25 June 2021: The Coconut and Cocoa Replanting Employment Scheme funded by the Government Second Stimulus Package (SP2) for displaced hotel workers in Poutasi and surrounding villages has concluded with over 21,000 seedlings produced and ready for distribution to farmers in Upolu.
The 17 week scheme began in February with support from the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) and was carried out by 42 hotel workers in two locations in coordination with the Sinalei Resort due to limited space at the MAF Poutasi station. A senior staff member from the Sinalei Resort, Tina Su’a said the knowledge and skills gained from their experience will have a lasting impact in their personal and professional development.
“We really didn’t want the programme to end and we hope to have more opportunities like this in the future” she said. “Not only did we have training on propagating cocoa and coconut but we also learnt how to grow vegetables. At the same time we learnt valuable information on how to prepare the land for growing and how to identify pests and keep them away without the use of chemicals.”
“This was so beneficial for all the workers because we received an income while learning how to develop our land, even up to now everyone is still continuing to develop their land and share the knowledge with their families and community. What MAF has done in going around to the villages to help people looking for jobs has given us the chance to re-look at our lands and make us re-think about ways to grow our own food – I want to thank them for giving us that opportunity,”
Senior Crops Extension Officer Fiu Sailo Pao expressed his appreciation to the workers for their contribution in mass producing cocoa and coconut seedlings.
“The whole process was a real community effort with everyone cooperating and working with together in harmony with staff from Poutasi Development Trust offering extra help with the cleaning and planting” Fiu said “Thanks to our partnership with the Sinalei Resort, we were able to carry out our work on their property where they already had a nursery. We supplied the ripe cocoa seeds, the latex bags, top soil toils and our staff were able to monitor and support the hotel workers through the replanting programme.”
In addition to the valuable trainings they received, the hotel workers were also gifted tools and equipment such as gloves, spades, wheelbarrows, watering cans, seedling trays and machetes. ACEO for Crops division, Tanu Toomata said the Ministry will continue to provide on-going support through monitoring visits
“ Despite the initiative coming to an end, It’s important we keep the momentum going which is why we will continue to provide technical support and all workers are still eligible to receive free seedlings under the SP2 to help extend their farming developments. “
The outcomes of the Replanting Scheme for hotel workers has been described as a success story of the Covid 19 lockdown by Mr Toomata, in helping to revive traditional farming practices and empower displaced tourism workers with new skills and resources to strengthen their resilience and self-sustainability.
“We’re very grateful to the workers for their effort and they have emerged from the Replanting Employment Scheme as Ambassadors for Agriculture in their families and communities which is something they should be proud of” said Mr Toomata. “The outcomes of the scheme fit in with Ministry’s vision for our people to have access to nutritious food, earn an income and live in a healthy environment.”
“It’s been a successful programme in re-connecting people back to our traditional knowledge by encouraging mixed cropping systems which is the traditional way of farming where people planted food crops in the same area of land. Reviving these practices ensures food security for our people during the on-going border closures and will better prepare them in the event of a future crisis where imports will be affected.”