Samoa has food producer potential

Samoa has the ability to process and produce foods that can be consumed anywhere in the world, and the University of the South Pacific has taken on this initiative.

The Alafua campus is the first campus in the region to help increase and empower people with economic and nutritional benefits with its food processing facility. 

They have developed 70 more new healthy process products from indigenous and natural ingredients, which include tea, flour powder, dried fruits and vegetables, baked products, candies, juice, ice cream, purees, jellies, jams, marmalades, pickles and sauce, which are made from various crops. 

Some crops include breadfruit, papaya, guava, mango, starfruit, root crops such as taro, cassava, yam, sweet potato, vegetable such as okra, cucumber, kangkong, ampalaya etc., and they are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that fight cancer, diabetes and hypertension. 

“We want to do food processing at the level that people can do it in the village level. We want to train the women, empower them with economic benefits, and also economically and nutritionally they will be well off,” said Campus Director Professor Mohammed Umar. 

“Out of 12 foods that 75 percent of the people eat, eight are found in the Pacific, so whatever we do here in Samoa with the local ingredients can easily be eaten and tried in Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands because we all grow the same thing.”

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Out of the 70 processed products, green tea, breadfruit flour and cassava chips have been selected, prepared, and awaiting for food quality and safety assurance health certificate at the Ministry of Health and Commerce, Industry and Labour for commercialisaton.

“We use local fruits grown here in the farm. In terms of food security we process these root crops and vegetables to store them longer, and you can make it into snack for future use,” said Food and Technology lecturer Alminda Fernandez. 

“By having a food processing facility, you can use all the wastage. If we can harvest and sell or use all those fruits and crops, than we can save 30 percent of all post-harvest losses,” Prof. Umar added.  

“If you can process the Pacific commodities, you can increase the production by 30 percent, not by increasing what you plant, but saving the ones you planted.”

Prof. Umar said the Campus wants to develop their programme to an extent that it replaces imported junk foods. 

“We should be able to use our own produce from within the Pacific or at the country level. There are so many advantages, one, the farmers can then sell their products to us, we process it, and then they will also have the ability to train people in their villages. 

“Except for these three products we are looking to commercialise, we will try and train people on how to utilise the other products in the best effective ways, with basic materials available in their homes.”

Ms. Fernandez is still in the process of compiling the course contents before the Campus can offer them under the Certificates programme in 2020. 

“In this way, students who graduate will be able to provide for themselves economically. They can be self-employed, using the knowledge and skill they acquire from here, and the basic equipment they have in their own homes to produce quality products from their farms,” Prof. Umar said. 

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