BY JOHN ICE
BINA village in the West Kwaio region of Malaita province, Solomon Islands is a haven where nature and culture intertwine, and Joyce is at the heart of this community. Known for its sweet pineapples and the local delicacy “Ko’a,” Bina thrives on the rich traditions embedded in its coastline, where a mangrove forest provides sustenance and inspiration.
Meet Joyce, the resilient 62-year-old, known as the “Mangrove Queen,” who relies on collecting mangrove seedlings for her livelihood. Her daily routine starts before the sun rises, navigating the challenging mangrove environment to gather precious fruits crucial for her family’s sustenance and income.
But Joyce’s aspirations go beyond economic independence. She envisions lifting her community out of poverty, ensuring no one goes hungry, and preserving the environment.
As she faces the physical challenges of aging, Joyce ingeniously adapts—turning to making bean cakes during the off-season, diversifying her offerings. Her resilience shines through, overcoming the unpredictability of harvest seasons and market fluctuations.
Yet, Joyce faces a more formidable adversary: climate change. Rising sea levels and extreme weather threaten the very mangrove ecosystems she depends on. Her fears for the future are profound, but her determination to preserve her way of life remains unshaken.
In the face of these challenges, Joyce finds strength in her family and community. They stand beside her, offering support as she strives for economic stability, education for her children, and empowerment.
Joyce’s passion extends beyond the mangroves into the kitchen, where she showcases her culinary expertise. Her favorite ingredient, the mangrove fruit, becomes a masterpiece in her hands, blending flavors to create unforgettable dishes. From mangrove soup with rich coconut cream to innovative spaghetti-inspired recipes, Joyce’s culinary creativity knows no bounds.
Her commitment to authenticity goes beyond taste; it’s a dedication to preserving the mangrove ecosystem. Joyce actively engages in sustainable harvesting practices, organizing community events to educate others about the significance of mangrove conservation.
Despite the allure of using mangrove trees for firewood, Joyce champions replanting initiatives, ensuring the sustainability of this vital resource for generations to come.
Joyce Siu’s journey is one of determination, resilience, and a commitment to a better future for her community and the environment.
During the recent ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands, to commemorate the 2023 International Day of Rural Women, the remarkable story of Joyce Siu, the Mangrove Queen of Bina, was featured.