Bowl of exotic tropical fruit used for the fruit tasting Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm at Cape Tribulation
Bed and Breakfast accommodation on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest  at Cape Tribulationand white-lipped tree frog
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About Alison and Digby Gotts - Cape Tribulation

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FEBRUARY 2000 NEWSLETTER

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SAMOA

Traffic

Samoa is different. There is none of the noise or squalor of the East and none of the arrogance or affluence of the West. This is easiest to see on the streets, where most cars actually stay at the 25 mph town speed limit or lower and in traffic will allow another car through when not required, just to help.

Even pedestrians, and there are few footpaths, are treated with care. Cars will slow right down to pass or overtake walkers even allowing oncoming traffic time and space to get past. Horns are rarely used and traffic signals usually obeyed.

There is, however, a degree of serendipity about driving that makes you watch whatís happening as there appears to be no set of definitive road rules. You can never assume that the other driver knows what heís doing, so give way to him just in case.

Roads at the moment are rough and appear badly maintained. I think this has been due to a particularly wet few weeks causing the surfaces to break up. Roadwork will continue to patch up. Roads are narrow, and rarely is there any room to spare from oncoming traffic. Buses seem to dominate and it still amazes me that Iíve fitted through some of the gaps theyíve left for me. You canít assume that the green verge is driveable as the volcanic rubble is everywhere. What appears to be a green grassy verge is probably a jumble of 6 Ė 8 inch rocks hidden under the greenery.

Do a Paul Hogan along the main street footpath, and you will manage eye contact with most people, and they will all respond with at least a smile, if not a greeting as well. The village people will be even more responsive.

Salaries

Salaries are not high. Ads for positions in the Agriculture department for first year graduates from Australian universities usually have salaries at 10 Ė 12,000 local dollars a year. Thatís A$5-6,000. Cost of living is low, provided you stay away from imported goods.

Food

Fatty meat Ďdisposedí of by NZ and US companies is the cheapest source of meat apart from local fish and chicken. Turkey tails, lamb flaps and sausages are the main reddish meat diet items and contribute significantly to the high incidence of obesity and diabetes. Some cattle are bred and butchered locally, and this industry appears to be growing. Good red meat is cheap by Australian standards, about two thirds, but is still expensive for Samoan households. Itís quite strange dealing with a packet of breakfast cereal costing as much as a kilo of rump.

Housing

Samoan life is still largely based around the village, with many houses clustered around a central green and community house and or church. Most households have electricity and town water although only 2000 houses have treated water. Kitchen appliances are still out of reach of most households, so open fires are still used extensively, smoke hanging over the valley every evening.

Subsistence

The strong village base means that anyone having a bad time for money can always go back for support and a subsistence lifestyle. Survival is easy, if you can live on a diet of taro, banana, coconut, breadfruit, papaya, with the occasional pig or chicken on Sundays.

Fruit

One of the aims of the project that has absorbed me, is to improve diet diversity, so getting other fruits (and green leaves) into villager diets is the focus of another team member. My job is to get the new fruit trees into the villages and get the fruits popular enough so that people will look after the trees. One of the difficulties is that Samoan tastes are different as well, so that what I see as a great fruit has little acceptance locally. One example is the Golden and Purple passionfruits. These are highly rated at the fruit tastings on the farm, and grow very well here, but very few Samoans like them. Too acid. While there is a wild species of passionfruit that they find very sweet and acceptable, that to me tastes of mouldy or smoky overripe orange.

  Durien has no value locally, yet the trees are the healthiest I have ever seen with large crops of heavy fruit. Average weight so far is around 3 kg. No-one on the farm was aware that Durien falls from the tree when ready. So the fruit on the ground has always been discarded as rubbish, in the same way that the windfall oranges are weighed and dumped. I have now got the workers collecting the dropped fruit every morning, but it is having to be stored in the fertilizer shed as no-one will have it anywhere near where they work. Except me. Iíve placed an ad in the Samoan newspaper to see if anyone in this country is prepared to buy it while we hunt for ways to test exporting it to NZ as frozen or chllled pulp.

Some of the largest and healthiest Rollinia trees Iíve seen are also on both properties, with fruit production spread over a long period. The fruit are a nightmare to our post harvest specialist as they are just too fragile to be even worth investigating as an export crop. The food processor sees possibilities, but hasnít yet started playing with it. 

Soursop is another fruit with major potential at all levels if we can educate enough people about how to use it. Trees grow well although they seem to be short lived with some fungal problems. Some that I recommended be cut back hard in October last year, have now regrown and are bearing fruit on the new wood. Large crops of 2-3 kg fruit. After pulping, the juice has a little sugar added and is frozen as a sherbet or cooked up as a jam, after adding a little pectin. Kids love it as icypoles, and it looks like being used as a giveaway on training courses that the dietician member of the team will be running in the villages and schools. 

The more traditional fruits like oranges and mandarins, avocado, starfruit that have a high level of acceptance already, are subject to enormous damage from a moth pest that pierces the skin and sucks out tiny amounts of juice but opens the flesh up to fungal attack. There doesnít seem to be any ready solution to this problem as the moths breed in the forest as well as the living fences used around many properties, and they can travel well over 3 km in an evening. Several species are involved, so the research to identify and isolate parasitic pests has so far been ineffective. Many more millions of dollars look like being thrown at the problem, while the organic solution is to not grow the species that give that level of trouble. Pommelo is immune from the pest, so grow that and learn how to use it and avoid the problem, rather than spend a lot of money looking for a solution. 

Abiu is another fruit that seems immune from the fruit piercing moth, which in Australia is heavily attacked by fruit fly. The different species of fruit fly on Samoa seem unable to penetrate the skin. So it seems relatively immune to pest problems, making it a great fruit for local production. So there are some interesting times coming when decisions are going to have to be made about which trees go out to the villages and which get chopped down. The orchard where Iím working has a huge collection of species, but no more than two trees of each variety. Of any species, one third seems to be cropping well, one third seems to have produced nothing in eight years, and one third have one tree producing well while the other has produced nothing.

 

 

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Bed and Breakfast accommodation on an exotic tropical fruit orchard at Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, Lot 5 Nicole Drive, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, 4873, Australia - Tel: 0740 980057 - Fax: 0740 980067
info@capetrib.com.au.

Last updated December 19, 2013