The Minister of Agriculture, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, and his Managers visited the Vaiaata prison last week to inspect their 300-acre plantation.
Currently the taro, banana and cocoa crops on the plantation cater for the provision of food for all three prisons in Tanumalala, Oloamanu and Vaiaata.
A new species of the Israel banana variety from South Africa which was brought over to Samoa for the purposes of growing for export is being cultivated at the Vaaiata prison.
According to A.C.E.O. of Crops division, Moafanua Tolo Iosefo, the Israel banana is a good variety because it bares very big healthy bunches.
There are talks of expanding their production for exporting in the future in an attempt to self-sustain the prison facilities, but according to Vaiaata prison Manager, Lega Frost, their main priority at this time is meeting the needs of the prisons.
“Exporting would be a big responsibility but at this time the priority is for the prisons, especially Tafaigata. We have a big farm and yes it is generating money but this plantation carries the other prisons because we respond to their needs,” he said.
Mr. Frost said he was pleased the management team from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries visited their facility and their planation.
He hopes that M.A.F. will assist them in providing education for the prisons on how to maintain the banana plantations particularly with the use of chemicals because so far they have not been utilizing pesticides.
The Vaiaata prison facility houses 40 prisoners and there is minimum security with an open house and no locks. According to Mr. Frost, it is important that their approach also has a rehabilitative element particularly in how the prisoners are treated pointing out the all of the inmates are low risk offenders.
Growing and harvesting the 300 plantation at the prison not only provides sustenance for all the prisons in Samoa, it also provides purpose and productivity for prisoners.
“We have no problems with escapees here,” Mr. Frost said. “I think what these people have committed are low level crimes and therefore the treatment should be different. If the environment is unhealthy, there will no doubt be trouble. If they have a role to play, the prisoners have a sense of purpose and place in here. We are like a family and everyone has a job to do here.”
“Everyone must have attention and they are happy to work. We have a cooking crew, a maintenance crew, and a plantation crew. If you have a job to do, then you won’t have time or the need to start trouble.”
Lopao’o added while Savaii has not seen or held high risk offenders on the island before, it must not be taken for granted that it will most likely eventuate in the future and that all efforts must be made to ensure that Savaii boosts its agriculture sector to provide jobs for people on the big island.
“I’m not saying it’s not going to happen here – it will happen here,” Lopao’o said. “But if we have employment and if we have people commit to going to the farms and be able to spend their own money, they won’t feel the need to steal or misbehave.”