Organic certified Ngali nuts of the Baniata community in the Solomon Islands became a traditionally harvested product collected and prepared by women. This tradition is now a key source of income and a way to empower female farmers in their community.

Far off the Southern end of Rendova Island in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, lies Baniata Village, where there’s no television or mobile coverage. Food comes from the forest and the sea; life is simple and enough for locals like Dorence Walter.

Dorence main’s activity consists of collecting and selling Canarium nuts, locally known as Ngali nuts. Deep in the forest, one can find Dorence carving a tiny figure as she rummages through the leafy forest floor, searching for something. Her face lights up with the discovery of her first Ngali nut of the day, which she hastily picks it up, drops it in her bag, and searches for more. Soon her bags are full.

“I’ll make you Ngali nut pudding. It tastes good, you know,” she laughs, looks up and pats the tree trunk with approval for another successful harvest. Mature Canarium Indicum trees can provide 30 kilos of nuts per year, with some families owning 20 to 40 trees.

From August to February, the women and girls of Baniata collect Ngali nuts from the leafy forest floor just as their female ancestors did. While Baniata boys grow up to become expert fishermen, the girls become expert Ngali nut harvesters and bakers.

Finding new horizons through organic certification

“Our community is difficult to get to and it’s even harder for us to get to markets because of the long journey and the boat fare, so our nut sales are not always secure,” said Dorence Walter. In a strategic effort to reach out to new markets, the women of Baniata committed to certifying their local delicacies organic wild harvest to the Pacific Organic Standards (POS) through Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), under the guidance of the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom).

Dorence recently undertook the long journey to sell her communities’ Ngali nuts in another country. That experience provided her the opportunity to explain the importance of organic value-added markets: “Now that you buy our nuts, we know we can have more money to add to the money we earn from copra (dried coconut kernels)” Dorence told shop-owners at Biomonde Noumea.

In Honiara, the Ngali nuts are bought by Sol Agro, a local company that supports organic product development in rural communities. Sol Agro then exports the nuts to Biomonde Noumea, a health food retailer in New Caledonia. They also export to Bulaccino a chain of café’s in Fiji. Since becoming PGS certified through POETCom, the Baniata community has experienced increased household income from the premium sale of their Ngali nuts, a product traditionally harvested and prepared by women. This has, in turn, strengthened womens’ self-esteem and improved their status as decision-makers in the family and community.