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Young Samoan farmers win big with Koko Innovation Challenge

(l-r) Samantha Rogers – Chamber of Commerce, Winner Seutatia Vaai and Christina Mualia Lima – UNDP with Ms Vaai’s prizes. Photo / Supplied

Six young koko farmers are counting their blessings after winning much-needed farming tools, worth about $31,000 Tala, under the Youth Koko Innovation Challenge.

The Koko Challenge was funded under the Youth Employment Programme, YEP, implemented by the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Development Programme. It aimed to motivate youths to get into and stay in cocoa farming.

More than 57 youth farmers joined the Challenge over a period of three months from November 2019 to February 2020. Winners were chosen based on their koko farming competency, which included koko spacing, farming maintenance, and sustainable farming techniques.

The prizes consist of tools needed on a daily basis on farms such as lawn mowers, chainsaws, green house materials, machetes, wheelbarrows, spades, cutters, pitchforks and garden hoses.

The only female winner, Seutatia Vaai, is a 30-year-old multi-farmer who recently added cocoa farming to her list. Through her farm, she helps other young female farmers like herself, who want to get into cocoa farming but find it difficult due to the lack of starting capital.

“I’ll be sharing my prizes from the Koko Challenge with the two young female farmers that I am mentoring at the moment. I know what it feels like to start out, so I am so grateful for this Challenge that has allowed me to not only continue to help out other female farmers like myself, but also to continue to upgrade my cocoa farm at Fiaga,” said Ms Vaai.

(l-r) Samantha Rogers – SCC, Christina Mualia Lima – UNDP, Winner Larry Moli and Lemauga Hobart Vaai – CEO Chamber of Commerce. Photo / Supplied

The youngest of the winners, 17-year-old Larry Moli of Faleasiu, is from a family of farmers. Their family farm has won multiple prizes over the years at various local agricultural shows. He saw first-hand how farming has sustained his family financially, so he decided to take it up, but with cocoa, as his family focuses more on vegetables and root crops.

“Koko farming is not easy to get into, because you have to wait a while to reap the fruits of your labour and earn money, but you realize that it is all worth it in the end,” said Mr Moli.

Winner Alefosio Kuka a family member and UNDP and Chamber of Commerce representatives. Photo / Supplied

For 30-year-old winner Alefosio Kuka of Afega, the Challenge has enabled him to access tools he says he never would have been able to afford otherwise.

“I am so grateful for these tools that will help me greatly in maintaining and growing my farm so that I can continue to support my family,” said Mr Kuka.

Winner Pouafe Lalau with Lemauga Hobart Vaai, Samantha Rogers and Christina Mualia Lima. Photo / Supplied

The final Upolu winner, Pouafe Lalau, is a 33-year-old male farmer from Salesatele, Falealili. He grows a variety of crops on his eight acre farm, but he was attracted to cocoa farming for its long-term benefits.

“It was hard at first, but the best thing about cocoa farming is that you can continue to earn a lot of money from one cocoa tree for a long time before it needs to be replaced. In the meantime, I can earn income from my other crops,” said Mr Lalau.

The two Savai’i winners will receive their prizes later this month.



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