In place of corporate branded gifts, cheesy animated virtual christmas cards, or real christmas cards via the old postal network, we continue our tradition of donating $10000 to Oxfam.
Oxfam work on all sorts of awesome projects to help empower people to empower themselves.
For example, helping peasant farmers get their produce to the market (and i mean litterally picking them up from their remote village to bring their food to the designated market place in the bigger towns, or helping them commercialise their waste products to produce new incomes.
This approach of helping people help themsevles is an ethos I am sure many business owners can relate to.
----- following story included from oxfam ---
Also known as 'The Friendly Islands', Tonga is based in the South Pacific, surrounded by vast stretches of ocean through which its island neighbours lie scattered. The closest developed country is New Zealand, three hours’ flight to the south west. Tonga’s economy is vulnerable, and dependent upon tourism, agriculture and remittances from Tongans working overseas.
Oxfam New Zealand has been strengthening its presence in Tonga over the last few years, working with Tonga National Youth Congress to improve people's livelihoods.
How are we doing this:
Organic agriculture is considered to have been traditionally practised by farmers in Tonga since the islands’ early settlement. Tonga and other developing nations in the Pacific are now bringing this practice back to the fore by becoming important suppliers of sustainably produced agricultural goods.
Significantly, organic products gain a higher market price than chemically produced products, enabling impoverished farmers to earn a decent living — enough to provide schooling for their children and adequate nutrition for their family.
Oxfam New Zealand is working with local partner the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) to support rural communities in Vava’u, Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Eua, Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou through virgin coconut oil production. This programme is providing local people with employment, skills and an opportunity to earn an income to lift themselves out of poverty.
Growers on the island of Eua can now produce their own virgin coconut oil thanks to the equipment and building materials Oxfam has supplied them with.
This includes electric coconut graters, which are used to extract the flesh from the nut, and coconut driers, which were installed by villagers and work by roasting the grated coconut flesh on a metal plate over wood-burning fire.
Dried coconut is weighed before being placed into the new oil press machines, which use pressure to squeeze the valuable oil from the flesh into special oil collection containers. Oxfam has trained villagers to oversee the whole production process, from weighing, quality checks to record keeping, and organised experts from a similar scheme in Samoa, WIBDI, to travel to Tonga to share their expertise.
This equipment and expertise is vital in ensuring that farmers can produce quality virgin coconut oil to sell at the organic market in Nuku’alofa, across other islands in Tonga as well as potentially for export. Money the oil generates means that farmers will be able to pay to send their children to school, or for medication, or food for their families.
Malina is 38 years old and lives in the village of Kolomaile on Eua island, a two hour ferry journey from Nuku'alofa. There is a small, growing tourism industry but most people rely on the fertile volcanic soil for a living, selling crops to one another. Malina has two daughters to support. One is four, and the other, who is six, attends primary school. Her family used to depend upon Malina’s husband for money. As the sole breadwinner, he earned his living by selling the vegetables from his garden to local people, supplementing his income by selling kava. Kava fetches a good price, but it takes three years for the plant to be ready for harvest so cash rewards are infrequent.
Malina Hautau’s entrepreneurial eye spotted an opportunity to turn waste coconut into a source of income. Malina oversees the process of transforming coconuts into high-end virgin coconut oil at the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) site on Eua. The abundant coconut has many uses and nothing is wasted when it's turned into oil: husks are used to fire up the coconut driers, pressed coconut is used as animal food and the shells are turned into kava cups. But with Oxfam's support Malina is developing an offshoot business that uses the dried coconut shreds to generate an extra income.
When the TNYC's virgin coconut oil scheme began, Malina helped out by cooking for the workers on the nearby site. She knew she could contribute to the oil processing and asked to join the group and work there. The TNYC took her on board and Malina is currently the only woman on the team of five full-time employees. Her job is to supervise the daily operations of the site, for which she is paid TOP$80.00 (NZ$56) per week from the sales of the oil. She is incredibly happy because this is the first time she has been able to contribute to her family’s income. The average weekly wage in Tonga is NZ$47*.
During her time on site Malina noticed how her colleagues utilised every part of the coconut. But instead of feeding their animals with waste shredded coconut, Malina saw an opportunity to use it in cake decorating. With the help of TNYC Malina takes the dried dessicated coconut home, dyes it, and uses it to decorate cakes and biscuits that she and local women have baked using TNYC coconut oil.
The women sell the popular treats to families and organisations across the island, using the money they earn to help pay for essentials like their children’s school fees or investing in better tools for their gardens.
Malina’s salary from TNYC’s virgin coconut oil supports her venture and there is little doubt in her mind that if it wasn’t for the opportunity she was given by TNYC, she would never be working in a business where profits are channelled back into helping her island community.
Malina wants to help younger girls involved in TNYC and is giving her time to support and mentor them. Along with her friends, she would like to purchase a sander and specialist equipment that will help them turn coconut shells into kiekie, wrap-like adornments worn around the waist by women as part of Tongan traditional dress. Malina’s dream is to see this project flourish and involve as many of the local girls as possible.
Posted: Sunday 1 December 2013