Sustainable Partnerships for Women in Samoa

A woman in Samoa weaving an organic basket. Credit: Women in Business Development, Inc.

By Nosh Nalavala

In Samoa, an archipelago nation largely dependent on foreign aid and private remittances, it can seem near-impossible for its 200,000-person population to carve out opportunities for economic mobility.

Women in Business Development Inc. hopes to turn the tide in the small island nation by forging sustainable partnerships between multinationals and small-scale farmers. The non-governmental organization is bridging indigenous Samoan tradition and big-name global businesses, including The Body Shop, All Good Organics, and C1Espresso, to create a fair trade market in the developing island.

“We support village economies by adding value to their agricultural products and finding export and local markets, while also providing the necessary logistics to make that happen,” Adimaimalaga Tafunai, Executive Director of Women in Business Development, told Nosh Nalavala.

Tufanai and her team work with villagers in 183 Samoan rural communities to build certified organic enterprises, with which they export agricultural goods to countries as far away as the United Kingdom.

The organization helps the rural farming community earn the equivalent of $260,000 USD a year, and puts more than half a million Samoan Tala into the local economy annually – totaling one percent of Samoa’s gross domestic product.

“We work to empower Samoan families, rather than just women,” Tafunai said. “We believe that the gender issues can only be addressed through educating families at the same time. One of the key elements of our livelihood projects is finding equally valued roles for each gender.”

As a result, rural Samoan families are developing a newfound independence. For many, it marks the first time that they can pay their bills and send their children to school without reliance on aid or remittances. In Samoa, a country that is highly vulnerable to unpredictable and devastating storms, such stability offers invaluable comfort.

Instead of going the microfinance route, Women in Business Development worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to tailor the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Grameen Bank model to Samoa’s rural population. Small loans are allotted to villagers without a demand for collateral.

By developing organic agriculture in the Small Island Developing State, Women in Business Development hopes to help counteract the ever-evolving effects of global warming.

“Organic agriculture can make a significant contribution to reversing climate change because the health of the soil is maintained through our organic farming practices,” Tafunai emphasised. “Our family farmers have actually farmed organically for generations and they still cover crops, practice mulching, composting and crop rotation, which restores and improves on the natural ability of the soil to hold carbon. We are currently developing a structured carbon-offsetting programme so we can enhance what is already happening on the farms.”

Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT

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