26 Jun 2013

Full organic certification sought for Tonga's Ha'apai

4:52 pm on 26 June 2013

There are hopes in Tonga that the Ha'apai island group will soon be declared 100 percent organic.

One of the group's involved in the push, the Tonga National Youth Congress, says it will be the first such achievement in Tonga.

The Congress's director, Vanessa Lolohea, explained to Don Wiseman.

VANESSA LOLOHEA: We have about 11 growers there being certified organic, but we also have most of the island group registered for organic certification. And we have had our inspection just a few months ago, in March. We are waiting to see the results of that organic certification. The reason why we push the Ha'apai islands is because most of the growers on one particular all registered, so it's easier for us to certify one whole island group.

DON WISEMAN: They've never used chemicals, or very rarely used chemicals.

VL: In the meeting where I refer to the Ha'apai economic development programme, all the town officers and all the district officers within the Ha'apai island group came in together. And most of them have identified about six people who were using weedicide on their land. They got them to be in the meeting and now the governor declared that there won't be any chemical leaves in Ha'apai, and that they will work on getting the whole island of Ha'apai not having any chemicals, but becoming fully organic.

DW: And what does it mean? If the entire island group is certified 100% organic, what will it mean? You will market the Ha'apai group as a unit?

VL: Yes. Now we have contacts from the Tonga Visitors Bureau, also the Minister of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment. They are looking into developing some kind of package where they can market Ha'apai as a certified organic island, kind of a eco-tourism package for the future.

DW: We're talking here primarily about coconut, are we?

VL: There's also the SMA project, which is the Special Management Area, that's in the sea. The fishing ground for most of the villages and the islands. So they are looking, as well, into seafood products, value-added products that they can develop from there. Otherwise they will look at handicrafts based on different pandanus and tapa from those registered organic farm plots. I think it's a lot of activity not just based on coconut oil.

DW: But that reminds significant?

VL: Yes, coconut oil definitely remains significant because most of the island groups, we are able to fulfil the VCO unit, which is the Virgin Coconut Oil Unit where most of the youth are being employed or running the whole operation within the community.