In Palau, “a mesei a delal a telid” means “the taro patch is the mother of our life.”
Palau’s matriarchal and matrilineal culture holds traditional importance in the cultivating of their taro patches and farms. Women are the primary growers in Palauan society with subsistence agriculture and fishing being the second largest contributor to GDP after tourism. Though this traditional knowledge goes back generations, socio-economic changes in the country are leading to a disinterest in farming and a move toward other livelihood opportunities. This growing disinterest limits opportunities for mothers to pass on traditional knowledge and farming methods to their daughters.
Women have traditionally held positions of power and respect in Palau communities. Unlike Patriarchal countries, however, women’s high positions and power is not reflected in other spheres in the country, such as government leadership and businesses. A 2017 study conducted by Pacific Women found that women in Palau work hard to meet cultural and community obligations as well as family care responsibilities. Though they make up nearly half of the labour force, they are significantly less likely to run businesses.
Ms Flavia Ciribello, Gender and Value Chains Advisor for the Pacific Ethical and Organic Trade Community (POETCom) says that, “While men are traditionally involved in fishing activities, women are considered the primary growers. Leveraging on women’s roles as guardians of traditional agricultural practices, the POETCom project Building Prosperity for Women Producers, Processors and Women Owned Business through Organic Value Chains (BPWP) supports women’s associations to transition to organic agricultural practices while addressing key issues along organic value chains and helping them engage in both the policy and public space.”
POETCom, based at The Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division in Fiji, worked with the Palau Organic Growers Association, Pacific Guarantee System (PGS) groups, Palau’s Small Business Development Centre, and the Palau Bureau of Agriculture and Chamber of Commerce to draft a Palau National Organic Policy. National Organic Policies are vital to build high integrity organic sectors, assure consumer confidence in the organic label, and create public private partnerships. The national organic policy drafting process brought a diverse range of stakeholders, including women leaders and women’s groups transitioning to organics, to the policy table, in turn enhancing women’s public leadership in agriculture. These leading women and their groups are undergoing the PGS certification process for organic taro farms.
For women in Palau, having a National Organic Policy in progress means an increased national focus on the agriculture sector, food security, access to healthy food, and a general increased value of their agricultural products.
The draft National Organic Policy is now with Palau Organic Growers Association, Bureau of Agriculture and Chamber of Commerce, and is undergoing national requirements to be passed as legislation.
Organic Agriculture is a key contributor to sustaining Pacific cultures and communities, and in Palau’s case, it plays a role in maintaining and passing on women’s traditional knowledge and farming practices.
BPWP is implemented by POETCom, a project of the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division supported by the Australian Government. BPWP works with individuals, families, producers and vendors, as well as with organic governance structures, to promote gender equality and achieve the overall goal of women’s access to improved and sustainable livelihoods through participation in organic value chains. BPWP believes that when women have better access and sustainable livelihoods, it creates opportunities for more women to be empowered and spurs economic growth for their families and communities.
SPC is committed to improving gender equality, women’s empowerment and ending violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality – programmes such as BPWP that work to empower women and improve gender equality contribute to ending gender-based violence.
The Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) is a not-for-profit organization with active members, including farmer associations, farmer support organizations, NGOs, the private sector and research institutions that also works with governments across the Pacific Island region. POETCom is hosted by the Land Resources Division (LRD) of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Suva, Fiji.
Queries can be sent to Communications Assistant-POETCom, Vilimaina Tamata: email@example.com