Rexon Vira

Acting Director of Forests Rexon Vira says Penama weavers have to adapt to using different pandanus

Acting Director of Forestry Department Rexon Vira says dealing with seedling of trees to promote timber is one thing but it is going to be a new story for his Department to start to raise pandanus and natangura seedlings.

This is to supply those islands where climate change impact and natural disasters including cyclones have affected the important plants including pandanus and natangura trees in the islands.

The most recent devastating cyclone was Cyclone Pam followed by Ambae’s erupting Manaro, have both threatened the survival of all pandanus and natangura trees on both islands.

In fact the Vanuatu Handikraf Haos and Mahitahi facilities are already reporting a major decrease in the supplies of mats and baskets from Penama Province due to Ambae’s Manaro volcano ash fall.

Pentecost Island remains the main market for baskets and mats while Ambae was well known for its red mat and unique string basket.

There are two main pandanus trees on Ambae; the thorny green pandanus tree and yellow pandanus tree, both of which are affected by ash fall.

A question mark is on the lips of every weaver particularly from Ambae and Pentecost whether their pandanus and natangura trees will be able to survive under the constant ash fall on the islands. “In fact we first woke up to the reality of their vulnerability after Cyclone Pam that many of our natangura and pandanus trees were damaged after the cyclone and we ended up having to collect seeds of natangura from the North and supplied them to Shefa and Tafea under the recovery project of KFW”, he explains.

“This was when it dawned on us to start taking a serious look at the importance of dealing also with those important plants which traditionally had not been regarded with seriousness.

“All along our mamas had been making good money from their weavings but now the time has come to take a serious look at these plants.”

But the Acting Director says so far no formal research has been undertaken into in particular, pandanus but that it is time to start taking a serious look into the life of a pandanus tree now.

He says there are different kinds of pandanus for use in different artefacts and his staff have to research the different varieties to find out which type is used for which artefacts; fan, basket, mat and so on.

Meanwhile he is encouraged by Penama weavers who buy pandanus leaves from Shefa to weave their baskets and mats.

“Weavers have to adapt to using different types of pandanus leaves to weave their artefacts in situation faced by Penama Province,” he suggests.

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