A cocoa farmer and producer in Salailua, Savai’i, Faialofa Uelese Tupa’i, is cultivating her own land to find financial independence for her and her extended family.
Faialofa has been growing coconut and cocoa on her two-acre farm and last year committed to supplying Women In Business Development Incorporated (W.I.B.D.I) with koko malu to provide organic cocoa for New Zealand business, C1 Expresso.
Still utilising historical Samoan technology, Faialofa includes her whole family in the process of growing, harvesting and producing koko products for export.
“Our whole family works together in this operation, especially if I want to make as many blocks of koko as possible,” she said.
“Even my six children get involved in the operation as well as my brother and his wife. Everyone is important in making this work. For example, we have different stations for different family members so one group will roast the cocoa, the next person will extract the bean and the other will ground the cocoa.”
As a result, she has been able to provide for both her family’s needs as well as the extended family matters.
“Working with W.I.B.D.I. has been a big help for me and my family, having an income really helps me to care for my children and their school bills. Also it helps me with contributing financially in our family things.
“So every tray has 16 blocks, if our small group work fast, we can make two trays a day and 196 blocks a week which W.I.B.D.I. buys from me.”
The amount required by C1 Expresso was enough to make Faialofa concentrate solely on satisfying this market.
Her and her family makes up to 196 blocks of koko malu a week.
“Since we have been supplying W.I.B.D.I. for their cocoa exports, we haven’t really made any cocoa for local consumption, but we do make more money in supplying W.I.B.D.I.”
As her family bee continually works and provides for themselves, her neighbours have taken an interest in starting up their own operation, which Faialofa says she is happy to provide them with advice and encouragement.
“My next door neighbours have been watching me as we farm and harvest cocoa. They ask me about the income that we get from our cocoa and they were impressed that the whole family can join in and then take care of their financial needs. So they asked me if I could come and give them some advice and guidance on how to start their own cocoa plantation and production.”
The programme also has a savings element to it which has been beneficial for Faialofa’s family in having an emergency fund to rely on when unexpected events happen.
“The other thing is that’s really helpful to me and my family is that W.I.B.D.I. have a savings scheme, which means they withhold some of my earnings as a savings for me so when unplanned things come up, especially when it has to do with family faalavelaves, I can contact W.I.B.D.I. and use the emergency fund.
“This is so helpful to me because I wouldn’t have go look for money from outside, I just have to ring up the office and ask for my savings. It makes me really happy because I not only have a regular income but also I can collect my savings at the end of the year and I would not have been able to do that before.”