Savai'i youth thankful for cocoa income
Not everyone was born to work in an air conditioning office. Some were born to work the land.
However, a farmer can earn just as much as those who work in offices or more.
If you ask the farmers and youths who are working with Savaii Koko at Asau Savai'i and this is what they will tell you.
Savai'i Koko is managed by Tupa'i Salemoa and Rosie Va'ai.
This week, they harvested more than a thousand Koko beans from their family plantation and are now going through the fermenting and drying stages, before being stored, packed, and sent overseas to produce chocolate.
Located at Asau in Savai'i, Savai'i Koko is one of the main exporters of cocoa beans in Samoa.
Samoa Observer caught up with some of the farmers working with with the Savai'i-based company and they all shared the same sentiment in relation to the development of cocoa in Savaii.
Ali'imalemanu Faleupolu, 61-year-old from the village of Neiafu said his family depends mainly on his cocoa plantation for income.
The father of ten (10) said he also has a taro and kava plantation, but he earns more from his cocoa farm.
"I've had my cocoa plantation ever since 1984," he told the Samoa Observer. "But I was not serious about it, and it was not that big."
"We also used to sell it back then, but did not earn a lot from it."
However, with the help of Savaii Koko, Ali'imalemanu now owns a 5-acre cocoa plantation, which is providing income for him and his family.
"I don't have any children in New Zealand and Australia," he said.
"We depend mainly on the land to earn money. We earn a lot when we harvest and bring in our cocoa beans to Savaii Koko.
"I get $1,000 or more every week. Sometimes I earn less when there a lot of farmers supplying cocoa beans for export, but at least I earn some money for my family.
"What I like about the cocoa plantation is that it's not like the taro and kava plantation. It's easy to maintain and if it grows well on the land you use, it will still be there for many years.
"You just have to pick the fruits but the tree will remain there. So if you plant it now and look after it, your children can also earn from it when they grow up."
Savai'i Koko has been working to provide local communities with employment opportunities and invest resources in the development of cocoa beans for export.
They employ and are working with youths to revive their cocoa plantation.
Savai'i Koko also has a nursery, where they nurture and grow cocoa seedlings, and give them out to interested farmers on the big island.
One of the young farmers from the village of Fagasa in Savai'i, Ferenisi Maiava, said that he was motivated to join and start his cocoa plantation after witnessing the benefits of the development for farmers.
"I've seen with my own eyes how the local farmers here at this side of the island benefit from growing cocoa," he said.
"Therefore, I was inspired to join Savaii Koko and was committed to having my plantation.
"They gave me a hundred cocoa plants to start my plantation and I was happy and thankful to them (Savaii Koko) for that."
Despite the hard labor that goes into planting, harvesting, and fermenting cocoa beans, Mr. Maiava said he appreciates the opportunity to earn an income for his family.
"Staying at home to serve my family and parents is not easy," said the 21-year-old.
"Sometimes there are things that we want for our parents and we want to help out financially, but we don't have the means to.
"But this development provides us with the perfect opportunity to earn money for our families."
Valelia Iona, 30-years old from Lefagaoali'i Safune who monitors and supervises the youths at Savaii Koko, shared with this newspaper how much she loves her job.
"As mentioned by the farmers that we work with, cocoa plantation is a good development and it helps our farmers and their families in so many ways," she said.
"We are fortunate and blessed to have our own lands that we can use to grow crops for food and money.
"What I love about this development is that it helps our local communities and our youth.
"Most of the kids who dropout of school do not realize that there are other ways they can do to earn money not only for their families but also for themselves."
She went on to say that Savaii Koko also provides training for youth on how to successfully establish a cocoa farm.
"The benefits of this development is far-reaching," she said.
"That is why I love what we do and would love to encourage more youth to join our farmers.
"We also have onboard some youth groups and we have given them over a hundred plants to start their plantation.
"We have also given out a thousand plants to Vaiaata and they've got a really nice and good cocoa farm at the moment."