Cicia, Fiji, is the Pacific's first fully-organic island
Cicia Island, Fiji, is the first fully organic island in the Pacific and will eventually export its products throughout the Pacific
Cicia Island in Fiji's Lau Group is the first fully organic island in the Pacific - and with the help of The Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community, will eventually export its products throughout the region.
Its co-ordinating officer, Karen Mapusua, says the initiative offers a low-cost way for remote communities to achieve organic certification.
She told Mary Baines about the project in Cicia.
KAREN MAPUSUA: The village in the community there have considered themselves organic for some time. It's been quite a few years since they've allowed any importation of agri-chemicals and those sort of things. But what we've been working with them on more recently is to set up a system of verification to prove to markets and to consumers that all produce from the island is actually grown to a specified organic standard, which is the Pacific Organic Standard.
MARY BAINES: So what's being produced?
KM: We're working mostly with women's groups who are producing a virgin coconut oil. So it's a handcrafted oil. It's a very high-quality, healthy oil. They use it for their own consumption, for food, and have established a small export market down into the main islands of Fiji. So this will give them an advantage on the shelf to be able to prove that they're organic, and it will also give the incentive to increase production and open up opportunities for more growers.
MB: Will the oil and other products eventually be exported across the Pacific?
KM: We'll start off with other parts of Fiji. It's a very small community, Cicia, so it will take them a while to build up capacity to export further than that, but there would be that potential in the future. They'll be certified under a participatory guarantee scheme, which we can use to sell into unregulated organic markets. So, potentially, it could reach the shelves of New Zealand at some point in the future.
MB: It's the first organic island in the Pacific, isn't it?
KM: Yes, it is. It's actually a pilot programme we're running there for participatory guarantee systems. We're running another one in Abaiang on Kiribati, which is looking at developing coco sap sugar that's organically certified. And we have a couple of programmes already running in French-speaking Pacific. But there's interest everywhere. The cost of certification has always really been prohibitive to Pacific growers, and this is a really low-cost option for building markets locally and within the region, and preparing growers for entering export markets later on. I think the potential for participatory guarantee systems is enormous in the region.
MB: So you've had a lot of good feedback from the people involved?
KM: Yes, we have. They're really excited. I think the thing about PGS is it's really about empowerment of farmers and producers and communities. They're really excited about taking development into their own hands and seeing the possibilities. They're already envisaging options of their island as an organic destination for visitors to Fiji, where people could have a really authentic experience and experience organic agriculture and traditional agriculture as it was and as it is now. So they're very excited about the options.
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