The Veikau Lodge in Naitasiri today played host to a traditional foods exhibition that not only tantalised taste buds but also ignited conversation about the intersection of culture, health, and sustainability.
Against the backdrop of World Food Day’s resonating theme, “Water is Life, Food is Water, Leave No One Behind,” the exhibition underlined Fiji’s commitment to sustainable traditional diets and local food systems.
The exhibition, showcasing a wide array of traditional delicacies from the provinces of Rewa, Tailevu, and Naitasiri, all of which highlighted the rich and diverse food culture of Fiji at the lodge, located close to Nawaiqabena village, Serea, about 2 km from Sawani, was not just about feasting; it was a symphony of flavors interwoven with a deeper commitment to nurturing both health and the planet.
For Veikau Lodge Owner Elenoa Nimacere, who boasts more than 30 years of experience working in the tourism sector, including in the Yasawas, and who sits on the Naitasiri Provincial Council, the initiative is also aimed at underlining the potential for eco-tourism in the Naitasiri province and ensuring that women in the province have a healthy food supply all year round.
“When you talk about Naitasiri, you talk about eco tourism, when you talk about eco tourism, you mean ecology and economy,” Nimacere said.
“Just like the Garden of Eden, the aim is to bring a touch of paradise to the second largest province in Fiji, which I proudly call my home. I’ve been recently appointed as part of the Naitasiri provincial council, and I’m excited to kickstart a new era of tourism in my province.
“I’ve had prior experience with tourism in the Yasawas, and now it’s time for the highlands of Naitasiri. Here, it won’t be about snorkeling, but instead, we’ll offer farm stays and a chance to experience the magic of cocoa farming. Rewa and Tailevu provinces could embark on similar journeys, but it’s vital to ensure we’re all heading in the right direction.”
Nimacere acknowledged the contributions of FRIEND and their efforts to provide water filters to the 91 villages in Naitasiri by the end of the year, and the initiative to launch backyard gardening in the Soloira district.
“During my visits, I asked people if they had enough food supply for the year, and some said they didn’t, sometimes relying on tuna and noodles. They said they would often find themselves thinking about what to cook as late as 5 or 6pm. However, in the Soloira district, we’re promoting backyard gardening, ensuring that women have enough food to sustain them for 365 days.”
She said with proper infrastructure like roads and transportation services, would bring agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and, ecotourism together, Naitasiri and the sorrounding province of Tailevu and Rewa also have much to offer to the Fijian economy.
Acting Minister for Health Filimoni Vosarogo and Assistant Minister Office of the Prime Minister Sakiusa Tubuna who officiated at the launch highlighted the importance of traditional foods in promoting health, culture, and environmental sustainability.
Vosarogo said the exhibition represents only the beginning of broader health initiatives and programs in Fiji.
“In Fiji, we need to recognize the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural contribution that our three provinces of Rewa, Tailevu and Naitasiri are addressing through this Traditional Food Exhibition; and their importance in addressing food and nutrition security and food quality, and giving priority to the nutritional and health needs of local communities,” Vosarogo said.
He highlighted the need to integrate nutrition with traditional agriculture and the government’s efforts to create a comprehensive policy for food and nutrition security. He also noted the collaborative efforts with NGOs and development partners such as FRIEND with their initiatives to improve local food production, support women and youth, and address non-communicable diseases.