The Department of Tourism (DoT) brought together various partners to discuss the development of a Vanuatu Local Cuisine Revival Strategy.
The workshop was facilitated by the Department of Tourism, Votausi Mackenzie from Lapita Café, Robert Oliver the Executive Director Pacific Islands Food Revolution and supported by the Pacific Agricultural Research and Development Initiative (PARDI 2) project under the Australian Centre for Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
Director for Tourism Development, Jerry Spooner opened the workshop and emphasized the department’s new focus on protecting tourism assets.
“While the Department of Tourism acknowledges the need for tourism to contribute to the country’s GDP, it must not do this at the expense of the very assets that attract tourists to our country, which is our culture, our friendly welcoming personalities and our beautiful environment,” Mr Spooner said.
He explained the country needs to go a step further, that it’s not just about protecting but reviving tourism assets.
One example Mr Spooner gave of the need for the revival of tourism assets is with Vanuatu’s local cuisine.
He talked of his experience eating in the mama’s markets with his staff and asking for island kaikai only, the mama still gave them rice with local food.
Serah Tari from WEAV explained that the mama would have been given the message that manioc is served if there’s nothing else to eat, but this mindset has to change.
Mr Spooner suggested, “The need for this change in mindset is so important to DoT that we have created a new programme under DoT that specifically looks at increasing representation of local Vanuatu Cuisine in the tourism industry, increasing expenditure on local value-added products in the tourism industry and increasing the number of tours promoting traditional farming and local cuisine”.
Award-winning New Zealand chef, Robert Oliver talked about the loss of pride in traditional local cuisine.
“We have to acknowledge the role of colonisation in the loss of pride in local food. Colonisation is the oppression of one culture for the benefit of another.
“This has made a position for the marketing companies to glamourize imported food and build shame around local food.
“There is a role that tourism has had proliferating this message that local food isn’t good enough, this message has to change,” Mr Oliver said.
The word revive was mentioned throughout the workshop as a powerful message, as Myriam Malao President of the Mama’s Port Vila Market suggested, “reviving places the challenge back into the hands of the Ni-Vanuatu, we have the knowledge to make positive change and revive our local food”.
The workshop took a positive approach to addressing the need to revive traditional local cuisine.
The Vanuatu Local Cuisine Revival Strategy is part of DoT’s focus to transform the tourism industry from “Vanuatu for Tourism” to “Tourism for Vanuatu!”
Photo supplied Caption: Award-winning New Zealand chef, Robert Oliver talking about the importance of traditional local cuisine