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Agriculture Department mobilizes to set up operations in Manu'a

The ASG Department of Agriculture has mobilized equipment and staff to set up operations on the islands of Tau, Ofu and Olosega in the  Manu’a island group, with the goal to assist in the economic development of Manu’a.


Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had ordered that all government departments and agencies have until July 15 to set up operations in the Manu’a island group, with dedication on July 16th, during the Manu’a Flag Day, marking the 109th year since the island group became part of American Samoa.


During a cabinet meeting last week, the governor reiterated to directors that he wants all departments and offices to be ready no-later than July 15 and to be prepared for the dedication and official opening the next day.


To meet the governor’s initiative, Agriculture director Lealao Melila Purcell said the department has started mobilization to set up operations in Manu’a, starting first on Ta’u island and thereafter followed by Ofu and Olosega islands.


Supplies of lumber and other building materials were loaded and shipped on the MV Sili Wednesday night bound for Manu’a. The lumber will be used to construct a Department of Agriculture store and two staff traveled on the vessel to start construction, said Lealao.


Building materials are for construction of the store and office in one location and should be functional by mid June but “we won’t sell anything from the store” until the July 16th dedication, he said.


Also loaded on the MV Sili vessel were some 1,000 taro tops, or tiapula, and other planting equipment such as shovels and rakes to start the taro plantation.


“We want to start taro production right away in order to increase this agriculture service before the tiapula are distributed to farmers and others,” he said in a phone interview. “It does not make sense to ship tiapula to Manu’a and then distribute to farmers for their plantations, until we know first the results of this project.”


Agriculture Department is expecting on June 6 a new shipment of fertilizer from off island, and part of it will then be shipped to Manu’a, the director said.


Besides taro, Lealao said his department is also working on growing Chinese and Samoan tangerines in Manu’a and next Wednesday they plan to charter the ASG Segaula plane for “air-laying” new citrus crops for the Manu’a islands. 


“The main goal of these agriculture services, which have been emphasized by the governor, is to boost Manu’a economic development,” said Lealao, who added that success of these projects in Manu’a will then be shared with Tutuila.


For years residents and lawmakers from Manu’a have urged previous administrations to set up an agriculture store as well as assistance in setting up plantations in the island group.


Meanwhile, Lealao said they have set up a dry litter piggery at their Tafuna compound. “We are trying to do a small piggery sample with the goal to assist families" who can carry out similar piggery projects to help them out, instead of families depending on imported pork or purchase from others, he said.


In the department’s second quarter performance report for FY 2013, Lealao noted in his cover letter that “our focus in the third quarter (Apr. 1 - June 30)  is the inspection of all farms providing support for School Lunch, pushing the outreach extension [program] to the community and completing the Piggery and Hydroponics" projects.


“There will also be a focus on Manu’a agriculture for the rest of 2013,” he said and noted that by March of next year, the department will have completed a small egg farm as s sample for the community.