Solar power fuels growth for Samoa’s famers

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PRESS RELEASE – Solar power fuels growth for Samoa’s farmers

For over a decade, the Samoa Farmers Association (SFA) has been supporting rural and low-income farmers across the country.

Established in 2010, the SFA connects farmers to markets and supports their growth, providing a vital network for sustainable agricultural livelihoods. In 2021, I’umalo Clayton Simamao joined the SFA as its Youth Representative, bringing a fresh perspective and a drive for innovation.

I’umalo was deeply impressed by the collaborative spirit of the SFA and its forward-thinking approach to agriculture. When he learned about the challenges faced by the farmers—particularly the lack of access to essential services —he was determined to find a solution. “It reminded me of a previous project, where we asked farmers about the issues they faced; two common replies were access to water and electricity,” he recalls.

Drawing from his previous experience in Samoa’s agriculture sector, I’umalo saw the potential of renewable energy to address these issues. He envisioned solar-powered generators as a game-changer for the farmers, providing them with a sustainable and reliable energy source. Excited by the idea, he proposed it to the SFA board. “I thought, if we can get as many generators as we can and gift them to our vulnerable farmers, that would help them resolve some of their issues with access to power,” he explains.

With the board’s enthusiastic support, I’umalo applied for funding through the Australian High Commission. Once the funding was secured, I’umalo and SFA worked to procure the solar generators. The impact on the farmers was immediate and profound.

Improved communication has streamlined coordination for the supply of produce, enabling farmers to seize opportunities for sales more effectively. “We need to connect with the farmers in a span of 48 hours,” says I’umalo. “With these generators, now for many of the isolated farmers, their phones are always on. When I call and say, ‘I have an order, we need it ready by tomorrow,’ they can do it.”

Those who once had to travel long distances to charge their phones now had reliable access to power, improving both their safety and their ability to respond to emergencies. “Some of our members’ farms are based in the mountains,” says I’umalo. “Before these solar generators, if they needed to charge their phones, they had to travel all the way down to access power—it was very unsafe.” One farmer who had to cross a river daily to reach his farm could now have someone stay on the farm, thanks to the solar power, reducing the dangerous trips across the river.

Beyond the economic advantages and enhanced safety, the introduction of renewable energy has had a positive impact on morale among the farmers and their staff. “The farmers within our organization have real ‘never say die’ mentalities when it comes to farming, but they do face hardships,” I’umalo notes. “Feeling less isolated through improved connection, both the attitudes and productivity of the staff living on the remote farming locations have been positively affected.”

One farmer even brought a small TV to his farm to watch the Sevens, providing entertainment for his workers after hours. “Many of the boys don’t want to go home—they are passionate about farming, and they can live up there Monday to Sunday for a fortnight. Then there is a change of shift, and they can go down to their families,” says I’umalo.

The success of this initiative has opened the farmers’ minds to the possibilities of renewable energy, and I’umalo is immensely proud of the progress they’ve made. “Through this process, a lot of people are seeing the value of solar and other forms of clean energy. It’s really opened up the mindset of our farmers,” he says.

Looking ahead, I’umalo and the SFA board are excited to explore further innovations that can build resilience and boost productivity. “With future funding opportunities, we won’t just ask for tools—there are other support options and innovative equipment that can help to boost productivity on farms,” says I’umalo. “It’s an exciting time and we are looking forward to seeing what’s possible.”

The journey of the Samoa Farmers Association’s adoption of renewable energy is a testament to the power of innovation, community spirit, and the effectiveness of locally led development. Through the dedication and vision of individuals like I’umalo Clayton Simamao, the SFA is paving the way towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for Samoa’s farmers.

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SOURCE – Australian High Commission, Samoa


Brisin Manu Retzlaff-Lima