A proposal for integrating Polymotu into the USP campus, Suva Fiji

The University of South Pacific (USP) is one of only two regional university’s in the world  and is supported by 12 Pacific Island Countries . This public research university is a regional centre for teaching and research on Pacific culture and environment. USP's academic programmes are recognised worldwide, attracting students and staff from throughout the Pacific Region as well as from other regions and beyond.
Contacts have been initiated to integrate a coconut conservation design inside the Suva campus (Fiji), by using the remarkable Orange and Red Orange Compact Dwarf varieties recently discovered in Fiji and a Tall-type Sweet Husk varieties found in Rotuma and other Fiji Islands.
The coconut palms would not be all planted in one single specific location, but scattered between all the campus buildings as in customary landscaping. This could be an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen the commitment and interest of the thousands of students and the teachers from all Pacific regions regarding more effective conservation and use of coconut genetic resources.

Satellite image of USP campus, Suva Fiji (Click to enlarge)
The representation given up illustrates a possible design:
  • The zone around the campus is colored in blue.
  • Red and Orange dots inside USP represent each a Compact Dwarf Coconut palm with orange or red-orange fruits. About 40 to 60 coconut palms from these varieties could be planted inside the campus.
  • Red and Orange dots in the blue area (outside and around the USP Campus) also represent each a Compact Dwarf Coconut palms with orange or red-orange fruits. About 100 to 200 coconut palms from these varieties will be distributed free to the home gardens surrounding the USP campus.
  • Green dots in the USP campus: about 80 to 100 coconut palms from the Tall-type variety called "Sweet husk" could be planted inside but around the limits of the campus. Seednuts could be preferably imported from Rotuma Island (very large and good fruits) or from other places in Fiji, and preferably be green sprouted.
We estimate the size of the campus at about 100 hectares and the total number of coconut palms to be planted inside the campus at about 150-200. So the global density for coconut  palms inside the campus will be only about one to two palms per hectare, and this is lower than the average coconut density of coconut palms in most tropical cities.

This design will allow production of different kinds of seednuts:

- Various types of Compact Dwarfs with orange or red-orange fruits (orange sprouts)
- "Sweet husk" Tall types (green sprouts)
- Natural or man-made hybrids between the compacts dwarfs and seet husk (brown sprouts)

A rapid appraisal of coconut varieties presently existing on the campus was conducted. Three coconut varieties were identified, two of which are material introduced from abroad : Malayan Yellow and Red Dwarfs. These two varieties are now common in Fiji and already well conserved at the Taveuni coconut centre and in home gardens. The third variety is the most common Fijian Tall type, which can be found everywhere.

The total number of coconut palms in the campus was estimated to 60 to 80, but I could be more. Many coconut palms were felt down at the time of our visit, because the landscaping of the campus was rethinked in order to include more endemic and traditional Pacific plants and crops.

Coconut palms felt down at the USP campus
Within a 6 to 7 years period, the coconut palms which are presently in the campus will have to be progressively removed, because their pollen can contaminate the new rare traditional Fijian varieties to be conserved in the future. There is no need to remove these coconut palms at the beginning, because the Rotuma sweet husk palms will take 6-7 year to start to flower, and the design will be fully operational only when the sweet husk palm will start to produce pollen.

Low productive Coconut palms (Fiji Tall variety) at USP

If, inside the campus, there is any other rare coconut variety (but I did not see any), these few palms could be reproduced and planted at the Taveuni Coconut centre for conservation purposes.

This proposal is derived from a scientific paper on the Polymotu concept presented at  the 45th APCC COCOTECH Meeting, held  2nd - 6th July 2012, in Kochi, India:
Bourdeix, R., Johnson, V., Saena Tuia, V. and Weise, S.. 2012. Three declinations of the Polymotu Concept: “Inland ex Situ”, “Ecotourism on Islands”, “Urban” and their possible applications in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, French Polynesia and Samoa ( 870KB). Paper presented at the 45th APCC COCOTECH Meeting, 2nd - 6th July 2012, Kochi, India.