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Agricultural extension and training needs of farmers in the small island countries: A case study from Samoa

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DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS


The two sites selected for this study were Aleisa, on the main island of Upolu, and Sakalafai, a subvillage of the main village of Salelologa on the large island of Savai’i. These sites were selected for the following reasons:

The data was collected from a field survey using structured questionnaire (see Annex 3), and formal interviews with farmers in the two communities. PRA and its use in farmers’ focus groups is very relevant to this study. The discussion and analysis are based on observations made by MAFFM advisory officers regarding the ministry’s PRA programmes on the main island of Savai’i.

Aleisa site

Aleisa is situated inland and towards the west of the main island of Upolu. It is in the Tuamasaga district. Because of its high inland location about 300 m above sea level, it has annual rainfall of 380 to 450 cm. Wright (1963) describes Aleisa soils as: “soils of moderate to high natural fertility, very stony soils with many boulders, steep land soils with very little scope for mechanization”.

During colonization, the area around Aleisa was government land, which was first settled by Chinese indentured labourers under leasehold arrangement.

According to the data collected, current landownership is either leasehold or freehold. Aleisa differs from other Samoan villages in that it has no hierarchical structure of chieftainship, nor does it have a system for maintaining customary law and order that is based on the authority and traditional protocols of chiefs.

Aleisa is a farming community, specializing in a wide variety of tropical crops, especially vegetables. Despite its stony soils, which could hinder and limit agricultural development, the Aleisa farming community consistently makes a major contribution to the economy of Samoa through agricultural production.

Age and gender of farmers

Out of 37 farmers interviewed at Aleisa, 27 are men and ten women. This proportion of women farmers is fairly high for farming communities in Samoa where, in spite of women’s important roles in agricultural activities, the man is always the head of household and considered to be the owner of farming operations. Women in Aleisa are involved and active in agricultural activities as their main source of income.

Some 81 percent of the farmers are under 50 years of age; 13 percent are aged between 50 and 60 years, and only 6 percent (or two farmers) are in the 60 to 65 years age group. Most of the female farmers are under 45 years of age. The youngest farmer is a woman in the 21 to 25 years age group, while the youngest male is in the 31 to 35 years age group. Eight male farmers are in this age bracket.

In Sakalafai village in Savai’i, farmers tend to be older: seven are over the age of 65, and none is under 36 years of age.

Education levels: Table 2 shows that the majority of farmers in Aleisa reached level 2 of education, i.e. secondary school. Eight percent (all women) have tertiary education, while only 14 percent (all men) completed only basic primary school education. These education levels are higher than those for farmers in Sakalafai.

Cooperative farm worker in a banana plantation, Grenada

FAO PHOTO/11798

Table 2: Education levels of farmers in Aleisa


Education Level of

Number of women

Number of men

Number of farmers

Percentage

Level 1

Primary


5

5

14

Level 2

Secondary

7

21

28

76

Level 3

Tertiary

3


3

8

Level 4

Others


1*

1

3

Types and areas of land

There are three types of land tenureship in Samoa: government land, leasehold land and - the most common - customary land. In Aleisa, female farmers operate solely on government leased and freehold land, with average areas of 8.6 ha (21.3 acres) for the former and 2.3 ha (5.75 acres) for the latter, as indicated in Table 3. The table also shows that most male farmers operate on leased lands, followed by freehold at 30 percent. Only 4 percent (or one farmer) claimed to use customary land, although this claim is highly questionable.

Figure 1 illustrates the overall proportions of farmers working on each of the three tenureship categories of land.

Table 3: Land tenureship in Aleisa


Government leased

Freehold

Customary

Women Farmers (number)

6

4


Total area (acres)

128

23


Area per farmer (acres)

21.3

5.8


Percentage of farmers

60

40


Men farmers (number)

18

8

1

Total area (acres)

266.5

152

50

Area per farmer (acres)

14.8

19

50

Percentage of farmers

67

30

4

Women and men farmers (number)

24

12

1

Total area (acres)

394.5

175

50

Area per farmer (acres)

16.4

14.6

50

Percentage of farmers

65

32

3

* 1 acre = approximately 0.405 ha.

Type of land used

Figure 1: Tenureship system of the land used by farmers

Agricultural activities

Main crops: Table 4 shows the different crops grown by farmers. All ten female farmers grow cocoa. Taro and banana are also major crops, with Taro palagi substituting for taro when taro leaf blight devastated the Samoan taro crop. Since the taro industry recovered, this same crop has been processed into chips. The high area per crop of coconut is due to one farmer listing 20 acres (8.1 ha) of coconut plantation.

It is interesting to note the differences in crops between female and male farmers, with men growing more taro, banana, taamu (giant taro) and cocoa than women. One male farmer cultivated 10 acres (4 ha) of breadfruit and 10 acres (4 ha) of cocoa, which is far more than normal and increased the average areas per farmer for these crops. Overall, the most important crops for farmers are taro, cocoa, banana and taamu.

Type of crop

Number of farmers

Total area(acres)*

% of farmers growing each crop

Average area per per farmer (acres)*

Women farmers

Taro

8

7.75

80.0

0.97

Taro palagi

8

4.75

80.0

0.59

Banana

8

7.5

80.0

0.94

Taamu

6

5.5

60.0

0.92

Yams

7

4.25

70.0

0.61

Cassava

2

0.75

20.0

0.38

Breadfruit

6

5.5

60.0

0.92

Coconut

2

22

20.0

11.00

Cocoa

10

12.5

100.0

1.25

Others

2

1

20.0

0.50

Total women


71.5



Men farmers

Taro

25

49

0.9

1.96

Taro palagi

10

8.5

0.4

0.85

Banana

23

45.75

0.9

1.99

Taamu

22

40.5

0.8

1.84

Yams

10

3

0.4

0.30

Cassava

1

0.25

0.0

0.25

Breadfruit

15

17.25

0.6

1.15

Coconut

17

44

0.6

2.59

Cocoa

23

47.5

0.9

2.07

Others

6

6.75

0.2

1.13

Total men


262.5



Men and women farmers

Taro

33

56.75

89.2

1.72

Taro palagi

18

13.25

48.6

0.74

Banana

31

53.25

83.8

1.72

Taamu

28

46

75.7

1.64

Yams

17

7.25

45.9

0.43

Cassava

3

1

8.1

0.33

Breadfruit

21

22.75

56.8

1.08

Coconut

19

66

51.4

3.47

Cocoa

33

60

89.2

1.82

Others

8

7.75

21.6

0.97

Total men and women


334



* 1 acre = approximately 0.405 ha.

Vegetables: Female farmers grow mostly cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbages, as well as some pumpkin, green pepper and spring onions. However, four out of the ten female farmers interviewed do not grow any vegetables at all. Male farmers also grow mainly tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers. In addition, one farmer reported growing 0.75 acres (0.3 ha) of eggplant, five listed 2.25 acres (0.9 ha) of beans, two 0.5 acres (0.2 ha) of green peppers, one 0.25 acres (0.1 ha) of maize, and two 2.5 acres (1 ha) of pumpkin. It should be noted that three out of the 27 male farmers do not grow any vegetables.

Table 5: Vegetables grown by farmers in Aleisa

Type of vegetables

Number of farmers

Total area (acres)*

% of farmers/37 growing each vegetable

% of farmers/30 growing each vegetable

Average area per farmer (acres)*

Cabbage

25

9.75

67.6

83.3

0.39

Tomato

27

10.5

73.0

90.0

0.39

Cucumber

25

9.5

67.6

83.3

0.38

Others

11

8.5

29.7

36.7

0.77

* 1 acre = approximately 0.405 ha.

Fruits: Only three female farmers grow fruits: one grows 2 acres (0.8 ha) of oranges and 2 acres (0.8 ha) of avocadoes, one grows 0.5 acres (0.2 ha) of oranges, and the other has 1 acre (0.4 ha) of pawpaws. Only eight male farmers out of 27 grow fruit; seven grow oranges, while one man reported having 2 acres (0.8 ha) of mangoes, one reported 1 acre (0.4 ha) of avocado, one 1 acre (0.4 ha) of pawpaw, and another 0.5 acres (0.2 ha) of lichee. Overall, oranges are the preferred fruit, with 81.8 percent of farmers growing them.

Main purposes of agricultural activities: All the 37 farmers involved in the study reported that for them the main purposes of agricultural activities is to produce commodities that are partly for home consumption and partly for sale. This is in line with the views of most farming households in Samoa, where surpluses are sold to generate income.

Other sources of household food and income

Seven out of ten female farmers and 11 out of 27 males own livestock. All livestock is kept for household use, and none is sold. Overall, 13 farmers keep cattle, ten keep pigs and 13 chickens.

None of the farmers has planted forest trees, the main reason being that forestry is uneconomical because of the long time it takes for trees to mature for logging.

Constraints to agricultural production

According to the farmers surveyed, the main constraints to increasing agricultural production are:

Respondents stated that all of these constraints should be handled by the Ministry of Agriculture’s extension officer.

Marketing of agricultural produce

All the farmers sell agricultural produce, all but one of them at Fugalei market, which is the main agricultural market in the township of Apia. The remaining farmer has a stall in front of his house, while four others also sell produce on the farm as well as at the market.

All the farmers reported that Samoa has very limited markets for exports of taro, banana, cocoa and coconuts. At present, the country is producing few or no export crops, and farmers felt that it was the government’s responsibility to revitalize the agriculture sector as in past decades. Unless overseas markets are available for farmers’ produce, production is unlikely to be improved. Aleisa farmers grow primarily for consumption, and sell surpluses on the local market. They would rather supply the small local businesses that process agricultural by-products (such as taro and banana chips, ground cocoa and coconut oil) than trade on unpredictable overseas markets, because they believe that selling locally will allow them to make better deals.

Farmer in his poultry house, Dominica

FAO PHOTO/12359/F. Mattioli

Sources of extension advice

Farmers’ main source of farming advice is other farmers within the community, who share not only technological and extension advice but also tools and equipment - especially when farmers’ groups have been formed.

The second most important source of advice is the extension services, whose main agricultural extension method is for crops advisory officers to address specific farming challenges through technical training in crops. Advisory officers and farmers’ groups use PRA programmes to identify what technical training is required, and have conducted courses on pests and diseases, crop husbandry, etc. As well as these technical trainings, advisory officers also make regular visits to farmers who need technical assistance.

Six farmers seek direct assistance from Nu’u Research Station. The most common reason for doing so is to obtain taro planting materials and vegetable seedlings, while some farmers go for advice on chemicals and pest control measures.

Sakalafai village

Sakalafai is a sub-village of Salelologa, one of the largest villages on the island of Savai’i. Salelologa is the main point of entry by ferry to the island, and the location of Samoa’s newly established second township. It takes between forty minutes and an hour to reach Salelologa by ferry, a distance of 30 km.

Sakalafai has a well-structured line of authority based on its chieftainship system and strict adherence to the fa’asamoa for day-to-day administration. This is very different from Aleisa. Given this situation, it is not surprising that most land tenureship in this village is customary, which is closely related to the social structure and chieftainship of Samoan villages.

Wright (1963) describes the village’s soil fertility as: “... originally was very fertile, but it has been farmed intensively in the past and most of it has declined in fertility... this soil will rapidly pass out of use for shifting cultivation. Cocoa or coconuts could still provide a permanent form of land use.”

The most common tropical crops in Samoa - taro, banana, yams, cocoa and coconut - are grown on Sakalafai lands, and agriculture is households’ main source of food and income.

Age and gender of Sakalafai farmers

Out of Sakalafai’s total 40 farmers two farmers are women, which is a much lower proportion than in Aleisa. More than half the farmers are over 50 years age, with two being over 65 years. This is another contrast with Aleisa.

Education level: Most (80 percent) farmers in Sakalafai reached only primary level of education, 17 percent reached secondary level, and 2 percent (one farmer) received informal schooling. This low level of education is likely to have a negative effect on farmers’ understanding of the technical aspects of advisory officers’ work. It prevents them from applying proper methodologies and appropriate recommended agricultural techniques. Sakalafai’s level of education is far lower than that of Aleisa.

Type and area of land

Nearly all (95 percent) farmers use customary land for their agricultural activities, with the remaining 5 percent operating on government leased lands. Those farming customary land have an average of about 2.3 ha each, while those on government leased land have just over 8 ha each. According to the Lands and Survey Department, almost the entire village is located on customary land.

Agricultural activities

Main crops: Table 6 shows the main crops grown by Sakalafai farmers. As expected, these are coconuts, taro and taamu, followed by banana. Despite its vulnerability to diseases, its high input costs and the lack of planting materials, farmers persistently maintain that taro is more economical than its substitutes of taamu and banana.

Father and son collecting grass for cattle, Mauritius

FAO PHOTO/17428

The fact that coconut is grown by all the farmers indicates its importance as a source of food and income. Coconut is a resilient plant that is less vulnerable to pests and diseases, can be cultivated easily and is economical in mixed planting systems. As coconut is a long-term plant, it is traditional in Samoa to plant coconuts on customary lands as boundary benchmarks and to seal claims to pieces of land. Samoans operating on newly cleared customary lands initially cultivate coconut for these purposes.

The data show that none of the farmers interviewed in Sakalafai grow vegetables or fruits. The main reason that the farmers gave for this was that vegetables and fruits are uneconomical to grow, considering the low demand for such crops on the market and the high costs of the inputs needed to maintain them.

Table 6: Farmers’ main crops in Sakalafai

Type of crop

Number of farmers

Total area(acres)*

% of farmers growing each crop

Average area per farmer(acres)*

Taro

29

54.2

72.5

1.87

Taro palagi

2

0.4

5.0

0.20

Banana

14

8.9

35.0

0.64

Taamu

29

20.5

72.5

0.71

Yams

3

1

7.5

0.33

Cassava

1

0.5

2.5

0.50

Breadfruit

5

2.5

12.5

0.50

Coconut

40

186.3

100.0

4.66

Cocoa

1

0.2

2.5

0.20

Others





Total


274.5



* 1 acre = approximately 0.405 ha.

Purposes of agricultural activity: The main purpose of agricultural activities in Sakalafai is home consumption, which was reported by about 78 percent of households. For others, agriculture is partly for consumption and partly for sale. This implies that household subsistence is more important than income generation, as is the case in the majority of Samoan rural agricultural communities. It is also worth noting that because Sakalafai community is involved in the fa’asamoa system, the sharing of resources and food among families is an obligation and a greater priority than is selling produce.

Other sources of household food and income

Table 7 shows that all households keep animals, mainly for consumption. In Sakalafai, animals are raised not only for household consumption but also to meet fa’asamoa obligations for funerals, weddings, guests and other family and village affairs. As Sakalafai village adheres to Samoan traditional culture, agricultural activities are viewed more as a source of status and consumption than as a means of accruing profit. None of the farmers interviewed keeps livestock to generate income.

All households reported having members who fish. Household members use traditional methods of fishing, and men fish mainly along the reef, while women collect molluscs and shellfish. Again, most produce is for home consumption and to fulfil social obligations. Farmers reported that fish is their main source of protein given the high prices of imported meat.

Regarding the planting of forest trees, all the farmers stated that local forest trees were planted by their ancestors, mainly to supply building materials for family dwellings and guesthouses.

Table 7: Livestock ownership in Sakalafai

Livestock type

Number of owners

Number of animals kept

Number of animals per farmer

Cows and heifers

9

59

7

Bulls and steers (2 years and older)

9

52

6

All other cattle

4

22

6

Pigs

17

266

16

Chickens

15

286

19

Constraints to agricultural production

According to the farmers surveyed, the main constraints to their farming operations are:

The farmers believed that dealing with these constraints should be the responsibility of advisory officers, who are the main link between principal advisory officers and MAFFM. Advisory officers should offer initial assistance to farmers facing any kind of problem or difficulty, and should also advise the ministry on ways to assist farmers. Farmers’ major source of capital is agricultural loans, and there is a need to reduce the bureaucracy involved in obtaining these loans and to lower the interest rates charged by the Development Bank. The ministry should also subsidize the costs of agricultural inputs, tools and equipment.

At present, advisory officers do not know enough about local cultural protocols to be able to communicate effectively with the village council. They also need improved skills in simplifying technical agricultural terms during training sessions.

Marketing of agricultural produce

Most (78 percent) farmers in Sakalafai grow crops for home consumption. The remaining 22 percent sell crops - mostly bananas and taro - at the farmgate and at Salelologa market. When asked to suggest ways of increasing the market for their produce, most of these farmers responded that MAFFM should look outside Samoa to create possible overseas markets. They also mentioned the inadequacy of market outlets for farm produce as being the main cause of the agriculture sector’s current poor performance.

Sources of extension advice

Nearly all of the farmers (37 out of 39) reported that their main source of technological and extension advice is agricultural advisory officers; the remaining two farmers obtain such advice from NGOs. Sakalafai farmers depend greatly on the advisory officers for all aspects of their agricultural operations. It should be noted that MAFFM’s headquarters for Savai’i Island is located in the main village of Salelologa village, hence Sakalafai farmers’ easy access to the advisory officer’s office whenever the need arises.


[7] Fa’asamoa literally means “Samoan way of life”. It is very complicated and perplexing to outsiders because it encompasses all aspects of the Samoan culture. It reinforces social obligations and commitments, adhering to traditional values and norms that run counter to modernity and commercialism.

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