Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Women in Business Development

April 21, 2011

I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer who works under an NGO called, Women in Business Development (WIBD), in the organic vegetable division. In fact all Peace Corps Volunteers work as part of some host governmental or NGO. What is unusual about my position as Coordinator for Samoan Challenge III is the seeming disconnect between what I doing and the organization for which I work. But in actuality, it is not.

The first Samoa Challenge, 2009, was initiated by WIBD and was a “Biggest Loser” type of contest, with eight contestants, including Samoa’s Prime Minister and the Peace Corps, Language Training Manager, Faleseu Pita (“Seu”). The contest was entertaining, but lacked sustainability.

Samoa Challenge II, 2010, was a joint venture with Peace Corps joining WIBD to develop a more wider program aimed at obese women in rural villages, administered primarily by Peace Corps Volunteers who are firstly, teachers of English in primary schools. The program involved about 10 Peace Corps and about 100 participants with mixed results. However, disappointing Peace Corps Volunteers felt about Challenge II, the Ministry of Health and WIBD both rated it a success to be continued. With funding for Samoa Challenge II also included funds from the U.S. and Fiji for Challenge III in 2011. Hence, yours truly was invited back to Samoa.

The WIBD was started 20 years ago by five Samoan women who wanted to find ways for rural women to earn money for their families. Their first main success was providing a market for women to sell “fine mats”. Weaving them was becoming a lost skill with no market for their purchase.

WIBD are now involved in many ventures including the export of sweet bananas (Misiluki) and organic virgin palm oil for cosmetics (80,000 pounds just shipped to the Body Shop in the U.K.). One of their best efforts is getting Samoan farmers to grow certified organic fruits and vegetables, both for domestic use ad export. Their biggest problem is not the lack of demand, but getting farmers interested in growing organic corps and then teaching them business practices. This effort requires almost daily visits to the farmers involved. Part of what I am doing is to help them promote their organic farming program. For additional information, visit their website at www.womeninbusiness.ws

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