Under the Sustainable Development Fund, the New Zealand Aid Pogrammme is investing nearly NZD$3.4 million into Oxfam New Zealand’s Pacific Regional Livelihoods Programme, in which Women in Businesses Development Inc (WIBDI) is a core partner. The New Zealand Aid Programme has been a consistent supporter of WIBDI’s work to link Samoan farmers to markets since the 1990s.
Despite leaving school quite young, 15 year old Iopu (pictured) says he's determined to build his parents a home. Oxfam’s partner Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI) is helping turn his dream into reality with their organic farming programme.
Like many adolescents in Samoa, 15 year old Iopu Tauleoo Vaelua’s parents could not afford to keep sending him to school. Living with his parents and seven of his eight siblings in Faleasiu village on the island of Upolu, Iopu and his family rely on their vegetable garden as their main source of food and income, supplemented by the earnings from his two elder brothers. Their house has no running water or electricity and the family often has to pay the neighbours to use some of their water. They have no close family members living overseas, so don’t receive any of the remittances that are often a vital source of income for many people in Samoa.
Despite leaving school early, with support from WIBDI, Iopu is working towards making his dream of building a home for his family a reality. Iopu loves vegetable farming and has joined WIBDI’s organic farming programme to improve his gardening techniques. As his skills develop and his income increases he wants to help support his parents and one day build them a new home.
WIBDI identifies opportunities like organic gardening, which generate income and create jobs in rural villages so that people like Iopu aren’t forced to move to urban areas to look for work.
With his new-found knowledge on composting, diverse cropping, and organic pesticides, Iopu is now confident enough in his new skills to trial unfamiliar crops such as the Hawaiian papaya. He has also changed his family’s seasonal cash crops from Pak choi cabbage to peanuts, which better suit the dry soil conditions. Iopu sells his crops in his village and at roadside markets, and he also travels to Apia every Friday to deliver baskets of organic vegetables to WIBDI.
WIBDI sells his fruit and vegetables to the lucrative tourist market and to ex-pats, gaining premium prices of up to $100 tala (NZD$53) each week for the produce. From this money, Iopu puts $5 each week into a savings account. Although this amount might seem small, it is money his family would never have earned without WIBDI’s support. Iopus then uses the remainder of the money to buy household essentials such as sugar, salt, tea and kerosene.
With the support of Oxfam and the New Zealand Aid Programme, WIBDI is providing rural families like Iopu’s the opportunity to improve their standard of living. In the future, WIBDI want to take their organics scheme a step further by establishing a Samoan organic farming industry based on the principles of fair trade, which would allow families access to niche international markets. Iopu and many others on the 625 farms where WIBDI works will pass their skills onto the next generation, contributing to Samoa’s ongoing development.
Find out more about prize-winning organics in Samoa.