Women’s Rights in Samoa Samoa has had a long history of being considered a place where women’s rights have been hindered. Women’s voices in Samoa are often brushed aside when it comes to major issues such as domestic violence and politics. That being said, improvements on the basis of women’s rights in Samoa have occurred. U.N. Women has also worked to set up programs to support women’s equality in Samoa, which provides hope for the creation of more inclusive Samoan communities in the future.

The Samoan Woman’s Voice

Within the islands of the Pacific, where Samoa is located, the lowest rates of women’s participation in politics are found. Women within the Samoan culture are not encouraged to discover a sense of independent thought that they are willing to express. Because of this, women’s representation in governmental positions is a mere 10%. This minimum of 10%, however, will remain consistent due to an amendment of the Samoan constitution that was passed in 2013. The amendment states that women’s seats will be added into parliament if women are not elected, in order to ensure that at least 10% of parliamentary representation is women.

There are many cultural structures that greatly impact women’s rights when it comes to the expression of political opinions. One of these structures is the Matai councils that are in charge of local decision-making. Although women are allowed to join the Matai council, it is mainly considered a male council because of the low level of female members. The cultural family structures in Samoa also discourage women from reaching for political positions like becoming a Matai. Women mainly answer to their husbands within households so they feel a disconnect between having a desire for political power and their familial positions.

Violence Against Samoan Women

Only 22% of women that live in Samoa have not been a victim of some kind of domestic violence within their lifetime. Within the 78% of women who have experienced abuse, 38% said that the abuse was physical. Overlooked violence is one of the largest setbacks to obtaining more holistic women’s rights in Samoa. Women believe that the violence they face is not of importance. This can be justified by the fact that domestic violence was only reported to the police by 3% of women who experienced it.

3 Programs Improving Women’s Rights in Samoa

As many setbacks as there have been in gaining women’s equality in Samoa, U.N. Women has set up programs in order to empower women in Samoa.

  • The Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs: These programs work to ensure that women in Samoa can secure proper employment and are getting paid for the work they are doing. It also makes sure that women have access to assets and increased economic security.
  • The REACH Project: This program has worked to educate the general rural public of Samoa about general rights, including those of women. Although the goals of this program were extensive, one of them was to create equality of gender and to empower young girls for a better future. REACH accomplished its goals through the creation of sessions meant to increase awareness of rights and gender equality that citizens in rural areas could attend.
  • The Ending Violence Against Women Program: This program has created a fund in order to support women victims of violence within Samoa. It also works to change government policies that could support violence against women in any way. The information and support that this program gives to women who may not be aware of their right to speak up against violence against them is invaluable.

Overall, women’s rights in Samoa are progressing with the help of organizations like U.N Women fighting for the well-being and empowerment of women. Samoa has come a long way with regards to gender equality and the future looks hopeful for women in the country.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Samoa
Samoa, a small island country in the Pacific, struggles with economic issues like rising unemployment, an imbalance between rural and urban communities and vulnerability to natural disasters. Here are nine facts about poverty in Samoa.

9 Facts About Poverty in Samoa

  1. Approximately 18% of the population lives in urban areas, with the other 82% living in rural areas. Most Samoans live in the rural and remote areas of the island, resulting in an imbalance of education, opportunities and social benefits. Most of the population finds themselves working in the agricultural business, with tropical agriculture occupying 65% of the labor force. In the urban areas, there are more job opportunities other than agriculture such as technicians, pilots, and doctors.
  2. Nearly 72% of the Samoa population does not have access to the internet. A lack of internet access can exacerbate educational and health disparities. The internet provides many resources for students to improve their education. It also contains information on the locations of hospitals and clinics. With little access to this information due to the inaccessibility of the internet, the split between low-income and higher-income communities is worsened, creating even more poverty.
  3. Natural disasters threaten Samoa’s agriculture. In rural areas, the population works mainly in agriculture. However, natural disasters can damage the industry. Samoa is located in a seismic zone called the “Ring of Fire.” It is exposed to deadly earthquakes, such as the 2009 earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.3. This earthquake was followed by a tsunami that “took 150 lives, left 2.5% of all Samoans homeless, destroyed transport, water and energy infrastructure across large areas.” This significantly impacted the agricultural industry, damaging the economy and increasing poverty in Samoa.
  4. The unemployment rate in Samoa is only 8.4%. While Samoa’s unemployment rate is less than other countries, it has increased from 5.7 to 8.4%. Age imbalance is one of the main causes. The unemployment rate is 8.7% of all adults 15 and up; however, among youth between the ages of 15 and 29, it is 16.8%. An increasing unemployment rate, particularly for the youth population, can be devastating for a small country.
  5. There are high rates of domestic violence in Samoa. Domestic violence can lead to more poverty for its victims, often women. According to the Guardian, a report found that nine out of 10 respondents said abuse occurred regularly within their home. The frequent harassment that women face in Samoa can take a toll on them and their families. Oftentimes, these women are shunned by society for exposing these issues. This can be especially disadvantageous to lower-income women, who often do not have the support network or the financial resources to proceed with charges against their abuser.
  6. Rural households are more likely to have only one room for sleeping. In contrast, urban households are less likely to live in small homes, highlighting the inequality between these two areas. As rural families are more likely to live in overcrowded houses due to having smaller homes, there is a greater risk of infectious diseases spreading. This, on top of the weak healthcare system in place, can create a health crisis within the rural population.
  7. There is also education inequality between urban and rural areas. While the national literacy rate for the country of Samoa is at a high 97%, there is a disparity in the quality of education between rural areas and urban areas of the island. Village schools only offer four years of primary education, leaving children to attend the district school for further education. District schools, however, tend to take only the most successful students, leaving many others without adequate educational opportunities. This then leads to few economic opportunities for rural students as they become young adults.
  8. COVID-19 is contributing to the increase in poverty rates. A measles outbreak in September 2019 impacted more than 5,700 people. The death rate stood at 1.46%, similar to the COVID-19 rates. While Samoan health authorities have recent experience dealing with the spread of disease, the island is still suffering from the pandemic. Samoa is facing a shortage of testing capacities, medical equipment and personal protective equipment. International travel and public transport restrictions have led to changes in social dynamics, suspended business operations and caused people to lose their jobs, especially common in tourism and in small businesses.
  9. A handful of organizations are addressing poverty in Samoa. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an organization helping rural people in Samoa. It has helped 7,300 households and has three multimillion projects. The organization created the Samoa Agriculture & Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project in October 2019. This project costs $30 million and will help to increase the incomes of rural families and improve infrastructure.

These nine facts about poverty in Samoa illuminate how poverty has impacted the livelihoods of its citizens. However, through the work of humanitarian organizations in the country, Samoa can address poverty and create a more economically and socially empowered population.

Philip Tang
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Samoa
Samoa consists of nine volcanic islands in the South Pacific with a population of about 196,000. The country’s healthcare system provides the Samoan people with access to routine medical treatment. However, the country relies on outside assistance to provide aid and education to supplement people’s knowledge regarding anything more than standard medical practices. In recent decades, healthcare in Samoa has focused primarily on combating the increase of Type 2 diabetes, but several factors have hindered these efforts.

Lifestyle and Eating Choices

After World War II, the Samoan population grew dramatically, and the Samoan people’s lifestyle and eating choices began to mimic a more Western way of life. Samoa now faces some of the highest diabetes and obesity rates in the world. The United Nations Development Program, which measures countries’ well-being based on income, education and health factors, ranked Samoa 111th out of 189 countries in its 2019 report. About 20% of the people fall below the poverty line.

Many Samoans feel the need to appear as well-off as their neighbors. Bringing processed foods to social and family gatherings conveys an image of wealth. Many Samoans choose these products over local foods like fresh fruit and fish that are healthier and more nutrient-dense. As a result, many Samoans struggle not only with obesity but also anemia because they do not receive enough iron. In a 2017 study, 16% of Samoan toddlers were overweight or obese. Being able to provide more expensive, imported foods can also denote status. As a result, more Samoans eat less-healthy, processed foods that increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Increased Need for Education 

A 2010 study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disorders found that many Samoans do not consider diabetes a major contributor to poor health. Because diseases like obesity, diabetes and hypertension are newer to their country, many Samoans do not recognize their severity. Educational efforts related to the study helped Samoans learn about the management and prevention of these diseases. Simple flip charts with large pictures and minimal text helped illustrate basic preventative measures. Although these measures were not especially thorough, they gave the people the first steps toward being more aware of the effects of their lifestyles and having better healthcare in Samoa.

In 2018, a small group of students from the Pacific Islands attending U.S. universities joined a Yale research project to learn more about solutions to these health problems so they could bring this knowledge back to their homes. With both local and overseas efforts, Samoans are becoming more educated about these diseases. This should, in turn, result in better healthcare in Samoa.

Lack of Local Health Professionals

Healthcare in Samoa is free, and several hospitals are available for people needing services. However, the country does not have enough medical professionals. From 1997- 2010, there were only 48 doctors per 100,000 people. Many of the specialists who primarily treat diabetes do not live in the country but travel there for a limited time. Although over 21% of adults have Type 2 diabetes, there is no established endocrinologist in the country. Healthcare staff have expressed a desire for more training for themselves, as well as outreach programs for their patients.

For decades, Samoans have been asking for the placement of full-time physicians in district hospitals. Just in 2020, full-time doctors were finally assigned to all of the hospitals in Samoa. Although this is a huge improvement, the community needs to continue to focus on adapting its social and cultural practices to prevent the disease from spreading. With limited healthcare staff available, an increase in knowledge and a sharing of that knowledge is the best bet for success.

Type 2 diabetes cases will continue to increase as long as Samoans make choices that increase their risk. Until they can get more support from medical professionals, the most effective way to combat diabetes seems to rely on increased education and understanding. Without adequate medical staff and proper education about nutrition, healthcare in Samoa will likely continue to focus on obesity and the diabetes epidemic.

– Tawney Smith
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Samoa
A leading cause of homelessness in Samoa is its vulnerability to natural disasters and deadly cyclones. These natural disasters wipe out many families’ homes, businesses and churches, consequently leaving them homeless. The rural communities face the bulk of the homelessness problem due to a lack of access to clean water, land to grow crops and job opportunities. Around 18.8% of Samoa’s population lives below the national poverty line and most of that group lives in rural communities where there is a lack of jobs. Instead, the villagers rely heavily on their land for survival.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Samoa

  1. Homelessness in Samoa is partially due to the fact that many people do not have access to agriculture. This is because natural disasters can cause devastating land destruction. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $20 million grant to the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project to help aid those in Samoa who suffer in the aftermath of natural disasters. The goal of this initiative is to rehabilitate communities and improve the construction of infrastructure in order to become more stable during natural disasters. Further, this collaboration will also seek to increase food productivity, nutrition and more consistent incomes for the Samoan people.
  2. Samoa is in close contact with countries that have a high income in labor markets, through permanent and temporary migration. Migration offers higher paying job opportunities which raise the amount of income in Samoan households. This, in turn, reduces the chances of homelessness in Samoa.
  3. Violence is prevalent in Samoan families and results in Samoa having one of the highest rates of family and sexual assaults in the world. In 2018, it became the first country in the Pacific Region to perform a National Public Inquiry into family violence — which unveiled that there is an “epidemic” of violence and sexual abuse. According to the report, 90% of respondents indicated some form of violence frequently transpiring at home. Nearly 60% of women experienced sexual abuse from a partner, 20% of women reported being raped and nearly 10% of women experienced incest. The high rate of family and sexual abuse is a determining factor for young girls in Samoa in running away from home — which in turn leads to homelessness.
  4. Many of the people in Samoa rely on agriculture as their main source of income. However, the catastrophe of natural disasters frequently destroys lands, which in turn takes away these Samoans’ means of survival. As of 2019, the unemployment rate in Samoa was 8.36%. The unemployment rate will only rise higher due to natural disasters’ effect on the land and the reduction in manufacturing work. These factors all contribute to the problem of homelessness in Samoa.
  5. One cause of homelessness is mental illness. According to the results from 2017 mental health data, 16.4% of homeless people in Samoa suffer from mental illness. Projects for Assistance in Transition for Homelessness (PATH) is an outreach program accessible in Samoa that offers help in many ways. Examples are diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and referrals to primary health care providers for those experiencing mental illness.

An NGO Making a Difference

Although Samoa faces adversities such as poverty which leads to homelessness — no reliable statistics show exactly how many people are homeless in Samoa. Luckily, many people tend to have continuous access to the sea for fish and land to grow crops, which is how they can make an income. With the intent of creating a more secure economy and land for the people of Samoa, the nongovernmental organization Civil Society Support Program (CSSP) is currently working to reduce homelessness. The program emerged because of the recognition that through effective and sustainable Civil Society programs, the quality of life for the people of Samoa can improve. The program’s goal is to provide support within Civil Society groups that will improve their communities and provide more promising economic opportunities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in SamoaWith a population smaller than 200,000, Samoa is a small island in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Samoans gained their independence from New Zealand and Germany in 1962, and now inhabit the westernmost islands within the archipelago. Although the United Nations has not identified Samoa as a “Least Developed Nation” since 2014, food insecurity and hunger remain in Samoa as lingering consequences of poverty, natural disasters and foreign dependency.

Lack of Resources

Samoa lacks arable land and agricultural resources; almost three decades of devastating natural disasters, including the 1990 Ofa and 1991 Val cyclones, have flooded and destroyed much of the once arable land in Samoa. Samoan hunger rates rise following such incidents. However, in 2015, despite a cyclone hitting that same year, Samoa was declared one of the 40 countries that have cut hunger rates in half within thirty years. As of 2016, 81.9% of Samoans lived in rural areas, yet only 2.8% of the country’s 1,097 square miles of land was arable. For Samoans, barren land has made agricultural innovation one of the only, yet most complex, options. In 1994, 22.1% of the Samoan GDP was derived from agricultural sales and other food production. By 2019, agricultural contribution to GDP fell to 9.8% due to a lack of farming land, knowledge and financial incentive.

Lack of Quality Food

Imported foods provide increased caloric quantity, not quality; from 1961 to 2007, the surge of imported foods made 900 extra calories available per person per day, largely curbing hunger in Samoa. Overall calorie availability nearly doubled during that time, yet dietary fat availability rose at a disproportionately fast rate of 73%. Imported foods, like meats and vegetable oils, rose from 10 calories to 117 per Samoan per day. Yet, the caloric intake of traditionally consumed and locally produced food like coconuts, starchy vegetables and fruits rose negligibly. Overconsumption of calories and high-fat foods are linked to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are on the rise in Samoa.

Obesity, diabetes and malnutrition coexist. In 2013, 45.8% of Samoans had diabetes, compared to 22.3% in 2002. In 2017, an estimated 89.1% of Samoan adults were overweight and 63.1% obese. Yet, an estimated 4% of children aged five or less experienced acute malnutrition or wasting, and 5% experienced stunting in that same year. Such rates are related to tariff liberalization, which continues to increase accessibility to non-perishable, mass-produced foods. Samoan’s overconsumption of processed macronutrients and sodium has led to obesity, masking the underlying micronutrient deficiencies and severe undernourishment.

Lack of Financial Equality

Education, income and access to healthy foods are interconnected. The percentage of Samoans living below the food poverty line had dropped from 10.6% of the population in 2008 to 4.3% in 2014; incidences of extreme hunger and poverty have steadily declined due to heightened caloric availability. However, Samoan financial inequality continues to climb as a result of the globalization that also has nearly eliminated extreme hunger. Samoa imports goods at a much higher rate than they export goods, leading to a lack of cash in the economy as well as a lack of job opportunities for those not directly connected to the global trade market.

Those living at or below the food poverty line typically lack formal degrees and belong to the 8.7% of Samoans who are unemployed. Cultural and historical circumstances have made imported food, regardless of their quality, more desirable than traditionally consumed foods. Wealthy and impoverished Samoans alike have developed an appetite for imported foods. The most vulnerable in the population, however, do not have a choice in what they consume.

Initiatives Tackling Food Security in Samoa

An alarming uptake in cases of overnutrition and resulting chronic diseases have occurred in Samoa. As a result, strides have been taken in addressing the root causes of food insecurity and the remaining hunger issues. An example of this is the recently launched 2019 Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project. This project aims to improve food production infrastructure and implement sustainable agricultural practices over the next several years. By improving data collection of food insecurity, chronic disease and poverty rates, this project will localize Samoan food production industries. The project’s emphasis is on creating a more interconnected food landscape; this will not only continue to eliminate hunger in Samoa but will also increase cash flow and decrease chronic disease rates in the country over time.

Until then, groups like Caritas will continue to serve as a lifeline. Caritas runs two programs that prepare Samoans for natural disasters by training locals and installing emergency supplies throughout the island for distribution. The group was able to help more than 1,476 Samoans in 2012 suffering from hunger after Cyclone Evan.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Sanitation in American SamoaAmerican Samoa refers to the seven South Pacific islands and atolls that have belonged to the U.S. since 1900. The U.S. Navy governed the islands until 1951 after the deed of cession in which the local chiefs of the Tutuila ceded the island. Today, American Samoa has an elected, nonvoting representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Like many island nations in the pacific, sanitation is one of the major challenges that American Samoa faces every year. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in American Samoa.

10 Facts about Sanitation in American Samoa

  1. Groundwater resources in American Samoa are limited. The islands that create American Samoa face the same challenges as any island nation. Underground water sources of many island nations are located near the salty seawater. In practice, this means that there’s only a limited amount of water people can draw from and limited space for people to drill wells underground. The fresh water that is accessible on the island is the source of nearly all public drinking water.
  2. Tap water is not drinkable in American Samoa. American Samoa has general access to improved drinking-water that is protected from outside contamination through pipes and sanitation processes. However, the water quality of local streams and rivers is still poor. Visitors are warned to drink bottled water when on the islands.
  3. Rapid urbanization contributed to water pollution. Previously, many villages in American Samoa relied on their local streams and rivers as a source of freshwater. Rapid urbanization, which happened from 1960 to 2004 in American Samoa contributed to the degradation of sanitation in American Samoa. The rapid urbanization and the lack of proper waste disposal polluted the natural water sources near cities. Unchecked development of the islands, such as deforestation to build plantations and housing, also alters the natural flow of local rivers and streams.
  4. Local pig farms contribute to water pollution. Pigs are an important part of culture and food in American Samoa. According to the EPA, there are 2,700 pig farms on Tutuila Island and many more on the six other islands of American Samoa. The majority of the pig farmers operate small-scale pig farms, consisting of anywhere from one to 20 pigs in their backyards. Many pig farmers simply use pressurized water to clean out their pig pens, which leads to polluted water seeping into local rivers and water sources.
  5. In July of 2003, American Samoa received full approval for the pollution control program. This approved program helped the American Samoa government to conduct facility inspections and improve environmental regulations. The American Samoa government worked with landowners to build walls and other structures to contain and direct runoff from pig waste. The program also moved more than 100 pigs away from streams and rivers. This resulted in a 91 percent decrease in average E. coli concentration in the streams.
  6. The Keep American Samoa Beautiful (KASB) program is reducing pollution. KASB encourages the general public to help improve sanitation in American Samoa. There are multiple programs that encourage the people of American Samoa to reduce littering. This kind of program is important for American Samoa since litter, garbage and pollution attract mosquitoes. Diseases such as dengue fever and elephantiasis are some of the diseases that constantly plague the people of American Samoa.
  7. In 2016, the United States EPA awarded $8.9 million to American Samoa. The government of American Samoa will use this awarded money to ensure access to safe drinking water and to improve the general sanitation of American Samoa. Some of the projects include connecting new wells to drinking water systems, a new water storage tank at Upper Pago Pago and a sewer line extension to Aua village.
  8. ASEPA faces a few challenges in future plans for the quality and supply of fresh water. Lack of data prior to 2000 poses a challenge for improving the quality of water and sanitation in American Samoa. First, the lack of data makes it difficult to identify historical trends. Second, it makes anticipating possible water quality problems in the future difficult. This is more important than ever because of climate change.
  9. Cyclones and hurricanes are a major threat to sanitation in American Samoa. American Samoa often faces tropical cyclones and hurricanes. In 2018, cyclone Gita left a trail of devastation in American Samoa. Cyclones can be a major source of pollution in local water supplies for a variety of reasons. The rain from hurricanes and cyclones often contains undrinkable salt water. Flooding caused by events can pick up chemicals and other hazards that can contaminate the local water sources.
  10. The tuna industry is contributing to water pollution. American Samoa is asking tuna cannery industries in American Samoa to contribute to conserving waterTuna canneries are one of the biggest industries in American Samoa. As a result, there were elevated phosphorous levels in local watersheds. The Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program recommends the tuna canning industries monitor and improve water usage.

These 10 facts about sanitation in American Samoa reveal many challenges. However, it is clear that there are efforts to further improve the conditions in American Samoa. The U.S. government awarding funds for projects that improve water quality. Furthermore, the American Samoa government is also collecting environmental data to prepare themselves for potential challenges in the future. With these improvements, a cleaner American Samoa awaits for all of its inhabitants.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Samoan fishing industry

Samoa is a small island that relies heavily on two main exports, coconut products and fish. Although the Samoan economy grew significantly from diverse agriculture products such as taro, its current focus shifted to fishing industry development. Since the majority of poor Samoans work within the fishing and agriculture industries, improving the fishing industry can help the livelihoods of poor Samoans. The Samoan government and the World Bank are seeing progress in the growing Samoan fishing industry. The poverty rate decreased from 26.9 percent in 2008 to 18.8 percent in 2013, in part due to investment in underappreciated industries, such as the fishing industry.

Current Aquaculture Status

The Strategy for Development of Samoa (SDS) views aquaculture as an important pre-requisite to effective fish farming. Since 2007, Tilapia culture in earthen ponds has been successful but there are several constraints to further development in the Samoan fishing industry. A lack of feeds, technology, skills and limited access to markets impedes faster development. Despite the low technology, aquaculture is viewed as a practical means of increasing fisheries production, providing an additional source of food to those in poverty and generating income to local communities.

Four Initiatives

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, created four main goals in 2017 to boost the fisheries sector. The four initiatives are Samoa’s Tuna Management and Development Plan 2017-2021, the revival of the Fish Aggregating Devices (F.A.Ds) Project, repair work on research vessel F.V. Ulimasao and delivery of 20 tablets to monitor deployed F.A.Ds. The 20 tablets are used to observe and assess the impact of the F.A.Ds on food security and the livelihoods of Samoans.

The F.V. Ulimasou research vessel was repaired through financial assistance from the World Bank. The vessel is used to train fishery personnel and test new technology and fishing gear. About 30 percent of exports derive from the fishing sector and over 90 percent of exported fish is tuna. For this reason, the minister targets the growing industry in order to further develop the economy and the Samoan fishing industry.

Assistance from the World Bank

Thousands of Samoan families and local producers plan to benefit from a $20 million grant from the World Bank. The Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project was created in 2019 and will include construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, such as cold storage at fish markets. Samoa is frequently affected by hurricanes and part of the grant is directed towards constructing disaster-resilient fishery buildings.

The grant will also help grow Samoa’s capacity to export fish and fish products. Hon. Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said, “We look forward to working with the World Bank to achieve our goal of increased food, improved nutrition and more secure incomes for Samoans.” At least 30 percent of matching grants will go towards female farmers and fishers.

Future Outlooks

The poverty rate has continually declined thanks to efforts by the Samoan government, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and various organizations. The Asian Development Bank supported Samoa since 1966 and committed $190 million in loans, $134 million in grants and $33 million in technical assistance in the small island country. ADB’s future assistance to Samoa will focus on energy investment, disaster-resilient roads, upgraded port facilities and job creation. With continued efforts from external organizations, the livelihood of Samoans will improve.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Projects Reducing Poverty in Samoa

A little more than 18 percent of the Samoan population lives below the national poverty line. However, poverty in this nation is relative, with many suffering from the poverty of opportunity. Those living in rural areas are less likely to have access to education, clean water and health care. This lack of resources heavily contributes to poverty in Samoa. However, the country has made significant strides in the past decade. The poverty rate continues to fall from a high of 26.9 percent in 2008 with the help of projects that reduce poverty in Samoa.

3 Projects That Reduce Poverty In Samoa

  1. Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship
    The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) helped launch a five-year effort to support the growth of women entrepreneurs. This strategy is set to aid poverty reduction, social well-being and sustainable economic growth. Currently, an estimated 24 percent of women in Samoa are involved in entrepreneurial activities.Yet, female entrepreneurs still face many obstacles to starting and operating their businesses. Access to finance is limited, and many women lack knowledge of the registration and tax procedures necessary to start or formalize their business. Identifying and overcoming these barriers will be vital to catalyzing women’s entrepreneurship in the country.
  2. Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES)
    Beyond the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Islands, these countries are battling their fair share of economic and environmental issues, many of which are directly related to their status as Small Island Developing States (SIDS). SIDS are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and landslides. With most of the population and assets concentrated along the coastline, any one of those events can threaten both human lives and fragile economies.Climate change is exacerbating the situation, bringing more frequent and intense weather events, higher temperatures and rising sea levels. Pacific Island Forum Leaders have repeatedly identified climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.Samoa is one of 15 pacific island countries that are a part of this project under the Intra-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Program. The group aims to strengthen adaptation and mitigation measures at the national and regional level and support partner countries in climate negotiations.Additionally, the project efforts will improve information sharing and develop national capacity to address climate change and build disaster resilience through enhanced training, studies and research opportunities. Finally, PACRES will strengthen networks, share knowledge and engage the private sector to address climate change and build disaster resilience.
  3. Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project
    Across the Pacific, people’s diets have changed dramatically over recent years. Fast food, flour and fizzy drinks are common on restaurant tables and supermarket shelves. Corned beef, imported cereals and fatty meat imports have become staple parts of the local diet.Aside from significant public health concerns, high dependence on food imports can come at a heavy expense, particularly given the distance of pacific island countries from larger markets. High dependence on global commodity markets to meet basic needs also leaves people vulnerable when global prices spike.But in Samoa, there are signs that things may slowly be changing. More restaurants in Apia—one of Samoa’s major cities—seem to be taking pride in selling traditional Samoan cuisine made from local produce. A recent recipe book, produced at the request of the Prime Minister, features an array of healthy Samoan dishes, while health promotion efforts look to inspire a growing interest in the origins of the food on people’s plates.Sponsored by the World Bank Group, the Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project is working with farmers not only to increase their income but also to ensure that local produce captures a growing share of the domestic food market.It seems that the market is ripe for high-quality local food that is distinctly Samoan. With the right support, and with partners such as the Small Business Enterprise Centre and the Development Bank of Samoa, the project aims to ensure farmers can take advantage of open opportunities to connect with buyers, improve the value of their goods; and increase the market for fresh, healthy and ultimately local produce.

Together these projects that reduce poverty in Samoa are good for the economy and ultimately good for Samoa and could set an important precedent for greater self-sufficiency in Pacific island countries.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Pixabay

Everything You Need to Know About Girls' Education in Samoa and Principe

Girls’ education is an important facet of an impoverished country. An educated female population lowers birth rates, improves children’s well being, grows the size of the country’s workforce and increases household incomes. This impact holds true in the small island countries of Samoa and Principe. While both countries are making improvements, there are still obstacles that face girls’ education in Samoa and Principe.

Statistics of Girls’ Education

According to UNICEF data, a majority of females between the ages of 15 and 24 in Samoa and Principe read. In Samoa, the literacy rate for young females is 99 percent. Comparatively, the rate of literate females in Principe is 77 percent.

While the majority of females attend primary school in Samoa, the case is not the same for secondary school. Eighty-nine percent of Samoan females enrolled attend primary school, which is roughly 1 percent higher than male attendance. In secondary school, only 69 percent of girls enrolled attend class. In addition, the gap between male and female participation grows; girls’ attendance in secondary school is 19 percent higher than boys.

In Principe, a drop off in secondary attendance for girls is also seen. However, it is much more dramatic. Roughly 85 percent of females enrolled in primary school attend a school which is at parity with the male population. In secondary school, female attendance drops to 30 percent while male enrollment drops to 29 percent.

Child Marriage

There are many reasons that girls do not seek education beyond primary school. One of these is child marriage, which affects both Samoa and Principe. In Samoa, seven percent of adolescent females are married, and in Principe, almost 20 percent of adolescent females are married. Child marriage ends a girl’s education since she is expected to take care of the household. Once a girl gives birth, the responsibility of a child makes it even more difficult for her to return to school.

Poverty

The largest obstacle to girls’ education in Samoa and Principe is poverty. In Samoa, the per capita income has risen to 5,038 talas or roughly $2,000, meaning the country has moved out of the least developed country category. However, the country’s infrastructure and the economy are vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2009, Samoa was hit by a tsunami that affected its economy and destroyed four primary schools and one secondary school, leaving over 1,000 children without a classroom.

Poverty poses a larger problem for girls’ education in Principe. Roughly 29 percent of the country’s population is reported to live in extreme poverty. In Principe, there is a severe lack of opportunity for its people, which discourages education. In 2015, the country’s human development index was .574, which placed it 142 out of 188 countries. In addition, the unemployment rate was roughly 13 percent.

Geography

Geography also affects girls’ education in Principe. Girls who live in urban areas are more likely to go to secondary school than girls who live in rural areas. Roughly 19 percent of girls who live in urban areas attend secondary school. Comparatively about 7 percent of girls who live in rural areas attend secondary school.

Improving Girls’ Education

Despite roadblocks facing girls’ education in Samoa and Principe, there are several organizations working in both countries to help improve conditions, including the World Bank. In Principe, the World Bank Group approved the Quality Education for All project. The goal of this million dollar project is to improve the quality of education that students receive. Since the project was approved in 2014, the number of qualified primary teachers has risen from 0 to 372. In addition, 50 percent of female students in primary school have benefited from the program.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is another group aimed at improving girls education in Samoa. After the tsunami in 2009, UNICEF and the Samoan Ministry of Education worked to move displaced children to host schools. UNICEF provided tents to the host schools to use as classrooms since the schools were receiving an influx of new children. Teachers also received psycho-social training from UNICEF to help students recover from any trauma that was a result of the tsunami.

The Government of Samoa has also taken action to improve girls’ education. In 2015, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi opened National Literacy Week, which encourages parents to read to their children and for children to take their education seriously. The week also includes reading and writing competitions and a book fair. Students from all over Samoa represent their schools in four zones and compete against each other in order to promote reading inside and outside the classroom.

Girls’ education in Samoa and Principe faces many challenges, including child marriage and poverty. However, a majority of females in both countries are literate and attend primary school. There are also several organizations in both countries working to improve the quality of education girls receive and that natural disasters do not get in the way of girls attending school. Organizations like UNICEF and the World bank give girls in Samoa and Principe hope for a brighter future.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Samoa aid
A common misconception suggests that the United States has nothing to gain from providing aid to other countries. Some people might support the international affairs budget out of a desire to help save humanity, but there is more to providing foreign aid than that. For example, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Samoa when it helps increase exports and prevents damage to the island caused by natural disasters. The funding that goes towards programs overseas is not a one-time donation. Samoa will be given the tools necessary to build a self-reliable community and in turn, Samoa’s improved contribution to the global market promotes economic growth in the United States, too.

Samoa has repeatedly been victim to natural disasters that have stunted its economic growth. Tsunamis can destroy crops and natural resources, negatively impacting Samoa’s involvement with foreign trade. Since it is part of the Asia Pacific region, which has experienced significant economic growth, the destruction of Samoa’s natural resources interferes with export shipments going to the United States.

An estimated $180 billion in damages and lost resources occurs every year due to natural disasters. Within the past 20 years, $93.2 billion was spent on relief while only $13.5 billion was put towards disaster prevention. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Samoa by minimizing damage to the environment and saving potential exports.

To combat tsunamis and the rising sea levels, USAID encourages communication among countries in the Asia Pacific region with the use of the Pacific Disaster Center’s warning system. It compiles information from weather radars to notify Samoa when storms are headed in its direction. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community helps protect agriculture, while USAID lets stakeholders know when there is a particularly strong harvest.

In recent years, the Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS) announced plans to help preserve natural resources and vulnerable species. This includes replanting trees that bear fruit and restoring marine ecosystems. So far, USAID has dedicated $96 million to the entire Asia Pacific region.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Samoa because it depends on Samoa’s agricultural and fishing industries. These are also two of the largest sources of income within Samoa. When help focuses on protecting crops and fisheries, Samoa increases its ability to participate in the global market.

Foodstuffs make up 40 percent of what the U.S. imports from Samoa, and nearly a quarter comes from its fish. In total, $6.76 million worth of product is sent to the United States. In addition to helping Samoa’s environmental plans, the SDS seeks to grow the country’s economic involvement through boosting productivity in the business sector. This will have a positive impact on trading with the United States.

Many other goals outlined in the SDS are designed to help Samoa and the countries that do business with it. Farmers are receiving materials to improve their harvests and hopefully reach a 20 percent increase in crops grown within Samoa.

Higher employment rates in the businesses that produce exports are predicted to help the agricultural and fishing industries. Also, financial services are looking to improve the performance of small business owners. Samoa can maximize the number of resources saved from natural disasters when all companies follow the correct protocol in the event of an emergency.

Foreign aid is an investment. The United States’ efforts to promote a thriving economy in Samoa will be returned in the form of better trade opportunities. Natural disasters and low production rates affect more than just Samoa. Thus, it is in the interest of other countries, such as the United States, to provide foreign aid to Samoa.

Sabrina Dubbert

Photo: Flickr