Key Takeaways

Agriculture is the backbone of the small island state of Samoa. It employs just over one-third of the country's workforce and subsistence production dominates Samoan agriculture, with occasional surpluses for sale in local markets. Revitalizing agriculture is a major focus of the government.

"One of the government’s main priorities is boosting the agriculture sector," said Samoa's Minister of Finance Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo. "I would like to acknowledge and say thanks to ADB and the Government of Australia for their generous assistance to our people through the Samoa Agribusiness Support (SABS) Project."

Approved in 2014 with initial grant funding of $5 million from ADB and additional grant financing of $750,000 from Australia, the project supports the commercial production and export of agricultural products and value-added agricultural products. It aims to help selected commercial agribusinesses to grow sustainably, stimulate activity in the agriculture sector, and enhance its contribution to economic growth. SABS increases Samoan agribusiness' access to finance by providing them partial cash collateral which enables them to get business loans from commercial banks. The collateral the project delivers to the agribusinesses partially guarantees the money borrowed by them.

"Through access to collateral financing and business advisory support services, Australia and ADB have been partnering with the Government of Samoa to increase economic opportunities through employment creation and exports," said Emily Luck, Australia's High Commissioner to Samoa. "Australia is committed to ensuring resilient economies across the Blue Pacific, especially as we continue to adapt to a world shaped by COVID-19. We are pleased to work with the Government of Samoa and ADB to support agribusinesses in Samoa, with a strong focus on empowering women into sustainable livelihoods."

  • Increasing women's participation in society and in their communities is a critical step towards achieving sustainable economic growth and social development

    Increasing women's participation in society and in their communities is a critical step towards achieving sustainable economic growth and social development.

  • Photo: Asian Development Bank

    Ensuring stable and affordable food supplies is central to keeping millions out of extreme poverty.

Economically empowering women

Working with four financial institutions, the project has granted 42 loans to 34 agribusinesses, 24 of which were women-owned or managed.

"The project has helped women in particular," said Ruth Thompson, Senior Manager at Samoa Commercial Bank, a partner bank of the project. "It has enabled our women clients to improve their finances while getting better access to financial and market opportunities."

In 2021, the project design was adjusted to support the recovery of agribusinesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic hit project client TH Plantation hard. The family-run business makes Samoa's Favorite Chips, a snack food made of local bread fruit, banana, and taro. The 20-year-old company was started by husband-and-wife team Tony and Teuila Howman in their family home. After Tony died, the company is now run by Teuila Howman and her daughters, Jennifer and Mary.

"The SABS project enabled us to upgrade our factory and purchase equipment we needed to make our product. It enabled automation which really helped move our business forward in a more efficient and hygienic way into the modern world," Jennifer said.

When Samoa went into lockdown in 2021, the company lost a lot of its inventory. Customers could not buy their products as the shops had shut down.

"We made a conscious decision to concentrate on our secondary business of farming. We farmed eggplant, taro, banana, and other vegetables," said Ms. Howman. "We told ourselves 'if we couldn’t sell it, we could definitely eat it.'"

"During COVID-19 we learned a lot about ourselves and what we were willing to sacrifice to stay in business. We want to thank the SABS project for allowing us to push forward into the modern world. We plan to fully automate, and we trust our children will stay with the business. We feel hopeful about the future."

Partnering for inclusive growth

Photo: Asian Development Bank
Samoa's Minister of Finance Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo(third from left) with the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development Leota Laki Lamositele(first from the right), Australia's High Commissioner to Samoa Emily Luck(second from the right) and the ADB project team at a SABS client site visit in Apia.

"Strong partnerships were key to the success of the SABS project," said Aaron Batten, Regional Director of ADB’s Pacific Subregional Office. "The project has helped increase the agriculture sector’s contribution to Samoa’s economy and shown how women are contributing to agriculture."

Samoa Tradition Farmers and Growers company purchases agricultural products (taro, bananas, breadfruit, papayas, sweet potatoes) and freezes them for export to Australia and New Zealand. The 500,000 Samoan Tala loan they received through the SABS project was used to upgrade their processing facility.

"Our supply chains are critical and are the backbone of our operation," said owner Su'a Tanielu. "Women are the main suppliers for breadfruit and paw paw (papayas). They are particularly good with quality control and ensure the products we supply are of the best quality."

The pandemic interrupted the company's plans to expand their export market. Mr. Tanielu hopes soon to revive these plans.

"It's nice to see communities create incomes for their families. When we pick up the goods at the farm gate, we pay the farmers cash on the spot. The big smiles on the farmers' faces confirm the good relationships we have developed with local farming communities," said Mr. Tanielu.

Toleafoa Tom Ola'aiga, owner of Samoa Meat Supplies, is another SABS client. Through the project, his business received two loans of 175,000 and 200,000 Samoan Tala.

"Through SABS we were able to upgrade and modify our whole facility," said Mr. Ola'aiga. "During COVID-19 we upgraded our building to make it safe and purchased meat processing and storage equipment from Australia. The SABS project helped us expand our business far beyond our dreams."