Navotua community holds successful open day
Over the last six months, WWF-Pacific held trainings aimed at building capacity on food preservation techniques, better food storage methods, seed bank saving techniques and the introduction of climate resilient crops and vegetable gardens.
Representatives of the remaining six villages of Nacula district and the Ministry of Agriculture were treated to display booths showcasing value adding products, compost bin demonstrations, traditional pesticides, traditional food storage demonstrations to tours of vegetable farm garden models created and manned by the women of Navotua.
“When you look around Navotua, you see the breadfruit, banana and coconut trees and these are potential resources that they can utilize and preserve for their own use,” said Food Preservation Consultant, Apiame Cegumalua.
“We learnt how to make three different types of chips from using breadfruit, banana and sweet potato. We are happy that from this open day we are able to showcase what we have learnt to the rest of the district,” added Navotua villager, Laite Momoivalu.
The idea behind the food security project is to empower and better equip the community of Navotua to be prepared during times of natural disasters and be able to recover after a disaster strikes.
Traditional food preservation techniques demonstrated included storing root crops such as breadfruit underground, covered with banana leaves and soil.
The use of an assimilation chiller by 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 to a month was also demonstrated at the open day.
“The food storage technique is a great method as food could be stored for a period of time during natural disasters. Especially before a disaster strikes, we can readily prepare ourselves with such storage methods since we do not have a constant supply of electricity ,” said Navotua villager, Teresia Naivoce.
The display of value adding products such as virgin coconut oils, soaps, washing pastes, ginger scented oils to banana, breadfruit and sweet potato chips prepared by the Navotua women impressed the participants from the other villages.
“There are those in the village who also got to see the various products made from using the village resources to help families earn money,” highlighted Navotua villager, Sesarina Nawaitavou.
“What we saw today, we can easily sell the brands of the seven villages that make up the district to the chain of hotels here in Nacula district and we are fortunate that we have around 20 resorts within the district, so the market is there.
“We are fortunate to have such resources showcased from the people of Navotua and WWF-Pacific and we are grateful and appreciative of the initiative. From here, we need to draw up a plan and ensure that every village in the district benefits and has its own brand,” said Saimoni Naivalu, the Nacula District Representative.
“People are already buying and there are potential markets here like the nearby hotels to even homestays for tourists that visit or even camp here at Navotua. Now the community in Navotua realizes they have the potential, the resources and skills and technical know-how to generate income for themselves and their families,” Cegumalua, the Food Preservation consultant said.
Another component of the training was the setting up of farm models and vegetable gardens and the introduction of a climate resilient tolerant crops such as the sweet potato.
“Navotua village is prone to drought. Every three months in a year, the village would face drought. Cassava and Tivoli are the only cash crops that are grown. So we brought in nine varieties of drought tolerant sweet potato varieties. This is the first time such varieties are introduced to this village,” said Agriculture Consultant, Mereseini Seniloli.
“From the Open Day, we also managed to distribute sweet potato cuttings have also being distributed to the rest of the villages in the district. We have also advised the Navotua community to have one vegetable garden for household consumption and another targeting the tourism market,” added Seniloli.
For WWF-Pacific, strengthening the capacity to the other communities of Nacula is the next step.
“From here, we will develop a toolkit on what we have trialed and disseminate the toolkit to the rest of the communities in Nacula district so that they are able to follow that toolkit and follow it in terms of planting.
“We will then link the communities to the Ministry of Agriculture and respective government agencies who will be able to support them in terms of enhancing the agricultural aspect of things,” said WWF-Pacific PACAM Project Manager, Vinesh Kumar.
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.