Replanting Koa, the Traditional Langalanga Food on Bota’ala Island

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KOA is the most popular traditional food among the people of Langalanga Lagoon on the west coast of Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands.

Although it may sound quite unique to hear the word “Koa”, it is simply a mangrove fruit, which is prepared by women of Langalanga as food with the combination of other fresh and quality ingredients. It’s no wonder that Langalanga’s cuisine is so delicious and also highly valued as a means of coastal livelihood and food security by the Lagoon people in this particular region of Malaita.

Mangrove fruits ready for re-planting on the coastal areas of Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon. Picture Credit: Ender Rence

For many years, the mangrove forests surrounding Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon have suffered from human activities and the effects of extreme weather patterns. Now the fight to replant, protect, and preserve them has intensified with the pioneering vision and support of local tourism entrepreneur Mrs. Ender Rence, the founder and director of the Imperial Travel Service.

Join TOURISM MEDIA as local media freelancer, consultant, and blogger Regina Lepping reports about how the Langalanga lagoon people are strongly linked with mangroves and also the recent visionary replanting interventions on Bota’ala Island to ensure the sustainability of their mangrove ecosystem.

A mangrove fruit planted into the muddy coast of Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon. Picture Credit: Ender Rence

Regina described Koa as a Langalanga cuisine, known for its unique flavors and cultural significance, is a testament to the harmony between the environment and the people.

“These foods offer a diversified gastronomic experience and come in a variety of styles, such as Milk Koa and Motu Koa. This custom can continue because of the profusion of Koa fruit, which is evidence of the coexistence of people and the environment. Change is inevitable, though, as it is with many other things. The dynamics have changed as a result of the expanding population and the invention of canned fish, and Koa meals are now mostly made when people are willing to eat them.

A resident of Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon planting a mangrove fruit. Picture Credit: Ender Rence

“The rhythms of the mangroves are tightly woven into the daily schedules of the women of Langa Langa. They spend a lot of time gathering koa from the mangrove trees in addition to participating in the process of making shell money at home. The mangrove fruit known as Koa, or Bruguiera gymnorhiza in scientific terminology, takes around five years to develop and produce fruit. When these fruits are fully mature, they softly drop from the trees and float about the mangrove ecosystem, indicating the beginning of the harvesting procedure.

Likewise, the local media freelancer reported that recently at Bota’ala Island, women are planting Koa trees to ensure a steady supply for generations.

“While the tides naturally spread Koa, the community understands the value of preventative actions for sustainability. An innovative plan has taken root on Bota’ala Island. In order to guarantee a consistent supply of this priceless fruit for future generations, women are taking the initiative to plant Koa trees. This dedication to environmentally friendly techniques reverberates throughout the mangroves, having a good effect on both the neighborhood and the environment,” she wrote.

A resident of Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon planting mangrove fruits. Picture Credit: Ender Rence

She added that on Bota’ala Island, Ender, a visionary individual, has turned the connection between Langalanga Lagoon and its resources into a tourist attraction.

“A recently released package called “Ender’s Brainchild” allows guests to see the path of Koa, from its collection among the mangroves to its metamorphosis into a delicious supper. Tourists have a genuine opportunity to interact with and understand the subtleties of lagoon life through this immersive experience.

“Ender has ambitions that go well beyond travel. She wants Bota’ala Island to develop into a center for sustainability and conservation, where resources are cultivated for the benefit of the entire community, not just the women and fishermen.

A visiting tourist visiting the coastal mangrove trees on Bota’ala Island in Langalanga Lagoon. Picture Credit: Ender Rence

“In Langalanga Lagoon, the story of women, mangroves, and sustainability is one of balance, flexibility, and forethought. The community accepts its cultural legacy and ecological duties while it navigates the difficulties brought on by modernisation. The centerpiece of this story—the Koa dishes—serve as both a gastronomic treat and a representation of perseverance and harmony. This tradition will go on thanks to the commitment of Langalanga’s women and visionary leaders like Ender, who encourage residents and visitors alike to appreciate the beauty of nature and the strength of shared dreams,” she added.

Likewise, it’s quite interesting to note that there are a number of international scientific researches on mangrove bioresources, particularly mangrove fruits. This review explores the nutritional, antinutritional, and antioxidant properties of mangrove fruits, highlighting their potential for bioprospecting, conservation, and commercialization.

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