“Coconuts are both culturally and economically important to Samoans,” says Alberta Vitale, Associate Director of Samoa’s Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI).
This organisation was originally set up to create opportunities and a regular income for women in Samoa, but today, whole families are involved, helping to gather the coconuts and make coconut oil.
Samoa is a group of nine islands in the South Pacific. Coconuts have, for a very long time, played an important role in the local island economies. There may be as many as 85 words in the Samoan language referring to the tree or its parts.
However, things have been changing in the past few decades. While two-thirds of Samoans rely on agriculture and fishing for their income, the lure of lucrative urban jobs has more and more people moving away from agrarian lifestyles. Across the Pacific, both the rate of population growth and rate of urbanization is high, bringing social and infrastructural challenges.
Bolstering trade in a local and sustainable commodity, in this case coconuts may aid in addressing some of these challenges. “The coconut trade is helping our family stay in the village instead of moving to the city to find work,” says Luagalau Kelemete Lautafi, WIBDI organic certified grower and coconut oil producer.
With the growth, harvest and trade of coconut growing to be a billion-dollar global industry, largely due to a recent boom in consumption of organic health foods, “the time is right for Samoa to increase our supply of these products”, says Pulotu Lyndon Chu-Ling, CEO of Samoa’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour.
Through its Trade Sector Support Programme (TSSP), the Enhanced Integrated Framework has been helping a number of Samoan organisations work together to meet the booming global demand for coconuts and coconut products.