by Lance Polu
APIA: MONDAY 15 OCTOBER 2012: The public holiday usually assigned as recognition of the importance of Samoan children, has been designated this year for the school children to plant a coconut tree each.
Today is a public holiday in Samoa in recognition of the Children’s Sunday yesterday – Lotu Tamaiti which is celebrated every October with the children at centre stage. Dressed in amicable white, they recite verses from the Bible and perform plays, sing hymns and gospel music, dances and the like. Always at their best white dresses, they also change to a lunch (toona’i) dress and are given to eat as much as they can including what they do not afford daily.
Lotu Tamaiti was started by the LMS church as a means to expedite the spread of the gospel amongst the young. But has been picked up by other denominations over the years. The expansion of the market has been exploited commercially with businesses targeting the emotional side of the parents and their children’s connection.
The media also pushing the businesses making it a vicious circle that the parents find it hard to escape.
While the following Monday was traditionally a public holiday, it was to give the children time to recover as they always fell sick after the excessive food and also gives time for children and the workers from the outlying villages to return to town where most stayed
with families to go to school and to work.
While much has changed since, and makes the initial public holiday’s reasons irrelevant, this year has been turned around so that the children can be linked back to the land by planting a coconut tree each.
The initiative has been pushed by the Ministry of Agriculture as most coconut farms need replanting. The trees only fruit after five years while the demand for coconuts has increased with markets for coconut oil in mechanical use other than consumption on a daily basis.
Labelled as the “tree of life” coconut trees also provide so much for daily living producing the basics such as carrying baskets, blinds for houses, eating trays, roofing material, building materials and firewood, handicrafts other than the new products such as coconut oil for cooking, mixing with diesel to run vehicles and virgin oil to manufacture beauty products through globally recognized labels such as the Body Shop.
The national coconut tree planting for children, starts a weeklong of agricultural activities that includes the “Word Food Day” to be
celebrated tomorrow 16 October and the Agriculture Show that runs for the whole week.