Storytelling and Food: How Pacific Islands are Revitalizing Pride in their Food Culture

The bounty and diversity of Papua New Guinea can easily make one’s jaw drop.  Home to a staggering array of endemic species and over 800 indigenous tribes, Papua New Guinea is also the world’s most linguistically diverse nation. This diversity has also birthed an incredible food culture that has been stewarded by local communities in their organic food gardens and surrounding rich environment over millennia.

Like many other Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea is also vulnerable to modernization and climate change, which is threatening the food culture and biodiversity. Jennifer Baing-Waiko recognizes the power of media to revitalize pride among Papua New Guineans in their local culture and foodways. She is the host of Cafe New Guinea, a lifestyle show that films the unique cuisines of Papua New Guinea, from the majestic highlands to Kar Kar Islands to coastal reefs.

Jennifer is also the co-founder of Savé Papua New Guinea, a nonprofit that encourages Melanesians to preserve their unique traditional foodways, biodiversity and culture. Savé means “wisdom” or “to know” in Tok Pisin, a creole national language. Last year, the Agroecology Fund provided Savé Papua New Guinea with a grant to collaborate with five other innovative Melanesian groups to promote agroecology and improve community health and climate resiliency. The Food is Life project will also produce an educational tool kit with audio-visuals, films and a facilitator’s guide to train indigenous food advocates in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu.

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