For over 20 years Dora and her husband John Mapusua had worked side by side to grow their 15 acre vegetable and taro farm in Aleisa into one of the most successful commercial farms in Samoa.
Mr Mapusua was the outgoing, hardworking, energetic front man and operations manager who loved to share his knowledge and was well known in the farming community for helping out anyone who sought out his assistance while Dora played a supporting role around the home and helped him to manage their business.
However life as Dora knew it would forever be changed when John tragically passed away from a car accident early last year leaving behind Dora and her daughter facing an uncertain future in the continuity of their farming developments and fulfilling their dreams.
“It was very difficult to move on.” Said Dora “The first couple of months I stayed home, I didn’t want to go back to the farm. After a while I started thinking I needed to go back not only because it’s our only source of income but also I loved working in the farm.”
The farm was the last place Dora expected to find peace and purpose in the following months after losing John but she was determined to fight for a dream that began 25 years ago when they got married starting with small piece of land in Siusega before an opportunity opened up to take on Dora’s mother’s a lease on 20 acres of land in Aleisa which they developed into a large commercial farm.
“The first time I came back to the farm, I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to turn around and go home but I started bringing my speaker every day and listening to music while I worked. I did that for a couple of months until I slowly started to take over the management and responsibilities of running the farm. For me I still feel his presence here at the farm when I’m working, every time I look out or walk around it’s like he’s still around me.
“Coming back to the farm helps to continue our dreams; it’s something that I look forward to doing today. Now I’m the one running the place, managing the people, looking for new markets and selling. Every time I work up here, I think about him and whether he would like what I’ve done with the farm – it’s like I’m still fighting for the dream.”
Stepping into her husband’s shoes was daunting at first having spent more than two decades working behind the scenes and Dora wasn’t sure how she was going to take over leading role in managing their large farm and the staff who were also grieving the loss of their beloved boss.
“Everyone knew that John loved to help people. He just had that personality and love for talking and sharing his ideas with everyone and how to improve their growing methods. The difference in our styles was huge because I’m more reserved and prefer working the background which is why he would do the work at the farm and I would do the work around home but nowadays I do both.”
From running the home front to managing the farm, life has been a challenge for Dora who continues to discover new strengths and capabilities outside of her comfort zone and she credits her support system of women who encourage her to keep the dream alive.
This year Dora will be taking another step into the unknown as she intends to continue her late husband’s long time plans to develop their beef cattle farm with assistance from the SAFPROM Matching Grant Programme.
“What I’ve learnt is that nobody will ever be as passionate about your business as you or do something up to your expectations unless you work alongside them or do it yourself. It’s taken courage and muscle to carry on and I’ve discovered I’m a lot stronger than I thought.
“I never thought I would ever be able to work on the farm until I just started doing it, I always followed John’s direction on how to run the farm but now I’m doing it my way. I once confided in a friend that I’m tired – not tired of working but tired of this life without my husband. She told me ‘you can do it, what man can do – women can do it too’.”
I’ve had to change personally to meet these new challenges. I no longer waste time just dreaming about the future without taking action- you need to make your plan today and get on with it tomorrow. “