Agritourism Park: A genius idea or another waste of money?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Listen up good folks. In the Sunday Samoan of 18th November 2018, a series of stories about agritourism were published. 

A central theme of the stories is the Government’s plan to open an Agritourism Park, taking up 10 acres at Nu’u, and the reaction from members of the community. 

The plan, which has been in the pipeline for a couple of years now, will apparently cost a whopping $9.14million tala. It is to be partly paid for by funding from the European Union.

The Park, it appears, is one of the Government’s grand plans, most probably conceived during the time of former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’auli Leuatea Polataivao. 

That said, the current Minister of Agriculture who took over the portfolio last year, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, has been handed the baton and he is hell bent on seeing it through. That’s judging from what he’s saying at least.

Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Lopao’o said he hopes the park will be open for business next year, explaining that his vision goes beyond tourism; he also wants a beautiful green recreational space.

“I think the environment is going to be quite tremendous for people who want to have a break from their house,” he said. “It is a park, at the end of the day, so people can go there and enjoy.”

But that’s not all. If he had it his way, the minister said he would love to see a babbling brook or small stream in the park as well.

“There is nothing like sitting on a bench in a park, where you can hear the water,” he said, adding:  “You can see that I am a dreamer.”

Well there’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer. Every great invention started from a silly dream of some sort. Which is why it’s good that our leaders are dreaming of positive ideas. 

But are they the best ideas? Are they the best ways to spend aid funding that could perhaps be used to address some of the sector’s more pressing concerns?

Well you can be the judge.

Suffice to say, the proposal has already met objections from members of the Agriculture Sector who no doubt believe that the plan will be another glorious waste of funds.

Take the Chairman of the Samoa Farmers Association and former Member of Parliament, Afamasaga Toleafoa, for example.

“If we’re talking about government money, and for government to run this, I would have reservations. Government is not designed to run businesses, but the private sector is,” he said.

According to Afamasaga, the agritourism industry needs large-scale investment in a few farms that need development, before they are ready to function in the tourism sector.

“Adapting farms with a bit of investment and improvement to receive tourists would probably be more authentic, in terms of showing off Samoa’s way of life than a big project created especially for it,” he said.

 “It doesn’t have to be high class but it has to be organized. We need to be selective and start with those who can do it, with farmers who are commercial in orientation and have money to invest in their farm and receive tourists.”

A member of the farming community and a cacao farmer from Tuanai, Floris Niu, was straight to the point, calling the plan a “half baked” idea.

 “We are already doing this, why don’t you support us by giving us some sort of funding or a hand up?” she said, adding that the Government should be investing in the people-making economies out of agri-tourism in villages all across Samoa, instead of concentrating energies in a brand new park.

 “It’s just the most ridiculous thing ever. I mean, come on, how authentic would that be? Or, let’s look at it a different way - how many people are they going to employ in that one tourist farm, as opposed to how many individual farmers and their families that are could benefit and be able to make economies from that? 

“You’ve got to be able to put the numbers together.”

Well Ms. Niu has hit the nail on the head. We couldn’t agree more.

See, while a agritourism park is a nice idea, it’s definitely not the best of ideas.

Today, this is a country that needs the best ideas. We don’t need nice ideas that end up being a waste of money. We’ve seen enough already with so many white elephants staring us in the face, as if they are to remind us of how this Government continues to get it wrong.

Now stop for a second and think of that cool $9.14million tala and how it could be used to help farmers across the country who really need it? Think of all the coconuts, koko Samoa, banana, vegetables and more that could spring from it, if the money were used as seed funds for local farmers. Think of the equipment that could be bought and presented to the farmers, giving them a “hands up” to go out and fulfill their potential and realise their dreams.

Lastly, the Minister and this Government don’t need a park where they can hear the water. This is Samoa—there is water everywhere. We are surrounded by water, all you have to do is get out of your air conditioned car to hear it.

Besides, everywhere you look in Samoa, there is some sort of plantation. Why then do we need to spend another $9.14million on a plantation park when the entire country is naturally a plantation? 

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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