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By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 17, 2000 – Samoa News)---A large crowd of more than 50 locals gathered at the ASCC (American Samoa Community College) Auditorium yesterday afternoon to listen to the history and stories about the "ava" in the Pacific.

The speaker was Jerry Konanui, president of the Association for Hawaiian ‘Ava.

Konanui headed a well-attended workshop on "sustainable Kava production, protection, and marketing," hosted by ASCC Land Grant and the ASG Department of Agriculture Wednesday.

His talk at the auditorium was one of the first activities associated with the college's celebration of its 30th anniversary. More public events will follow.

ASCC SAMPAC Director Pulefa‘asisina Palauni Tuiasosopo said Konanui's presentation is a very special "eye opening" for the students.

"Ava has been developed as a potential money-making crop among Pacific islands like Fiji, Hawai‘i, Vanuatu, (Western) Samoa and other places. (But it is also) a cultural plant and it is a very critical material in the Samoan culture," Tuiasosopo stated.

"There are a lot of versions of how the ava plant arrived here in Samoa. One version stated that the ava was brought down from Fiji while the other stated that the ava was originally from Manu‘a. Whatever the real story is, ava has played a vital role in the fa‘a Samoa."

Tuiasosopo elaborated that ava (stem) is used as a contribution of every matai from every district to make an ava ceremony (ava o le Ali‘itaeao) during a saofa‘i. The dried ava roots (uso) in powdered form will be the mix for the ava ceremony.

A 20/20 film was shown at the beginning of Konanui's presentation which revealed many westerners have taken a keen interest on "ava." The 30-minute film showed many products made from the "ava" plant, like soap, chips and pills.

Some palagis confessed that drinking ava relieves their stress, anxiety, insomnia and makes them more relaxed.

One college student in the movie stated that drinking ava has helped him cope with school problems and has kept him in control of himself. A teacher whose husband passed away used ava as a cure and said that it has helped her cope with her problems.

Tests are now being conducted in the United States to see if the ava can be used as a substitute for other medicines.

The 20/20 movie also showed many restaurants and bars in the United States now serving ava while other companies are making a market out of it.

According to Konanui, the price for ava in many islands is $10-$12/lb. (Over in Apia, accused murderer Leafa Vitale was hoping to parlay a $15,000 investment in a 21-acre kava plantation into a $1 million payoff.)

Pacific islanders have long used the ava (or ‘awa or yaqona as they call it in Fiji) as a legal herb with medicinal and mild narcotic properties. Many have said the ava is a muscle relaxant and provides relief for all kinds of pain, including headaches and migraines.

According to Konanui, the ava leaves have been used by some people as an ointment for the skin, while others use it as a substitute for tea.

"I am here to educate you, to share my knowledge with you. Let us work together to better our products. Why should we buy ‘awa anywhere else when we have it right here?"

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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