Under the theme "Stay Healthy and Productive during Covid-19 Pandemic" a series of online training has been conducted since September 2020 by ICC in collaboration with NAM CSSTC. There was an enthusiastic response from hundreds of participants. On November 3rd, 2020 International Coconut Community (ICC) in collaboration with the Non-Aligned Movement Centre for South-South Technical Cooperation (NAM-CSSTC) conducted the 3rd Online Training Program: “Good Agriculture Practices, Replanting Program and Integrated Pest Management to Sustain Coconut Development”. More than 150 people from 18 countries participated in the training, including the representatives from ICC and NAM-CSSTC member countries. This training program aims to provide knowledge and tools on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) to increase the coconut production and encourage farmers to increase their income by adopting these practices.
In her welcome speech, Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director, ICC, addressed that coconut has contributed directly to the amenity and income for more than 20 million smallholder farmers and their dependents. The overall impacted population in the coconut value chains was estimated at 700 million people. The domestic and global demands for coconut water only were expected to grow at a CAGR of over 26% during 2019-2025. Unfortunately, the production hasn’t significantly increased in response to the growing demand. Most of today’s palms were planted 60 years ago. The productions tend to decrease, and the fruits were more challenging to harvest. Smallholder farmers would need technical and financial assistance. The yield losses caused by pests and diseases were also reported from most of coconut producing countries. Through integrated pest management we could effectively and efficiently manage the pest and disease population, optimize the agricultural productivity, improve farmers' welfare, and guarantee environmental protection. She believed that many countries have developed their innovative technology also, which could be harmonized as an international standard. She hoped that the coconut stakeholders together could accelerate the exchange of ideas, technologies, and scaling up of good and acceptable practices through the event to sustain their effort and support of sustainable coconut development in their countries.
The First speaker Dr. Ponciano A. Batugal, Chair, ICC Technical Working Group, presented “Challenges and Opportunities for the Coconut Industry for a Happier Future”. The challenges coconut farmers facing were inadequate access to technology, capital and market, low farm productivity and profitability, living below the poverty line. The challenges processing for the industry were raw materials were lacking, many factories were operating below capacity, senile palms needed to be replanted urgently, lacked of high-quality planting materials, and negative campaigns against coconut oil. The opportunities were: rapidly increasing demand for coconut products, innovative technologies for increasing yields, capacity building and technology transfer. He also briefly presented the ICC strategic plan and programs, focusing on the potential projects to be taken for the sustainable development of coconut.
On “Good Agriculture Practices to Sustain Coconut Development” was presented by Dr. P. Subramanian, Principal Scientist, CPCRI, India. Good Agricultural/Manufacturing Practices are a set of principles, regulations and technical recommendations applicable to production, processing and food transport, addressing human health care, environment protection and improvement of worker conditions and their families. The presentation addressed the topics of ideal site selection, production of planting materials, planting and aftercare, water management, nutrient management, soil and moisture conservation, cropping /farming system, pest and disease management, harvesting, and processing. Adopting a holistic approach by employing Good Agricultural Practices would enable sustaining the coconut productivity and income of the farmers.
Dr. Nayanie S. Aratchige, Principal Entomologist CRI, Sri Lanka presented “Integrated Pest Management to Sustain Coconut Development”, a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks. She presented various methods for the avoidance and prevention of pests in coconut. The biological control was the most environmentally friendly and ecologically sound method, with slow action but long-lasting effects. Host plant resistance for pest and disease management was also proposed as one of the most effective and perhaps the safest method, especially in a perennial crop. She cited example of India, the development of resistant varieties for eriophyid mites.
The last speaker Prof. Jimmy Botella, the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia presented “Lethal Yellowing Disease in Coconuts: A Diagnostic Tool, and the Potential of Satellite based Surveillance”. He explained that monitoring was essential to control and eradicate the disease, involving surveillance to identify suspicious trees and confirmation to confirm/deny a disease. He introduced the use of drones and satellites to do the monitoring. Drones were good for small-scale local surveillance, high resolution, fast and cheap. Satellites were good for large/national programs, with lower resolution and more expensive. In addition, he also introduced an innovative dipstick technology developed as a quick and straightforward tool for coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease (LYD) detection in the field and even the remote locations. Prof. Jimmy Botella said that the technology could extract DNA and RNA from living organisms is as little as 30 seconds without specialized equipment or personnel.
In his closing remarks, H.E. Ambassador Diar Nurbintoro, Acting Director, NAM-CSSTC, appreciated the speakers and the ICC. He comprehended the problems faced by developing countries in coconut industry, among others, low productivity in order to meet global demand. He emphasized the urgency for a transformation that will be implemented into technical cooperation which enabling many countries and millions of agricultural farmers to increase productivity and sustainability. The NAM-CSSTC valued a collaboration with all parties. He also appreciated the inclusive and collective solidarity, reflected in the event as an effort to increase the sustainable production of coconut through the knowledge shared by the speakers under the agreement with the ICC, by conducting trainings, workshops, technology transfer, research and development cooperation.
There was an in-depth discussion on the topics, and the speakers addressed the queries. The webinar was moderated by Mr. Vincent Johnson, Interim COGENT coordinator, ICC