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Breadfruit People Launch Inaugural Webinar

April 2021

Investing In The Future

Kyle Stice, the Breadfruit People Coordinator has welcomed connections and collaborations on the online community that was recently launched on Friday 9 April 2021

The Breadfruit People have launched their Inaugural Webinar, an online community that aims to promote what has been dubbed by experts and leaders as the food crop of the future.

In his welcoming remarks, Reverend M.Kalani Souza encouraged participants to connect with those working with the crop.

“You know, we cannot do this as individuals. We cannot do anything as great organizations or influencers or influential corporations.”

“The only thing that ever works is when we do this as family, as family committed to the future, committed to the children yet unborn.”

“Committed to our Earth Mother, and the proper way to move forward as our ancestors did, in deep relationship with the land, with the sea, with the air, with fire and all that is.”

The Hawaiian practitioner and Director of Olohana Foundation, an organisation which supports Pacific Islanders in addressing climate change, told participants breadfruit has the potential to create a positive impact on the environment and communities.

“The organic latex from the breadfruit tree could create the organic reusable and biodegradable plastics for the single use medical plastic industry, the single industry that is negatively impacting the ocean environments and our food chain.”

“Breadfruit might be the answer to the world’s need for plastic, but a need that needs to be biodegradable and handled regeneratively.”

“There’s also talk about vodka production and alcohol production and the fact is, it’s a very necessary part of life, particularly in the medical industry when it comes to creating medicines.”

“A good portion and up to about 35% of our breadfruit is wasted annually, I’ve seen it falling to the ground and fermenting and can be harvested and turned into an alcohol product.”

“Can you imagine another product that you can use 100% of the yield, regardless of the state that it’s in? This is far beyond dried milled flour so I think as farmers, we should think about the complexity and the possibilities that breadfruit actually offers.”

Raising The Profile Of Breadfruit

While farmer organisations have been quick to identify the benefits of breadfruit, governments and donors have generally been slower to see the importance.

Papali’i Dr. Failautusi Avegalio Jr, the Director of the Pacific Business Center Program at the University of Hawaii recalled earlier efforts securing support for the Breadfruit Initiative with participants at the Breadfruit People Inaugural Webinar.

“We’re a technical assistance program and what we do is, we assist with economic and business development, primarily in the US Pacific territories and freely associated states in addition to Hawaii.”

“However I was able to convince our divisional areas, ‘Look, you cannot only take a part of the body and make it work unless all the organs are there together.’ This kind of development cannot occur unless it’s regional in nature simply because supply scale isn’t there, and there’s so many small areas that you cannot develop a small area, unless it’s in close collaboration with other islands that are doing similar things.”

“So in 2013 we approached the Micronesian chief executives, there are 6 Governors and 3 Presidents of Micronesia and we tried to get Dr Craig Elevitch and Reverend Kalani Souza in there to get breadfruit on the agenda because we needed support.”

“We hadn’t gotten so much as too much interest but the Micronesian leaders put us on their agenda, and they unanimously supported a breadfruit initiative.”

“That was so critical because the funding agencies wouldn’t support anything that a small teeny weeny little program like ours would, but when the region stepped in from Micronesia, the Breadfruit Initiative was born.”

“From there, we were able to work closely and the leaders of the Breadfruit Initiative was Craig and Kalani, and later on we were able to bring in Kaitu Erasito from Fiji’s Nature’s Way Co-operative.”

“They were able to put together a concept that was so compelling, that when we submitted it in the national awards for universities with economic development programs in 2014, we won the national award.”

“All the big universities had technologies and all kinds of fancy devices, and we came up with a thing called breadfruit, and the first question they asked: ‘What’s breadfruit?’ But we were able to share with them the potential of breadfruit; it’s latex, it’s fluorescence, it’s gluten free, it’s low glycemic index and they’ve just been blown away and keeping updated with our developments.”

“Our next major impact was with PIFON – the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network, it was another major growth for the Breadfruit Initiative working between 70,000 – 80,000 farmers throughout Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. That was huge and I think that added even more credibility.”

“Our primary focus as an economic development and business program is we brought in a dimension that’s not part of the College of Business.”

“We wove in traditional wisdom and cultural values with modern science, knowledge and technology and we also brought in the spiritual component, and we reminded them, this is how we do things in the Pacific.”

“We have reverence for the sea, the land, the air and our ancestors. So if all you’re interested in planting a tree, harvesting and making money, I’m afraid you need to go talk to somebody else because we’re not the people for you to talk to.”

“So we need to make sure that we create regenerative development, not extractive development and it’s simple, you follow traditional wisdom and you give back the energies and materials of the earth so that it can continue to give you, through the energies of the trees and its fruits.”

“The supply of breadfruit isn’t an  issue, what we need to do is focus on collaboration and cooperation, everything else will follow and there’s a favorite quote for this, ‘Alone you can go fast, together we will go far’.”

Lessons Learnt

For many Pacific Islanders breadfruit is still a food of last resort, often called ‘cyclone food’, what you eat when nothing else is available.

Mindsets however are slowly changing as a result of the work carried out by farmer organisations across the region and the subsequent sharing of this information.

Livai Tora, a commercial farmer and nurseryman informed participants at the Breadfruit People Inaugural Webinar, businesses in the Pacific needed to grow to meet the demand for overseas export markets.

“A four year project saw us developing a breadfruit commercial orchard varieties that would work well for export, and we worked with various partners in the Pacific and Asia.”

“The results showed a high failure rate, for farmers that’s a waste of money but it gave researchers and scientists a good platform to work on and motivate us to problem solve.”

“A lot of the failure came from plant neglect and even though we were giving farmers the best husbandry practices, they weren’t following it.”

“We also piloted the project in the sugarcane belt, so most of these guys were sugarcane farmers and the transition of mindsets from farming sugarcane to planting breadfruit for commercial production came with its challenges.”

“Since 2014 we had established about 40 odd commercial breadfruit farmers and now we’re down to about 5 breadfruit farmers, but a lot of lessons learnt and that’s the kind of information I want to share with those looking too set up commercial orchards, those who want to talk about the different varieties and geographical locations, tissue culture, planning material vs. bare rooted vs. marcotted – this is the information we’re looking to share.”

“Today we have less than 5 commercial orchards that are now producing the fruit that we want and we will export it. We’re happy to say that we’ve proved the concept works and now we’re at the beginning phase to upscale this work from what we’ve learnt.”

Alone You Can Go Fast, Together We Will Go Far

Apart from its nutritional benefits and export opportunities, there is an expanding body of knowledge on growing, agro-processing and end-product development for breadfruit which farmers can now access.

Addressing participants at the Breadfruit People Inaugural Webinar, Kyle Stice, the Breadfruit People Coordinator welcomed connections and collaborations on the online community.

“When I first began working with breadfruit in 2005, we were trying to develop a manual for farmers wanting to grow and export breadfruit, and we looked around and it was so hard to find any information about growing breadfruit harvesting and handling it, and we really struggled.”

“Then I got a great piece of news that there was going to be a breadfruit symposium happening, and it was going to be happening in our little island in Nadi, Fiji and I was ecstatic. I was part of the first breadfruit symposium and I met breadfruit practitioners and researchers from all over the world.”

“And as I continued to work with breadfruit over the next 10 years, I drew on that network so much, and I was amazed at how many people were working in little islands and little pockets, and doing amazing information but also can’t access this information.”

“A lot of this work is done in the farm and sometimes written up, but only shared locally, and this is really where the genesis for this idea of building a network of breadfruit people, and through efforts of Dr Tusi, Reverend Kalani, Dr Elevitch and the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network.”

“This has been evolving over the last 15-20 years and we’re very excited now, and I think inspired or pushed by COVID and the fact that we are isolated from traveling together to launch Breadfruit People, as a virtual community.”

Kyle Stice said key elements of the virtual community will be the website which is currently in development and soon to be finalized.

“The website will help highlight many of the breadfruit champions, some who are part of this webinar and many others, with the hope we can meet each other and that we can build relationships and we can network.”

“We also have a wonderful collection of resources, some that are very refined and polished, and some that are a bit rough and raw, but these what the practitioners are contributing to this world of information on breadfruit, so we want to bring it all together to one place but moving beyond that website is connecting people and unfortunately this is the way that we have to connect people for now, is through webinars, also through things like social media, and of course email exchanges.”

“Any network is only as good as its members, so we’re making a call to all of those organisations and individuals who are working in the field, those who are interested in investing in breadfruit to be part of the Breadfruit People and join this network, and we can continue to share information with a common goal in ensuring that healthy, nutritious food is available, and farming is sustainable, both environmentally and also commercially sustainable.

“We’re excited to launch this first webinar and see the network of the Breadfruit People continue to grow.”

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