KokoMana produces its cocoa, without chemical pesticides, in a diverse agroforestry environment. Along with our (approximately) four hundred cocoa trees, we have over eighty species of 'useful' plants (cultivated for timber, fruit, nuts, natural medicines and other products), as well as numerous ornamentals and wild species. A farm will not support the same diversity of plant and animal life as a natural rainforest. However, by careful, environmentally sensitive management, we can contribute to the conservation of Fiji's natural diversity.
Insects and spiders
Wherever there are plants, you will find insects - feeding on them, pollinating them and protecting them (often by feeding on one another!) We are actively encouraging a healthy population of butterflies and moths, by planting (or not weeding out) the plant species that host their caterpillars.
For instance, the larvae of the Fiji swallowtail (Papilio schmeltzi) feed on a familiar medicinal plant, Micromelum minutum (Rutaceae), known in Fijian as qiqila, and appreciated as a remedy for sore throats and chest infections. By encouraging this plant to grow along the creek and among the cocoa, we have a minor population explosion of these handsome butterflies.
Among the ornamental plants, several have been chosen because they are appreciated by butterflies and other insects as sources of nectar. And wherever there are numerous plant-feeding insects, a diversity of predatory insects and spiders will come to feed on them.
Fiji has a relatively modest tally of land birds, almost forty species, but wo-thirds of these are endemic - found nowhere else in the world.
Many of these bird species feed on insects - so maintaining a pesticide-free environment and plenty of vegetation to provide cover for them is sufficient to encourage a healthy diversity of birds.
Another significant part of the bird community consists of fruit-eating species. Fortunately, Fiji's native birds do not normally feed on cultivated fruits, like guava or mango. They prefer the small fruits of native trees, like the several Ficus (wild fig) species found around the farm. The famous ylang ylang (mokosoi in Fijian or Cananga odorata to botanists) is appreciated by humans for its fragrant flowers but Fiji's beautiful native fruit doves prefer its fruits.
By day, Fiji goshawks can often be seen on the farm - catching lizards, large insects and an occasional bird. At night, barn owls come come to feed on damaging Polynesian rats; we encourage them by providing nesting boxes.
The stream that crosses the KokoMana farm is only a few hundred metres in length, from its source in springs on the hillside above to its discharge into Savusavu Bay. However, it supports a remarkable diversity of freshwater life, including perhaps a dozen species of fish and a half-dozen species of shrimps and prawns.
By maintaining vegetation cover - that minimizes run-off and soil erosion, even during heavy rainfall - and avoiding any run-off of agricultural chemicals into the stream, we aim to keep the water clean and its fauna healthy.
Many of these fish and prawn species spend part of their life-cycle in the sea or in brackish estuarine waters. This is one of many reasons why it is so important that everyone in the Pacific islands takes care of our beautiful environment, all the way from 'ridge to reef'.