Bioversity international

Chapter 4. From the ocean to the mountains: storytelling in the Pacific Islands Fishing and agroforestry food system of the MelanesiansSI people in Solomon Islands

Section 2 Sustainability of the Indigenous People’s food system


Adequacy of income opportunities

All villagers in Baniata rely on agri-food sale as their primary source of income. Outlets include local markets, as well as regional and national sales of specific agri-food products such as dried coconut and ngali nuts. Fortnightly incomes range from less than SBD 100 to over SBD 1 00022 depending on the season, market prices for commodity crops, in particular copra, and agri-food sales at markets.

The Munda market provides 50 percent of market income, which includes homegrown produce and prepared foods. Occasionally villagers will sell at the Sombara market near Munda, or the Noro market more rarely. Roughly 30 percent of income is from regional sales, including the sale of copra; 20 percent from the sale of ngali nuts and betel nuts in Honiara; and 2 percent from international markets, mostly from selling ngali nuts to New Caledonia.

Copra is the primary source of income for most of the villagers, which they sell throughout the year. Coconuts are transformed into copra through the process of drying with a slow-burning fire in a grass hut near the collection sites. It is exported via boats to regional resellers in Munda and Noro, who then sell in international markets. When the buying price of copra is high, villagers can receive SBD 5 00023 per 100 kg. When it is low, they only receive SBD 1 00024 per 100 kg. National and international markets dictate the prices. Ngali nuts are becoming an important source of income, in local and international markets, in particular New Caledonia, although they are also consumed at the household level. Ngali nuts are shelled, baked and dried by women and sold at local markets for SBD 3525/kg. Community members also sell masi masi prepared from slippery cabbage and ngali nuts for SBD 1026 per piece. Ngali nuts are ground in a bowl, spread between layers of the slippery cabbage, and then cooked in a stone oven. The community is working towards achieving organic certification for the ngali nut. A dedicated processing facility is currently being constructed in the village, which will ensure the product is Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified for food safety. After the organic and HACCP certifications are complete, the community will likely be able to expand to other international markets and increase sales.

Marketing of farmed food and vegetables is the second most common source of income. On market days, villagers can receive anywhere from SBD 100 to SBD 1 00027 per trip. The most commonly sold foods are eggplant, tomato, capsicum, fiji vahu (a variety of sweet banana), cooking banana, cassava, slippery cabbage, watercress, paksoi (Chinese cabbage), sweet potato, yam, pana and fish. Betel nut, whilst not a food, is also commonly traded at the markets. Availability is seasonal. Slippery cabbage and cassava, unlike many other foods, are available almost all year round. December has the most diversity and quantity of foods, whilst the first six months of the year, from January to June, have the least. One heap of sweet potatoes is SBD 10.28 Chinese cabbage prices are consistent throughout the year. Some villagers state they are generally happy with the prices they receive for their products, whilst others state they are not satisfied with the prices and do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. Since the prices are fixed per heap of cabbage sold, there is no way to negotiate a better profit margin.

Young Solomon Islands boy examining his father’s daily fish catch.
© Massey University/Chris Vogliano.

In addition to the Munda market, two outlets are located within the village of Baniata. On Fridays, villagers sell their products within the Baniata community. This market is important for garden produce, although it now features more baked and fried foods such as ring cakes.

Income earned from market sales is used to purchase food not available in Baniata, as well as non-food items from the Munda shops and markets. A rough estimate of money that an individual can spend in a single day in Munda after marketing is around SBD 300.29 If families have money left over from their purchases, they give a small fee to help support the village. Villagers feel the prices for foods in Munda are reasonable and affordable – particularly at the stores. Certain foods such as taro, yam, pana, fish and corned beef tend to be more expensive. Foods at the Munda markets are usually fresh, as produce is typically picked within the past day, and fish is sourced directly from the ocean. Noro market is the only exception, where the fish is stored in freezers, often for too long, and then sold to local Solomon Islanders.

Adequacy of diets

Local foods are sourced from home gardens, markets and wild collected foods. Villagers estimated that around 60 percent of foods come from food gardens and locally kept animals, 10-20 percent come from the wild, either hunted, fished or collected, and 20-30 percent come from the market and stores in Munda.

At some point throughout the year, many households in the community experience food insecurity. Issues include worrying they might not have enough to eat, not having access to healthy foods, eating only a few varieties of foods, and not having enough for the needs of the entire household. If they are completely out of foods, villagers may ask if they can harvest foods from a relative’s garden. Rice is a commonly consumed food during times of low food access, as it is readily available and affordable.

According to the women in focus group discussions, household food insecurity is most experienced from April to July, the gap after the main harvest. Men state that between January and March it is difficult to provide enough food, mainly because sweet potato varieties that are planted in December and January do not provide the same yield as before. For example, the sweet potato plants may look healthy, but tend to have lower yield for the tubers. Men say this is most likely due to the increased duration of the rainy season. Additionally, the seas tend to be rougher during the rainy season, which reduces the catch, as the men venture to sea less frequently. What is caught, together with other agri-food products, is difficult to get to the market during this period, again because of the rough seas.

During the periods of food insecurity, villagers increase their consumption of cooking bananas and less-preferred varieties of roots and tubers such as wild yams and taros to supplement the low supply of sweet potatoes. The main taro species and varieties eaten at this time are voruku (Alocasia macrorrhizos, giant taro), ozo (Alocasia macrorrhizos, giant taro), kakake (Cyrtosperma merkusii, swamp taro) and karuvera (Xanthosoma sagittifolium, Chinese taro). Together with changing taste preferences, in the past taro was the staple food, which is slowly being replaced by sweet potatoes.

Traditional foods are eaten daily in Baniata, but are often mixed with imported and highly processed foods such as instant noodles, white rice, biscuits, table sugar and vegetable oils. In addition, consumption of regionally caught canned tuna, called taiyo, from the nearby Noro tuna factory has increased.

In contrast with the common assessment that food diversity is high in the local food system and remains stable, diet quality is likely not sufficient. Community members all agree that rice dominates the plate and there is a heavy reliance on carbohydrate-based foods such as roots, tubers, rice, noodles and sugar-sweetened drinks. The major source of protein comes from canned tuna and other seafood. Protein intakes are low, as other high-quality sources such as meat, eggs, dairy and legumes are rarely consumed. Meat and dairy are rarely purchased from the market due to expense. They are commonly consumed once a month. Pulses are consumed twice a week between June and August when it is the season. Though prevalent throughout the village, seeds, orange fruits and red fruits are not consumed frequently. Coconut milk, oil or shaved coconut is incorporated into almost every meal, with processed commercialized vegetable oils starting to become more commonly used.

The perception of community consumption varies dramatically depending on the demographic. Older women estimate 75 percent of food is local, whilst only 25 percent is processed. Younger women think it is split evenly, and men think 25 percent of the food consumed is local whilst 75 percent is processed. However, villagers recognise that shifts away from traditional foods are resulting in unhealthy people and increased rates of non-communicable diseases. There is no clear local classification for foods or dietary guidelines in the village. Men classified local foods into four groups: meat, fruit, leaves and energy. Women classified local foods into three groups, which more closely aligns with the National Dietary Guidelines from Solomon Islands: energy foods, bodybuilding foods and protective foods. This comparison between men and women indicates that women are more knowledgeable of the national dietary guidelines than men.

TABLE 4.8. Men’s and women’s classifications of local foods image

Men perceived a healthy and well-nourished person as someone who is “a very happy person who likes to play all the time, always ready to work, does not get sick easily, not fat and well built. Some healthy people do have little bigger belly because they eat well.” Women perceived a healthy person as someone who is “strong, fat, looks beautiful and handsome, clever and happy, looks very young and bright, willing to work and his/her body grows well.”

There are numerous perceived and actual barriers to food security and diet quality. These include seasonal availability of home garden foods, local irregular production such as eggs, pests and diseases of crops, changes in weather patterns and impacts on seas, high costs of food, in particular meat and milk, growing interest in convenience foods, and shifting taste preference from traditional crops to processed foods. When asked, villagers wished they could purchase and consume certain foods more frequently – most of which were processed foods, including cordial, mineral water, ice cream, butter, cola, onions, chicken wings, corned beef and bread. Villagers expressed interest in consuming more meat if it were more accessible.

Changes in the provision of livelihoods and social well-being over time

In the past, money was not required in Baniata. Villagers depended on their traditional crops for survival. There were no shops and villagers were satisfied with what they had. With globalization and the introduction of income, money is now required for foods, materials, transport, school fees, clinic fees, travel, and community contributions for special events or projects.

Prior to independence from British rule, Solomon Islanders made little money, but the British pound was worth enough to pay for an acceptable standard of living. After independence in 1978, Solomon Islands transitioned to the SBD, and everyday prices for all Solomon Islanders increased significantly. The majority of the people in the village now earn money from agri-food production activities, as traditional crops progressively became a source of income. With larger home gardens and the increasing ability to sell to markets, livable wages are now possible. Villagers now work harder than before independence, but recognise that income opportunities are rising as market sales and opportunities expand.

Incomes are rising due to overall increased sales of home garden products and handmade crafts and goods. Increased incomes are now altering relationships amongst villagers, as some villagers are hiding their fast-growing varieties of crops from their neighbours. Other villagers are even harvesting their neighbours’ crops or “forgetting” to bring their neighbours’ crops to the market for sale.

Meanwhile, villagers state that the quality of diets and food supply has changed dramatically over the past three to four decades. Since the 1990s, there has been an increase in imported and processed foods. If the market in Baniata was previously used to sell fresh produce, eggs and fresh fish, it now sells primarily nutrient-poor, highly processed baked goods such as ring cakes, donuts and sweet breads. Villagers are more often opting for this type of food over wild collected foods, as they are easier to find, cook and prepare. Traditional foods are also declining in consumption, as many are sold for cash to buy non-food products or to pay for children’s school fees. In the past few years, crop yields have been decreasing, which reduces even further the amount of crops able to be sold at the market. Harvests have changed over time. The ngali nut harvesting was previously between September and February; now harvesting continues until June, which is assumed by community members to be caused by longer and more intense rainy seasons. Fish stocks and sizes are also declining, with negative impacts on dietary quality, especially protein intakes, and income generation. This, along with a tuna cannery opening in the nearby town of Noro in 1977, has shifted local diets away from fresh fish to canned tuna. The type of tuna consumed locally is “second grade tayio”, made of the dark flesh that is less desirable and not suitable for export. In addition, new techniques of removing skins from traditional foods such as roots and tubers due to a preference in taste are making the food less healthy. This has resulted in poor health outcomes such as high blood pressure, diabetes, increasing rates of obesity and being overweight, to name a few.


Land and soil

The landscape is characterised by sand along the shorelines followed by loamy soils inland. After this, the soil then becomes more stony/mixed gravel with clay, and towards the bottom of the hills and mountains it eventually becomes silt. Villagers prefer the soil that is less stony with more clay, a silty texture, and one that has been fallowed for a longer period. Soil quality is better immediately behind the shores or coconut plantations. These soils are deeper with less or no stones or gravels. This is unlike the soils closer to the foot of the mountain ranges, which are stony/gravelly due to the continuous accretion from the streams coming from the mountains.

Choices for crop cultivation are strongly connected to the landscape. Soft soils are usually planted with peanuts. Swampy areas along the riverside are used to cultivate crops such as kakake and ruta (Colocasia esculenta, taro). Home gardens are placed within close proximity to a river for easy water access. Sandy areas along the coasts are used for coconut plantations and dry loamy soils are used to produce crops like taro and sweet potatoes. Baniata’s home gardens, ngali nut agroforestry systems, and coconut plantations are entirely organic, as villagers do not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Locals generally view their soil as very fertile compared to other islands in the Western Province. However, maintaining soil quality is a rising issue in Baniata.

Practices that aim to maintain and enhance soil fertility are often not adequate to cope with rising pressure on soil quality. Land fallowing and crop rotations are practised throughout the village, in the following sequences: sweet potato, cassava and karuvera, followed by a three- to five-year fallow; potato, potato, potato and cassava, followed by a three- to five-year fallow; and watermelon, potato and cassava, followed by a three- to five-year fallow. Some villagers are beginning to integrate legumes such as bean or peanut in a crop rotation schedule to enhance nitrogen fixation. Most villagers do not improve soil fertility with compost or nitrogen fixation. Whilst some still use the old practice of stick for tilling and planting, most now use the hoe to cultivate.

Today, erosion is controlled by moving gardens to a different site and allowing the old gardens to fallow. Some growers use garden residues or rubbish such as rice sacks or containers as physical barriers to contain the soil and prevent erosion. Others dig small drains to divert water flow away from their food gardens. Villagers also avoid cultivating on slopes to minimise erosion.

Labour and fuel energy

Baniata is reliant on non-renewable and externally sourced energy for certain essential tasks. The primary use of petrol is to transport villagers and their goods to local markets in Munda or Noro, which are only accessibly by boat. The village owns a few petrol-powered generators; however, these are not commonplace and are being replaced with solar panels.

Most households have solar panels that were provided by a government grant. Kerosene lamps are still used, but not as frequently due to the increase in solar lighting and rechargeable torches. Candles made from ngali nut oil, coconut oil lamp and disposable operated torches are now rarely used. Firewood, collected from the surrounding landscape, is used for cooking and processing copra and ngali nuts. Women and children work together to collect firewood each week. Collecting firewood takes around one half day to complete. Wood is abundant and collected from old or fallen branches of ngali nut trees. Locally, demand for firewood and other fuels such as coconut shell and husk, as well as ngali nut shells, had increased due to increased processing of ngali nut and copra for export, combined with an increase in the village population.

In the village, men are responsible for clearing forests for new garden plots, gathering coconuts for copra, building new homes and teaching these skills to young boys. Besides their role in collecting firewood, women are also primarily responsible for agri-food activities including gardening, gathering wild foods such as ngali nuts, cooking, and selling goods at markets. Children help their parents with their gender-specific roles around the village. Boys typically help with planting cassava, hoeing mounds, planting sugar cane, clearing the gardens, and fishing. Girls assist with weeding, planting crops such as potato, corn, kumara, etc., and collecting vines.

Human energy demands consist of gardening, collecting firewood that is primarily done by women, processing coconuts into copra, and processing ngali nuts. The food system is based on a subsistence farming system so labour requirements are high. The whole family is involved in food production and this is usually enough to meet the daily food needs, as well as yield surpluses that can be sold without needing extra labour.


The most common sources of waste include bio-organic waste from the kitchen, home gardens and crop processing (such as ngali nut skins and shells), plastic bags and wrappers, human sewage, medical waste from the health clinic, and leaves from trees in the village. The most concerning wastes are plastics and human sewage. Although people sometimes reuse plastics, they are usually burned or buried. However, a large percent of plastics end up in the sea, along the shores, or littered around the village. Medical wastes are typically buried in the ground.

Waste minimisation is not practised according to the community. However, some waste is reused. Kitchen scraps are recycled into animal feed or placed on banana trees for compost. Plastic instant noodle wrappers and rice bags are used as seedling starters, by placing soil and seeds into the plastic wrappers, and placing them in the sun. Plastic shopping bags are often reused for selling dried ngali nuts and for covering hanging fruits as a pest control method. Plastic bottles are reused for water collection. Other uses of plastics include weaving into door curtains, artificial flowers and purses.

Changes in resource use efficiency over time

Traditionally longer fallowing times or permanently moving to a new garden site was commonly practised. Increasing populations and decreased land availability has reduced the amount of time villagers have allowed land to fallow. Mixed cropping was previously practised in the distant past, usually consisting of small parallel plots with a different species or variety in each plot. This has been said to decrease the soil quality and therefore has reduced the efficiency of both land and soil use. In the past, fallowing and digging with stick minimised soil disturbances and helped control soil erosion. Pests and diseases are on the rise, including rat infestations, causing villagers to prioritize crops that rats consume less frequently.

Human labour demands have increased to account for a rise in agri-food sales and feeding a growing family size. The demand for cash through the sale of crops requires a larger plot of home gardens and this demands more labour. In the past, men would chop down forests by hand but now the slash and burn technique is the dominant method of clearing forests. Increased labour needs have women hiring others to help with the growing and cultivation of agri-food products. An example of this is ngali nut processing. A family would provide tea and sugar or cook rice, tuna and noodles to attract villagers to their nut-cracking sessions.

The community uses few modern or mechanized farming tools, except for diesel boat engines. In addition, the level of drudgery decreased after hoeing was introduced. Machetes, large knives and axes make it easy to clear the forest for cultivation compared to in the past, where they used stone axes that required a lot of human effort. The community decided to decrease external inputs in general, not just within agriculture, which was facilitated in 2011 when a local parliamentarian donated solar panels to reduce reliance on kerosene lamps and diesel generators for electricity and light.

In the past, women would walk for 10-15 minutes to collect water twice daily from the closest stream. In 1986, a pipe system from a nearby waterfall was established and taps were placed in various locations around the village. This greatly reduced the time required to fetch water, which now only takes around two to three minutes.

However, water quality varies, particularly during the rainy season when it is said to taste different and can become dirty. Some villagers blame this on leaking pipes that run to the village and the establishment of food gardens close to the water source. Because of this, sometimes women will walk to the water source to fetch fresh drinking water. People now live alongside the river, which is creating new issues around water pollution and safety. The neighbouring village of Havila previously had water run through the village, but now they must walk to the river to fetch it due to the small streams drying up. Men state that recent landslides also changed the river patterns and slowed the flow of the water.

Coconut plantations lining the black sandy shores of Baniata Village.
© Massey University/Chris Vogliano.

Waste management efficiency has decreased over time, as larger amounts of waste are now produced compared to the past. New ways of cooking are leading to increased kitchen waste, including peeling potatoes or taro skins, grating and scraping out the flesh of coconut before squeezing out the milk, or animal forage wastes. These wastes are disposed of by tossing them into the sea, or burning. Previously there was little external waste entering the food system. Now, due to imported and packaged goods, there is significantly more plastic waste. No apparent attempts have been made to address this issue, most likely due to lack of awareness about the dangers of plastics for marine animals, and the convenience associated with the use of plastic.


Crop and livestock biodiversity

Baniata has over 53 crop species and 2 livestock species. The most prominent crops in Baniata are tubers and banana, which have numerous varieties: banana (19 cultivars), yam (17 varieties), cassava (8 varieties), taro (6 varieties) and sweet potato (11 varieties). Banana, yam and taro were traditionally the local staple crops, whilst cassava and sweet potato have been introduced more recently. Several varieties of banana and root crops are yellow or light orange fleshed.

Despite the diversity of crops maintained, villagers agree that agrobiodiversity is decreasing due to the increasing reliance on imported foods. Additionally, the opening of markets has led to impacts on the local environment through the introduction of a variety of crops and pests. This is particularly the case of the improved crossbreed of pig, nowadays raised by many households in large areas. Other introduced plant and animal species are still grown and raised by few households on small areas, such as wild pigs, featherless neck chicken, hybrid variety of guava, varieties of mangos, and hybrid variety pawpaw. However, community members usually prefer the local varieties. Although not cultivated extensively, four varieties of gourd have been introduced in the food system.

Certain seeds are commonly traded within the community, particularly if they do not have high market value. Seed access remains a limitation for growing more vegetables in Baniata. Corn seeds are usually dried above the fireplace to preserve until next planting. Watermelon seeds are often shared with families free of charge and can be stored for up to two years without losing viability. Vegetable seeds can be accessed from the agricultural office in Munda, however, supply is irregular and seeds are not free. Crops with a higher market value are not shared because of increased competition in the marketplace. The local practices of ensuring household access to quality seed and an exchange of varieties are described below:

TABLE 4.9. Seed sharing and saving image
TABLE 4.10. Seed systems of traditional crops image

Wild harvested plants and animals

There are minimal restrictions on harvesting wild plants or animals. Fishing is restricted after the death of a villager, and wild foods cannot be collected in sacred or taboo areas. At least 50 species are fished for food, including 37 fish species, 6 molluscs, 4 crustaceans and 2 turtle species. In addition, 3 mammal species and 8 bird species are hunted. The eggs from 5 bird species and 2 turtle species are gathered. In addition, leaves from 7 wild plants and 1 species of seaweed are harvested as vegetables, along with 6 wild fruit species. Wild foods collection is declining due to preference for imported foods and population increases.

Ecosystem conservation and protection

There are traditional areas where ecosystems are protected under informal schemes. These areas are known as taboo areas, where villagers cannot enter. It was believed that these areas were used by their ancestors and are now recognised as sacred areas. A Baniata village elder oversees certain protected areas, such as Lake Suri. The wild animals such as flying fox, fish, crocodile and lizards near this lake cannot be hunted. Men feel the landscape and seascape ecosystem protection is adequate and stable; women think protection is not adequate.

Similar to the past, the community relies mostly on natural pollination. Locally important pollinators include bees, butterflies, viku (yellow birds), flying foxes and ghausu (doves). Villagers do not actively engage in pollination due to limited knowledge. The community perceives current levels of pollination are sufficient, as indicated by yields of fruits and nuts around the village. However, many note that butterflies are no longer common, probably due to introduced plants that are considered toxic to the butterflies.

Changes in the conservation and protection of resources over time

The reliance on local, traditional animal breeds and plant species and varieties has decreased over time in Baniata. For instance, the Bougainville banana was introduced in 1992 and provided Baniata with a new and novel variety that was easy to grow. However, this was at the cost of the rich plantain and banana biodiversity that existed in the landscape, including the Vitamin-A-rich Fei banana, which used to be a staple that was roasted each morning over an open fire, providing a nutritious breakfast for the whole family.

Nowadays, traditional varieties are replaced by new varieties entering the marketplace. Less land space is expected to be available in the future, as these areas have reached the foot of the mountains. It is anticipated that sustainable intensification practices such as crop rotations and shifting between fallowed plots will need to be practised to ensure sufficient food is produced for the increasing population and, hence, demand.

Fish stocks are declining, as villagers state they must travel much further to catch fish. Villagers remember a time when rivers were full of fish and eels, but due to flooding and increased populations, river stocks are much lower. Timber trees, especially vasa and gema used as firewood, are also declining and becoming increasingly difficult to access due to overutilization and lack of domestication. Villagers are adapting by alternating species for timber to build their homes.

Men feel villagers are managing natural resources sustainably and that they are preserving the land for the future. For example, harvesting of fish in the sea and harvesting of animals in the bush is done in a sustainable manner, as they believe they hunt, catch or harvest only the quantity that is needed to feed their families. Home gardening plots can be moved when needed, which allows the opportunity for land to fallow and the soil to regenerate. On the other hand, women state that sustainability now is declining. In the past, small fish were returned to the sea, yet today fish of all sizes are kept for consumption, resulting in overharvesting. Women also noted that some villagers poison the river to catch fish, causing all fish in the river to die.


Governance of natural resources

Village elders govern the use of natural resources. If someone wants to use natural resources, they must first consult the elders. Elders traditionally help resolve land disputes between families. Solomon Islands’ government does not own land in Baniata. Everyone in the community has customary or formally recognised rights over land but the elders are the people who know most about land rights. The individual members of the community can farm and work on any unoccupied land, as long as they have consulted and received approval from the village elders. The Irugo elders have the majority when community decisions need to be made but will typically gather input from each household. As the elders age, they pass knowledge to their successors.

Fire roasted and beta-carotene rich Fe’i banana (Musa x troglodytarum L., Musaceae).
© Massey University/Chris Vogliano.

Baniata has a matrilineal system of land use rights and management. Women are the primary managers of the land. If a woman has a son, the son will inherit the land-use rights from his mother. However, both males and females have equal rights to use the land. Land has been handed down from elders to a tribe of family members, including their sons and daughters. Certain actors outside of the community can also use land with permission from the elders, including missionary groups, teachers, church leaders, nurses and pastors. Certain villagers hold land use rights in other communities too.

Changes in governance of natural resources over time

Community-based landscape planning is fluctuating and beginning to decline according to the villagers. In the past, natural resources were well cared for by the chiefs and leaders in the community. When the last chiefs died, no chiefs took their place and now elders have taken charge. However, elders are not governing the natural resources as effectively as chiefs once did. There are also no formal institutions to help govern the use of natural resources.

Baniata is home to one of the few nesting grounds of the massive yet endangered leatherback turtles. Previously, villagers would eat the turtle eggs as a source of nutrition, as each turtle lays anywhere from 300 to 700 golf-ball-sized eggs during her 10-day nesting period. However, now the Tetepare Descendants Association is helping to protect leatherback turtle populations by offering incentives to protect turtle egg nests from being harvested by villagers. However, many villagers – particularly youth – still collect these eggs at night and consume the eggs as food.


A summarized assessment of 13 indicators of resilience is presented below.

1. Exposed to disturbance: Over the past few decades, villagers have experienced numerous disturbances. However, villagers cite more frequent natural disasters. Increasing intensity of weather patterns are inhibiting stability – from increased frequency of cyclones and flooding, to landslides drying up rivers. Tsunamis have also occurred after the earthquakes in 2007 and 2010. Further, pests are on the rise, jeopardizing the productivity of the local agri-food system.

2. Globally autonomous and locally interdependent: The community is self-sufficient, with 70 percent of the food production coming from farming, fishing and wild sourcing. However, an increasing percentage of their food is sourced from imported or processed foods (30 percent). Trade between villages is increasing with the improvement of market access via petrol-powered boats. Only a few programmes or local initiatives exist to promote agri-food products in the community, such as for ngali nuts.

3. Appropriately connected: The village is appropriately connected to two major markets – Munda and Noro. The barriers to reaching these markets include lack of access to boat use and ownership, rough seas, costs of petrol, and seasonality of produce.

4. Socially self-organised: In the community village elders make community decisions based on input from the villagers. Previously, Baniata had village chiefs, of higher status than village elders, and concerns have arisen with their recent passing. There is a strong notion of support within the community, as villagers regularly give a portion of their agri-food earnings to help support village expenses.

5. Reflective and shared learning: The village maintains traditional knowledge that has been passed down verbally for generations, such as songs written about local recipes (masi masi). New farming technologies have reduced the drudgery involved with agricultural production, and motorboats and improved fishing gear have extended the ability of villagers to catch more seafood. However, both men and women feel agricultural innovation is decreasing and that their methods need improvement.

6. Honours legacy: Elders are respected in the community as the primary decision makers. The community maintains many of its traditional ways of life, as the villagers have limited access to electricity or cellular phone service. Traditional knowledge and the local languages are not written or documented, and thus are slowly disappearing. There are some initiatives by the youth to reinvigorate pride and passion around the local food culture, which can be linked with the transfer of traditional knowledge from elders to the younger generations.

7. Builds human capital: Knowledge transmission mainly happens through storytelling, songs and teaching by watching and doing whilst carrying out daily agri-food activities. The teaching is often gender-specific per agri-food activity. The transferring of knowledge is seemingly decreasing due to the community’s increased reliance on imported foods. Further, elders are concerned about a perceived lack of interest by the youth in learning traditional recipes and ways of life. However, when asked, the youth showed much interest in continuing agricultural and cultural traditions.

8. Coupled with local natural capital: The community’s food system is intricately linked with the natural resources found in the local land- and seascape. Negligible external inputs are used for agri-food production, as Baniata’s food system is 100 percent organic. Villagers hold high respect for the natural environment as it provides them with the majority of their food, shelter and fuel. Increased levels of waste seem to be a concern, due to increasing demographic pressure and reliance on packaged foods.

9. Ecologically self-regulated: The villagers have a strong connection with nature and view it as a necessary and positive relationship to ensure their own good health. Soil health, water quality and quantity, and energy sourcing are all viewed positively with minor areas of improvement required.

10. Functional diversity: Multiple food groups are represented in Baniata’s agricultural production and land- and seascape, including starches, pulses, fruits, nuts and seeds, leafy vegetables, other vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, and eggs. However, diversity in crop production is decreasing due to the increasing reliance on imported foods.

11. Optimally redundant: All villagers rely on agri-food products as a primary source of income. Multiple varieties exist of many types of crops, including potatoes, bananas, pawpaws and green leafy vegetables. Of 53 crop species maintained, at least 25 have multiple varieties so that the food system generates 156 crop foods in total. Whilst the diversity of crops is declining, it is believed that in particular the local traditional varieties offer resilience against climate and pest disturbances and help promote nutrition adequacy.

12. Spatial and temporal heterogeneity: The landscape is located on a small, forest-filled peninsula surrounded by the open ocean. A large mountain limits the expansion of the village. The villagers use the available land to grow agri-food products through traditional farming methods, agroforestry and collection of wild foods.

13. Reasonably profitable: The villagers are generally satisfied with the income earned from selling agri-food products at the markets, such as home gardens’ produce, copra and ngali nuts. The income is mostly used to pay for expenses such as school fees for children, houseware items and imported foods. Incomes earned by villagers are increasing due to the price villagers can get for their products at the market. However, the reliance on boats to reach the markets creates barriers for some community members in selling their produce, especially for women.

  • 22 Equivalent to USD 12.4-124. Applying the UN Operational Rate of Exchange of 1 July 2018 (1 USD = 8.045 SBD). This rate will apply throughout the entire chapter.
  • 23 Equivalent to USD 622.
  • 24 Equivalent to USD 124.
  • 25 Equivalent to USD 4.4.
  • 26 Equivalent to USD 1.24.
  • 27 Equivalent to from USD 12.4 to USD 124.
  • 28 Equivalent to USD 1.24.
  • 29 Equivalent to USD 37.3.
  • 30 Energy food: carbohydrate-rich food; Bodybuilding: protein-rich food; Protective food: vitamin- and mineral-rich food.

“We are a welcoming community that works together, and we are proud of our baked ngali nuts.”

Woman from the community in Baniata.