Avaiki Pearl Farmer
Henry Puna's pearl farming exploits over twelve years have led to a very efficient pearling operation. But it didn't exactly get off to a promising start. Just four days after he'd completed his very first pearl seeding, the full force of Cyclone Martin struck Manihiki with devastating consequences for human life and the dwellings and pearling infrastructure of Henry's remote community. That was 1-November-1997, a date etched into every Manihikian's memory.
Twelve years on, Henry and his wife Akaiti have managed to build up a very efficient pearl farming enterprise on Manihiki, producing Avaiki pearls. Earning his livelihood from the expansive, nutrient-rich lagoon, Henry thrives on a pattern of physically demanding work, natural farming rhythms and occasional surprises.
Achieving a high percentage of Avaiki grade pearls, as Henry does, requires attention to detail. Henry attributes his farm's performance to having highly-skilled technicians and sound farm management practices in place. He's a firm believer in using local technicians for the benefit of the local community and actively encourages his fellow farmers to make the necessary investment in their 'hands-on' training.
Henry Puna is also an advocate of collaboration. "The sharing of 'best practice' techniques and knowledge among farmers is essential if everyone is to benefit from the industry at the same pace and to the same standards," says Henry. "We have set up our own sub-group of farmers where we use the same technicians and share the same seeding house and facilities. We talk over ideas on improved farming methods and help each other out whenever possible."
Like other Avaiki farmers, Henry is pleased to see robust structures in place around sustainable lagoon management. He also welcomes the minimum period of eighteen months for the pearl oysters in the lagoon to ensure good nacre thickness plus the adoption of an enterprising marketing strategy for Avaiki pearls. These factors, combined with more innovative ideas around farming techniques, Henry believes will go a long way towards ensuring a promising future for the Cook Islands pearl industry.