Berrysmith Foundation

Treasure Island

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) is the writer of the well known books; Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He lived in Samoa from 1890 till his death five years later, the Samoans, who called him Tusitala (The teller of tales), he was well respected.
RLS former mansion is now the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum that showcases & preserves the memories of RLS lifestyle. Sharyn and I visited the museum back in April, but didn’t do the walk up to the top of Mount Vaea to visit RLS tomb, as it was too hot.

Last week at 6.30am a group of ladies and I did make the journey up in Mount Vaea Scenic Reserve, although warning notices indicated that it was not an easy walk due to cyclone damage and repairs. But because of the current dry season we decided it would be ok, and we were, although the track was steep at times making it muddy & slippery especially on the way back when it started to rain.
Just as well we made it back in time to the car park as we were gifted with 200mm over the next 48 hours, so much for the dry season! Despite the rain I did enjoy the walk and the view over the island from the top of Vaea. 

View from Mount Vaea

This month I have been very privileged to have the opportunity to go out with staff of the Organic team from Women In Business Development Inc, which has become a leader in organic systems in the Pacific Islands. Currently more than 700 Samoan families, working on 33,000 hectares of land, are fully organically certified to international standards through NASAA, (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia).
Women in Business Development acts as a middle-operator, arranging for a large number of small producers to supply produce for export contracts. Samoa's organic virgin coconut oil is exported to The Body Shop as part of their Community Fair Trade programme. Kofe (coffee Samoa) is sent to a high-end roastery in New Zealand, and dried misiluki bananas are also exported to New Zealand.

Most of Samoa is organic by default because they have practiced traditional farming for generations. And although non organic products to deal with garden pest disease & disorders are available, many are too costly for most people with a minimum hourly rate of WST$ 2.50 or NZD$ 1.35.
Being certified organic imposes more strict rules on top of the traditional farming practices that include no chemicals, no burning and buffer zones for properties bordering non-organic farms.

I enjoyed meeting with some other growers, although most of them are only small; compare to New Zealand growers they would be home and/ or farmer’s market growers. They often grow for their own use and sell the surplus. Visiting their gardens was very interesting to see how things are grown here; most places it is a treasure hunt finding your way in a collection of different vegetables, trees and vines with often no clear garden beds or paths; “mind your step!”, and using what you have on the property.

Paw Paw, Beans, Taro, Eggplant, Cacao

I came across some of the seedlings given out by ADRA, it was nice to be able to talk with the farmer about how the plants where performing on his land and see some of the seeds that I planted now all grown up.
But also produce I had only known from the (super-) market shelves e.g. pineapple, vanilla and cocoa. Another one is kapok, I knew that it is used for making bedding but I wouldn’t recognise it, but I can happily say that I do now. 

Pineapple Under Banana Trees

Drying Kapok

Both the walk up to RLS tomb and the Women in Business Development trips have helped me with the Organic Landscape Design module I currently study; gaining more knowledge of what can grow here in the Samoan landscape conditions. I am working on a farm plan putting many of these ideas together; it’s similar to a Sudoku puzzle to create a well balanced, treasured environment that will work well for nature and the custodian of the land / farmer.

For the first week of September Samoa has another celebration on the agenda; the Teuila festival Samoa. I have been told that it is one of the biggest cultural festivals in the pacific; I’m looking forward to take part in this.

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