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Thank you Samoa, ‘Home of the Ma’afala’

In this Samoa News file photo, breadfruit starts were available at a Farm Fair in American Samoa. [SN file photo]
Source: Pacific Business Center Program, Shidler College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The 2017 Samoa Pacific & Global Breadfruit Summit concluded last week in Apia with a resounding thank you to Samoa for a hosting job well done. The Summit theme, "Home of the Ma'afala" resonated with participants who came from around the Pacific, Caribbean, Asia, Africa, the US and Canada in the spirit of sharing their alofa for breadfruit.

Indeed, the ma'afala breadfruit is now known as a great gift from Samoa to the world, as this variety is being planted extensively (over 100,000) in over 40 countries around the tropic zones in Asia, Africa and the America’s, with tens of thousands currently growing in massive green house developments in Florida and elsewhere.

Why the ma’afala? Of all the varieties studied and researched, the ma’afala is the most resilient and best among the best of breadfruit in the world, hence its extensive propagation for transfer throughout the globe. 

As by product research and development continues with astonishing discoveries, the value added product potential into cosmetics, latex, pesticide, etc., in addition to the already compelling health ingredients in the breadfruit itself, are expanding and raising the commercial value and opportunities surrounding a single species of fruit bearing tree in unprecedented ways. It is no wonder, that it is called the most important agricultural tree of the 21st Century.

Many now see that breadfruit can become a major crop for healthy subsistence lifestyles, for local value-added markets, and now, with the recognition of breadfruit's superior nutritional characteristics, for export markets. 

Be that as it may, in the shuffle for economic development and commercial opportunities with exciting potential for generating wealth, it is imperative that the most critical element in the value chain from ground to table is not taken for granted but valued and respected economically, sustained culturally and strengthened spiritually. It is the farmer.

Developing multi faceted benefits from the tree in highly technical and expensive labs unaffordable in most developing island and continental countries with scientifically and academically trained specialists that can extract and combine this and that for a compelling product with high market demand, must never overshadow the value of strong and loving hands and strong constitutions guided by millenniums of wisdom, respect and love passed down from ancestors that embraces the gift of life that the ma’afala and its relatives has brought to the Pacific and now the world.

All developments must consider partnering with local village and community organizations that can share in the knowledge, education, training and commercial benefits to raise the common good.

But it is also clear that breadfruit is more than just a crop in Samoa: it is an integral part of the ancestral heritage, the healthy traditional diet, community food security, and the island landscape. Indeed, here in Samoa, the breadfruit itself is synonymous with "Home."

The knowledge of growing breadfruit in family plantations that are commonplace in Samoa is as big of a gift as the breadfruit itself.

In much of the rest of the world, the traditional multi-story food gardens, also known as agro-forests or food forests, have been removed for the sake of large-scale monocultures. The removal of these diverse multistory food gardens in other places for the sake of economic profit only, has led to some unfortunate side effects, including rapid loss of soil and vital nutrients, leading to a downward spiral where future crops become harder to grow without expensive inputs.

The absence of subsistence options in large-scale monocultures also brought with it a tragic loss of connection of people to the natural world, another self-perpetuating trend that makes it more difficult for people to feed themselves and future generations.

In Samoa, multi-story breadfruit gardens remain a ubiquitous sign of a right relationship with the world, community, and one's self.

Samoans continue to care for multi-story food gardens that are models of sustainability for the world. So in addition to the gift of ma'afala, we believe there is another even more important gift: generational knowledge and experience in growing breadfruit in ways that foster much more than a harvest of food.

Those other benefits are things that Samoans hold deeply in their hearts as important, such as the health of women, children, family, community, faith-based organizations, and the natural world.

With Samoan-style multi-story food gardens, we can continue to enjoy these benefits in addition to a new path toward a strong economic benefit from breadfruit. Applying this traditional knowledge to breadfruit commercialization can assure continuous production of breadfruit, as envisioned by the summit sponsors such as FAO.

It is also critical that research and testing results by appropriately certified professionals and scientist be shared to assure continuous improvement and certification of technologies to maximize benefit utilizing state of the art technologies that can cross validate and assure veracity and quality assurance.

Appropriate University research experts and scientist from research institutions such as the National Tropical Botanical Gardens Breadfruit institute (NTBG-BI), Scientific Research Organization of Samoa (SROS), Koko Siga Pacific (KSP) of Fiji, University of British Columbia (Fipke Centre for Innovative Research), Kansas State University (Milling, flour making, nutrition and food safety) and the University of Hawaii (tropical agriculture) whom have been involved extensively with breadfruit research and analysis, propagation, milling and flour making collectively provide the best source of information regarding the breadfruit to date.

Summit coordinators thank the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), the SROS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Seuseu Tauafi and his summit planning and coordinating staff led by Masuisui Dr. Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni head of the Plant & post harvest Technologies Division of SROS.

Special thanks to the Sponsors of the 2017 Breadfruit Summit and in particular the outstanding delegations and presenters from around the world whose participation continues the journey of continuous improvements and opportunities.

Also, thank you, Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa and last but not least, fa’afetai Samoa for the many gifts of the ma’afala that the world is now ready to receive.