Samoa forges link with Caribbean

Samoa continues to forge links with the Caribbean to find ways to improve agricultural trade, tourism and opportunities for women in their regions.

Women in Business executive director Adimaimalaga Tafuna'i at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture in Guyana.Hosted by the nation of Guyana earlier this month, Caribbean Week of Agriculture featured key speakers Women in Business Development executive director Adimaimalaga Tafuna’i, acclaimed chef Robert Oliver and Karen Mapusua from POETCom. The Samoan Government was represented by Associate Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Samoa Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell.

The forum was aimed at finding ways to link the smallholder farmers to the local market, strengthen inter-regional linkages; link local and regional production to the tourism industry and boost agro-tourism, and in particular food tourism.

Tafuna’i said that the meeting was another chance for farming and livelihood organizations to learn from each other. “There are similarities between the Caribbean and Pacific and if we share what we know, others that come after us can learn from our processes that have been refined by trial and error.

“Developing supply chains in our islands – so that we can attract domestic and international markets – takes much longer. We need to understand and work at the level of our farmers, and at the same time understand what the market needs.”

Women in Business Development currently supplies cosmetic giant The Body Shop with virgin coconut oil. “We started producing the oil in 1996 and tried for years to find a stable market. We actually sought out The Body Shop but could not get a meeting with them. Then in 2007, they came to the Pacific looking for virgin coconut oil and found us. It then took us four years to build the capacity of our farmers to meet that contract volume but it can be done."

Pomeroon Women Agro-Processor Association president Rosamund Benn spoke of the challenges the Association faced trying to get markets for virgin coconut oil. 

She said that they were looking at a regional market where the demand for the oil was higher.

Tafuna’i said that care had to be taken when producing virgin coconut oil to protect the quality of the oil, which deteriorates when the process is upscaled to produce larger quantities at once. “Also when production is done in the villages, small holder farmers and their communities benefit as opposed to when production is done in a central factory.”

At the high-level presentations, Samoa's Associate Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Samoa Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell identified possible areas of cooperation between the Pacific and Caribbean such as organic agriculture, transporting agricultural products, and adapting to climate change and curbing its effects.  Lautafi also spoke about the role of women and youth in agriculture.

Robert Oliver presented on his work in the Pacific and compared it with a successful programme he ran in the Caribbean connecting farmers to hotel chefs.  Oliver has been active in the Pacific region encouraging chefs to use locally grown ingredients through his TV show Real Pasifik and award-winning book Mea Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific.

Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade community co-ordinator Karen Mapusua also spoke on branding the Pacific as organic.

The Women´s Forum is a follow-up to SEED CAP (Supporting Economic Empowerment and Development in the Caribbean and Pacific), which was held in the Montego Bay, Jamaica in July.

That forum brought together Caribbean and Pacific businesses, producers, experts and public and private sector representatives to discuss how to further strengthen economic gains for women involved in the agriculture and rural sectors.

Posted: Mon 21 Oct 2013