Island women to reap benefits of organic mark

Women’s groups making virgin coconut oil on Cicia Island in Lau have been awarded use of the Organic Pasifika mark with the potential of leveraging higher prices for their product.

This is a new chapter in the islands’ marketing of organic products since it was declared organic in 2013 prohibiting the use of harmful chemical pesticides.

Susana Yalikanacea is one of the six virgin coconut oil producers on Cicia that can now use the mark.

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Susana Yalikanacea with a bottle of VCO carrying the mark

“We are excited because we have a lot of plans about developing more products for the island using the mark and exporting it to Suva,” she said.

“Having the mark has really allowed us to value add our products and earn more from the same resources which is sustainable economic development.

“At the same time, having an organic approach to product development has helped us achieve quality standards because we are very careful about adhering to high standards of quality.”

Yalikanacea said the women are keen on opening up a center in Suva where they can trade all organic products from the island using the organic mark.

“There is money to be made when we value our natural resources,” she said.

“On Cicia we are teaching ourselves to be passionate and creative about how we use them and being organic is helping us more than we had imagined.”

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Nuts that go a long way                    

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The mark is managed by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) housed within the European Union funded Increasing Agriculture Commodities Trade Programme (IACT) implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC)

As a guarantee, the mark assures consumers the virgin coconut oil from Cicia is produced in a manner that does not devastate the environment, is ethical and upholds the Pacific Organic Standard.

Previously, islanders were heavily involved in copra production and earned, depending on market fluctuations, an average $800 for a tonne. Organic virgin coconut oil pays $13,000 a tonne.

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Scraping coconuts for virgin coconut oil

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Squeezing out the cream

In 2013, POETCom with funding support from the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) guided islanders in establishing a Participatory Guarantee System of organic certification.

The PGS is an affordable organic certification approach for rural communities around the globe that involves peer reviews carried out by groups of farmers.

Processes involved in producing virgin coconut oil were certified using the PGS approach.

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Use of the mark is renewable on an annual basis, upon successful completion of PGS certification.

“We are happy to see the benefits islanders are deriving from choosing to live an organic way of life and commit ting to sustainably managing their natural resources,” said POETCom coordinator Karen Mapusua.

“They are delving into new opportunities and up-scaling income levels and more importantly sustaining these sources into the future.

“At POETCom we appreciate the product development side of things as well as encourage the promotion of healthy soils for future food and nutritional security, cultural integrity, sustainable income and a healthy environment.

“In the Pacific islands, we depend a lot on our natural resources, soil and the oceans and organic farming approaches protects these linkages especially faced as we are with the dynamics of climate change.

“Organic islands offer solutions for climate resilience and survival.”

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