As an organisation dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa, WIBDI has come a long way since its small beginnings in 1990. Learning from experience and mistakes has always been a strong feature of this Pacific NGO, which helps vulnerable rural families to earn a regular income by establishing sustainable agribusinesses in their own communities.
Set up with a special focus on indigenous traditions, the organisation uses a blend of traditional and modern technology to develop income earning opportunities for its members and find markets for their products. The formula has proved a winning one, despite some stumbling blocks along the way. In helping villagers to build agribusinesses based on organic products, WIBDI has gradually forged links with a number of high profile regional and global trading partners, including The Body Shop, All Good Organics and C1 Espresso.
“Our work has grown from traditional forms of income generation like handicrafts to where we are now – adding value to locally grown crops and exporting to niche markets as far away as the UK,” said Tafuna'i, who was one of seven founding members. “The bulk of our work is now focused on adding value to crops grown by rural farming families and facilitating export, as well as local sales of the value added products.”
Efforts to market products from rural households have involved a learning curve for WIBDI staff, who have had to adopt innovative ways to add value to crops and other products and make them visible to a wider audience. “WIBDI has come a long way, and the learning has been immense because we made so many mistakes along the way, but we always used the mistakes to learn and grow,” recalls Tafuna'i. “Innovation was necessary because the earlier projects, aimed at traditional things like handicraft production, were difficult since there were no sustainable markets.”