Improving lives through kitchen gardens

19 July 2017, 12:00AM

The youth unemployment rate in Samoa stands high today at 16.4per cent.  

Helping youth overcome the barriers they face to secure a job, earn a decent income and make sure that they fulfil their potential is a priority for the people and Government of Samoa.  

That is the reason why, back in June 2015, the Government and five United Nations agencies joined forces to launch the One-UN Youth Employment Programme (One-UN YEP) and address this complex situation in an integral manner. 

The programme aims to support entrepreneurship, economic development and job creation for youth in villages.  It seeks to assist youth in the areas with the greatest potential for youth employment.  These include organic agriculture and tourism and more recently, opportunities linked to community-based environmental conservation and climate change adaptation.

One such initiative in the partnership is between One - UN YEP and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (M.N.R.E.)’s Economy-wide Adaptation to Climate Change Project.  This project focusses on empowering youth to improve their livelihoods through the creation of sustainable agro-businesses. Another example of these initiatives is the Taiala training programme implemented by the Matuailoo Environment Trust Inc. (M.E.T.I.). 

 “M.E.T.I. focuses its work on Environment, Health, Farming and Education. M.E.T.I. provides training and promotes capacity building to achieve sustainable living in Samoa through self-reliance, particularly of grassroots communities is the prominent objective of our organisation” said Dr. Walter Vermeulen, Executive Director of the Samoan charity. 

Over the years, M.E.T.I. has built a multi-disciplinary project portfolio with several development initiatives which, since 2010, have been integrated into the Taiala training programme. 

Taiala (Samoan for ‘path-breakers’) are front-line health, education and sustainable development workers. They are ordinary men and women, some chiefs or orators, others retired public servants or housewives who are selected by the village council and trained by M.E.T.I. in Permaculture (regenerative organic agriculture) and Healthy Living. Taiala are real agents of change as their main role is to make sure that the knowledge is shared within the community and passed onto others. 

They also encourage families to set up ‘kitchen gardens’ as a strategy to support healthy diets and livelihoods by growing organic vegetables and fruits given this generates income through the sale of the production surplus in the local markets. 

Before the Permaculture training, farmers used to make their gardens very far from their houses, but now they have started to set them much closer to their homes, which makes taking care of the garden easier and less time-consuming. The training teaches farmers about different soils and promotes the diversity of plants. These provide farmers with a constant cash flow as mixed crops harvest at different times. 

Since its inception, over one thousand people from over 30 villages attended the Taiala training. The $200,000 received from the U.N.D.P. will now allow M.E.T.I. to bring its Healthy Living message to 50 villages around the country. 

This will support communities to diversify their livelihoods by increasing income-generating opportunities with particular consideration for vulnerable groups namely women.

In May, representatives of Government Ministries and UN agencies visited three villages in West Upolu were METI has been working over the last couple of years to help communities set up their kitchen gardens. 

In Lealaali’i they met Tafaoga Toona, the Taiala Cook of the village. While showing the different crops and legume trees of her garden, Tafaoga was telling the visitors how proud she was of feeding her family with the garden’s vegetables and teaching villagers how to cook healthy recipes. 

Later on in Faleasiu they listened to the story of Leatui Tea. Leatui spends almost all day in her organic garden but the results are worth the effort as the patch produces enough pumpkins and beans to feed the family and to sell at the local market. When asked, she highlighted that the knowledge gained at the training had significantly improved the diet and health of her family, and also increased their income.

Last stop was in Nofoali’i where the visitors met Fa’atuai Poloai, another Taiala Cook. Fa’atuai was very thankful to M.E.T.I. for what she had learned during the two-week training. “I have learnt a lot about myself and how to cook healthy plant-based recipes. Before we didn’t have enough money to maintain a healthy diet but now we use the vegetables of own kitchen garden.”

 During the visit, Lizbeth Cullity, UN Resident Coordinator said: “We are very proud of this partnership with M.E.T.I. because its work is aligned to our vision of bringing transformational change by supporting youth and women’s economic empowerment through capacity building and the promotion of diversified livelihoods. One community at a time, together we can create better income opportunities for the more vulnerable, build more resilient villages and change people’s lives”. 

The E.W.A.C.C. project is a U.N.D.P. G.E.F. project funded under the Least Developed Countries Fund (L.D.C.F.). U.N.D.P. is the executing agency and the Government of Samoa through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is implementing agency

19 July 2017, 12:00AM

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