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Alberta Vitale: “We should be talking more to each other to share our experiences, knowledge and markets"

Interview with Alberta Vitale, Associate Director of Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI), in Samoa.

August 31, 2016

The organisation is dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa in ways that honour indigenous tradition, use traditional and modern technology, and promote fair trade. WIBDI works with 187 villages and over 1,000 individual farming families in Samoa.

Alberta vitale

Ronna: Can you tell us a little about your role in WIBDI?

Alberta: I've been working with Women in Business Development Samoa since 2010. My role is to oversee the running of projects, manage sustainable production monitor how well the projects are operating.

One of the main challenges we are facing right now is how we can become sustainable as an NGO. And we are slowly moving into the phase of becoming a social enterprise.

Ronna: How did you get involved in WIBDI?

Alberta: Oh it was amazing! I just got out of university and was hired by the organisation. One of the things I have really developed over the years is passion for what we do. Indeed it takes passion to deal with small-scale farmers in our communities and to ensure that they are in a better situation and are financially stable as well.

Ronna: As a role model, what learnings can WIBDI share with others?

Alberta: We should be talking more to each other to share our experiences and knowledge. We should really be looking at sharing the markets as we are so isolated from the bigger markets in the Pacific. For example, we are the main suppliers of virgin coconut oil to The Body Shop in the UK. If Samoa gets hit by a cyclone or a natural disaster, the whole supply chain will be destroyed. What we would like to see is another Pacific island country temporarily supplement the order until we are able to supply the product again.

Ronna: How did WIBDI get to where it is now?

Alberta: It has taken WIBDI over 25 years to become what it is now. The focus of WIBDI hasn't always been on agriculture or how we can work with the village communities. In 1991 the export of coconuts and taro was booming but back-to-back cyclones devastated Samoa, destroying our economy. WIBDI responded by looking at how we could add value to all our agricultural produce. In 1998, we applied for organic certification. Samoa was able to export a lot of commodities but they were not organic and our products had no added value. Now that we have organic certification, it really has made our products premium in the market.

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