This need was highlighted at the international sub-regional workshop with the somewhat wordy name, Strengthening the Capacity of Pacific Island countries on alternatives to newly-listed and candidate pesticides under the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions which began at the University of the South Pacific, Avarua campus on Rarotonga yesterday. Minister for Agriculture Kiriau Turepu said the workshop was timely as it brought together key stakeholders from 12 countries including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other countries in the Asia Pacific region.
“It is important that as small islands states we come together to discuss and share information in understanding the alternatives for certain toxic pesticides being used throughout the Pacific region (particularly) the use of paraquat or Gramoxone and others.”
Turepu said the one-week workshop will help participant countries share their experiences with pesticides listed under the Rotterdam Convention.
“In 2004 the Cook Islands became a party to the convention, which is a multinational treaty to promote shared responsibilities and information to the importation of the hazard chemicals and help us protect human life and the environment.
“Only a few of our Pacific countries have ratified the Rotterdam convention.”
Turepu encouraged participants to take the necessary steps to be part of the convention as he believed only a regional approach could make an impact in protecting small island countries from the continued importation and use of the chemicals.
“Many of our small island states don’t have the capacity and infrastructure to safely manage and use certain pesticides.
“It is extremely important that our small island states continue to work together and address the issue.” He said the workshop was part of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s technical project for the Cook Islands, as the ministry was promoting the use of organic minerals and Neem oil for the control of a wide range of insects that affected vegetable production. It was important to look into the importation of these chemicals and address the issues so that the Pacific could feel safe from their impacts, he said.
Turepu reminded participants that companies around the world would fight to keep the chemicals available. This would be a battle that will need the Pacific to stand together and take the same course of action, he said.
“We can come up with recommendations and inform the companies; we can stand together and move in the same direction,” Turepu added.
The workshop continues today with key stakeholders presenting and giving their views.