Growing and Selling Produce
Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Makalita has been the main bread-winner for her family since her husband left her and her 5 children 24 years ago.  She’s a relatively quiet woman with a dogged determination to succeed.  Her motivation?  Providing for her children and grandchildren as well as her elderly brother.

Makalita is an astute businesswoman.  She joined South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) and received her first loan of TOP 1,000 (US$400) to purchase supplies to make tapa (cloth) and to weave baskets.  Since weaving and tapa making are both time-consuming processes, Makalita needed to diversify her business to ensure a steady stream of income, so she also used part of her loan to invest in vegetable farming.  Unlike the tapa and weaved handicrafts, her vegetables could be sold almost every day.  She also soon realized that vegetables made a better profit. With her second and third loans of approximately $550 and $800, she only invested in her vegetable farming (seeds and fertilizers) – expanding her product line and volume.  Today Makalita’s main source of income is her vegetable farm – a plot of land on which she grows lettuce, cucumbers, beans, carrots and tomatoes.  She knows that her income is increasing from vegetable farming, and she is looking for ways to continue expanding her business.  She now receives orders every day from her customers, which include restaurants.

As a result of her increased income from farming, Makalita was able to pay for her children’s and grandchildren’s education.  She also invested in home improvement – e.g., purchasing tiles for her floor and expanding the home.  With profits from her business, she saved enough for a down payment on a truck, which is used to transport her produce to nearby market stalls, restaurants and other customers.

To handle her growing business, Makalita involves her family – her son-in-law helps her run the farming business on a full-time basis, and her daughter assists with customer relationships.  Even her grandchildren help wash the vegetables on the weekends when they are not in school.  Makalita’s family is not the only one who benefits from the growing business.  She also hires seasonal laborers to harvest the produce and transport it to the market.

In addition to accessing credit from SPBD, Makalita also saves her hard-earned income with SPBD and benefits from the insurance product. SPBD’s full suite of financial services has been beneficial for Makalita.  She is now interested in additional services, including money transfer services.  SPBD Tonga is currently exploring partnerships to offer remittance and money transfer services to clients like Makalita.