Rotuma Get Organic Certification By POETcom
The iTaukei Trust Fund Board (TTFB) and the Council of Rotuma, are delighted to advise on the certification of ‘Organic Rotuma’ as approved by the Pacific Ethical Trade
Community (POETcom), the governing body of organics movement within the Pacific Community (SPC). The initiative was achieved with the partnership of the SPC, Matanataki consultancy and the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 2011, the Council of Rotuma endorsed a proposal to ban the use of chemicals on farms which would actually come into effect by the first quarter of the following year. This timeframe allowed farmers to use up any leftover stock. By 2012, farmers were encouraged to stop the use of chemical herbicides.
In August last year, TTFB visited Rotuma to carry out a scoping exercise and needs assessment. This was carried out in consultation and collaboration with the Council of Rotuma and relevant government departments. Outcomes from this visit helped develop the groundwork for organic certification of the island of Rotuma.
This year in March, a team comprising of TTFB, SPC and Matanataki visited Rotuma to conduct a three-day workshop training on Participant Guarantee System (PGS) for organic certification. The TTFB funded training was facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and conducted by SPC’s Land Resources Division-POETcom technical team and consulting company, Matanataki.
Left: Group photo taken with the workshop participants, the Council of Rotuma (comprising of all the district chiefs of Rotuma), the District Officer and the Civil Servants from the Ministry of Agriculture based in Rotuma during the Opening of the Organic “Participatory Guarantee System” (PGS) workshop at the “Viti Kei Rotuma” Hall at Itumuta.
The workshop training was attended by forty participants including chiefs and growers, both women and youths, from Rotuma’s seven districts. The objective of the workshop was to start certifying land lots around the island and gradually expand allowing development stakeholders to properly manage waste in order to comply with the organic standards towards PGS certification for the whole island.
In addition to the workshop training, the technical practitioners also went out to the districts to engage in talanoa sessions with potential organic farmers.
Key towards this certification process was to conduct the PGS which covered all facets of the organic process. The visiting SPC technical team, in their ground survey, brought back to Viti Levu a total of eleven files on farms for evaluation. Of this, nine farms satisfied the standards for organic land certification and thus, were eligible for organic registration. This then led to the certification of the brand “ORGANIC ROTUMA”.
In their findings, Rotuma has the potential to engage in organic pollinated seed production for business. The intention is that interested organic certified farmers be trained on the standard procedures for organic pollinated seed production and to get the facilities for seed processing particularly a high value packing and storage system to allow producers to have a fixed contract with government on organic pollinated seed supply. Technical support services from the Ministry of Agriculture or SPC and Biosecurity Authority of Fiji can be mobilised through proper channels to engage and ensure that this potential is realised.
Following the March trip, business consulting firm, Matanataki in their report recommended that there some very good natural products already thriving on the island that can be sustainably managed as an organic export product. These include Rotuma kava, coconuts and organic seedlings.
TTFB is working with Matanataki to put together a proposal on open pollination (for the seedlings), which is not yet available in Fiji and coconut production. Coconuts are in abundance on the island and they can be produced and sustained commercially.
Left: iTaukei Trust Fund Board (TTFB) Project Coordinator Rotuma, Alfred F. Wiliame Jr. presenting to the Council of Rotuma (comprising of all the district chiefs of Rotuma) on the PGS workshop and the plans ahead in certificating Rotuma as an Organic Island including projects that will be embarked for Rotuma.
TTFB is now in discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture to pilot a project on the establishment of an organic seedlings’ nursery for commercial purposes. This is an exciting next chapter for Rotuma’s organic journey, because of the expected wide range benefits the seedlings production will bring to the people of Rotuma. Furthermore, seedlings could also assist in food security rehabilitation efforts after natural disasters.
TTFB CEO Aisake Taito says “this is an exciting new journey for Rotuma and for the Board. We are happy to be part of this key milestone for Rotuma’s organic accreditation. Having an accredited organic status will only boost Rotuma’s economic and environmental sustainability efforts”.
Representatives of the Council of Rotuma have credited this initiative as an excellent and noble recognition of the efforts of many individuals and organisations particularly TTFB, SPC, POETcom, Matanataki and of course, the people of Rotuma. ‘Rotuma Organic’ will be the island’s benchmark for the niche market where excellence in performance becomes norm, a symbol that all Rotumans can proudly cherish and take responsible ownership for.
More discussions with the Council of Rotuma are expected in the areas of identifying the organic product to start off with including possible healthy value adding products. Some suggested products include turmeric, virgin coconut oil and organic seeds. Additionally, to look into upskilling and capacity building people identified to lead these various projects and of course key to any successful commercial venture is securing sustainable export markets for these identified organic products.