I was reminded that Samoa is still a patriarchal society and that some members of my community, both men and women, believed that my decisions and viewpoints threatened the status quo and were disrespectful. But this was just the beginning of what it means to be a female farmer in Samoa.
A strong aspect was my ability to make decisions on our land as a woman and successfully farm without attributing that success to a man in my life, (usually a husband). One of the reasons I have kept my brother out of my business on the farm is to prove to my family that I can do this without the help of a man.
To inspire and encourage other women, my friends and I founded, the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (#SWAG). It is an NGO that aims to create a safe space for women to discuss their concerns and offer their thoughts as a collective voice. It is also a platform for women farmers to learn, share, network and socialise in an open and supportive environment.
The perils of farming organically
It turns out that being an organic farmer in Samoa is a challenge in itself. Especially when I am open about how I farm.
Many farmers spray the weeds, plants and soil with highly toxic pesticides and fertilisers, which they see as a progressive symbol because such synthetic inputs are expensive.
My decision not to use these chemicals, and to show how dangerous they are to the soil and to our health, has often been ridiculed at agricultural meetings. But it went further than that.
When I spoke out against my neighbours’ wilful spraying of my road, driveway, and boundary, I received violent threats and was even referred to as a foreigner (because I grew up partly in New Zealand, even if I am Samoan). Almost 50% of my cocoa and 70% of my other crops were stolen or destroyed as a result of the harassment that persisted.
I reported the incident to the police, who referred me to the village council, which deals with such cases. But because I am a woman, I was not allowed to go to the council to report these cases. My brother had to do it for me.
A woman is not permitted to attend village council meetings, thus whenever she wishes to bring up a concern, she must do so through a man holding the title of chief. These rules differ from one village to the next. My village is particularly patriarchal.
In addition to prolonging the problem-solving process, it is also stressful and exhausting.
#SWAG plays an important role in helping me and other women farmers through such difficult times and gives me the strength to continue speaking out about the damage substances such as Glyphosate can do to people and the planet.
Finding solace in organic
Despite everything, when I am on my farm, connecting with the rich, dark, healthy soil and planting my crops, I am one with Mother Nature.
She nourishes and protects me. Despite all the challenges I face as a farmer, I know I am working to preserve this land for my daughter and many others who will come after her.
When you farm organically, you begin to understand how everything in the ecosystem is connected, and why it is vital that we protect and promote biodiversity on this planet. This is why I came up with this concept of living a “planet-conscious” life. We are not just here for ourselves, we are here for each other.
 I Grow Your Food (IGYF) was started in 2019 by IFOAM – Organics International as a platform for farmers to share their messages globally. It happens in September and I will be one of the participants.