We’re delighted to bring you a guest blog from Norma Tauiliili, who spent a week with us as a WWOOFer (Willing Worker on Organic Farms) back in 2017. She was a WWOOFer with a difference!

Norma works for an organisation called Women in Business Development Inc (Samoa) (WIBDI). WIBDI is dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa in ways that honour indigenous tradition, use traditional and modern technology, and promote fair trade.

The organisation works in 183 Samoan villages and nurtures certified organic farming enterprises. It annually puts more than SAT$600,000 (A$314,000) into the hands of rural families.

It was great having Norma stay with us, and definitely learned as much from her as she did from us. We look forward to staying in touch and strengthening our connection with WIBDI.

Enjoy her story!

Norma packing plums in the shed
Norma packing plums in the shed

Hello from a farmer across the border

Hi, my name is Norma Tauiliili from Samoa. I have been offered the Royce and Jean Abbey scholarship by the Rotary Club of Bendigo to spend 3 months in Australia.

I work for Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI), a non-government organisation in Samoa, as a senior field officer. I’m visiting Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens in Harcourt this week. My visit is all about learning organic farming, and gaining and sharing knowledge and experience.

Picking pears (and wearing a shawl because Harcourt is much colder than Samoa)
Picking pears (and wearing a shawl because Harcourt is much colder than Samoa)

So, my first day here was quite amazing. My first job was taking photos with Katie for International Women’s Day (taken by Larissa Romensky, from ABC). [ Ed: Norma was interviewed by ABC while she was at the farm. See the link to the story on ABC Online below.]

Then it was time to go out there and start to learn something. Katie tells me they have about 20 Williams (pear) trees, and we went out picking some of them – we got 8 boxes of pears. This was very good and interesting for me to experience the work, even though we don’t have this sort of pear tree back home.

Women in Business in Samoa

About ‘Women in Business’; it’s our vision that families in Samoa are valued and can contribute fully to their own development, and the development of their community and country. This happens through income generation, job creation, and participation in the village economy. We work with families and all Samoa to strengthen their capacity to generate and manage income, and lessen dependence on remittances for their daily needs. Therefore our mission is to provide and empower these families with knowledge and skills, and opportunities to access finance and markets.

norma-chocolate-soap-270x480
Chocolate and soap products produced by WIBDI

The Women in Business Farm to Table Project (FTTP) is about providing weekly organic baskets. It involves going out to our farmers and talking with them to see if they can supply produce we need for our fresh organic baskets. We give them the list of what produce we want them to supply and bring into the office (to be included in the baskets).

While at the farm our field officers check all the produce (quality control) to see if it’s OK or not. If it’s not good, it has to stay on the farm. We tell them to look out for a better quality of produce, because our customers will not be happy if it’s no good. Our customers send us feedback about the organic boxes, (negative or positive), as well as requests about what they want in the boxes, which is really good for us and helps us to improve our project work.

Once our farmers and produce arrive in the office, our FTTP Team spend their time assembling the produce into organic baskets, after paying our farmers. Farmers can choose whether they put some of their money into farmers’ savings through our microfinance manager, or they take it for their family needs. It’s compulsory for every farmer to have some money saved in our microfinance – this helps them to save some money.

It’s up to our customers whether have their order delivered to their doorstep with our WIBDI fee of $5, or else pick up their basket from our office between 2 pm and 4.30 pm. Delivery of organic baskets will be ready between 12 noon and 3 pm.

Another thing we’ve done to support our local farmers is that we organized an Organic Night Market at the Samoa Tourism village in Eleele Fou in Apia. On a Friday night once a fortnight the farmers come together to sell their fresh produce, Meaai Samoa (Samoan cooking), fine mats, handicrafts, and plants to make some income.

Every night market our boys (field officers) go out and collect the farmers and bring them in so they can do the market. Afterward they have to drive them home again. Our night market starts at 4 pm and goes until 9 or 9.30 pm. Most of our families, friends, and customers come down and buy our goods, and support the best of what our organic farmers have to offer.

Norma learning how to do bud grafting, a technique she thinks will have application on farms in Samoa
Norma learning how to do bud grafting, a technique she thinks will have application on farms in Samoa

You can read more of Norma’s story here at ABC online, and listen to the audio version on the Country Hour and on Pacific Beat, both on ABC radio on Monday 13 March 2017.

Norma and Katie photographed for the ABC online story

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