Reviving Bele, the Pacific’s indigenous vegetable
Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji are working toward reviving the growing of bele (Abelmoschus manihot) through a two year French Pacific Fund project, “How an indigenous vegetable can contribute to sustainable agriculture”. <!--more-->The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, through its Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (SPC, CePaCT), is working closely with the five countries.
Bele, also known by several names in the Pacific such as aibika in PNG or slippery cabbage in the Solomon Islands, is considered one of the Pacific’s nutritious indigenous vegetables. It is high in protein, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron compared to Chinese cabbage and spinach, both are introduced vegetables in the Pacific.
[caption id="attachment_5051" align="alignright" width="138"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pxt3.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-5051" alt="Experts inspecting Fijian bele varieties. Pic courtesy: SPC" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pxt3.jpg" width="138" height="104" /></a> Experts inspecting Fijian bele varieties. Pic courtesy: SPC[/caption]
It is known to have medicinal properties for fertility and ease childbirth. The crop also requires low maintenance and some varieties are known to be tolerant to drought and certain pest diseases.
Conserving bele in the field is often a constraint countries faced due to limited resources. Loss of unique and valuable diversity is unavoidable due to no backups and safekeeping in a regional place. Some 30 varieties of bele were noted to have been lost over the years in Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s.
The five project countries (all Melanesian societies) consume more bele than other Pacific islands as well as having the largest diversity of bele resources in the Pacific and perhaps in the world.
The project is also timely to support countries with new market opportunities open up for export of leafy vegetables to countries like New Zealand where a huge population of Pacific islanders live.