Samoan organic cacao farmer Floris Niu has been representing indigenous peoples in the voluntary national reviews under the Agenda 2030 process. The process is dedicated to countries reporting on their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 2019 Floris was invited by IFOAM Organics International to participate in a workshop at the United Nations in New York to help prepare civil society organisations, NGOs and other interested parties take an active role in the Agenda 2030 review process. At the meeting Floris was asked to represent the Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG) for the review, and she recently spoke at Samoa’s Voluntary National Review at the United Nations. Due to global travel restrictions the meetings were held virtually – adding a range of challenges to Floris’ participation.
Floris lives in Tuanai village on a remote farm 35 to 40 km from Samoa’s capitol Apia. Approximately half of the distance from her home to the city consists of bad, rough road. In the early morning hours she was meant to be online to make her UN presentation but the internet connection at her farm failed. Not being one to give up easily, Floris jumped in her car and drove till she got reception on her phone. She gave her statement to the United Nations sitting in her car on the side of the road.
Key points raised by Floris if Samoa is to meet their SDG targets included; “…the urgent need to develop Samoa’s local market for agricultural products, and support local commodities; redirect foreign aid or government funds towards smaller farm operations to build local resilience; rural areas need access to roads, water, waste management, electricity, security, health and social services; recognition that organic farming practices are the answer to sustainable agriculture to promote healthier food, lifestyles, soil health, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, and that social services are still failing to address violence against women, youth suicide, crime, addiction and mental health. She noted that “…more than 10 percent of people with disabilities have never been to school and this does not include other children and youth on the streets. Education and meaningful outcomes are fundamental rights for all Samoans.”
Floris stated that in Samoa, she would like to see government engage a wider spectrum of Samoans in conversations, particularly grassroots farmers, and women, who often go unnoticed as key custodians of national food security. She said of Indigenous peoples, “We believe that land does not belong to us, but that we belong to the land. Therefore, a deeper respect is needed in how we approach the land, how we cultivate it and protect it for the use of generations to come. Chemical farming is becoming a major issue in Samoa, affecting the health and lives of Samoans and Animals.”
“Indigenous Peoples follow the cycles of Nature. This is a gift, but with globalisation and other demands on our small developing islands, we are losing this gift. There is so much other noise that we can no longer hear or see our warning signals for natural disasters, famine, pandemics and so on. Often times we forget how our ancestors survived all of this and more…with no technology and no funding. Ultimately, indigenous peoples hold the solutions to their problems.”