Navotua women upskilled in food preservation and storage capacity | WWF

Navotua women upskilled in food preservation and storage capacity

Posted on 09 March 2017
Navotua women preparing the assimilation cooler technique for food preservation
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou
Strengthening women’s participation in disaster risk management was the focus of a one week food preservation training for women of Navotua in the Yasawas.

The training was aimed at building capacity on food preservation techniques and on better storage methods in the event of a disaster.

Food preservation consultant, Api Cegumalua added the training was a necessity for Navotua.

"Navotua is far from the mainland and is limited with reliable electricity supply thus making  food shelf life a challenge in their daily lives as well as during drought and cyclones,” Cegumalua said.

Currently, the village’s only source of electricity is through a generator that runs at intermittent times or when there is fuel available.

A few houses have solar power however their electrical driven equipment cannot operate on a 24 hour basis.

Power consumption is used for much needed lighting in the evenings.

Traditional food preservation techniques explored included storing root crops such as breadfruit in a dug hole under the ground and covered with banana leaves and soil.

This was the first time the Navotua villagers had undertaken such training.

“We are grateful to learn the techniques of food preservation especially for green vegetables such as cabbages and taro leaves where they usually wilt and are no longer useable after two days or so.

“So storage techniques such as storage pits are ideal for communities such as us where we don’t have the luxury of constant supply of electricity for refrigeration,” highlighted participant, Seruwaia Bua.

Another interesting component was the use of an assimilation chiller such as using a pot filled with sand and dampened potato sacks to ensure that root crops and vegetables such as breadfruits, bananas, pumpkins and papaya can be kept for at least a week.

“We can see for our root crops the use of the land itself to preserve it for a few months, especially during times of natural disasters. To dig a pit for the food to be stored is called ‘tavuke’ and this will enable us to store our root crops such as breadfruit, bananas and even cassava for a long time,” said Laite Natasiwai.

For the women of Navotua, continuous practice and reliance on knowledge gained from the training is key for them.

“I’m so happy to learn something totally new to me, especially the many ways we can use the breadfruit and banana (vudi). We have a lot of these staple foods here in the village and food preservation techniques such as using it as chips so that it can be stored and used later or as a value adding product.”

“Also, one thing we need to do is also share what we have learnt here to the rest of the women and villagers as well and this is what I plan to do as well,” assured participant Milakere Lewatu.

With rural women, the main providers for food for their families, the workshop is an output of addressing the issue of food security, especially during times of natural disasters.

“The women have set up a committee and they will monitor the temperature to see if the assimilation chiller and even the two pit food storage are working. One is a traditional one, where we use the bread fruit or banana leaves to place the food on and cover it, as well before covering it all with soil and this method we can store food for three to even six months undisturbed.”

“The other one is we used the modern method of using plastic and both methods is to ensure no water gets to the food. So the women will be monitoring the storage pits and will see which one fits best.

“When we come back in May we will open up the storage pits and the root crops would be fermented by then and this is where we will make breadfruit or banana bread or Fijian bread (Madrai ni Viti),” added Cegumalua.

With the keen interest shown, there will come a time where the villagers will have to sustainably manage their resources.

“There needs to be continuous planting of breadfruit and banana trees as the  supply will need to match the demand and the interest shown so far by the women has been great,” added Cegumalua.

The food preservation component of the workshop is funded by WWF-Pacific’s Pacific American Climate Fund through USAID and the Disaster Risk Reduction project that is funded by the Government of Australia.
Navotua women preparing the assimilation cooler technique for food preservation
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
Water is poured in on a daily basis to keep the temperature low and thus acting as a chiller for root crops of even vegetables
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
Navotua women part taking in a traditional storage method
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge
The storage pit is then covered with sand and the food can be left undisturbed for months
© WWF-Pacific / Ravai Vafo'ou Enlarge