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Six weeks on from the devastating Samoa tsunami, Oxfam and its Samoan partner organisation, Women in Business, are helping affected families to rebuild their livelihoods through organic agriculture for niche export markets.
Oxfam and Women in Business Development (WIBDI) are working with 60 families - up to 600 people on the south coast of Upolu Island - to replant destroyed crops or prepare new sections of land for planting organic produce.
Cash-for-work schemes are already under way providing immediate income for people assisting with clearing land for planting organic vegetable gardens, coffee, taro and banana plantations.
Director of Women in Business, Adimaimalaga Tafunai, says growing organic produce for local and international markets is a viable, sustainable income opportunity for Samoan families, and also enables families to grow their own food without the associated risks of chemical use.
Some of the 60 affected families had already gained organic certification through the organization before the disaster.
“These families will be concentrating on replanting and recovering the income they earned from selling their produce at WIBDI’s organic market in Apia. We are helping to replace their lost tools and providing seedlings for their new plots.”
Women in Business has helped more than 200 farmers to gain organic certification throughout Samoa and their produce is now exported to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States.
In particular, WIBDI’s organic coconut farmers have exported 20 tonnes of virgin coconut oil so far this year to the international cosmetic giant The Body Shop and other smaller buyers.
“Many new families from the devastated coast have indicated to us they would like to start producing organics and we are working with Oxfam to train farmers in organic food production and helping them to prepare their land for certification.”
The Vea family from Lepa village, one of the hardest hits areas on Upolu’s south coast, are living in a makeshift shelter on their organic coconut plantation high above the coast, where they plan to rebuild their new home.
Lasi Vea said their farm was organically certified through WIBDI before the disaster and the family was operating a coconut dryer to produce organically certified coconut oil for export market, but they didn’t have enough people to operate the dryer and had stopped producing the oil.
“I now really want to set up the dryer again here in the plantation. People from the village will need jobs and we can start producing the coconut oil again.”
Oxfam continues to meet ongoing needs of displaced communities; providing water and sanitation facilities to the worst-affected families in Manono Island, and Siumu, Poutasi and Saleapaga villages on Upolu’s south coast.
Oxfam is working closely with the Samoan authorities and other humanitarian agencies to help restore household water supplies; set-up rain-water harvesting facilities and water-truck fresh, clean water to individual families.
“Oxfam’s experienced team of water and sanitation engineers, logisticians and health promoters are working hard to ensure communities worst-affected by the tsunami have their essential needs met and can start looking to the future now to start rebuilding their lives,” says Oxfam’s Executive Director Barry Coates.
For more information, please visit www.oxfam.org.nz