Head of Root and Tuber Crops Section at VARTC – Mrs Floriane Lawac


Floriane Lawac, the Head of Root and Tuber Crops Section at the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Technical Centre (VARTC) in Santo, emphasised the importance of preserving genetic resources of root and tuber crops during her participation at the Family Farming Lifestyle And Health (FALAH) conference this week.

Mrs. Lawac shared insights into the work being done at VARTC to collect and conserve various varieties of crops, including yams, cassava, taro, and more, from all over Vanuatu.

“Our work at VARTC is aimed at conserving plants and genetic resources, including root and tuber crops, coconut, cocoa, coffee, and livestock breeds,” Mrs. Lawac, also a PhD student, explained.

“We conduct research to address the needs related to pests, diseases, and climate change, taking into account the different weather conditions we are experiencing and will face in the future.”

She further highlighted the Centre’s focus on diversification, redirecting research efforts towards areas such as food processing and other initiatives that can benefit farmers. “We aim to develop improved crop varieties suitable for farmers and provide them to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) for multiplication and distribution,” Mrs. Lawac added.

Speaking about her research on island cabbage diversity in Vanuatu, Mrs. Lawac stated, “The overall idea of the research is based on the genetic diversity of island cabbage in the country, which should be sufficient to allow its adaptation to climate and social changes. We are concerned about the risk of losing the variety of our cabbages due to the increasing consumption of introduced species like carrots and broccoli.”

Mrs. Lawac discussed the characteristics of island cabbage and the variations observed across different regions. “There are more than 30 characteristics that have been observed.

“In terms of preference, local consumers tend to prefer green leaves over red leaves,” she explained. “We found differences in cabbage maturity and leaf structure across the islands, from round leaves in TORBA and SANMA Provinces to dissected leaves in MALAMPA, PENAMA, and TAFEA Provinces.”

Commenting on the recent surge in demand for island cabbage after the passage of two tropical cyclones in March this year, Mrs. Lawac expressed concern over the potential loss of cabbage varieties. “Just after the cyclones, island cabbage emerged as a luxurious food item, and people were rushing to purchase it despite the high prices,” she said.

Mrs. Lawac stressed the need to prioritise the conservation and promotion of genetic diversity in root and tuber crops, particularly island cabbage, to safeguard the country’s agricultural heritage and ensure food security in the face of environmental challenges and changing dietary preferences.

A few years back, the DARD disclosed there are over 140 varieties of island cabbage in Vanuatu when promoting crop diversity.

These are classified into three groups. Within those groups, there are many kinds of island cabbages, which can grow well in different seasons and adapt to changes in the climate and environment.