Complaints over the fulfillment of a $10,000 Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have been explained away as a misunderstanding.
The concerns raised by the project participant were not only for himself he said, but also for others who were involved in the project.
“It is heartbreaking to know that so many within the Samoan community have doubts about opportunities to develop their families.
“From the very start when we were trained we were told clearly that this project was worth $10,000, however we only get $5,000,” he said.
“We were loaned $3,000 to start off with and were told that we didn’t have to pay it back.
“At first we get $1,500, later on we got $3,500 which added together means we only got a further $5,000.
“They told us they would visit our project three times and yet on the second visit, we were told the project was over.
“This project is not for rich people because they don’t have to worry about anything for we know they have everything.
“These are the only projects that help us develop our families and this is also a good start for some families to earn money through developing a piggery.
“But the way I see it, they just used us to do development for their Ministry.”
The source went on to say that all they want is to understand what’s going on with the other $5,000.
“Don’t get me wrong, but this is something that the government should look at.
“It’s really sad because we trusted them in doing this project and we worked very hard to bring good feedback for their Ministry’s project.
“Yet they treated us like we don’t know how to do mathematics.”
The complainant went on to say that he and some men visited the Ministry to discuss the matter but they were just told the project was over.
“How come it’s finished but we only get $5,000 out of $10,000?”
“We went there, we wanted to know what was going on, but Masina told us that the project is finished, with a saying ($1 le $1).
But the complainant replied, “Your $1 and the government $1 is confusing me.”
When contacted, the Ministry of Agriculture, C.E.O. Tilafono David Hunter told the Samoa Observer that he understands the worry these concerns have caused within the Samoan community.
He also said that misunderstandings of this nature are common.
“This is not new to the M.A.F., many have been coming to us complaining about matters about the projects but we do sort things out.
“Sometimes people are at fault for misunderstanding of how to go about the project,” he said.
“It is also encouraging that so many people are standing up for their rights to understand every project funded by the government and to understand every detail of the issues.
His officer, the Principal Safeguard and Matching Grant Program, Taito Tumau Peni explained that the project matters, the farmers’ contribution is 30% and 20% for labor and then the other 50% is from the grant.
“Sometimes there is a misunderstanding and then normally the case is solved with most people,
“So in this case, altogether the farmer has 50% and the other 50% goes to the grant.
“So if the project is $10,000 tala, then that means $5,000 tala is the grant money for the farmer plus the $3,000 of the loan and the other $2,000, in kind, that’s the labour.
“The farmers provide their own labour.
“The grant (50%) from the government (Ministry) and farmer’s contribution (30% - from DBS loan system) is for the purpose of implementing priority activities (e.g. fence, tools, new stock, water system etc.) outlined on each beneficiary farmer’s business plan (that’s why training is done at the 1st stage, to train farmers on business plan concepts(S.B.E.C.), technical aspects from MAF’s Livestock and Crops Division)
Taito went on to explain how they inspect these matters.
“This is how we do follow up inspections of these projects.
“Once the farmer’s loan has been approved, then we release 20% of that part.
Maybe he is referring to the 2nd tranche which is 50% of the grant. But 20% is the total amount of the 1st tranche/release. Release of the 50% depends on farmer’s implementation (utilization of farmer’s 30% contribution and 20% grant).
“For instance, if it’s $5,000, we have to release $1,500 first.
“Then we go to inspect to see if the farmer has started working on this project.
“So once that’s confirmed, then we write up a report for it.
“It’s important that we do Follow up inspections to ensure that beneficiary farmers are properly using the funds to carry out improvement works to upgrade their farms
“So we are required to prepare reports outlining the progress of each farmer’s project implementation reports based on the status of these projects.
“If the implementation is satisfied during inspection and the total of submitted receipts to acquit 1st tranche and loan is verified, then we release 50% of the grant, then we release $2,500.
“How much we give out the amount of 2nd tranche release depends on the implementing progress and status of the farm.
“We have to be sure when it comes to matters like this.
The government $1 and your $1 as mentioned is just the simple explanation that Masina was trying to make it easy for the man to understand the Matching Grant.
“The owner’s contribution and the $1 of matching grant altogether will cost up $10,000. (Tālā le tālā – o lona uiga e afa le malo afa le farmer I le total cost o le projet a le farmer to’atasi. But the farmer’s half is divided into two categories. 30 % is cash contribution and 20% is the in-kind for labor.”