‘Taro Renaissance’ For Food Security Underway In Angaur, Palau

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Angaur State Government Angaur, Palau

April 28, 2016

‘Taro Renaissance’ For Food Security Underway In Angaur, Palau

Angaur traditional women’s group Ngaralukes, various traditional and non-government organizations and technical groups, launched the first mesei revival in Angaur, through a project called Ngeaur Ngerchei Mesei Project.

"Our goal is to help our people regain their taro patches, their traditions, and most of all, to gain food security by helping to revive traditional practices of taro growing thru revival of taro patches or mesei," said Governor Marvin Ngirutang of Angaur State. "I call this a taro renaissance," added Ngirutang of the interest to revive this tradition.

Former Minister Tina Rechuher, representing various organizations and one of the key proponents of taro patch revival in Ngarchelong, explained that the project aim is to revive, strengthen, and continue the tradition of taro patch practices (olekiis, melisiich, mengeluolu e melemolem a tekoi ra mesei) with hopes that it will have a "domino effect" on the rest of Palau.

Governor Ngirutang elaborated that Angaur State will help individuals who are interested in developing and reviving the old taro patches. "This can bring many opportunities to the people of Angaur beside just food security," stated Governor Ngirutang.

Outlining his plans, Ngirutang sees opportunities in tourism and other economic opportunities as result of increased production of taro in Angaur.

Leonard Basilius of Palau Community Action Agency, responsible for the support and education on the taro programs in Palau, said that they are ready to work with Palau Community College CRE program to help farmers identify taro diseases and teach them how to properly deal with them in order to plant successfully. "Phosphate is one of the key sources of phosphorus and potassium that produce best taro and Angaur is rich in this mineral," he added. "Taro is one crop that the monkeys don’t eat and has a great chance of success in Angaur."

Former Minister Rechuher added that with more production of taro, a taro flour mill can be viable. She cited other value added bi-products of taro such as taro flour used in breads and other food products, which can be created by increased production of taro.

The Ngeuar Ngerchei Mesei Project working group after the launch, met to discuss work plans to move forward with the project.

This project does not have government funding yet but to date, donations have been received by various individuals and businesses in support of the project. So far $2,550 has been received with more expected by next month. "I expect to receive around $7,000 by next month to help with project," reported Governor Ngirutang.

Donations received include $500 from Senator Pierantozzi, $300 from Surangel Whipps Jr., $1,000 from President Eita Salii’s children, $500 from Pacific Renewables, $250 from Billy Takamine and 10 cases of water and 10 cases of aloha drinks from Shimbros Inc.

Organizations and agencies that participated in the launch include PCAA, PCC CRE, Palau Resource Institute, PAN program, Ngerkok Ranger Reserve, Hatobei Org for People and Environment (HOPE), Belau National Museum, Ngaralukes of Angaur, Esisebangiau of Airai, Ngaraklikm of Ngarchelong, Ngaramcheruul of Ngeremlengui and individuals such as Delegate Frank Kyota and former Governor Patris of Hatobei and former Minister Tina Rechuher.

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