It was both a happy and tearful affair when organic ngalinut harvesters from the Solomon Islands met with retailers in health food shops in New Caledonia as part of the making of “Forests to Markets”, a documentary focused on the export of organic ngalinuts.
Mizipa Ghumi, a 51-year old ngalinut harvester from the Solomon Islands, cried thanking Frederic Pratelli, manager at Biomonde Noumea, and Fabienne Gandet of Biomonde Robinson, retailers of organic and health foods in New Caledonia for buying nuts that she harvested at Baniata. “Thank you for helping my children go to school,” Ghumi said in a broken voice, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Her harvester friend, Dorence Walter, 56, added, “Our community is difficult to get to and it’s even harder for us to get to markets because of the long journey and the boat fare, and yet our nut sales are not always secure.
“Now that you buy our nuts, we know we can have more money to add to the money we earn from copra.” Ghumi cuts a lot of copra just to make enough money to pay her three daughters’ school fees that are SBD 5,000 per child a year. “It is hard work and very difficult to make ends meet,” says Ghumi. “Because you buy the nuts, we are able to sell them right from our doorsteps and pay for things we need.”
Sol Agro is a privately owned Solomon Islands company based in Honiara involved in supporting organic product development from rural communities. It buys buys the nuts from the community for about SBD 400 per 20-kilogram bucket and exports them to Biomonde Noumea. Mizipa and Dorence travelled thousands of miles following the value chain supply of the ngalinut — from their forests to the middle-buyers outlet in Honiara at Sol Agro, and eventually to New Caledonia.
“Forests to Markets” — documentary funded by the European Union Increasing Agriculture Commodities and Trade project of the Pacific Community — captures the journey of the women and the ngalinuts, and the positive impact that organic certification can bring to the lives of people in remote island communities.
Following the path of the ngalinut took them on a personal, eye-opening lifetime experience, from their first international plane rides, converting currencies in different countries (Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia), tasting international comfort foods like pizza, wide eyed with wonder at the foot of towering buildings, to moving stairs (elevators).
“It’s scary and exciting at the same time, I’m just surprised at everything I see,” said Ghumi. The retailers were surprised as well to learn about the huge importance Baniata community placed on the export of ngalinuts.
“We didn’t know that buying these nuts will be immensely helpful to the lives in the community and making a difference in the education of their children. We are happy to know this,” said Fabienne Gandet, the owner of Biomonde Robinson where the nuts are also sold. “Knowing this makes us want to help even more.” However, a huge challenge that importers face in importing ngalinuts is the freight cost.
“Since there is no reliable shipping service between the Solomons and New Caledonia we cannot order much more because air freight is very expensive and we have to make a one-off order,” said Gandet. “Perhaps this is an area that states can deal with to promote bilateral trade within Pacific Island countries and support more livelihoods and positive change for places like Baniata.
“We really don’t want to buy from outside the Pacific if we can avoid it, but we are forced to do so because it’s just more expensive to source products from Pacific Island countries because of expensive freight costs and the lack of an affordable enabling infrastructure.”