Concerns are mounting that the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) found in north eastern coast of Efate will continue to spread as the Department of Biosecurity (DoB) lacks funds and manpower capacity to successfully eradicate the infestation.
Eradicating CRB over a large area, from Mangaliliu to Gideon Landing is an expensive exercise, said Biosecurity Officer, Leisongi Manses.
”Things are not occurring fast enough because we only hired 16 locals helping us with the destruction of breeding sites and placement of early warning traps.
”We are lacking manpower. As of now our Director is still abroad on study and our Acting Director is yet to return to the country,” she said.
The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Bio-Security, Forestry and Fisheries (MALBFF), Moses Amos, confirmed that the paper containing the request for emergency funding to eradicate the threat has been presented to the Development Committee of Officials (DCA) and was expected to be tabled in the Council of Ministers (COM) last week.
”Up to Vt55million funding has been requested to eradicate the new species in two phases. First phase focuses on search response for 35 days.
”Funding to cover phase one is Vt35 million. It involves increasing the number of officers to work with SPC experts on the destruction and management of breeding sites, community awareness, quarantine zoning and restrictions, surveillance, investigation and management of new suspected sites.
”Phase two involves bio-control establishment, bringing in the virus and fungus from oversea to eradicate the beetle. It requires around Vt20 million”, he said.
Although he admitted that there is shortage of finance and manpower, DG Amos said they are looking at engaging partners in the eradication operation.
Biosecurity Officer Manses said that it’s important to eradicate CRB on Efate and prevent it from spreading to other islands like Malekula and Santo where people mostly depend on the coconut industry for income and livelihoods.
”People on Efate also use coconut for preparation of food but it is the northern islands that produce more copra.
”Coconut is regarded as ‘ the tree of life’. People use mostly all the parts of the coconut palm for certain purposes. If we do not control the threat, likely within two years most of the coconut trees will be destroyed and people who rely on the nuts or leaves won’t be able to make money,” she stressed.