Adimaimalaga (Adi) Tafuna'i
Emerging Pacific Women’s Leadership Program
Global Leadership Awards
To outsiders, Samoa’s lush forests and beautiful vistas represent tropical paradise. But for many Samoans, the remoteness of their Pacific nation results in a poverty of opportunity. Consequently, many Samoans work abroad and send part of their income home to their families. These remittances, while valuable, perpetuate a cycle in which generations of Samoans leave the island for opportunity elsewhere.
Visionary entrepreneur Adimaimalaga (Adi) Tafuna’i believes this dynamic can and should change. Globally minded, yet rooted in her community, she works to build sustainable economic opportunities for Samoan women and families, in a way that is good for people, prosperity and the planet.
In 1991, Adi and her friends established an organization called Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI) to encourage Samoan women in business. But after natural disasters proved devastating to rural communities, Adi and her colleagues shifted their focus to village-based economic development.
Adi was determined to enable women to earn an income where they live in order to educate, feed and care for their families. Whereas outside experts had proposed microfinance, Adi’s vision was larger — she wanted to leverage local resources to connect Samoan women to global markets. “Finding niche markets like coconut oil and noni juice is the only way the Islands will achieve in the world market,” she says. “It’s about helping rural people, encouraging them to use the natural products around them. It’s getting them their own cash, helping them to earn a living from what they have access to.”
Thanks to Adi’s efforts, The Body Shop became a key partner in disseminating Samoan products worldwide. Today, health and beauty items sold in nearly 50 countries use coconut oil produced by Samoan families. And as the market for Samoan exports such as coconut oil, noni juice, bananas, woven mats and tapa cloth grows, Adi is working to bring other Pacific countries in as suppliers, expanding regional economic growth.
Adi has received praise from Samoan prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. “No group or individual has contributed more to the village economy — particularly to the empowerment of women,” he says, “than the Women in Business group and Adi’s role in that organization.”
“We don’t go into a village and say we’re going to change everything for every one of you,” Adi explains. “We change one family, and they become a role model, and then another family joins and another family joins, and that’s lovely to see.”