Pacific looks to yams as survival food for region

Botanist pollinates 8000 hybrid varieties

AN indian botanist left Vanuatu at the end of June a proud scientist after a successful pollination and breeding programme on yams. Dr Kuttolarnadathil Abraham, 60, pollinated 8000 hybrids of Vanuatu yam within the one month he spent in the country. Dr K. Abraham – as he is known because of the difficulty locals face pronuncing his first name, expected half of them to survive and be ready for harvest by October this year. The Indian yam expert was sent to Vanuatu by the World Bank to assist improve the country’s yam varieties and especially to develop climate change resistant varieties. Doctor Abraham said Vanuatu has rich soil and has tremendous natural resources but these are largely unexploited and unused. He said he has spent more than three decades on yam breeding in India but Vanuatu has more varieties than his country. “It is important to get resilient varieties against climate change.

“With heavy rain fall and drought, Vanuatu could easily lose its current yam varieties so it is way better for the country to prepare against this possibility.” Dr Abraham said yam was a major crop in Vanuatu and other Pacific island countries. His research showed that the country had a rich genetic resource of yams, which could be useful for breeding.

Yam breeding in Vanuatu and in the Pacific has not been very popular, the visiting botanist said, but people have to work more on their land and produce more root crops such as yams. Dr Abraham first visited Vanuatu in 2004. He said yam breeding is necessary as an important measure against climate change, and also because of the rapid increase in the country’s population.

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