Place-making in the Pacific: Can Geographical Indications Support the Sustainable Development of the Nonu Industry in Samoa?
Geographical Indications (GIs) are place-based names that convey the unique environmental, geographical and cultural origins of agricultural products. A GI is designed to protect products by highlighting exclusive features that differentiate tailored and often more 'localised' produce from those which are homogenous and mass produced. GIs are governed by local actors, thus providing a means of control to ensure that production stays in the local area. Yet they also operate within the interface of global to local spheres, providing a 'glocalised' link between people, product and place. GIs can signal messages to extra-local consumers, providing information on the specifics of product production, as well as reflecting quality and standards for ethical consideration. Therefore, GIs and their market labels, are essentially 'markers of origin'; offering a form of certification which virtually guarantees the origin of the product. The degree to which GIs can protect local, environmental and cultural resources arguably depends on the structure of the GI legislation. In the Pacific region, GI is in its infancy. In Samoa, the Intellectual Property Act of 2012 is in force and contains the foundations of a US influenced GI. Using a commodity chain approach, I compare these two systems; (1) the current US/WTO system and (2) a European (EU) based GI. Developing a theory of factors that contributes to the more sustainable development of the Nonu Industry in Samoa, I argue that the Samoan Nonu product cannot compete in the Pacific region due to the large-scale production of its main competitor, Tahitian Noni. I therefore recommend that the industry may be more sustainably served by adopting a collaborative 'bottom-up' approach, in the form of a European GI, which promotes the niche qualities of local products, by utilising a rigorous narrative codex/certification system, to reduce inter-island and even international competition.