Home' Partners : Partners: Empowering women, changing lives Contents PARTNERS ISSUE ONE 2016
THE CANARIUM ‘CAFE’ IN THE
When Cyclone Pam ripped across Vanuatu in 2015 it
was one of the worst natural disasters in that country’s
history. The extent of the damage meant the most
advanced attempts in Melanesia were needed to bring
high-value processed canarium nuts to global markets.
Central to Vanuatu’s canarium industry is
entrepreneur Votausi Mackenzie-Reur and her Lapita
Café brand of native products, which include canarium
nuts (called nangai in Vanuatu).
By 2014, Mackenzie-Reur had established supply
chains for canarium nuts with more than 100 farmers
across four districts. The nuts were being processed in
her factories into a range of highly popular products
sold in supermarkets and tourist resorts.
Returning from a visit to Vanuatu in December
2015, Professor Helen Wallace reports the industry is
slowly getting back on its feet. “ They suffered a lot of
damage to their infrastructure but it is being repaired
and production is slowly coming back. So we are
forging ahead with that project.”
As the canarium tree is native to the region and
has evolved to withstand cyclones, trees survived the
recent category 5 tempest. However, in the worst-hit
areas, the trees will not produce nuts for a season. It
was the nut processing facilities, particularly the nut
dryers, that did not fare as well.
“It was quite tough for Votausi after the cyclone,”
Professor Wallace says. “She had lost a lot of her
processing infrastructure and all the businesses she
normally supplied to were closed.”
ACIAR’s forestry program manager Tony Bartlett
recently visited Vanuatu to discuss how ACIAR’s financial
assistance to project partners such as Lapita Café was
being used to replace damaged research facilities.
Ms Mackenzie-Reur reported that ACIAR’s support
gave her the capacity and optimism to continue her
business. “I realised that the only way for my business
to survive was to ensure that I could meet the market
demand for the nut products,” she said.
“So I set a target of collecting and processing 2.5
tonnes of cracked nuts this year, mostly from regions
that were not badly affected by the cyclone. This will
help farmers in these regions to maintain interest in
growing and collecting nangai nuts.”
promoting the empowerment and status that
come with participating in the development of a
The project has already created some income-
earning opportunities for women selling nuts
to a pilot processing plant established by PNG’s
National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) for
use in market research.
Heading these initiatives is a researcher who
previously assisted the macadamia industry to
get off the ground in Australia—Helen Wallace,
Professor in Agricultural Ecology at the University
of the Sunshine Coast. She believes the canarium
nut (galip in PNG) has the same potential as
macadamia to grow from a cottage industry into a
Since 2008, Professor Wallace has been
working across Melanesia to develop markets
for canarium, along with simple but effective nut
“Immediately in 2008 I fell in love with the work
ACIAR does and I have been involved ever since,”
“ACIAR projects are incredibly valuable,
covering every base needed to make a
difference—the technical, social and economic.”
In November 2015, new techniques developed
through the project were introduced to women in
PNG at a training workshop held at Kerevat in the
Gazelle district of PNG’s East New Britain province.
Present at the workshop were women who
represented 22 cooperatives of smallholder
farmers who come from nearly the entire
geographic span of the East New Britain arm of
the organisation Women and Youth in Agriculture.
“ Women in PNG traditionally harvest the nuts
but they are cracked manually using stones, with
no further processing,” Professor Wallace explains.
“ This is extremely labour intensive and time
consuming. They also limit women to selling raw
nuts with a short shelf life in local markets.”
The ACIAR project has established that the
quality, taste and texture of canarium lends itself
extremely well to more extensive processing; for
example drying, baking, coating and grinding
to a biscuit meal. It can also be made into oil for
personal care products.
The processing extends shelf life and results
in products that have performed well in product-
testing research undertaken with confectionery
companies in Australia and New Zealand.
Central to transforming canarium cottage
industries into viable agribusinesses are two
machines that attracted a great deal of attention
during the workshop.
The first involves nutcrackers modelled on
the machines used by the Australian macadamia
industry. A small version for use in villages has
been developed along with a larger model
for food processing plants, with the blades
manufactured in PNG.
“ The macadamia industry people are directly
involved in the ACIAR project and they applied
their wealth of knowledge on nuts to assist in
modifying the crackers,” Professor Wallace says.
“At the workshop, all the women wanted a
village-scale cracker, so we have to find a way to
The second machine is a solar dryer that was
developed in Vanuatu and constructed for the
PNG workshop by NARI.
The solar dryer performs the same job as
an oven without the associated cost or energy
requirements. It can dry nuts—in or out of the
shell—to optimum kernel quality (1.5% kernel
moisture) in just six hours on a sunny day.
Making the dryer even more appealing to
the PNG women is its ability to also process
fruit, allowing excess fresh mango, for example,
to be converted into longer lasting—and tasty
— commodities that are especially valued
“Some of the women were keen to have access
to a solar dryer in their village for small-scale
processing,” Professor Wallace says. “ The cost of
raw materials sourced locally was 560 kina (A$250)
Attendees at the solar dryer training workshop in
Papua New Guinea compared the texture and taste of
canarium that were insufficiently dried and those that
were adequately dried to 1.5% kernel moisture. They
also compared nuts that were dried, roasted and salted.
Damage to the Vanuatu landscape
following Cyclone Pam.
Damage to Vanuatu’s industrial canarium-nut dryers
and buildings in the wake of Cyclone Pam.
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