The future for the Tongan Vanilla growers has never looked brighter with the establishment of the first vanilla grower association of its kind in Tonga. The newly established Queen Vanilla Growers Association (Vava’u) Incorporated, which unites the growers like never before, was opened by Queen chairman, Mr Ross Himstedt in a ceremony in Vava’u on the 10th October.
Approximately 6 months ago, Queen entered into a partnership with the people of Vava’u, an island group in the Kingdom of Tonga. The objective, to rehabilitate the mostly ignored vanilla plantations in the region. The program has had such a successful uptake that most vanilla growers on the island have joined with their eyes on a brighter future for the crop. “The program now has 265 grower members and more than 1100 dependant families. It has really been beyond our expectations. Enthusiasm has been reinstated, and farms which nearly 6 months ago were just seen as jungle, are now on their way to being rehabilitated,” explains Mr Ian Jones, the Queen Vava’u project manager.
At the meeting the members elected a 12 person board representing the vanilla growing regions of Vava’u. From the 12 people they elected Mr Sione Lolohea of Tunauku as President and Mr Mafi Moala of Toula, Pangaimotu, Mataika, Feletoa, Makave and Mangia as Vice President.
The other representatives are:
Kaufusi Vaiomounga, Tefisi
Samiu Toli, Tefisi
Loisi Halaliku, Longomapu
Tuineau Manavahe, Longomapu
Viliami Lavulavu, Leimatu’a
Siale Kavenga, Leimatu’a
Lea’aotoa Tuitupou, Taoa/Vaimalo
Sione Maamaloa, Hunga
Sione Kivalu, Noapapu and outer islands
Taniela Tausinga, Ha’alaufuli, Ha’akio, Holonga, Koala, Holeva and Ta’anea
The president Mr Lolohea said he was honoured to represent the 265 Queen vanilla growers of Vava’u at such an exciting time for the vanilla industry. “The growers are most appreciative of the financial support, market access and fair trade pricing that Queen Vanilla has provided them. Never before has any company shown such levels of confidence in the industry and then been prepared to back it up with the financial resources to make it work. As an association we must do everything we can to honour Queens commitment by helping and encouraging members to produce the best possible vanilla we can.”
The formation of the grower association is a step towards ensuring the long term is more sustainable for all grower members. Mrs Leody Vianikolo, OIC of MAFFF in Vava’u, says “We are really excited by this new Vava’u Vanilla Association. It provides the best framework to assist our vanilla farmers to produce the very best vanilla quality. It will also enable producers to concentrate on improving their pre-harvest vanilla yield from their vines. The grower association means that more one-on-one assistance can be offered to growers.”
In a speech delivered to the group, Mr Himstedt spoke of how pleased he is of the effort and progress which has been made so far on their land and he expressed to the group the need to maintain their unity and enthusiasm for the next 5 yrs. “In 5 years’ time, Vava’u will be a different place, with a vibrant Vanilla industry – we at Queen are really happy about that”.