From the classroom to the land

By Pai Mulitalo Ale ,

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BACK TO THE LAND: Former art teacher at Maluafou College, Seumalo Taleni Isaia is now a farmer                                                       .

BACK TO THE LAND: Former art teacher at Maluafou College, Seumalo Taleni Isaia is now a farmer .

It was not an easy decision for Seumalo Taleni Isaia to leave his profession as an art teacher and become a farmer when his father passed away last year. 

Seumalo said he’d been teaching for more than 10 years but his love for the teaching profession didn’t stop him from honouring his father’s love of being a farmer. 

“This is how my family survives day to day, and I have seen how my father loved this farm and he dedicated his life to it,” said Seumalo. 

Seumalo resigned from Maluafou College last year to care for his father. 

“When he passed away, I thought I’d stay and continue the work he did. I thought I’d have a taste of being a farmer and see what’s it like.” 

And what he’s found is something he does like.

As the fourth owner, the cocoa plantation has been passed down from generation to generation. 

It has been the main source of income for their family in the past years and is located on a 20 acre block of land deep in the forest at Afega Uta. 

And with hard work, Seumalo said he is able to make more money from their cocoa plantation than from teaching.  

However, it’s not all about one crop.

“I don’t just depend on the cocoa, I have other crops like yams, taro, bananas because this is a big piece of land.” 

Earlier last year, Seumalo found a new market for his cocoa beans, the Wellington Chocolate Factory in New Zealand.

 “Our supply goes twice a year, and I supply them with more than 20 sacks per shipment,” said Seumalo. 

Seumalo said he gets $10 per kilo and with one sack usually weighing 40 kilos so he gets $400 per one sack of cocoa beans. 

So if he produces 20 sacks per shipment he gets $8,000. 

However Seumalo said there are many challenges, and managing a cocoa farm is not easy. 

“The major challenges are the rats and when it’s bad weather.” 

He is very happy he said when it’s the dry season, because it is a better time to collect cocoa. 

“It takes a whole week to collect the ripe, cocoa beans.” 

Seumalo said he works alone, and his sons can only help him during the weekend and when school is on break. 

And if his cousins help him during the week, he pays them $20 a day. 

Seumalo said providing good quality cocoa beans to overseas markets is not easy. It takes a lot of work to provide the best quality. 

The cocoa beans need to be dried but that depends on the weather. 

Already other companies from overseas have approached him too for the supply of cocoa beans but the Wellington Chocolate Factory is his top priority because they were the first to come to him. 

Seumalo thanked Maiden Samoa for their support and the opportunity as another source of income for his family. 

The former art teacher is married to Tuaia Isaia and they have with five children. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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