Pacific Challenge ends with a flourish!

Team EduKai did it! They successfully wrapped their University of Canterbury 21 Day Pacific Challenge in Niue earlier this month.

L-R Mike Greenslade, Ross Ardern, Glen Baxter, Vaea Williams, Helena Power, Charles Tevi, Kent Stewart, Charlotte Mee, Sima Bagheri, Lynsey Talagi, Sussie Morrish.
(L-R) Trade Commissioner Mike Greenslade, NZ High Commissioner to Niue Ross Ardern, Glen Baxter, Vaea Williams, Helena Power, Charles Tevi, Kent Stewart, Charlotte Mee, Sima Bagheri, Lynsey Talagi, Sussie Morrish.

The UC students Sima Bagheri, Charlotte Mee, Helena Power, Charles Tevi and Kent Stewart and their supporters, Associate Professor Sussie Morrish, Glen Baxter, Lynsey Talagi were in Niue with Ellie Ikinofo and Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade of Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) New Zealand. PT&I is a co-sponsor of the competition.

The UC 21 Day Pacific Challenge asked students to step outside their comfort zones to develop a sustainable business project solving a problem for an international community in 21 days within a $10,000 budget. This year they had to help the Niue Island community to conserve, protect and manage its food supply with a view to becoming self-sufficient.

Team EduKai won the competition with a great marketing campaign of their three pronged approach to create a collection of traditional Niuean recipes, set up an outdoor cook house with three umu (underground earth ovens) called the Taumafa Kitchen and form a committee of key people to ensure the sustainability of the project when the group left. Of the five, three had had never been to a Pacific Island before. They didn’t speak the language or always understand the cultural practices. They had a first-hand experience of the challenges of a small island’s isolation.

To begin with the island was in the middle of a flour shortage, solved by the NZ High Commissioner’s request for 1000kg of flour to be flown in aboard a visiting Royal NZ Airforce Orion aircraft. But ultimately a key success factor in Niue was the strong network of support around the team, with help from Taoga Niue Cultural Centre Leader Moira Enetama and school principals from Niue High School Charles and Niue Primary Itzy Tukuitoga. Also at hand were Alana Tukuniu of the Niue Island Organic Farms Association and Mataginifale Lose Siakimotu of the Avatele Women’s Group, which helped form the Taumafa Kitchen Governance Group.  UC Niuean advisor and mentor Lynsey Talagi and PT&I’s Eleanor Ikinofo, another Niuean in their camp as well as private sector advice from Glen Baxter also chipped in.

PT&I Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade who saw the project end, acknowledged all the support from the community whose help made the project possible.

The community had been very helpful and selecting Niue as the start for the Pacific island countries was a good start and a steep learning curve for the students, said Professor Morrish.

Taoga Niue’s Moira Enetame had been at the forefront of everything especially with the building of the peito (kitchen). Her staff at Taonga Niue were there most of the time too and helped tremendously, she said.

“Niue was very excited by the project. There was a lot of awareness given the students have been on TV and radio and they could see these people in red 21 Day Challenge t-shirts running around Alofi for nine days. The school was looking forward to using the kitchen as its resource for teaching and doing practical activities,” she said.

The sign at the kitchen.
The sign at the kitchen.

The team bought the resources for the kitchen on the island and supported the local eateries. They held courtesy meetings with the Niue Premier Toke Talagi, the NZ High Commissioner and Team EduKai were invited to dinner with the Niue Chamber of Commerce.

The project finished with a community Pot Luck dinner to open the new kitchen with mouth-watering roast pork and tuna! The only challenge was putting together volume two of the recipe book as the sharing of traditional cultural knowledge of food preparation and methods is very jealously guarded by the Niue community. However, Mrs Lose Siakimotu of the Avatele Women’s Group member was fully impressed and very appreciative of Volume One of the recipe collection because it was something she had always wanted.  Sales from the second edition would go towards the upkeep of the Taumafa Kitchen.

In the feedback, some community members expressed fears that the project may not be sustainable in future.  Niue people as early adopters can also be quick to pick up and drop activities.

However, it was acknowledged that linking in with the Taoga Niue Cultural Centre and the schools would ensure ongoing use in future.  For more information email Eleanor Ikinofo at eleanor.i@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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