The farmers in Savai’i have stepped up to establish a new group for farmers on the big island called the Sosaiete Aufaifa’atoaga Savai’i (S.A.S.).
More than fifty farmers in livestock, fisheries and the taro industry have signed up with the Society established in Salelologa Savai’i in June this year.
Members from S.A.S. took the ferry to Apia yesterday to have their first official meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao. The Associate Minister of Agriculture, Fa’aso’otauloa Pati Taulapapa was also present.
President of S.A.S., Papali’itele Siaosi Hansell spoke about the reason they have formed the group.
He said the division of the farmers' association in Upolu, which has now split into two associations, is a reflection of the differences within the group.
Papali’itele believes the divisions has a bigger ramification on farmers from Savai’i whose voice is ignored.
“The farmers in Savai’i have met and we decided it is time to have our own association that can assist the people in the island directly,” said Papali’itele.
“Most of the time we don’t know there are overseas markets that we can send our produces to because there is a breakdown in communication.
“But that is a barrier that we want to break down with us having our own association to voice our needs and seek assistance in terms of developments…I can tell you now that none of us (farmers) from Savai’i have received any aid from the current associations in Upolu.”
Papali’i added it was also crucial for Savai’i to have their own society to ensure that the government has not neglected the needs of farmers in Savai’i and to keep the M.A.F. office in the island active.
Secretary of S.A.S., Tiatia Tauloa Siaaga agrees.
A farmer from the village of Faletagaloa Safune, Savai’i, Tiatia gave an insight to the reality of things on the island.
“I had only found out late last week that the agriculture office is looking to export Tahitian lime overseas,” said Tiatia. “For months our Tahitian limes on the island have been falling off trees and rotting and yet here there is a big market overseas that farmers from the island do not know about.
“Farmers in Savai’i are looking for markets to sell their produces but there isn’t enough publicity and information from this side of the island out there for us to be informed about it.
“So all this time, Savai’i farmers are blindly developing their lands without knowing there is a bigger market we can sell them too.
“Even though there are many more farmers in Savai’i than Upolu, most of the aid and government assistances stay here in Upolu.
“Having this association will help make things easier for farmers on the island to share our own ideas to develop the land and push for proposed projects,” he said.
“Savai’i has more land than Upolu not only geographically but land with a lot of plantations development on it.
"We feel that our grievances are not being fully represented by the farmers association in Upolu and establishing our own group we can push for what is best for us."
The Minister of Agriculture, La’auli welcomed the establishment of the Society.
“We have a lot of markets but we cannot meet its needs,” the Minister said.
“At the moment we have a demand of 20 – 30 containers of taro to export but so far we can only supply 10 containers.
"The government’s work is to find markets for our farmers on the government to government level…there is a very competitive market overseas and we are going against some of the neigbouring countries like Fiji and Niue.”
La’auli said he will visit Savai’i next week and government will look at ways to help the association – including the possibility of setting up an office.
Executive members of S.A.S. include Fonoti Fitu Wong Soon as the Vice President, and Treasurer, Sanele Tiatia Moto’otua.
The Society also invites other farmers in Savai'i to join - if they have not registered already.