Navotua women build on value adding capacity
Organized by WWF-Pacific, the weeklong workshop on food preservation brought together 14 women to actively participate through hands on experience and most importantly value adding products for the first time.
“The workshop sponsored by USAID through WWF-Pacific was a great initiative as we now know how to make not only virgin coconut oil but other products such as soap, breadfruit, banana chips to even jam,” said Ms. Losena Qova a participant.
Food Preservation consultant, Ms. Api Cegumalua said the project will go a long way in ensuring these women are able to generate income to help support their families.
“The soap making is a first for us. We only know that soap is made from coconut and is always white in color. A new technique we have learnt is making colored soaps and this is simple as adding food coloring in the soap making process. Attractive coloured soap will really appeal to the tourists in buying our products,” added Ms. Qova.
“I didn’t know how to make my virgin coconut oils scented and now I know how to. Especially the sandalwood fragrance in which now I know how to infuse such fragrance in to my virgin coconut oil,” highlighted participant, Ms. Sesarina Nawaitavou.
“With the breadfruit you can make so many things. You can make breadfruit flour, fries or chips, mashed breadfruit and also breadfruit jam,” added another participant, Ms. Seruwaia Bua.
Interestingly, the products the women have been up-skilled in are from available resources within the village.
“The available crops are breadfruit, bananas and coconut. We also are focusing on noni as well. We have actually trained the women in processing and preservation techniques. We are looking at making jam from the fruits that we have like papaya and mango.
“The use of coconuts into making coconut virgin oil and soap and even using the flowers they have here as fragrance. They even have sandalwood as well. One of the outcomes of this project is to use these products as an income earner for each household and this is what they are really excited about. Now they are making breadfruit chips, virgin coconut oil, and soap and enabling them to sell these products to the tourists that come to the village,” said food preservation consultant, Ms. Api Cegumalua.
Ms. Cegumalua added that there are some challenges that the women face.
“One of the issues they brought up is packaging, they will need to have proper packaging, proper sealing machine, proper labeling so that it is marketable. It must be well presented.
"They would also need a good boat for transportation to take their products to the nearby resorts. With the enthusiasm that is here I can see they will be able to sell their products to the available markets,” revealed Ms. Cegumalua.
She added that with great interest and enthusiasm shown the women would need to continue keeping up with the knowledge they have gained.
“Everybody is interested in making the breadfruit chips that they may run out of resources. I have told the turaga-ni-koro (village headman) that they need to look at replanting breadfruit trees, coconut trees, banana trees and also noni trees as well. There is a lot of interest now to make the noni juice, virgin coconut oil, and banana chips,” added Ms. Cegumalua.
The food preservation is a joint venture between two of WWF-Pacific’s current projects.
“We are working jointly with USAID funded Pacific American Climate Fund project. Our DRR project is funded by the Australian Government so fortunately for us there are two projects here working to complement each other and work towards building the resiliency in the area of food security, nutrition security, and trying to find opportunities where we can generate income and look for alternative livelihoods compared to the common ones they practice here in Navotua,” said DRR Project officer, Mr. Sanivalati Tubuna.