Thieves Again Steal Kava Plants From Vanuatu Agriculture Research Training Center

National kava collection hard hit for second time in six months

By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 29, 2017) – Thieves have struck at Vanuatu Agriculture Research Training Centre (VARTC) again on Santo within six months of the first strike, this time removing noble kava varieties and wailu and soft yam collections.

It is not clear if they are the same people but the latest physical evidence left of the plunder looks similar to the first one.

An official complaint was lodged with police following the first plunder and to this day, Dr Lebot denies hearing anything from the police on his complaint.

Dr Vincent Lebot and Chief Executive Officer VARTC, Muriel Degobert have confirmed the latest plunder reiterating the loss of painstaking years of research.

Dr Lebot reports, “The VARTC national kava collection on Santo has been destroyed again this weekend (last weekend) and this is the second time it has happened in less than one year!

“We still don’t know what the motivations are leading to such vandalism.

“Is it the high price of kava or is it solely to cause damage to our National Research Institution?

“We don’t know.”

Dr Lebot says the truth is that the incident is “slowing down the pace of agricultural research aimed at helping our farmers and it is very sad and frustrating”.

In addition Chief Executive Officer, Degobert, says the thieves knew exactly what they were doing as they only stole noble kava.

“This morning (last Monday) VARTC staff took back kava suckers in the fields where kava collection has been stolen.

“Those suckers will be transplanted at VARTC nursery so as to try to save the collection,” he says.

“They focused on noble kava and wailu and soft yams that are prime value added products.

“They knew perfectly what they did and they were very well organised.”

The CEO has warned market vendors and kava bar owners “to try to stop anyone who will try to sell young kava in kava bars and to sell wailu yams in markets in the forthcoming days”.

“Anyone who is contacted and asked to buy very young kava and wailu yams must refuse and alert the police.

“Please don’t support those acts of vandalism by purchasing stolen products!”, he advises.

The removal of the wailu collection is the result of the work of Vanuatu’s only yam scientist, the late Dr Roger Malapa who died early this year.

“It is a huge loss for VARTC and the country. It is a shame,” he concludes.

The Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forests, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremaiah, has been advised of the plunder as well as all Directors of the five Departments under MALFFB.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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