The remote Fijian island of Cicia has launched a novel business in organic produce that could prove to be a template for other developing communities around the world. The island declared itself chemical free and fully organic eight years ago and is now producing food that's attracting the interest of foreign buyers. Tara Cleary reports.
These Fijian women are making highly sought-after virgin, organic coconut oil. In fact, everything produced on Cicia Island is free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The community declared itself organic in 2006, for the sake of its children's health. The initiative was led by Epeli Dranidalo, the island's council chairman. SOUNDBITE: EPELI DRANIDALO, CHAIRMAN OF CICIA ISLAND COUNCIL, SAYING (Fijian): "I believe that this is the best way to create a path for our children to follow where they will find peace and prosperity." But the islanders soon discovered a previously unseen benefit in the decision. People from outside Fiji wanted to buy their natural produce. It was a tantalising business opportunity, but first their food had to be officially certified as organic. And bringing inspectors in annually to provide that certification proved far too costly. So, Cicia joined forces with the UN and POETCom, the Pacific's organic organization who helped the islanders set up their own certification process. The group meets every two weeks and keeps detailed, auditable records. PoetCom's Karen Mapusua believes this more frequent scrutiny actually benefits consumers. SOUNDBITE: KAREN MAPUSUA, POETCOM COORDINATING OFFICER SAYING (English): "When you think about it, our highest level of science and medicine are all peer reviews. If you are doing a scientific study it will be peer reviewed. So we trust that to science, we trust it to medicine. I think we can also trust it to farmers." And Cicia's residents are now beginning to see profit in the growing international demand for organic foods. Their certification method has been adopted by five other Pacific countries -- who also believe it's a model that can be nurtured for future generations.