Savaii Koko Visit

Aug 7, 2017

On 1-2 August, the One UN-YEP team travelled to Savai’i to meet with representatives including cocoa farmers and business leaders to be updated on progress in the One UN Youth Employment Programme (‘YEP’) on the island. 

One such project, Savai’i Koko (cocoa) production offers big opportunities for communities on Savai’i. Rosie Vaai and her husband Tupa’i Sale’imoa (Sale), owners of Savai’i Koko know this better than most. Sale’s family have been involved in cocoa cultivation for generations. Rosie, his wife, colloquially calls cocoa trees “money-trees”. “Every pod on those trees is just money ripe for the picking”, she proclaims. 

Their passion, however is not just for high quality cocoa and the delicious chocolate that comes from it. Rather, they see cocoa as a means of providing sustainable futures for young people on Savai’i and a way of financially empowering families throughout the island. 

Through One-UN YEP support, over 150 young people are now involved in the programme. Savai’i Koko equips youths with the skills they need to understand every process in the whole production chain, from planting seedlings from the newly constructed greenhouses to taking care of the plants ready for harvest, all the way to drying, fermentation, processing and sorting ready for export. 


UNDP_WS_SavaiiKoko_Koko_UNDPOne of the drying houses for koko. Photo credit: UNDP/M.Rowe/2017.

Rosie is particularly passionate about the entrepreneurial possibilities that these skills are giving Savai’i’s young people. In the years ahead the One-UN-YEP will help support the Youth Community Plantation Project which will see community youth farms equipping the next generation of cocoa entrepreneurs with the skills they need to start their own agribusinesses. As a crop that is harvested three or four times a year, cocoa provides opportunities for financial security and advancement for families and communities. 

In May 2017 One-UN-YEP assisted Savai’i Koko to construct a network of dry houses to assist farmers to maintain cocoa quality and thereby access to export markets. Speaking to one farmer on Wednesday morning, the One-UN-YEP team heard that the 9 dry houses that have now been finished have been a “real game-changer”. 

“Previously we had to always watch the skies and run home at the slightest hint of a drizzle”, said one farmer. “This did tend to disrupt our daily life, having to drop everything to get the cocoa out of the rain”. “Thanks to the dry houses we have more time with our families and we can earn more money”. 

Despite initial success with the Savai’i Koko project, Rosie Vaai is not resting on her laurels. They have an established relationship with NZ chocolate maker Whittaker’s since 2014 and recently have sent their first container load to Japan. This is a promising sign that the demand is there for what could be a boon for the communities of Savai’i and a beacon of hope for unemployed youth willing to learn and willing to try their hand at “money-trees”.

UNDP_WS_SavaiiKoko_Children_UNDPChildren in front of the dry house. Photo credit: UNDP/M.Rowe/2017.

The Samoa One UN-YEP is an economic empowerment program assisting individuals and groups interested in new opportunities and building skills to develop livelihoods and improve their standard of living.  The Samoa One UN-YEP Program

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