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Jump-starting Swains’ economy

This Jennings family historical photo provided by Rep. Su’a Alexander E. Jennings, shows a group of Swains islanders in May 1925 on Swains, as the atoll officially became part of American Samoa, following Congressional action.  [photo: Jennings family][l-r] US Interior Department staff assistant Joseph McDermott; DOI Office of Insular Affairs director Nikolao Pulal; Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Douglas Domenech; and American Samoa House Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings at the DOI office in Washington D.C. on Nov. 17 where Su’a update DOI officials of the breadfruit development initiative in the territory. The DOI officials are holding packages of gluten free breadfruit flour, manufactured in the territory

Rep. Su’a Alexander Eli Jennings has pitched Swains Islands to grow breadfruit that will not only revitalize the atoll’s economy but also make it a possible supplier for milling this stable product for gluten free flour.

Su’a’s other project, gluten free banana flour, has attracted a lot of interest from off island people as well.


During his presentation last month to US Interior Department officials, on the latest local development of the Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (PRBI) in American Samoa, Su’a shared information about his native Swains, where breadfruit could be grown as a sustainable economic development, according to Su’a’s report submitted this week to House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and distributed to faipule.

The three-page report is part of the lawmaker’s role as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. USDOI officials, who met with Su’a in Washington D.C. on Nov. 17,  include Interior Assistant Secretary Douglas W. Domenech and Office of Insular Affairs director Nikolao Pula.

Su'a introduced Swains Island and “demonstrated how the success of the breadfruit can invigorate not only the economies of Tutuila and Manu’a, but also that of a once acclaimed Agriculture icon of the Pacific.”

Swains, according to Su’a, had “enormous success in the copra trade era” from the 1800s to 1966 and copra revenues helped create jobs and stimulate its “very fragile economy” until the onset of the tuna cannery industry in the 1950s.

“But since the collapse of the copra market in the 1960s, coupled with ambiguities in its political relations with American Samoa, the remote island farm community has been devastated,” Su’a explained.

He said residents were forced to leave and their “precious agriculture resources put on life support indefinitely”. Su'a explained that Swains Island first became a territory of the United States on August 13, 1856 under the Guano Act. Then by a Joint Resolution of Congress Swains was made a part of American Samoa in May 1925.

“Seeing as breadfruit does not require the land mass as other crops, Swains Island is positioned not only to profit from the breadfruit, but also to jump-start its 800 acre coconut plantation to a sustainable economic reality,” said Su’a.

His report covered many phases involved in the development of the breadfruit initiative, which was funded through a USDOI grant to the University of Hawaii’s-Pacific Business Center Program (PBCP).

Samoa News, in the last two years, has provided extensive coverage of the breadfruit initiative, and how Su’a has moved forward with processing, drying and milling breadfruit into gluten free flour at his  Dream Builders Inc. of American Samoa operation in Pavaiai.

As reported by Samoa News last November, Su’a retrofitted a freight container dehydrator that he developed locally, and was not only moving “more and more to solar power” — but also looking to deploy to “remote islands.”

Besides breadfruit flour, Su’a’s operation this year looked at gluten free banana flour, using the “fa’i paka” banana that’s in abundance on island, and available year round. More research and testing are being carried out by off island experts working with Su’a, who first revealed the banana flour project during a Samoa News interview four months ago.

“We’re rapidly moving forward with the banana flour project which is picking up its own notoriety from off island interested parties,” Su’a told Samoa News yesterday.

He said he would share more details in the very near future, along with details of another project currently being tested — “coconut flour”.

“To help with new economic development for our territory, I’ll continue to look at ways to help our people and our government,” he added.