Engineering students from the University of Sydney are in Samoa to lend their skills in improving systems at the W.I.B.D.I. processing facility in Nuu.
There are six groups of students from the Australian university with three groups working with W.I.B.DI. to help troubleshoot and provide solutions to their productions.
University students Talaha Mali and Anila Sethi are working with W.I.B.D.I. Field officer, Ferite Taualai, on finding ways to improve the shelf life of dried bananas.
Previously W.I.B.D.I. has experimented with some solar drying equipment built by a local company, but it wasn’t producing the results that they had hoped.
Both students told the Samoa Observer that the opportunity to come to Samoa and do some field work was a first for them and a welcome challenge.
“It’s cool that we are doing this and actually seeing and actually fixing an actual problem,” said Talaha.
“What we do back at university is mainly theoretical and about calculations but applying our knowledge in real life is so good. First we looked at the whole process and then we narrowed it down to the main ones, which we can actually fix but that’s not too expensive.
“We looked at two main issues and the first one is how it’s stored. The other thing we are looking at is the thickness of the slices from the current process.”
Executive Director for W.I.B.D.I. Adi Tafunai said having the students from the University of Sydney work with W.I.B.D.I. staff has been an extremely valuable experience.
“Not only for ensuring we develop and maintain a high quality product for the export market, but for teaching W.I.B.D.I. staff new skills. For an N.G.O. involved in building sustainable livelihoods in an environment where local markets are small, W.I.B.D.I. has had to look at exporting high value low volume products to ensure a sustainable and regular income for farmers.”
According to Tafunai, finding funding for activities, which begin on farms through a value chain where the farmers are involved as much as possible and being able to produce and maintain a quality product is not a simple process, especially where there isn’t the funding or the resources available.
“W.I.B.D.I. staff benefit considerably from such interactive visits, especially as we have not had the training or education in the whole commercial process,” Tafunai said.
“We are learning the processes as we gain experience, making mistakes and learning from them.”