Women in Business Development, Samoa

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Samoa: Women in Business promote local food and support local farmers to reach tourist markets

Until recently, food served to tourists in much of the Caribbean and Pacific had a strong foreign influence, with hotels and restaurants often basing menus on so-called international cuisine.  As a result, there was scant demand for local supply, with many ingredients being imported. With little in the way of tools for local cuisine, such as books and web content from which to draw, chefs tended to work with foreign sources for their inspiration.

Desiccating coconuts prior to making coconut virgin oil at a WIBDI processing centre.

Desiccating coconuts prior to making coconut virgin oil at a WIBDI processing centre. © CTA

Determined to break this dangerous spiral, New Zealand chef Robert Oliver, has helped to develop "farm to table" resorts in the Caribbean, setting up structured supply lines from producers to hotels, and has now turned his attention to the Pacific region where he grew up. Author of two cookery books based on Pacific cuisine using local ingredients, Oliver has teamed up with partners including Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI) to popularise local foods in hotel menus and help small-scale farmers link to hospitality markets.

CTA is part of the drive to promote local cuisine in Caribbean and Pacific countries, especially for the tourist market. In 2013, it held a workshop in the Caribbean, linking local producers to main players in the tourism sector. The approach is expected to bring significant benefits to smallholder farmers, once issues such as quality, food safety controls and consistent volumes have been addressed. The exposure of tourists to local products may also help export market penetration, with demand driven by visitors who have returned home after holidays. In the Pacific, local products identified as having good export potential include beef from Vanuatu, cocoa products from Samoa and spices from Fiji.

From farm to table, thanks to the web

Producers will be able to provide Samoan restaurants and hotels with fresh and organic produce. A win-win for restaurateurs and producers through the development of a web application: m-Link. a project of the Samoan NGO WIBDI.

Founded in 1991, the NGO WIBDI (Women in Business Development Inc.) supports a network of 600 family organic farmers and is developing the project "farm to table" with the objective of providing hotels and restaurants in the country with 80% of their food needs through local production within 2-3 years. The project will create a lasting business relationship between individual producers and a growing market: tourism (tourism receipts representing nearly 20% of national GDP). The project idea is simple: every Monday, producers send a list of products available in the restaurant, they place orders late Tuesday afternoon. Producers who accept the order then deliver their products in the local WIBDI, who pays, the following Friday. The "m-Link" system, which is aimed at extension workers, producers and restaurateurs, is built to support this process.

"MLINK" system, is made up of three applications

WIBDI implemented, with the support of the Australian Government, a web application that is intended for extension: "mLINK Extension." This application provides extension on crops, pests and diseases, and organic certification.
CTA is supporting the development of two new web applications, "mLINK Producer" and "mLINK Kitchen."

"MLINK Producer" is designed to help producers in both the agricultural field (planting, harvesting, processing) and commercial (bookkeeping, budget, etc..). A support system (wiki) allows producers themselves to share information.
"MLINK Cuisine" offers restaurateurs a database of available products and prices each week, enabling them to order and offers nutritional information on products and recipes.

Sustainable and replicable project

In its pilot phase, the project involves 20 producers and 7 restaurants. But it is required to grow rapidly, with a real regional potential. It will be presented on the occasion of the UNSIDS conference in Samoa in September.

Source: CTA http://bit.ly/2cw5FJ3

Coconut-based products of the Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI).

Coconut-based products of the Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI). © CTA

Women in Business Development Inc Samoa - The Story

Women in Business Development Inc is dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa in ways that honour indigenous tradition, use traditional and modern technology, and promote fair trade. We empower and equip rural families to cultivate sustainable businesses that maximize farm-based resources. We also facilitate trade with global and regional partners, including The Body Shop, All Good Organics and C1Espresso, which understand the potential as well as the limitations of small-scale farming in Samoa. The organization works in 183 Samoan villages and nurtures certified organic agricultural enterprises that annually puts more than SAT$600,000 into the hands of rural families. These families then have a chance to participate in a cash economy. For many, this means being able to send children to school, to pay utility bills and, importantly, to have control over their lives instead of relying on remittances. On a national scale, our farmers and artisans are using their skills, experience and time to uplift themselves and their communities. Through their collective industry, they are contributing to Samoa's success as a nation.

Currently Samoa’s hotels and restaurants are importing almost 70% of their farm produce, which means local famers are missing out on a valuable market and diners, especially tourists, are missing out on true Samoan food. Farm to Table Samoa aims to have family farms supplying the majority of restaurants’ agricultural needs within three years.

The Values

That a Samoan model of development must take into account Samoa values, tradition and culture

That a sustainable change occurs slowly and requires a long-term commitment.

That the most vulnerable people in Samoa need to develop sources of income to increase self-reliance and independence.

That Samoa development requires networking with communities, government and other organisations in Samoa, throughout the Pacific and internationally.

Coconut oil by the Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI).

Coconut oil by the Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI). © CTA

The Design

This system was designed by chef and author Robert Oliver, who developed it in the Caribbean where he was the executive chef for three resorts. There he connected small family farms to the resort menus through the development of long-term supply agreements.

Farm To Table operates a supply guarantee system where “consistency is our first product”. It aims to provide capacity across the value chain—from the certified organic farmers to Women in Business Development to restaurant owners and managers.

The programme began in December 2013. It aims to create a sustainable source of income for farmers as well raise the profile and quality of Samoa’s cuisine. It also leverages the successful Mea’ai Samoa cookbook, written by Robert Oliver as a tool for development in Samoa.

As part of the programme, Women in Business Development provide training, seeds and support to farmers while taking on the ordering, grading and delivery role. In addition, Robert Oliver provides training and support to restaurant chef.

UNDP is providing financial support for the main aspects of the programme.

The Restaurants

Currently we have two hotels and 10 restaurants on our programme. Please support them with your patronage. Our restaurants are: Tanoa Tusitala, Coffee Bean Kitchen, Coffee Bean Central, Coffee Bean HQ, Coffee Bean Tamaligi, Connexions, Bistro Tatau, Sinalei Resort, Krush, Milani, Giordanos, Jalahs

The Farmers

We have more than 20 farmers on this programme and that number is increasing as the orders increase. These farmers are working farms that range in size from one acre to one hundred acres. They are of course, certified organic, and are providing valuable input into the running of the programme. Meet one of our farmers on the programme.

Repeka Meafou, Faleasiu 

Repeka has always been an organic farmer, preferring to use her own hands to till her soil, plant her fruit and vegetables instead of using chemicals.

“This is a good programme, especially for me with no husband. I have two adopted children and two grandchildren. I farm according to my own strength. Also it is healthy, I look at my father and he is 85 and healthy and I believe it is because he never used chemicals on his farm.”

Repeka is a certified organic farmer and has been with Women In Business Development since 2002. Repeka is part of the Farm to Table and Organic Baskets Programmes. She also appeared in Robert Oliver's award-winning Me'a Kai - The Food and Flavours of the Pacific book.

Source: WIBDI

Alberta Vitale: “We should be talking more to each other to share our experiences, knowledge and markets"

Interview with Alberta Vitale, Associate Director of WIBDI

August 31, 2016

The organisation is dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa in ways that honour indigenous tradition, use traditional and modern technology, and promote fair trade. WIBDI works with 187 villages and over 1,000 individual farming families in Samoa.

Alberta vitale

Alberta Vitale © CTA

Ronna: Can you tell us a little about your role in WIBDI?

Alberta: I've been working with Women in Business Development Samoa since 2010. My role is to oversee the running of projects, manage sustainable production monitor how well the projects are operating.

One of the main challenges we are facing right now is how we can become sustainable as an NGO. And we are slowly moving into the phase of becoming a social enterprise.

Ronna: How did you get involved in WIBDI?

Alberta: Oh it was amazing! I just got out of university and was hired by the organisation. One of the things I have really developed over the years is passion for what we do. Indeed it takes passion to deal with small-scale farmers in our communities and to ensure that they are in a better situation and are financially stable as well.

Ronna: As a role model, what learnings can WIBDI share with others?

Alberta: We should be talking more to each other to share our experiences and knowledge. We should really be looking at sharing the markets as we are so isolated from the bigger markets in the Pacific. For example, we are the main suppliers of virgin coconut oil to The Body Shop in the UK. If Samoa gets hit by a cyclone or a natural disaster, the whole supply chain will be destroyed. What we would like to see is another Pacific island country temporarily supplement the order until we are able to supply the product again.

Ronna: How did WIBDI get to where it is now?

Alberta: It has taken WIBDI over 25 years to become what it is now. The focus of WIBDI hasn't always been on agriculture or how we can work with the village communities. In 1991 the export of coconuts and taro was booming but back-to-back cyclones devastated Samoa, destroying our economy. WIBDI responded by looking at how we could add value to all our agricultural produce. In 1998, we applied for organic certification. Samoa was able to export a lot of commodities but they were not organic and our products had no added value. Now that we have organic certification, it really has made our products premium in the market.

Source: CTA http://bit.ly/2cVeBfZ