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Celebrating Women Excellence in Agriculture: Tulia Molimau – Iosefa #IWD2022

This week the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Samoa in collaboration with the Samoa Country Magazine proudly celebrates Women’s International Day 2022 by recognizing women excellence in the Sector and their invaluable contribution to our sustainable and food security goals.

Fesilia’i Tulia Molimau –Iosefa is one of five female Executive Officers in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and currently leads the Animal Production and Health Division

Appointed last year, this Assistant Chief Executive Officer (ACEO) is tasked with leading her division to support the increasing number of livestock farmers as part of the government’s goal to ultimately reduce Samoa’s dependence on imported meat.

What sets the APHD apart from other divisions in the Ministry is the amount of physical work it takes to operate and oversee the management of healthy livestock supply to providing advisory and training services to livestock farmers.

“The majority of work handled by livestock is all achieved through man-power (manual handling) and techniques the team has acquired over the years. There is always work. There are always requests from the private sector, our government farms and our livestock farmers,” explains Fesilia’i.

“What excites me is to see the team enjoying their work out in the field and receiving positive feedback livestock farmers about our services. Although it’s not all butterflies and rainbows we make do with the limited resources we have.”

Looking back on her first year, Fesilia’i says her experience has been challenging yet rewarding while navigating a typically male dominated space.  Her ability to strike a balance between an inclusive approach to leadership and motivating her staff to act quickly and decisively has proved successful in motivating her team to meet their targets and improve their processes.

“I believe in “Striking the iron while it is hot” Any pressing matters needs to be addressed as effectively and as quickly as possible. Prioritizing and delegating plays a pivotal role in our work and I expect persistence, determination and consistency from my staff.”

“In any line of work dominated by men, it pays to be able to think, walk and speak their language. Regardless of these attributes I believe in team work and it has to be driven from the top. At the same time, understand impacts of burnout and means of preventing it – not just for oneself but also for your team.”

“I will always engage my team, identify challenges, how to overcome challenges, agree on set targets and drive towards results at same time empowering them. Knowledge is a gift that needs to be shared especially with young staff. It is of no use being kept for oneself. “

“Changes are usually always met with resistance being an external. You have to be a little vulnerable to engage and you have to be willing to learn something new every day to stay on top of all the demands within the post. It is challenging but I like to believe that the team and I are moving forward. Changing mind-sets is always difficult but with an open growth mind-set I am determined to progressing forward with our APHD.”

Fesilia’i’s drive to strive for excellence and adapt in any environment has contributed to her strong and transformative approach to leadership. Following the completion of her Bachelor of Biological Sciences from the University of Canterbury New Zealand in 2012 she worked at the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa (SROS) where she was heavily involved in the accreditation of SROS to ISO 17025 Laboratory standards.

After completing her Master’s Degree in Food Science and Technology from the University of Queensland with Deans Commendation, Fesilia’i decided she needed industrial experience and took up a role at Vailima Breweries in 2015 where she managed all their certifications in Food Safety, Environment, Occupational Health and Safety management systems and standards.

In late 2020, Fesilia’i again felt the call to return to the sector she is most passionate about and with her invaluable and diverse working experience behind her she took a major leap forward that has seen her thrive at the decision making level.

“I am a strong believer that when our Heavenly Father closes a door he opens another for me. My contract ended with Vailima same time MAF had its post up. I strongly felt that it is a calling from our Heavenly Father to go back to the land through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.”

“I grew up with a father who was a hobby farmer both crops and livestock namely chicken and pigs. We also had companion animals. Due to the small land that was all we can move to. Working for the Ministry I believe is a calling to assist our farmers to ensure the services we provide benefits our country as a whole.”

Her late father is a central figure in Fesilia’i’s journey and she credits him for instilling the very qualities that has helped her strive for excellence in education and career.

“My father was an amputee but in spite of his disabilities, he was a carpenter by profession and a hobby farmer. He has been a role model my whole life and is responsible for teaching me to work hard where ever life takes me or God calls me.”

Although women have increasingly become involved in leadership roles  at the executive level, bringing unique skills that have helped innovate the sector; Fesilia’i believes that that there is still much work to be done in diversifying the agricultural space especially at the decision making level. Fesilia’i intends to mentor Samoan women and harness their natural abilities to manage and lead in any area within the sector.

“Women are adaptable by nature provided they have had a great up-bringing in the early early stages of their career. I was fortunate to have had a great mentor during my time at SROS. I had a leader that pushed me beyond my comfort zone which is where you start seeing your true potential. I believe, women are great at planning, identifying challenges, coming up with solutions that can really drive the agriculture sector. “

“There are challenges and it’s a reality that women will meet resistance in their career path in this industry with the entrenched social structures of patriarchy. They will experience instances of both men and women imposing their superiority in physical strength and experience. To that, I say stand your ground. “

“Know your value and always have a positive and open mind. This will take you a long way and lastly; if you cannot control something then let it go. You can always come back to it but focus on more important things that you can control. Above all, rely on our Heavenly Father for guidance and a clear conscience.”

Looking ahead, Fesilia’i says her focus is leading her team to make a positive impact in the livestock industry through the provision of research outcomes, training, information and knowledge sharing.

To foster good relations with livestock farmers in Samoa is a high priority for her as the APHD work towards reducing the country’s dependence on imported meats and achieving food security.

“Agriculture to some is simply farming and raising livestock (strength/muscles) but it is not as easy as it looks. It requires investment, dedication, persistence and the determination to succeed. Crops and livestock are living things that require essential factors for growth and production and limiting such factors will determine how well you will do in the industry.”

#InternationalWomensDay2022 #IWD2022 #BreaktheBias

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