UC 21 Day Challenge in Niue racing against time

Time is of the essence for the University of Canterbury 21 Day Pacific Challenge team, which is in Niue to implement its winning project. 

The team chalks out its plan for the day.
The team chalks out its plan for the day.

Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) co-sponsored the UC 21 Day Pacific Challenge competition, where teams submitted project proposals in 21 Days to assist the Niue community to conserve, protect and sustainably manage its food supply with a view to becoming self-sufficient within a $10,000 budget.  The team with the best proposal won a 10-day trip to Niue to implement its project.

This year’s team winners, Charlotte Mee, Helena Power, Sima Bagheri, Kent Stewart and Charles Tevi arrived in Niue last week with a UC staff comprising Associate Professor Sussie Morrish, Glen Baxter, Lynsey Talagi and PT&I’s Eleanor Ikinofo.

The winning project named EduKai proposes to re-engage Niue people with fresh local foods through community networks and to share knowledge of culture and traditions. The three strands are: working with the local Niuean community to develop a recipe book of traditional Niuean recipes; to set up the Taumafa (Eating) Kitchen – an outdoor covered structure for three traditional umu (underground earth ovens) and charcoal stoves to be used as a learning centre and the Taumafa Governance Group to maintain and run the kitchen once the students leave Niue and the project is handed to the committee to continue.

Team EduKai hit the ground running on the first night. Team members introduced the ‘Traditional Niuean Recipes’ book at a networking function at the Niue Backpackers accommodation where they are staying. Further recipes for the second edition of the cook book would be collected during the week.  It was an impressive start. Contributors were pleased to see their recipes so quickly in print.

The next morning they met with the members of the Taumafa Governance group, Mrs Moira Enetama, Director of Taoga Niue Cultural Centre, where the Taumafa Kitchen will be located, next door to Niue’s Primary and High Schools. Taoga Niue is a Government agency tasked to preserve the Niue culture and language and Mrs Enetama has been a key driver helping the group. She said she loved the concept of the 21 Day challenge and the kitchen would provide more interaction with the community.

Mrs Lose Siakimotu, one of the recipe book contributors and part of the Avatele Women’s Group associated with the group, congratulated the students in gathering the recipes in a short time.

The team with University of Canterbury faculty and PT&I's Eleanor Ikinofo (at extreme left).
The team with University of Canterbury faculty and PT&I’s Eleanor Ikinofo (at extreme left).

She said was very thankful to see the recipe book come to fruition. “Seeing this as a reality has really excited the women of the village,” she added. The location of the kitchen or peito (in Niuean) beside the schools was ideal, because it could be used as a teaching and learning facility. Often when preparing traditional food she didn’t have time to teach traditional ways of cooking, so the kitchen would help pass on traditional cooking methods. She was also excited that the community could use the kitchen for fundraising activities in future. Mrs Siakimotu also enquired about the time frame for the second edition of recipes. Proceeds from the sales of the second edition would go toward the costs and maintenance of the Taumafa Kitchen said Ms Mee.

The principals of the Niue High School and the Niue Primary School along with the Niue Organic Farmers Association attended the meeting and are members of the governance committee.

Niue High School Principal Charles Ioane and Niue Primary School Principal Itzy Tukuitoga agreed the selected site of the Taumafa Kitchen site at Taoga Niue was ideal for the students to learn and participate in traditional cooking methods. “The location is awesome,” Mr Ioane said.

Niue Island Organic Farmers Association (NIOFA) committee member Alana Tukuniu was keen to look at sustainability of the project.

Each EduKai team member is responsible for different areas of the project. Helena and Charlotte have marketing, organising the pot luck dinner and cook book, Sima for co-ordinating activities and Kent and Charles responsible for construction of the Taumafa Kitchen. After the meeting they went out buying the construction materials, marketing the cook book and doing media interviews.

Vaea Peterson, a UC Sports Coaching Education student who also travelled with the team to Niue is helping them build the kitchen and conducted some sport activity with the local high school.

The group also paid a courtesy call to the New Zealand High Commissioner in Niue Ross Ardern on Thursday. They were also invited to speak at the Niue High School Athletics Day on Friday before the school break for the school holidays. PT&I’s Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade will be in Niue to see the final week of the project. The kitchen is expected to be completed by Wednesday and on Thursday the team will prepare for the official launch of the new kitchen, inviting the community to a Pot Luck dinner with a feast of roast pig, tuna fish and foods supplied from the potluck.

For more information please email Eleanor Ikinofo at Eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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