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Woman Farmer Shows Way as Small Island Developing State Battles Pandemics Impacts — Global Issues

Organic vanilla producer Shelley Burich works on her farm in Vaoala. Credit: FAO.
  • Opinion by Keni Lesa (apia, samoa)
  • Inter Press Service

Although Samoa, with a population of less than 200,000, remains one of the few countries in the world without a positive case of Covid-19, its border closed in March 2020 after the government declared it a state of emergency, dealing a decisive blow to the country’s economy.

Tourism, considered the mainstay of the economy, has been paralyzed by the absence of foreign visitors for almost two years. Hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses have had to close their doors and look elsewhere to make ends meet. But it is not only the inner circle of the tourism industry that has been affected. Domestic producers and farmers, who relied on the steady and frequent influx of visitors, suddenly found themselves in the background.

Among them is Shelley Burich, owner of an organic vanilla farm, who has taken advantage of the tourism industry. Burich’s farm and business, perched on the cool heights of Vaoala, overlooking Samoa’s capital Apia, was booming before the pandemic.

“Before Covid, I relied a lot on tourists who came to the islands,” Burich said. “I attracted people who were looking to come and visit the vanilla farm, and a big part of my business was word of mouth. So when the borders closed, it stopped.

Like other farmers, Burich had to innovate in order to survive. She did not remain inactive. Days of social media study and innovation have given birth to her new baby, “Long Distance Vanilla”.

“I do my own composting and mulching to feed the vanilla, and from the vanilla pods we export our top quality pods, which are grade one and two,” she explains. “From the other grains, I make value-added products like vanilla syrup, vanilla extract and vanilla powder.

Thinking outside the box and digitization has been essential to transforming his fortunes.

“I decided to go full time in the social media field. I started an online store and had to find a way to keep generating products and bringing them out of Samoa. My products are now sold in Ireland, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA and everywhere.

While Covid is an unwanted challenge, Burich said it has forced her to branch out. “And now I’m doing a lot more on the social media platform. Even though I am sitting here in Samoa, I am in the process of setting up an online store for customers in Canada.

But this farmer hasn’t finished – she has big plans in the pipeline.

“My dream is really to use (my experience) as a training farm, to get people to develop further and also teach them how to start an online business. “

The farmer from Samoa will soon be sharing her story with the world with the aim of inspiring others who have found themselves in a similar situation. Burich’s innovations will be part of the solutions showcased at the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Solutions Forum, scheduled for August 30-31, 2021. She will share the stage with other success stories from SIDS around the world.

The forum will create a space for government leaders, development partners, farmers, fishermen, community development practitioners and leaders, entrepreneurs, women and youth to discuss, share, promote and encourage local solutions and imported to meet the challenges posed by Covid. -19, and others that existed before the pandemic.

The ultimate goal is to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to agriculture, food and nutrition in SIDS.

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service




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