Eni: Ma’afala & Soa’a can assure our economic future
With the tuna canning industry more competitive globally, Congressman Faleoamvaega Eni has offered two Samoan food staples that could diversify and boost the local economy in the future.
It’s the ‘ma’afala’ breadfruit and the ‘soa’a’ banana, according to the Congressman during his commencement address last Friday at the 2013 Spring graduation of the American Samoa Community College. (See full details of ASCC graduation in tomorrow’s edition.)
Faleomavaega even brought to the podium, the ma’afala and soa’a, which were inside a Samoan woven basket that he carried with him on stage at the ASCC gymnasium. Graduates and the audience alike wondered why these items were being displayed on the podium.
It was towards the end of his address that Faleomavaega spoke about ma’afala and soa’a as items that have promise for the territory’s future economic development.
Faleomavaega said he met a lady, who made it her life’s mission for 30 years to study about 100 varieties of breadfruit in the world. “And what she found out is, this breadfruit from Samoa was number one - the ma’afala breadfruit variety,” he said holding up the ma’afala.
And what she found out is that the ma’afala is not only nutritious, “you can make flour, and make so many different varieties of food,” he said.
He recalled a saying, that “you grow one breadfruit tree, you will feed a family for 50 years.”
“Can you image if you grow 1,000 ma’afala trees? We could live forever,” he said with a bit of laugher, which was also echoed by the audience. He said the point he is trying to make is that the territory does not need to look at industries such as making car parts, or electronic parts or some other company that could come here.
“This is it. The ma’afala. This is our future,” he said and noted that he is “looking for future scientists, our own brains - don’t depend on others - [to] tell me how we can make this ma’afala grow, nurture it and make it prosper, for our people because it is something that is an inherent part of our culture, our history - right here.”
In a letter two weeks ago to the governor and the Fono regarding the 2013 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Report, the Congressman called for diversification of the local economy, saying that for the past several months there have been several discussions held on the ma’afala breadfruit project.
“This is an example of a potential industry that can be part of adding a new industry to our economy,” Faleomavaega said. “The breadfruit industry has a tremendous potential for growth since breadfruit is used in gluten free products, and we should pursue this matter as soon as possible.”
Also during his graduation speech, the Congressman held up the soa’a, saying that it has the same potential as far as nutritious value. “But the problem is we need scientific studies on how to grow the soa’a,” he said.
According to the Congressman, the “soa’a is a very sensitive banana. You cannot just put in the ground and expect it to grow. You need to kind of cuddle it, baby it and make it very special because that’s how it is.”
“I’m looking for a young Samoan scientist who will find the key on how we can grow the banana soa’a, so that one day, if we should ever be able to grow the banana soa’a in a way it could be used for commercial purposes, we will not be able to supply enough soa’a for the next 100 to 1,000 years because the consumer demand for this banana is going to be so much,” he declared.
Faleomavaega said the tuna industry, as he has raised over the years, is constantly changing. “Don’t think that the tuna industry is gong to be with us forever, it’s not,” he said, adding that some 20 countries around the world are all competing for the canning of tuna and this is something that American Samoa has to prepare for in the future.
“.... to my young friends [the graduates], think ma’afala, think soa’a and I think we’re going to be alright n the future,” he said to applause from the crowd.