At the STA cultural village fale in Apia, Samoa you will find the SWAG markets. Immediately upon entry into this open-air pavilion, the fresh fragrance of pineapple, limes, and homemade dishes greet you. The bustle of keen visitors creates an ambience of excitement as they decide what carefully crafted delectable to purchase first. Whether you are selecting from the range of handwoven baskets or deciding what local plant seedling you wish to take home, you can always appreciate that this is a place of comfort and community.
The sellers at this market are members of the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG); a group of women who share a collective ambition to build a positive future for themselves and their fanau / whanau.
SWAG was established in 2018 to empower women organic growers running small local businesses. Its vision is to provide opportunities for accessing local and international markets, training and sharing best business practices, and socializing in a supportive and open environment for sharing traditional, organic, and environmentally safe solutions to modern day agricultural needs. The key factors for the establishment of SWAG are creating policies and branding that result in an honorable reputation and a solid foundation.
This brings the story to Aotearoa New Zealand, to Auckland where Moumita Das Roy lives. Moumita always dreamt of volunteering and living in Samoa, though the idea remained secondary as her career took priority. Moumita is currently the Marketing Communications Manager in New Zealand.
However, in August 2021 Moumita discovered volunteering remotely with Volunteer Service Abroad. She was selected as a volunteer to work with SWAG and together they have produced a strong brand strategy, including new logo for the organisation, and a communication plan that will lead them into the future.
“Reputation has always been a crucial point of focus for the SWAG Council,” Shelley Burich, SWAG President says; “Building a trust-worthy network is important to provide a solid foundation for the future.”
A current testament to the council’s efforts is the funding SWAG was granted from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Samoa Agriculture & Fisheries Productivity & Marketing (SAFPROM) Project and from (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia for projects that promote empowerment and social inclusion.
Some of this funding will provide social media training to economically empower small female-lead businesses in Samoa, the sessions will give members tools to confidently promote their business on an online forum thus reaching audiences outside of the local market model. SWAG council member and secretary, Papali'l Mele Maualaivao and Moumita are in discussion about extending the volunteer work to include Moumita as part of the professionals who will build capacity for the group.
As the world settles into a new normal and borders begin to open, we strongly advocate the support of local economies and if you just so happen to have the pleasure of being in Apia, say ‘malo’ to the talented SWAG members at the STA Cultural Village Fale and treat yourself to their range of thoughtfully curated goods.