Sago ‘heart of palm’ can now be phased out by the introdution of Peach Palm.
Over 200 sago palms are felled each week to supply the local heart of palm market.
But the Fiji Sago Palm is now severely threatened by unrestricted harvesting and felling not just for palm heart, but for thatching by the tourist industry.
The Fiji Sago Palm is essentially restricted to the province of Serua and there are no more than six viable stands surviving.
NFMV has identified the Peach Palm as the most suitable substitute for “Heart of Palm” or “Millionaire’s Salad”,it is grown commercially for this purpose in Hawaii and Central America. With Biosecurity Clearance obtained, NFMV have imported 3,000 seeds and will grow out a seed orchard and a commercial stand on their land in the Sigatoka Valley. As soon as seeds are available they will be made available to other farmers and to existing suppliers of Sago Palm heart.
The introduction of the Peach Palm now enables NFMV to submit the Fiji Sago Palm Species Recovery Plan for endorsement by the Department of the Environment and other stakeholders, notably the Dept. of Forestry, the Serua Provincial Office and the National Trust for Fiji.
In the coming months NFMV will be giving presentations to the tourism industry on the sutainable use of Sago Thatch and the potential of ‘heart of palm’ from Peach Palm as a new culinary item.
The Peach Palm is an ideal species for commercial ‘heart of palm’ cultivation because it is a clumping palm with several stems, so that as one stem is harvested, another is growing in its place for future harvest.
Sago, apart from being a severely threatened species, has a single trunk and so harvesting is a permanent loss.
At Culanuku, NFMV have been working with the village community to restore a 30 ha stand of sago which was threatened with complete loss after over-harvesting enable weedy trees and vines to suppress regeneration.
After two years and funding by the British High Commission, the stand has recovered well and in another two years, the first harvest of leaves for thatching could start and continue as a source of income.
NFMV have drawn up sustainable thatch harvesting guidelines for Sago which are available to all who request them.