By Emily Norman
Before attending Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, Ruta Fou, the first female farm manager in Samoa, didn’t know how to drive.
Now, after just three weeks at the training centre, she can drive tractors and quad bikes, and has learned valuable agricultural skills that she will pass on to the Samoan government.
As well as being the first female farm manager in Samoa, Miss Fou is also the youngest at just 23.
She manages the largest government-owned farm in Samoa, “10,000 acres”, which is just over 4000ha.
Miss Fou was selected alongside Elvis Tuaia, 28, to attend a 7-week bespoke course at the Wairarapa training centre.
Both work for Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
“I really like working on the farms,” Miss Fou said.
“I don’t want to stay in the office and just write things.
“I want to be in the field doing the work because that is more interesting.”
She said in Samoa “the boys think it’s just them” who can do the farm work.
“But I want to tell the girls that it’s also us that can do it too”.
She said because of the training she had received so far at Taratahi, she now knows how to drive quad bikes and tractors.
When she returns to Samoa she said she will put in a proposal to get a tractor and a quad bike.
Both Miss Fou and Mr Tuaia are enjoying their experience in New Zealand, which they say is very different to Samoa.
“The Ministry is sending us so we can take all this information we learn to firstly teach the ministry and then go out to teach country farmers,” Mr Tuaia said.
He has been working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for five years.
“In Samoa we have more land but we’re not working as efficiently to develop and manage the farming and agriculture, so we’re here to learn more.
“In Samoa we use our own muscles for most of the work but here in New Zealand we have more equipment and that can make the job easier to do,” he said.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in these past three weeks.
“In Samoa we need to look at how to supply the equipment to make the job easy.
“We’re working hard in Samoa but the thing is we’re using our own strength. It’s better to use the equipment.”
Mr Tuaia, who said he has the “most beautiful wife in the world”, and three young daughters, has been skyping his family every night while here in New Zealand.
He is a rugby union enthusiast and player and joked that while in New Zealand he wanted to “play the All Blacks”.
By Emily Norman