The SARE-funded team hopes to develop methods of ava production to make the traditional juice extracted from the plant more available on the island of American Samoa as well as available for export to the United States.
Ava is a traditional plant in American Samoa that produces a juice popular in traditional ceremonies. It is also used for recreational purposes or as an additive to traditional medicines. This project was funded to help Lualima Siagatonu develop methods to mass-produce more of the ava for distribution on the island and to the mainland United States.
First, Siagatonu had to cut the grass to clear an area for the ava plants. He then tried two methods of planting: 1) growing the ava in trays then transplanting it in the ground, and 2) planting directly into the ground. Siagatonu found that it was easier and more effective to plant the ava directly into the ground without transplanting. He also has discovered that the ava plant can be harvested in four years, but is better after five years, when it can give off more shoots and provide a better juice.
When the ava was ready, Siagatonu harvested the plant by hand. First, he cut the small roots away from the main roots and cleaned them. He cleaned the main roots and scraped off the outer skin before cutting them up. He left the root pieces out to dry in the sun for five days to two weeks. The pieces were then ground and stored until sold.
Most farmers on American Samoa grow common crops like taro, bananas and vegetables. Ava has the potential to be another cash crop.
Ava serves many purposes, including being served at traditional ceremonies, use by Samoan Fofo (massage therapists), providing medicinal qualities, etc.
In addition, ava helps protect the soil against erosion because it is one of only a few American Samoan crops grown on the flatland.
“Right now on the island, ava is needed but rarely found,” Siagatonu says.
So far, growing ava has yet to become profitable for Siagatonu because he has used most of their profit to pay for weed cuttings and materials. However, he believes it could be profitable in the future.
“We’re not really thinking of making a profit. We’re just wanting to see what it would be like in the future,” he says.
REACTIONS FROM FARMERS AND RANCHERS
The response from other producers has been positive. They have often asked Siagatonu for plant shoots to grow on their own lands. “Other farmers have been affected,” he says. “Pretty soon, more people will have good plantations.”
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
The biggest problem of the project’s first year was the difficulty of doing all the work by hand. Siagatonu plans to continue this project into the next phase, adding machines to help with the production. This will also allow him to better market his ava oversees for more profit.
Rusle Project Manager
PO Box 5319
Mapusaga, AS 96799
Office Phone: 6846991575