by Faumuina Maria Felolini Tafuna’I
APIA: SATURDAY 9 MATCH 2013: Finding Samoa’s most nutritious green leaf vegetable is the quest of a new research study.
The Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research and Women in Business are working together under independent consultant Mary Taylor to also look at what healthy leaf vegetables are popular in Samoa and how to raise awareness about their health benefits.
“So far the project has found laupele to be the most nutritious,” says Taylor. “It is very high in nitrogen and therefore protein, and other mineral nutrients such as zinczin.”
She adds that it is also a vegetable that you can also eat raw, chopped up finely in coleslaw perhaps, or added to other dishes such as noodles to give them added nutrition.
This project, which finishes in June, also covers Northern Australia and the Solomon Islands, where they have 80 different types of laupele.
Taylor has worked in the Pacific region for 22 years including eight years in Samoa based at USP with an EU project – Pacific Regional Agriculture Programme. She moved to SPC in 1998 with the AusAID-funded Taro Genetic Resources: Conservation and Utilization project to set up the Regional Germplasm Centre, later the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees.
The other green leaf vegetable that is outshining others in terms of nutrition is commonly known as “drumstick”, although Taylor was unsure of its Samoan name its Latin name is Moringa oleifera.
Women in Business executive director Adimaimalaga Tafuna’i says when Taylor approached them they were thrilled to part of study that can help Samoa eat healthy food that is grown locally.
“Food is nature’s medicine and when you eat the right food and also the right amount, then you will be healthy.”
Taylor worked with Women in Business staff in October to outline the study and collect leaf samples as part of the first phase of the project.
These samples were then analysed back in Australia for minerals and carotenoids, which is a precursor to Vitamin A that helps boost immunity and prevent non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Armed with the scientific information, in the second phase Women in Business staff will survey people on why they eat the way they eat.
Taylor says if you understand those factors around food choices then you can design a project where one of the aims would be how to help people make healthier decisions.
Fact sheets will be developed and distributed to schools, churches and relevant agricultural, health and educational agencies. These will have the nutritional information, what the plant looks like and how you can grow them.”
The third phase will see workshops in each of countries to get their feedback.
“We want to highlight the connection between food choices and nutrition and therefore health, in particular what can be easily grown in the garden,” says Taylor.
She adds that improving health can strengthen the resilience of communities to challenges such as climate change.
Independent consultant Mary Taylor and Women in Business organic projects officer Pule Toleafoa inspect a spinach vine.