Votausi Mackenzie-Reur gave us a moving and beautifully relevant speech at the launch of Pacific Island Food Revolution in Vanuatu. Votausi embodies, lives the values of the revolution and through her own brilliance, provides a luminous beacon of hope and love…read these words:


It is a great honour for me to be standing in front of you tonight to give you a short presentation on my perception of Pacific Islands Food Revolution Vanuatu.

Chef Robert Oliver and I met 11 years ago (2008) during his expedition of South Pacific food culture for his award winning cook book. Me’a Kai “ The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific”. When we first met it was like a dream come true for me as at last I can talk to a professional Foodie about my passion: Keeping our Vanuatu food culture and cuisine alive for future generations to enjoy”.

Apart from being featured in his Cook Book, I have also worked with Robert in his TV series “Real Pasifik”. Today I stand here to say to you Robert, I am deeply honoured to continue this journey with you since 2008 to take our passion to the next level for the benefit of my country:
The Republic of Vanuatu.

When Robert approached me five years ago to be part of this project, there was no hesitation for me as all I ever wanted in my 30 years of advocating for healthy lifestyles for my Vanuatu people is to make a positive impact in their lives. God has bountifully blessed Vanuatu with its natural and organic resources from the mountains, rivers to the massive ocean surrounding our islands. This my friends has sustained the lives of our ancestors .who were once warriors of this land and who have lived to be 100 and still maintain their eye sight and teeth.

Vanuatu is covered with luxuriant vegetation, which thrives on the very rich soil, wet tropical climate and abundant and regular rainfall. Most of the area is covered with dense forest from the shore to the top of the highest mountains. 70% of the ni-Vanatu depend on subsistence agriculture and shifting cultivation for their survival. Tropical food crops such as manioc, taro, yam, kumala and island cabbage are abundant through out the year. Vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, eggplants, Chinese cabbage etc can be grown during cooler months
Tropical fruit trees bear fruit for much of the year. Coconuts are abundant food source.
Cyclones often cause food crop damage, but local foods can be re-grown as early as 3-6 months after cyclone damage.

The earliest known nutrition survey in Vanuatu then the New Hebrides was in 1951. The dietary survey at that time studied the diets of villages around Port Vila and on Tanna island. At that time it revealed that the villages around Port Vila have reduced their consumption of local foods to once a day whilst those on Tanna island still maintained a higher level of local food consumption therefore maintaining good nutritional status. For the villages around Port Vila, white rice, bread, sugar, tinned meat, fish, salt and fats and oils have found a permanent place in their homes. Plantation labourers and those employed for working on cargo boats were given rice rations of 500g/day.

68 years later….today, Vanuatu is dealing with a burden of both over and under malnutrition due to unhealthy dietary habits. The negative impact of both under nutrition (from not eating enough safe and nutritious foods) leading to nutrition deficiency illnesses such as anaemia (iron deficiency), stunting, iodine deficiency and over nutrition (from eating too much unhealthy food which are usually high in salt, sugar and saturated fat) leading to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, some cancers and obesity, have contributed to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Our health institutions have over the years rolled out education programs through out our island communities using posters, pamplets, radio jingles, newspapers etc to educate our people to improve their food choices and lifestyles.

It seems we are fighting a losing battle. This battle my friends is not just for our public health institutions….it is everybody’s business. NCDs has affected each and every one of us in this room tonight.

We all feel pain. heartache and sadness as we lose a friend, work colleagues, brother or sister, prematurely. But the most profound pain for me my friends is to watch our loved ones suffer from something that we CAN ALL PREVENT.

The “Pacific Islands Food Revolution” is for each and everyone of us to be part of. It is here to revolt against this terrible diseases. Let us all use it as a fun and effective tool to:

“Pacific Islands Food Revolution” is a fun and positive platform to learn from each other our traditional food values, methods of cooking and how they have sustained our ancestors for centuries and that we too can embrace these values in this modern age and take them into our homes and communities to protect our health today and our future generation.
Traditional food is much healthier and the focus of ‘Pacific Island Food Revolution’ is to promote the health benefits of traditional Pacific cuisines and showcase them to the Pacific people and the entire world. We want to grow strong island warriors in our beautiful shores.

Before I introduce the Vanuatu contestants Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to emphasize that : The real magic of this show is not me or Chef Robert Oliver, it is the contestants themselves. They have created our traditional foods to a truly exotic and authentic dishes bringing to us and the world the taste and flavours of Vanuatu. The best thing of all is that all these dishes can be replicated in any household kitchen. The contestants have shown that cooking traditional food is not only healthy but fun, delicious and most of all gives us our cultural sense of identity.

This is their revolution !!
And through them ….
This is your revolution!!

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