Kosrae Receives $50,000 Grant To Grow Rare Bananas

by Olivier Wortel

TOFOL, Kosrae (The Kaselehlie Press): April 18 - May 1, 2002 - The Department of Agriculture, Land, and Fisheries (ALF) received a technical assistance grant of US$ 50,000 this month to grow two increasingly rare varieties of banana high in vitamin A.

The grant, approved quickly by both the legislative and executive branches, came from the United States Department of Interior Office of Maintenance and Improvement Projects. These funds will be used to mass tissue culture the almost extinct banana plants, known on Kosrae as Kulasr and Kolontol, over a two-year period.

There are three goals for the program. The first is to revive the dwindling stock of both banana species, which were traditionally used with soft taro to pound into falifah, but are now barely fanned. Further, the hope is for these foods to provide an inexpensive, healthy, and sustainable source of Vitamin A to Kosrae and the other States within the FSM where Vitamin A Deficiencies (VAD) are high. Ultimately, it is hoped that the households of Kosrae could benefit economically from increased production and export of these high value foods.

Nena S. Nena, Director of ALF, said, "We hope that through the Health Services promotional campaign that each household on Kosrae will plant some of them "in their back yard, maybe 25 or so," and added, "We hope to produce at least 10,000 and they will be distributed free."

On the efficacy of a food-based strategy to improve Vitamin A intake, Luke Tipple said it "is important because it can increase the availability not only of vitamin A and iron, but also of many other nutrients."

Senator John Martin of Utwe, who has a sizeable banana farm, said, "Kosrae is the only place to have these two varieties of bananas, and we are very fortunate for that. . .They are very good to the health and we need to promote that."