13 June 2021: In the highlands of Fogasavaii on the big island, beef cattle farmer Lafoaina Avealalo sits under a tree looking out over the vast ocean beyond his village.
It’s a bumpy ride up to the picturesque lookout from the main road and although the distance is just 2 kilometres, it takes almost an hour-long drive on rough terrain to reach the clearing before he has to hike another 30 minutes up a steep incline through thick forest to reach his cattle farm.
“Our biggest challenge in developing a cattle farm is that there is no car access” said Mr Avealalo. “We have to bring up everything manually but this land is very fertile and ideal for growing anything which is why we continue to persevere in developing this land.”
On this particular day however, the 57 year old had reason to smile as he savoured the view.
He and his workers have finished building a barb wire fence covering over 10 acres of land using materials and equipment acquired under the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project (SAFPROM).
Mr Avealalo was one of the first farmers to sign his SAFPROM Grant Agreement in April and shortly after received the first tranche of the grant funds which went towards purchasing materials and machinery needed to fence his large cattle farm.
“I’m grateful for this project in helping out poor and struggling families during this season – God is good.” He said “I’ve finally got a fence for my cattle – for years I’ve been trying to achieve this expensive goal and now it has been made possible through the project.”
“This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m getting older and I don’t have the stamina I used to have but this fence saves time and energy spent in moving the cattle constantly. Now I can focus more on managing the cattle farm rather than labouring in it which will move us forward in growing this into a commercial farm.”
The SAFPROM project now begins another phase of its programme in providing technical support and ensuring beneficiaries of the Matching Grant Programme are making progress in their farming developments.
Last week, Monitoring and Evaluations Principal Officer for the Ministry, Chris Sinclair and his team travelled around Savaii to visit 61 farmers who had begun work on their farming initiatives. After making the difficult hike to view Mr Avealalo’s cattle farm – the team were humbled by his courage and determination to pursue his vision for his family’s future.
“It takes passion for a farmer to bring all the barbed wire and posts up here to build this new fence which covers more than 10 acres” said Mr Sinclair. As we noticed when we walked up – it’s not an easy task to carry a whole roll of barb wire here by yourself. I’m really impressed with their efforts and the hard work these farmers are doing.”
After 30 years of farming, Mr Avealalo feels ready to take a step back and assume a supervisory role in his family’s farming business now that they have reached a milestone in establishing an essential infrastructure needed for the growth of their beef production.
“My hope is that our cattle farm continues to expand and grow into a sustainable commercial enterprise so we can employ more people to help. I’m getting older and I’m not as strong as I used to be my goal is to supervise the work and guide my sons so they can run the farm.”
“Over the years, my children have watched me struggle and suffer to develop our farming initiatives” he said. “They understand what it takes and they have developed the courage and determination to build on what I’ve started because they can see the blessings that comes from hard work and if they continue to grow the cattle farm – they will never struggle or want for anything.”