Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: September 8, 2015

On August 18 at dusk, residents of Baniata community, Rendova Island in the Solomon Islands united in pledging to protect their Ngalinut (Canarium Indicum) forests and natural resources marking the start of a new organic beginning.

To protect their resources, they pledged to ban the use of harmful chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides and practicing other harmful agricultural activities. The pledge is one of two important activities a community undergoes for organic certification. The other is training in the Participatory Guarantee System or PGS.

Several days earlier, the two groups of Ngalinut producers that live in this community, the Seventh Day Adventists and the Christian Fellowships came together to learn about PGS of organic certification coordinated by Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community POETCom.

Baniata residents are keen on having their Ngalinut forests organically certified to meet the requirements of the organic market in New Caledonia. Baked Ngalinut nuts will first be sold to Honiara based Sol Agro that will buy it from the community doorsteps and package it for export to BioMonde in New Caledonia.

Training took place in the classrooms of a new school room block, the first school to be built in the community and that will be completed with sales of organic Ngalinut. Community development is one of the direct benefits of organic certification as nuts are sold at a premium price.

Community governance structures for organic certification were formed. The Baniata Organic Committee is the overarching body to oversee all organic related matters for the community while the Baniata Organic Certification Committee deals specifically with certification. An organic certification manager was also appointed.

For Walter Silvae, 64, the new Chairman of the Baniata Community Organic Committee the desire for organic certification has transcended denominational differences and brought the community together. “There is a line of trees that separates the two groups, SDA and Christian Fellowship, in the village,” he said. “Each keeps to their own side. This is the first time we are working together for something that will benefit us both,” he said. “We want to leave our children with healthy forests the way we enjoy it now. “This is good. It’s our moral duty; it’s only fair.” The pledge reads like this;

“We, the community of Baniata, Rendova Islands, promise to protect our land, water, plants and animals, for future generations through organic agricultural practices, we promise to feed our children, visitors and customers, through natural ways of growing food, now and into the future, we make this promise with conviction and sincerity. May God help us to keep this promise!”

During the training, the 50 odd participants’ representative of the various families in Baniata that own ngalinut trees, were familiarised in the various aspects of the Pacific Organic Standards that applies to their context.

They also actively participated in mapping out ngalinut forested areas, identifying the number of trees each family owned, and the roles gender plays in harvest. Ngalinut trees though owned by the family, is an inheritance passed down the female line, grandmothers to their daughters and granddaughters’. Women play the main role in harvesting, baking and selling baked ngalinuts.

Trainees also audited fellow participant’s ngalinut areas. It served as an excellent practical exercise on the peer review mechanism that is a hallmark of the PGS. POETCom Organic Systems Extension officer Stephen Hazelman conducted the PGS training.

“Baniatan’s have always practiced organic farming, the last record of fertiliser use was decades back when coconut plantations were first planted,” he said. “But we have obtained soil samples to verify the presence of heavy metals in the soil that usually indicates fertiliser and chemical use but we don’t expect to see that here though this serves as prove,” he added.

“They will also setup their development plans to improve village life and these may be in areas of health, education etc.” The completion of the Baniata ngalinut organic certification process will occur in December.

“At the moment, the Baniata certification manager is collating audit documents for those that were not part of the training and we are also coordinating the setup of a national PGS certification committee for Solomon Islands,” Mr Hazelman said. “With that in place, and soil samples currently tested by an accredited laboratory is cleared, Baniata can achieve organic certification for the land where the ngalinuts grow.

“However, in order to use the Organic Pasifika mark, guaranteeing the ngalinut product is genuinely organic we will also need to certify the process of Sol Agro that will be packaging it. “So really it’s organically certifying the land and process.”

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