The Food Science and Technology Division of the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.) is doing its part to improve employment opportunities for youth in Samoa.
It has implemented the first phase of its Letter of Agreement (L.O.A.) consultancy work with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.) to “Build capacity of youth and young farmers on value added food processing practices.”
The agreement and associated activities are a part of the technical assistance funded through F.A.O. for “Strengthening capacity of Youth for employment and livelihood in Agriculture.”
A survey conducted in 2012 revealed that employment opportunities for youth in Samoa are very limited with 40.3% of young people leaving school without graduating.
The majority are falling out of the school system during secondary education.
Employment in the Agriculture sector has been reported to have decreased from 60per cent to 36per cent with limited solutions. This highlights the urgent need to implement policies and programmes on skills development and entrepreneurship and this work is part of the identified interventions.
The programme was conducted by Tuimaseve Kuinimeri Finau, a Food Scientist of the Food Science and Technology Division and her staff.
The partners, namely the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) and Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.) selected the youth and young farmers from around Savai’i and Upolu who participated in the two lots of one week training conducted in late January and early February this year.
The training included introduction to theory and general principles on value adding, food processing and preservation, food hygiene and safety, and H.A.C.C.P.
The core activities, however, focused on practicals for processing actual products through the preservation methods of freezing (taro, fa’i Samoa, pumpkin, breadfruit), dehydration for producing tea and spices (using turmeric, ginger and lemongrass), as well as making fruit jams from papaya and oranges.
The main objective was to build the capacity of young farmers for simple value adding activities using agricultural produce grown and available locally with an overall aim of building the capacities of participants for income generating activities.
The programme included presentations from the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.) as well as Small Business Enterprise Centre (S.B.E.C.) and also a visit to the M.A.F. pack house at Atele to observe first hand the facilities used for processing frozen crops for export.
The programme ended with the participants conducting a sensory evaluation of all the products produced by the mock companies established for the training.
An evaluation undertaken at the end indicated a great appreciation by the participants for the opportunity provided to them to learn about value adding utilising the different crops, and also learning about the different processing techniques and equipment used.
The second activity for the project to be implemented in March will be the ‘production and marketing trials’ conducted by selected trained farmers for at least two products included in the training.
The aim is to produce, package and market prototype products so young farmers and prospecting business entrepreneurs can experience first hand the issues involved in such an endeavour.
The results of this activity will be shared through an end of project workshop for all the trained young farmers to complete this work.