Faiumu Faimafili’s family (pictured) are now all working on their organic farm and producing coconut oil for export to The Body Shop. Credit: Jane Ussher/Oxfam New Zealand
Faiumu Faimafili’s family on their organic farm

Organic farming in Samoa: Women in Business Development Incorporated

Oxfam New Zealand has been supporting Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI) in Samoa since 2001. WIBDI was established in 1991 to support income-generation in rural communities in Samoa, and has been responsible for helping Samoan farmers reach internationally recognized organic certification standards. This has lead to increased income for rural families, and reduced dependence on remittances from family working in urban Samoa and overseas.

Samoa, like many Pacific Island countries, has suffered from rural migration to urban centres which has affected agricultural production and resulted in escalating social problems. WIBDI’s programs aim at improving rural livelihoods for families to slow rural migration and reduce dependency on remittances.

The program’s objective has also been to strengthen disaster risk management and increase the resilience of agricultural production. This is part of Oxfam New Zealand’s overall effort across the Pacific to mitigate against disasters and link producers in Pacific Island countries with export markets, particularly organic and fairtrade markets. 

Going organic

WIBDI’s role has been to organize training courses, encourage financial literacy and savings, foster links with export markets and to tap into the growing demand for certified organic produce. To date, the organic farming project extends to 204 fully certified farms with six processing units and has 15 farms in ‘conversion’ status. A further 75 farms and two processing factories are waiting to join. 178 other farmers have shown an interest and are waiting to move up to the ‘waiting list’.

Currently WIBDI works with 1150 families in 200 villages with 9200 direct beneficiaries. The farmers are seeing their work come to fruition as small markets are beginning to open up. This has seen beneficiaries enter into a community trade relationship with The Body Shop UK to supply all of The Body Shop’s organic virgin coconut oil for a new product range.

One family’s story encapsulates many of the successes of the program. Faiumu Faimafili’s family (pictured) are now all working on their organic farm and producing coconut oil for export to The Body Shop. Their two older sons lived away from the family and worked to send cash back home for their daily needs. This would amount to less than 100 tala ($32 USD) a week, and was not regular.

With their coconut oil production they now earn up to 800 tala ($256 USD) a week. With this increased income they have been able to secure a loan to rebuild their home, and their two sons have returned home to help with the family business. They regularly sell organic produce at the monthly organic market, and even hire people from the village to help out with coconut oil production.

People now believe that agriculture is a legitimate way to earn money – they are now returning home to the villages, as families are able to earn a sustainable income and develop the land.

Working within the local culture

The context of Samoan culture and tradition has shaped the development of WIBDI’s programs, and has led to success where other imported models of community development have failed. It is because of the strong family culture in Samoa that WIBDI focuses its programs on individual families and not whole village communities or individuals alone.

Extended families in Samoa comprise a community in themselves, with families having anything from a few members to 100 or more people. When a family are earning cash for themselves they tend to take more responsibility for the project, are more committed and are more likely to reinvest money back into it. Because community contributions, such as church and school donations, are so much a part of the Samoan way of life work done strengthening individual families has a flow on effect to the wider community.

- Originally published by Oxfam New Zealand.

More information on WIBDI and its break-through contract to supply virgin coconut oil to cosmetic giant The Body Shop can be found on the Oxfam New Zealand website.