICC) held its first virtual Steering Committee (SC) and International Thematic Action Group (ITAG) meeting between 22 and 25 June 2020. Around 50 delegates attended from 22 countries spanning 11 time-zones from Mexico/ Brazil to Fiji/Australia.
The main objectives of the meeting were to ‘reboot’ COGENT, to begin developing a strong, collaborative and sustainable network (within ICC), formally agree on the SC membership, address COGENT’s global strategy implementation, discuss next steps and articulate action points/ recommendations.
Delegates were welcomed by Dr Syafaruddin, Director of Indonesian Center for Estate Crops Research and Development (ICECRD), Dr Jelfina Alouw, Executive Director of ICC, and Irene Kernot, Horticultural Research Programme Manager ACIAR (also representing Christine Pahlman, Assistant Director, Agricultural Development and Food Security Section, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). ACIAR/DFAT are supporting COGENT’s revitalisation, and their grant has made this meeting possible. ACIAR’s Director of Multilateral Engagement, Dr Julianne Biddle who is an SC observer-member was also present. Mr. Vincent Johnson COGENT Coordinator served as moderator and coordinated the four days meeting.
Day 1 discussed ICC Strategic plan and set the scene and explain the new context. COGENT currently gathers 39 country-members and is organized into 5 regional sub-networks: Africa and the Indian Ocean countries such as Benin, Kenya, Ghana, Latin America and the Caribbean countries including Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico, South Asia and Middle Eastern countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sultanate of Oman, Southeast and East Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and the South Pacific countries such as PNG, Samoa, Kiribati and Fiji. Emphasised was given to include the major COGENT member countries to become member of ICC.
Day 2 discussed the status of International and National Coconut Genebanks. There are five International Coconut Genebanks (ICGs), established in the 1990s in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In common all five ICGs face several challenges that constrain germplasm exchange which was discussed in detail.
Day 3 provided a forum for discussions linked to COGENT’s four re-forming International Thematic Action Groups (ITAGs) in i) Ex Situ & In Situ Conservation ii) Genomics & Breeding iii) Phytopathology, Entomology & Germplasm movement and iv) In vitro culture & cryo-conservation. These groups will spearhead the implementation of COGENT’s Global Strategy.
Day 4 provided an update on the status of coconut germplasm data management which includes the application of two information systems: GRIN-Global and the Genesys due their excellent features. GRIN-Global focuses on collection management that is capturing and using data related to the collection inventory such as the location, quantity and age of the material and other information required to maintain the collection. Meanwhile Genesys is a web platform that makes genebank data accessible to researchers and users. Discussed to develop a sustainability plan for COGENT and the ICGs. There was a high level of engagement throughout the meeting, despite time constraints, and varying levels of IT literacy and internet/ IT functionality.
The meeting ended with concluding remarks by Dr Jelfina Alouw, ED ICC and Ms. Irene Kernot, ACIAR.
Mr. Vincent Johnson, the COGENT coordinator, and Dr. Jelfina Alouw ED, ICC congratulated all the presenters and participants for a fertile and successful set of exchanges, that can help guide common way forwards for COGENT.