More than fifty farmers from across the country each received $1,000 bonus under the Stimulus Package programme implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
On Wednesday, the farmers rallied at the Maota o Pulenuu, Matagialalua, to collect their bonus.
The Stimulus Package programme started in 2010. It was designed to revive the coconut, coffee and cocoa industry in Samoa.
The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, addressed the gathering, speaking about the importance of the programme, and its contribution to the economy.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is a ministry of God’s creation,” he said. “We are caretakers of God’s creation and we are to take care of it and make good use of it.”
He highlighted how important agriculture is in terms of economic developments.
“When our country first became independent, agriculture and fisheries were the main source of income in Samoa. More than 50 percent of our income came from agriculture and fisheries.
“However, that has changed over the years. And it’s about time we do something to bring those times back,” he said.
“We used to depend a lot on agriculture and fisheries to earn money. And the Ministry is now looking at improving our work so that our Ministry could go back to being as strong as it was before.”
With anything in life, La’auli said there have been a lot of challenges.
“We will not point fingers because those things happened in the past,” he said. “But we can learn from those mistakes and shortcomings and its time we all come together and work really hard, hand in hand in order for this program to succeed.”
According to Laauli, $2.5 million is being distributed among farmers.
“The bible says that you reap what you sow, and the same applies to those who work really hard.”
La’auli promised the farmers that he will work together with the Ministry to open doors for market to export these products overseas.
“So all you need to do is to plant and take care of these products and we will help you export it to overseas market.”
The Assistant Chief Executive Officer for the Corps Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Misa Konelio said the programme has been progressing really well since it was first initiated.
“Our target was to get 500 farmers to work on this programme,” said Misa. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get 500 farmers in the first two years of the programme. However, at the moment, we now have more than 500 farmers who are now working with the Ministry on this programme. Since 2010, the first farmers who started this programme are now harvesting their corps and we are excited to see that our programme is running well.”
However, Misa admitted that there had been a lot of challenges and difficulties along the way with this programme.
“We’ve had a number of farmers complaining that the two acres given to them is too much for them, and some have not been consistent with their work and what they are required to do. But the Ministry is now looking at ways to avoid these issues.”
Under the Stimulus package, farmers receive free seedlings to replant. The Ministry also provides spots checks and free counseling to assist them.
And after one year, the farmers are eligible to a cash bonus of $500 tala per acre of land replanted with coconut, cocoa or coffee, and the same amount will be given to the farmers on the third year of the programme. However, on the fourth year, each farmer will receive $2000 tala.
The bonus according to Misa is only paid out if the farmer meets all the requirements of the stimulus package.
To be eligible for the program, the farmers had to pay a $100 registration fee. They also had to have two acres of uncultivated land for the crops. In return, the Government would provide the crops. The stimulus package is for four years and a total of WST4,000 should be received by the farmer at the end of it.