Photo credit: www.vitalvoices.org
In an interview, WBDI Executive Director Adimaimalaga Tafuna'I etalks about the challenges facing rural women in the Pacific and how contact with colleagues in the Caribbean is bringing benefits all round.
Question: What is the purpose of bringing together Pacific and Caribbean experiences for women entrepreneurs?
Answer: Pacific and Caribbean women have so much in common. Coming together is important for sharing our experiences and learning from each other. Q: What has been the impact? A: The Caribbean is a region that hosts millions of tourists every year. While tourism is growing in the Pacific region, agriculture still remains our most abundant resource. We have much to learn about agrotourism from our Caribbean friends. From our first meeting in Jamaica, we began working together to find opportunities and this is ongoing.
Q: What are the main challenges facing rural women entrepreneurs in the Pacific?
A: We are so far away from markets and don't have much to trade except for our agricultural products. We need opportunities to add value to the things we grow, so that we can have something to take to market.
Q: Describe some of the openings that you are exploring
A: We have developed a Farm To Table project in Samoa, where we are using information from work done in the Caribbean by our Pacific chef Robert Oliver. The idea is to introduce our farmers to our hotel chefs and to gain the chef's trust so that they buy more local products and use these products in their menus. Currently we import up to 60 per cent of the food we give to our tourists. We hope that this project will be the beginning of a process where more hotels and restaurants will use local produce in their menus and offer local farmers the means to a sustainable livelihood.
Q: What capacity building has been useful, and what more is needed?
A: CTA staff have been very supportive of our work. They continue to find opportunities for our staff to travel to attend conferences, both in and outside the Pacific, they have supported us in hosting conferences locally, and have supplied the expertise for our workshops. They have worked very hard on building the relationship between the Caribbean and Pacific women in agriculture and have also been extremely supportive of our communications work. This has been a blessing for our small organisation, enabling us to keep up with what's happening outside of Samoa.