“Agriculture is a priority, not an option”. This was the bold statement made by Agriculture Graduate, Tusiata Lemuelu, in her speech at the USP graduation ceremony earlier this month.
The 23 year old from Palauli, Savaii graduated with a BA in Agriculture with double majors in Animal Science and Agribusiness. To make success even sweeter, she was also awarded the top regional award for Animal Husbandry making this the first time a graduate from Samoa has been recognised with this honour.
Before embarking on a three year journey towards completing her undergraduate degree in Agriculture, Miss Lemuelu had another field of study in mind.
“I studied at Palauli College and went straight into foundation at USP where I studied commerce, thinking I would follow a career in accounting but then I discovered that the undergraduate program in commerce was too expensive. However I was determined to study at USP because their qualifications are internationally recognised.”
Taking the advice of her lecturers who suggested to her that a sound foundation in commerce studies would be a big advantage in Agribusiness, Tusiata applied for one of the government’s Agriculture scholarships and the rest they say is history,
“After three years of being in the field I realised I’m meant to be here in Agriculture. It was very easy to adapt to agriculture because I was raised on a farm in Palauli and here in Upolu, I stay with a farming family. I can easily understand and relate to basic agriculture. Not only am I learning it; I’m living it.”
“I enjoy going out into the field doing research and helping farmers with problem solving. To know that we make an impact in their lives is really rewarding. I’ve provided advice to my father when he was experiencing some problems with his taro plantation and when he told me it worked I documented the results so I can share this with other farmers who may experience the same issues in the near future”
Last year, Miss Lemuelu had an opportunity to satisfy a practical component in her Degree by volunteering as a research assistant for the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project (SAFPROM). She joined the verification teams as they canvassed Samoa, verifying over 2,000 farmers who applied under the Project’s Matching Grants Program (MGP).
“For four weeks we went out into the field with the staff from MAF working on the SAFPROM project and it opened my eyes about how important this work is to our country. Our team leaders from MAF inspired us from the beginning to rise above any personal challenges and constantly reminded us we are here for the farmers”
“Not only are we helping current farmers through the SAFPROM project but we are helping the future generations who will benefit from the job creation that’s going to happen when farmers are empowered by the MGP to expand their commercial businesses and increase their productivity.”
Miss Lemuelu says she has had a unique journey so far exploring her passion for Agriculture and admits that it she had not pursued an education in Agribusiness and Animal Science, she would never have given a thought to travelling around Samoa and discover her beauty and the potential.
“I’ve been all around Savaii and Upolu doing research, it was a blessing. I’m always thankful and never dreamed to be where I am. If I had been an accountant or lawyer working in an office I would never be able to go out into the field and talk to locals and farmers. I really like where I am and I’m blessed I was called here to agriculture.”
One of the greatest advantages of working as an intern inside the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is working with like-minded people who are passionate about the development of the sector and have provided Miss Lemuelu the support she needs to continue her journey,
“I’m working as a volunteer at MAF so associating myself with other people who have passion in agriculture keeps me motivated. I know the numbers are low in people specialising in this field but everyone involved in Agriculture are so passionate about their calling, it’s their life and most of them I found are not driven by money but they’re in it to make a change. This is the message I am constantly hearing from the bosses at MAF; we are here to make a change.”
The future is looking bright for Miss Lemuelu who has already been informed that she has been accepted into the Masters Degree programme at USP and she has her eye on contributing to the underdeveloped commercial cattle industry in Samoa.
“My plan is to take further studies and complete a Masters in Animal Husbandry because we don’t really have that many people with this qualification in Samoa. One of the main things I’m looking at is helping commercial livestock farmers because they are still importing commercial feeds which is so expensive. I’d like to look at how we can minimise the importation of commercial feed and find ways to source it locally to help encourage more farmers to pursue cattle farming.”
“I have big dreams about how I’m going to help our local people especially since Covid-19 hit I’ve been involved as an assistant in 5 agriculture related researches and each time I’m faced with the truth that Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and I think everyone is now beginning to realise that Agriculture is a priority, not an option.”