Wednesday, 24 September 2008 2:04 PM

Makira and Bananas

Makira Province in the Solomon Islands has always been labeled the 'Banana Land.'

According to people from Makira, the name stuck after Makira was found to have different varieties of bananas.

Banana has always been a staple food for the people of Makira-Ulawa Province and for hundreds of centuries the 'Toroka,' as it is known in their local dialect, had been and still used for custom feasts and other traditional food exchanges among tribes or villages. In fact without bananas, no traditional feast could be regarded as complete.

Usually, a person from Makira can be labeled as the 'banana boy' or 'banana girl' as a joke.

Despite the nicknames, health experts and scientists have found that some bananas in Makira Province have nutrients that could help prevent certain disease. They say that the consumption of certain colored bananas such as the yellow or the brown ones can prevent major non communicable diseases such as heart attacks, hypertension or cancer.

This was confiremd by local chemical scientist in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Honiara, Mr. Dickson Mangongi. He stated that after attending a Regional Food Scientists meeting in Nadi, Fiji in 2005, he was surprised to learn that scientists have discovered that the 'Toroka' or a yellow banana found in Makira could help prevent diseases.

According to the people of Makira there are six varieties of the 'Toroka' and unlike other bananas, the 'Toroka' stands upright and the color of the inside of the fruit is yellow.

The 'Toroka' had never been recognized as a fruit that could prevent diseases and only recently through awareness by health experts in the Makira Province did people realize that the 'Toroka' could prevent heart attack and other non communicable diseases.

The recent discovery has made the people proud of what Makira has. According to some people, the label 'Banana Land' brings new meaning.

The Makira-Ulawa Province is in the eastern part of the Solomon Islands and is about eight to ten hours by boat from Honiara or two hours by plane.