Preparing for the tough times ahead

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The truth is simple enough. In countries near and far, there are real concerns about food. With climate change the cost of economic struggles, we cannot be sure that food will always be available in abundance.

You see, whereas mankind’s negligence has diminished the natural resources on the soil and in the ocean, greed on the part of certain powerful countries and corporate bodies will ensure that when push comes to shove, the smallest countries are bound to be the first victims in this madness.

This is where Samoa - and other Pacific nations - are vulnerable.As a small nation isolated from the rest of the world we will be among the first countries to suffer. 

We already know this because it’s happening in terms of the impact of climate change. Which is why it’s imperative that we must prioritise local solutions and prepare for the worst. 

Sure there are global solutions too that are being talked up but the best solutions are the ones that come from here because we know ourselves, our environment, what works and what doesn’t. 

The worry is that if we fail to prepare, our people will be caught off guard. 

Times are already tough. There is no denying the fact that when it comes to the cost of food and basic living items, a trip to the supermarket is a sad experience. A hundred tala certainly doesn’t get you far. And that’s for people who have a hundred tala. Many of our working population don’t even make a hundred tala at the end of the working week – especially when you take away all the taxes and loan repayments. 

It’s a tough life but challenges present us with an opportunity. 

We should seriously encourage our people to plant food wherever they can. In a country where we are blessed with such fertile soil where everything we put in the ground grows, it’s probably our only response.

It is no secret that for so long, agriculture has been the backbone of this country’s economy. We’re talking about talo, coconuts, koko Samoa and a few other crops.

It’s a time  when families in the villages in Upolu and Savai’i were able to set up shops, buy buses from working the land. 

Yes that was possible; the days of the taga koko and taga popo.

Those days, however, have become nothing but a distant memory. While the vicious cyclones of the early 1990s and the talo blight that followed contributed much to the decline of the agriculture industry, the government’s negligence in developing the sector has not helped.

Over the years with little exports, this country has become so dependent on aid, remittances and hand- outs.

We have acres and acres of unworked and unused land where  people could be planting for a living.

It’s true that we’ve seen a revival in the agriculture sector, especially the taro industry, lately. All you have to do is visit the market or drive  to the villages to know there is abundance in supplies. 

But many farmers say this is not enough.  They need incentives. They need subsidies on the prices of essential things such as fertilizer, seeds, seedlings, farming equipment, etc, which most cannot afford.

The problem is we now have so much taro most of it is rotting away. You can only eat so much taro.

But then it’s such a bad problem when we think about the need to stock up for the bad times.

Perhaps farmers – as well as all of us – should change our focus.Instead of looking at exports all the time, what about thinking ahead for our families and ourselves?

There is no guarantee that the cost of living will decrease again, any time soon.

Fortunately for us here in Samoa, there’s still hope – at least when it comes to food. Unlike many other developing and third world countries whose people are now going without, we have a lot of substitutes that we can turn to during times like this.

We can always count on talo, taamu, breadfruit, bananas, cassava, yams and other staples. Almost every Samoan family has some sort of vegetable patch, small plantation, or fruit tree that can provide some sort of sustenance when the going gets tough. Look at the Village Voice.

Once upon a time, most families had fagaga moa (free range chicken) and their own pa pua’a (pig farm). These are the best meats because they are local and they are not processed meat.

When it comes to drinks, there’s always the laumoli, or lemon tree leaves, or Samoan cocoa to resort to when we can no longer afford the cost of coffee, tea, milo and cocoa. How can we forget our niu?

Health officials have long lauded both the health and economic benefits of turning to our own food, especially the readily available vegetables and fruits.

We couldn’t agree more. We think this is a message that should continue to be promoted. 

What do you think?

Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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