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Dorence Walter is an organic farmer from the Baniata community in the Solomon Islands producing Canarium nuts, locally known as Ngali nuts. She talked to us about her experiences as a certified organic farmer in her community and how this has affected her livelihood.

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 an essential source of income and a way of empowering women 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’s primary activity is gathering 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 up, drops 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 in gratitude for yet another fruitful harvest. The tree is a key source of income that Dorence and many others in her community depend on. Some families own 20 to 40 Canarium Indicum trees, which can produce 30 kilos of nuts annually.

The women and girls of Baniata gather Ngali nuts from the leafy forest floor from August to February, much like their female ancestors did. The girls become skilled gatherers and bakers of Ngali nuts while the Baniata boys develop into skilled fishers.

Finding new horizons through organic certification

“Our community is difficult to reach and it’s even harder for us to get to the markets because of the long journey and boat fares, so our nut sales are not always secure,” shares Dorence Walter.

In a strategic effort to reach new markets, the women of Baniata have committed to certifying their local wild harvest delicacies 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 community’s Ngali nuts in another country. The experience gave her the opportunity to explain the importance of value-added organic markets to the shop owners at Biomonde Noumea,

Now that you are buying our nuts, we know we can have more money to add to what we make from copra (dried coconut kernels).

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 seen an increase in household income from the premium sale of their Ngali nuts, a product traditionally harvested and prepared by women. This in turn has boosted women’s self-esteem and improved their status as decision-makers in the family and community.

Click here to learn more about POETCom