After a long two and a half years, we were once again able to visit Savai’i, an island in Samoa, where for the last five years SPS Biota has been implemented Samoa Cocoa Improvement Export Programme, which has been playing a leading role in revitalising once famous Savai’i cocoa industry. The Programme is jointly funded by SPS Biota and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In the village of Asau, located in the North-Western Savai’i, we met firstly with our local partner, Saleimoa Tupai Vaai, the founder and owner of Savai’i Koko company. This year, Savai’i Koko has been able to export 72 tons of dried cocoa beans, twice more than in the previous years, thanks to the substantial farmers’ supply base. “We maintain close relationships with our suppliers – smallholders cocoa growers. There are 363 names in our database at the moment. We support our farmers as much as we can. We provide them with seedlings, trainings, and on-site technical assistance,” explains Saleimoa. “Our main market is Whittaker’s chocolate company. Besides New Zealand, we export our beans also to Japan and Australia.”
On the following day of our visit, we joined our field coordinator Fainuu Faamatala. Fainuu has been a Savai’i agritourism pioneer and has been guiding tourists around the island of Savai’i for more than 25 years. Besides that, Fainuu has been part of the Savai’i Koko Outreach Programme for a number of years.
Fainuu Faamatala (in blue), Field Coordinator, with cocoa grower Usu Esau.
The first visited farm is located in the village of Sataua, not far from the shore. The farm terrain is very rough, with large lava stones scattered everywhere. We are passing through with caution, watching every step, but the kids of the farm owner, Maila Fusipaoa, navigate through so easily, having no shoes at all. Although Savai’i’s volcanic soil is very fertile, it needs to be found first, hidden underneath of stones. The strength of crops to thrive in such places and farmers cultivating them are simply mind-blowing.
Grower Maila Fuipaoa and her son.
From Sataua, we headed north to Asau to visit the farm of Suniula Tiavolo. He was waiting for us on the main road. To get to his farm in the hills, it’s a good 30 min swift walk, but the view from the farm is worth it, overlooking Asau Bay.
Suniula Tiavolo on his farm, 30 mins walk from Asau.