Former hotel workers in cocoa nursery
The Government’s attempts to transition former tourism sector workers into an agriculture scheme where they also earn an income is making progress in Savai’i.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) Asau senior crops advisory officer, Seluia Afaese, has revealed that 51 former staff from the Vaimoana Seaside Lodge and Vaisala Hotel have been working at the Ministry's Asau extension station in its cocoa nursery.
The workers have produced 15,952 cocoa seedlings in just over two weeks, which she says is impressive and they are confident they can reach their overall target of reaching 150,000 cocoa seedlings.
“The work so far by everyone on the programme has been a great help to the Asau station,” added Ms. Afaese in a statement issued by the Ministry.
Ms. Afaese acknowledged that her 10-staff station wouldn’t have been able to produce the large number of cocoa seedlings in such a short time without the assistance of the former hotel staff.
To enable the group to mass produce the cocoa seedlings, the workers were split into three workstations with the females tasked with preparing the polyethylene bags for seed sowing, while the other two groups focused on building the nursery shelters and maintaining the compound grounds.
“The group have been working hard and making great progress despite the wet weather,” said Ms. Afaese, who revealed that their positive approach to the task at hand enabled the project to run smoothly and ultimately meet their goals.
Former Vaimoana Seaside Lodge employee, 30-year-old Valelia Savele Iona, said that the coconut and cocoa replanting scheme was a good opportunity to learn more skills while earning a salary to help support her family.
“Times have been hard without tourists coming through the hotels so it’s been a blessing and a relief to have an opportunity to work with M.A.F. and earn a salary to keep us going,” she said. “If we didn’t have this programme, we would be staying at home but we are still working and that’s the main thing.
“So far this experience has been really worthwhile – we enjoy helping the M.A.F. staff learning new skills while earning some income.”
Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) Chief Executive Officer, Fa'amatuainu Lenatai Suifua, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that with over a thousand tourism sector workers currently unemployed the Government is stepping up the effort to assist them.
He said the engagement of the former hotel staff at the Asau station in Savai’i is through an initiative of the Ministry of Finance implemented by the M.A.F. in collaboration with the S.T.A.
According to Fa'amatuainu, the funding for the Asau station project is from the Government’s second stimulus package with the goal of rehabilitating the coconut and cocoa industry while offering a wage incentive to the former hotel workers.
He added that the replanting scheme will employ over 200 displaced hotel workers from around Samoa for 15 weeks to help mass produce cocoa and coconut within their own districts and within the Ministry’s eight centres in Savai’i and Upolu.
According to S.T.A estimates approximately 1,281 people in Samoa’s tourism sector are currently unemployed with 16.7 per cent of the affected people based in Savai’i while the majority (83 per cent) are resident in Upolu.