Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

2. Policies Relating to Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Natural Resource Management and Rural Enterprise Development

This section discusses current policies related to agriculture, fisheries, forestry, natural resource management and rural enterprise development. In order to place these policies in context, some brief background information is also presented.

2.1 Fiji

Policies relating to economic and social development in Fiji were formulated in the early 1990s (Government of the Republic of Fiji, 1993) and remain current after review in 1995 (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995). The overall aims are accelerated economic growth through private sector initiatives with an emphasis on exports. The private sector, operating in the open market, is recognised as providing the essential driving force of the economy, employment, rising real incomes and revenue.

Women have been entering the labour force in increasing numbers in line with the rapid expansion of the manufacturing sector, in particular, the garment export industry. In addition, an increasing number of women are self-employed in income-generating activities such as farming, market-gardening, fishing and reef-gleaning, craft production, retail outlets and food vending. Many of these women are self-made, having received no capital or training assistance. Policies are intended to involve women as equal partners in development, to train women to improve their employment opportunities, to strengthen information on gender and co-ordination of activities, and to examine legislation with respect to gender (Government of Fiji, 1993). Gender issues in agriculture have recently been addressed by the UNIFEM/AusAID/UNDP Mainstreaming Project2. Gender sensitisation training has been carried out and gender is now incorporated into mainstream policies and activities.

2.1.1 Agriculture

In the early 1990s in Fiji, agriculture contributed about a fifth of GDP and almost half of total employment (women's informal sector employment is under reported). Sugar is the major agricultural export crop, accounting for some 40 percent of total exports in the early 1990s and employing almost exclusively men. Copra is also important. More recently introduced crops have included ginger, cocoa and rice. Dalo, duruka and yaqona are also exported. Beef, dairy, poultry and pork production meet most of the needs of the local market.

The 1993 Policy3 (Government of Fiji, 1993) aimed to guide the agricultural sector towards a more competitive and market oriented approach to production, and to use this approach in adapting to market changes. Such market changes include: deregulation; export promotion; improved productivity and cost effectiveness; private sector investment; reorientation towards financial performance and price effectiveness; and quality and privatisation. The Government continues to provide essential support services, such as extension, research, marketing, planning, regulatory and infrastructure development, and to enforce measures for sustainability.

Under the current refocusing, this policy continues to pursue a corporate thrust, promoting increased co-operation with the private sector and export growth. A Corporate Plan (1997-2000) has been submitted to the Government for approval. Export-led policy aims to provide income-generating opportunities and, at the same time, improve food accessibility and affordability through consistency and quality of supply. It promotes traditional crops and seeks to identify niche markets (in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan) for crops such as fresh mango, pawpaw, taro and traditional vegetables. The European market is an important market for processed fruit puree. The emphasis on an expanded export market is expected to generate a surplus for the domestic market. The surplus for the domestic market is intended to absorb lower quality produce and provide economic viability. Most of the produce exported is grown by smallholders with 1-10 acres of land. There is a mix of smallholdings and larger mechanised farms, always with mixed cropping.

Constraints to agricultural development include: inadequate extension services; land tenure; water resources; insufficient appropriate technologies; irregularity of supply; undeveloped local and export markets; and a lack of many of the facilities essential for efficient production including infrastructure, capital, cold-storage and freezing capacity (for marine produce), fuel supplies for fishing boats, marketing facilities, quality control, and adequate air freight capacity (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995).

2.1.2 Fisheries

Although the fisheries sector contributes only 1.6 percent of GDP, it has important potential. Subsistence fisheries are important in themselves and as a source of income. Beche-de-mer are processed and dried. Trochus shells are collected for the pearl button industry. Women are involved in subsistence fisheries related to gathering from the reef. Women are also successfully involved in freshwater mussel fisheries. A fish cannery employs rural women.

The 1993 Policy aims to: expand tuna and deep-sea fisheries; improve efficiency and quality in small-scale commercial fisheries; assist rural fishermen in the transition from subsistence to small-scale commercial fishing; develop aquaculture (e.g. giant clam, seaweed, prawn and crab); improve quality and added value of exports; regulate for optimum utilisation and sustainability; and improve business management and fish handling and processing. At present, however, there is no strategy for inshore fisheries and no assessment of stock levels.

2.1.3 Forestry

The forestry sector contributed 1.9 percent of GDP in 1994 (AusAID, 1995). Forestry provides rural income through plantation ownership and timber processing. Forest exports are an important component of total exports. Women are involved in community forestry. In response to a request from women, the Forestry Department began to promote the identification and awareness of traditional medicinal plants. A non-governmental organization (NGO), Wainimate, also promotes traditional medicinal plants.

The 1993 Policy aims to: encourage private sector involvement; ensure landowner participation; strengthen training; prepare a forest inventory; promote the 1990 logging code; promote conservation, protection, rehabilitation and reserves; and encourage forest development so as to generate employment and export income.

2.1.4 Natural Resource Management

The 1993 Policy seeks to ensure sustainable development through protection of the environment against activities that threaten long-term productive potential. This includes sustainable use of renewable resources, integrating environmental management in planning and development, strengthening institutional capacity for sound environmental management, environmental impact studies for new projects, and prioritising environmental expenditure according to its contribution to socio-economic development. Conservation and protection measures are to include community education. In addition, the active participation of rural people is to be encouraged in precautionary environment conservation and management measures.

2.1.5 Rural Development

Some two-thirds of Fiji's population is rural (Government of Fiji, 1986 Census). In line with national development policies, the private sector is seen as the key to rural development through employment creation and the retention of young people in rural areas. The main areas identified for development are agriculture (including timber) and tourism. Policies and strategies for rural development are intended to: improve the effectiveness of local administration; promote private investment; provide supporting infrastructure for private commercial development; maintain effective social services, particularly health, education and basic need services; develop appropriate transport systems; and encourage people's participation, particularly through NGOs (Government of Fiji, 1993). The 1995 review of policy (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995) further emphasised small-scale agriculture and tourism as the key strategic sectors for development.

While tourism is an important component of development, the rural population has not benefited as much as possible as a result of inadequately developed linkages to the rural economy. Proposed initiatives thus aim to strengthen these linkages through the development of handicrafts, ecotourism and small-scale agriculture. Women's role in handicraft production has been recognised in the proposed initiative to develop programmes for women's clubs to produce craft work for sale in tourist outlets (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995). Other constraints to the development of tourism include: a lack of Government commitment, and a consequent lack of funding; insufficient training facilities; inadequate hotel room and airline capacity; high costs; and land tenure (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995).

Human resource constraints also exist in that the market economy cuts across traditional indigenous modes of production. Training in business is therefore seen as an essential part of the development of the rural private sector. Since the majority of the rural population is of Fijian ethnicity, this training has concentrated on the enhancement of indigenous Fijians' participation in business. The recent review of policy in this area (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995) identified three levels for business development: i) corporate; ii) small-medium enterprise; and iii) income generation. At the small-medium enterprise level, the review noted that progress had been extremely slow. However, most Fijians are involved at the income generation level. The review also noted that the policy of deregulation runs contrary to the enhancement of indigenous Fijians' participation in business since their infant businesses cannot compete with well established larger businesses. Support through advisory and training services is therefore required, and various protectionist measures and tax incentives have also been proposed (Fiji Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, 1995).

2.2 Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for 23 percent of GDP in 1995, with 10 percent coming from subsistence agriculture and 13 percent from commercial farms and plantations (FAO, 1997). Agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for 65 percent of exports in 1995 (ibid.). Livestock production makes a significant contribution to GDP and beef production is well established with exports to Japan and other Pacific Island countries. Despite vast reserves, fisheries production is small. Forestry accounted for some 4 percent of GDP in 1995, this being reduced from early 1990 levels due to concerns about conservation (ibid.).

The population of Vanuatu is overwhelmingly rural; 82 percent of the population was classified as rural by the 1989 census (SPC/UNDP, 1991). Rural households are characterised by a semi-subsistence lifestyle. Traditionally women have been responsible for food cropping and marketing while men are involved mainly in cash crop production. Men also assist with the heavier land-clearing work for food production. On average, women spend 18 percent of their time on food production and marketing and a further 5 percent of their time on cash cropping (Agricultural Census, 1983-84 quoted in UNICEF/Government of Vanuatu, 1991). Yet very little agricultural extension assistance is available for women.

Until very recently, development policy in Vanuatu was formulated in five-yearly development plans, the most recent of which is the Third National Development Plan 1992-1996 (Vanuatu National Planning and Statistics Office, 1992). A shorter planning timeframe of three years has now been adopted, and policies for 1997-1999 are currently being incorporated into a Comprehensive Reform Programme with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank.

Traditionally women's involvement in planning and decision making has been minimal. Even today, many national and community issues are still addressed only by men. These include issues such as land use and community water supplies which are of vital concern to women given their role in agriculture and food production.

The overall development goal for women is the realisation of their full potential as equal partners and beneficiaries in development processes and the promotion of their full and equal participation in local, national and international affairs. Relevant areas of emphasis include: incorporation of women's issues in mainstream development; recognition of the importance of the empowerment of women as a cornerstone to sustainable development; and recognition of the strategic role of women as agents and beneficiaries of development and in the alleviation of poverty (Vanuatu Department of Women's Affairs, 1995).

2.2.1 Agriculture

Smallholder producers in Vanuatu accounted for approximately 80 percent of agricultural production in 1994 (Government of Vanuatu, 1994). The main subsistence crops grown are sweet potato, yams, taro, bananas and manioc. The main cash crops are copra and cocoa, together with coffee, kava, pumpkin, pepper, vanilla, groundnut and potato.

Emphasis in the past on cash crops, coupled with a lack of foresight, has resulted in a shortage of traditional materials. At the same time, growth in the tourism industry has increased demand for traditional materials including palms for thatched roofing, pandanus for handicrafts, bananas and pawpaw. Yet none of these are planted in sufficient quantities. Although sandalwood was sold for a high price in previous decades, it has not been replanted. Similarly, kava consumption has outstripped supply. Given the potential for traditional crop development, smallholders are now being advised to increase planting of all such crops.

Vanuatu is unable to export surplus agricultural production due to a lack of proper quarantine legislation (a Bill seeking to address this issue is currently before Parliament). The country has the potential, at both the national and household level, to produce significantly more than current production levels. In general, however, households have fixed cash needs which they meet but do not go beyond. Potential therefore exists to expand household agricultural production as a means to increase household food security and generate increased incomes.

The two key objectives under the Third National Development Plan 1992-1996 (DP3) are to: i) expand the agricultural and natural resources sector in a sustainable manner as an economic sector providing, at the national level, domestic employment, income generating opportunities, domestic food security and export revenue; and ii) concentrate and prioritise the provision of sustainable and appropriate assistance to smallholder farmers and fisherfolk.

The specific policy objectives of DP3 in relation to agricultural production and national food security include the development of subsistence farming and gardening, with a special emphasis on enhancing women's agricultural activities and welfare, diversification of cash crops particularly coconut, and improved market development for export.

The overall thrust of the new Comprehensive Reform Programme for agriculture is one of increased smallholder commercialisation. Greater emphasis is to be given to agro-industries for the promotion of small-scale export enterprises and selected import-substitution industries, particularly food-processing. In the area of agricultural exports, policy aims to provide high-quality, low-cost efficient services to facilitate growth, including improved wharf operations, upgraded quarantine procedures and the introduction of user-pays systems for inspections. Competition in copra and cocoa marketing is also being introduced.

In the livestock sector, beef plays an important role with more and more land being converted from forest to grazing. Government policy seeks to encourage low-cost, high-quality beef production for both local and export markets, through measures such as the encouragement of competition in processing, the privatisation of public shares in abattoirs, and the regularisation of industry fees.

Given the low status of women in Vanuatu's culture, women's role in agriculture is not recognised in many policies, including delivery of extension services. In this context, farming systems have not been improved. Indeed, they are not seen to be in need of improvement. For example, no assistance has been given to women in terms of appropriate technology (such as hoes for weeding). Additionally, women often walk for an hour, carrying everything by hand, to reach their gardens despite the obvious inefficiencies. Extension officers are mostly male4 and tend to address the chief and/or mostly male farmers who do not generally pass on knowledge to women. Until recently, extension services addressed the needs of cash crop producers, and the more recent emphasis on food production has met with resistance to change. Moreover, efforts to provide extension services to women through the employment of 6 female extension officers has met with resistance from women farmers who could not understand the issues being raised and were unwilling to accept advice from young women. More recently, however, women farmers have come to recognise their problems and to seek help from extension services on issues such as limited land availability, soil fertility, diversification of vegetables, etc. Assistance is also provided to women in the areas of food preparation, food preservation and nutrition.

Agriculture and fishing is one of the "critical areas of concern" identified in the Women's National Plan of Action (Vanuatu Department of Women's Affairs, 1995). The strategic objective in this area is "to recognise, promote and support women's participation in agriculture and fishing, both paid and unpaid activities - recognising women's role in food security". The Action Plan calls for: the collection of data on women's activities, including intrahousehold studies on the working of the family unit; appropriate agricultural support systems, extension and training for women; and recognition in agricultural planning systems of the wide range of agricultural activities necessary for family food security (including nutrition), cash cropping and the production of handicrafts.

2.2.2 Fisheries

Fisheries remain a relatively underdeveloped sector of the Vanuatu economy even though marine resources are vast. A report on the needs and role of women in fisheries in Vanuatu is currently under preparation (FAO). Government policy aims to encourage and guide the private sector to exploit marine resources in a sustainable way. Strategies address management, fish licensing, etc. and do not refer explicitly to reef or subsistence fishing activities. Women are involved in the harvesting of reef produce for subsistence and cash. Income is also obtained from the sale of shells and shell jewellery.

2.2.3 Forestry

Government policy relating to forestry is concerned with plantations for logging, including local supply plantations. It aims to create a secure environment for forest utilisation, harvesting and re-establishment with the intention of attracting landowner and private investment. Forest harvest licensing is to be limited to sustainable levels.

Reforestation remains an outstanding issue. Pressures for land impede both natural regeneration and plantation redevelopment. These pressures are the result of increased needs for grazing and planting of cash crops and, in a few areas, the result of population growth. Subsistence agriculture also results in the destruction of primary and secondary forest. On one island at least (Pentecost), substantial areas of forest have been cleared for cash crops (such as kava which requires 5-7 years before harvesting). One of the consequences of forest clearing is the drying up of water supplies during drier weather. The task of carrying water from alternative sources falls largely on women. A second consequence is the lack of firewood, and women now have to walk substantial distances to gather firewood.

2.2.4 Natural Resource Management

Although Vanuatu's natural resource management policy is contained in the National Conservation Strategy (Government of Vanuatu, 1993), comprehensive environmental legislation has yet to be put in place. The majority of land and sea resources are under customary control. The rights and duties of custom owners are enshrined in Vanuatu's constitution. The constitution states that "every person has a fundamental duty to himself and his descendants and to others to protect Vanuatu and to safeguard the national wealth, resource and environment in the interests of the present and of future generations". The role of Government is thus to educate communities in sustainable land and marine use practices. Several communities have taken steps to make their land protected areas whilst others are developing ecotourism and environmentally friendly income-generation programmes.

The environment is another of the "critical areas of concern" identified in the Women's National Plan of Action (Vanuatu Department of Women's Affairs, 1995). This Plan of Action calls for: recognition of, and an increase in, women's participation in environmental management and development; increased awareness of, and action in, defence of the environment; and the formulation of policies to address the question of the environmental effects of military-related and mining activities.

2.2.5 Rural Development

The main themes of rural development policies concern increased economic self-reliance, improvement in the quality of rural and urban life, and more equitable development between regions and provinces. Sustainability is emphasised, based on community participation and a sense of ownership, together with environmental and gender sensitisation and their integration in mainstream development.

The principal aim of the private sector development strategy is to improve investment, and thereby increase efficiency and productivity. The development of the private sector is, however, seen as retaining its customary communal character rather than encouraging individualism. The customary system and its subsistence mode of production is important in ensuring food and livelihood security. One policy objective is to expand on-farm and non-farm earning opportunities through the development of the agricultural and agro-industrial sector.

Small-scale food processing is being encouraged by the Department of Primary Industries through its research and demonstration Food Processing Centre. At present only root crops are being processed (into biscuits, chips and powder) but plans are underway to extend coverage to fruits, etc. Other rural industries under consideration include: i) processing of pumpkin into powder for export as an alternative to exporting fresh pumpkin5; ii) yam powder production for export; and iii) fish canning as an alternative to fresh fish exports which involve significant handling problems.

A recent initiative is to find employment for people within their own communities. For example, unemployed urban women are being encouraged to procure handicraft materials from their home communities for weaving in their urban homes. Urban dwellers are encouraged to grow food on whatever land they have available. In rural areas, families are being encouraged to employ local unemployed persons for a few hours.

The National Plan of Action for Women identifies poverty as a "critical area of concern" for women. According to this document, as the traditional and cultural means of generating income disintegrate, women have come to bear the brunt of the burden in terms of managing food security, child-rearing, family health and household management. At the same time, customary mechanisms of support are rapidly losing their effectiveness given the changing social and economic conditions. The strategic objective is thus to recognise the increasing incidence of poverty in the country, particularly as it relates to female-headed households, and to promote means to address the root causes of this growing problem. In particular, the action plan calls for programmes to: help reduce the burden of women's multiple roles; promote equitable employment for both women and men; provide opportunities for women and men to actively pursue income-generating activities in their own communities; research and assess the poverty level and develop appropriate indicators.

The Vanuatu Rural Development and Training Centres' Association (VRDTCA) is an NGO providing skills training to trainees, and training of trainers courses. The aim is to enhance the provision of appropriate vocational education and skills training for young men and women and their communities without (gender) discrimination. Areas covered include small business management, environment and health, and a curriculum on agriculture is currently being developed. The participation of women is not high and efforts are being made to encourage more women to take advantage of the training on offer and to become involved in management committees. This includes formulation of a gender policy which aims to provide equal access to all training facilities, scholarships, materials, information and instructions from male and female trainers, as well as gender-unbiased management structures.

2.3 Samoa

The Samoan economy is predominantly agricultural with more than 70 percent of the economically active population employed in agriculture, fisheries and forestry (1991 Census). Recent years have been characterised by low productivity, low growth, balance of payments deficits, distortional policies and a dominant public sector, together with a heavy reliance on remittances and foreign aid. In 1995 agricultural exports accounted for 92 percent of all export earnings, though the sector's contribution to GDP fell from 45 percent in 1990 to 37 percent in 1995. In 1996-97, only 6 percent of public investment went to the agriculture sector.

The main thrust of the current economic policy is a continuation of the commitment during 1991-95 to promote the private sector as the engine of economic growth (Government of Samoa, 1996). This includes creation of a less regulated economic environment, continuing reform of the fiscal system (which will increasingly incorporate incentives to investment without the need for discretionary intervention); the sale of shares in state-owned enterprises (primarily to citizens), and determined efforts to make land more easily available for productive use. The productivity of land, labour and capital is to be increased whilst diversifying agriculture and rural economic activity. The public sector is to withdraw from many of its current services. Efforts to promote manufacturing are to concentrate on export-oriented activities.

2.3.1 Agriculture

The main staple food crops in Samoa are giant taro (ta'amu), yam, coconut, banana and breadfruit. Taro was a staple and export crop until taro leaf blight devastated the crop in 1993/4. Recent production has also been affected by drought and cyclones. Beef, pork, chicken and eggs are also produced. Small-scale production of fruit and vegetables includes lau pele (a leafy vegetable), chinese and head cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, eggplant, sweetcorn, green pepper, and peanuts. Sweet potato is also grown but is not popular amongst Samoans. Most village households also keep livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, horses and goats.

Plantation cropping of coconut and cocoa exists side by side with subsistence agriculture, and the two are often intercropped. Commercial agricultural production (mainly coconut, cocoa and taro) amounted to 14 percent of GDP in 1994, though the contribution of taro had already declined. Land previously used for commercial taro production is now increasingly used for cattle.

At present, there is no comprehensive agricultural policy in Samoa. There are however various task forces including those for extension, research, marketing and farming systems (including women in agriculture). It is recognised that improved productivity in the traditional sector depends on effective extension and research services. Research and extension services are therefore to focus on improved farming systems and planting materials with an emphasis on mixed cropping, the promotion of new tree crops, cyclone resistance, and potential for processing and export. The distribution of seeds is a particular area in need of improvement. Livestock improvement will be restricted to cattle. Since the commercial farmer is seen as the chief source of dynamism, farmers are to be trained in marketing and business.

The public sector role is being restricted to credit and land. Costs of agricultural materials and services will increasingly be recovered from users and agricultural subsidies and other support measures are to be phased out within a few years. Similarly, Government will withdraw from marketing (Government of Samoa, 1996).

Women's involvement in agriculture has been viewed largely from the home economics perspective rather than the producer perspective. When the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MWA) was established in 1990, the home economics section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery and Meteorology (MAFFM) was transferred to the MWA. Women are generally involved in home garden production, whilst men cultivate land further afield. The MWA promotes the production of (mainly) introduced vegetables and nutrition retaining cooking methods. A major constraint has been the supply of seeds. Women grow traditional subsistence crops and, as heads of households, benefit from extension services. Women also grow pandanus and mulberry for handicrafts, an important part of Samoan culture and income generation, but extension services do not usually extend to this area. Women's groups are now becoming interested in dairy farming as a means to improve nutrition especially among children. Women's Committees, one of three traditional groups in the community (the others being the matai or chiefs and the aumaga or untitled men), are also involved in agricultural development.

The draft Policy for Women in Agriculture, developed as part of the farming systems policy, aims to establish policy guidelines to promote women's involvement in agriculture at all levels. Objectives for women in agriculture address extension services, training and public awareness. In extension, the aim is to improve women's involvement in agriculture through more frequent contact and a greater focus on women's agricultural activities and their importance in agricultural development. In particular, strategies cover the need for: an increased number of women in MAFFM especially among extension workers; gender training of extension workers; village nomination of women to liaise with extension workers; women's committees to assist extension workers; increased visits by extension workers to women; and gender sensitive extension material. In the area of training, improved management ability is to be achieved through increased awareness of the factors contributing to successful farming. Strategies include training for motivators of women's groups, establishment of resource centres for women in agriculture, planning village workshops on agriculture for women, preparation of training materials featuring successful women producers, and monitoring and evaluation of women in agriculture projects. In terms of raising public awareness, the objectives aim to improve public acceptance of women in agriculture as successful farmers, and to improve recognition of women and their significant contribution to national development. This is to be achieved through a community awareness programme focusing on women in agriculture.

2.3.2 Fisheries

Fisheries contribute only 2 percent to GDP with three-quarters of the total catch for subsistence consumption (Government of Samoa, 1996). Although the subsistence fish catch has been in decline for many years, it is still four times as large as the commercial catch. Fish provides an important source of high-quality protein for local consumption. Women are involved in the collection of seafood from the reef and in selling fisheries produce in the market. Inshore fisheries resources are declining due to over-exploitation, the use of destructive fishing methods such as dynamite, environmental disturbances and silting of the lagoon.

A 1996 Mission Statement aims to ensure sustainable and optimum use of fisheries resources and to develop alternatives to inshore resources that have been seriously depleted. A new approach based on working with villages has been adopted whereby if an initial meeting with village matai (chief) is positive, MAFFM staff undertake a fact-finding exercise in the village and assist villagers to put together a management plan based on their own ideas and solutions to problems. Out of 45 villages, 21 have so far developed their own management plan and 14 have established marine reserves in their area to allow the reef to recover. Women are involved in this exercise as one of the three traditional groups with whom fisheries extension workers consult. Out of a total of 16 fisheries extension workers in 1997, only 4 or 5 were women6.

Commercial fishing is mainly for tuna and deepwater bottomfish. Fresh tuna is exported, providing some employment in rural areas for both women and men. Offshore tuna is the only fisheries resource available for expansion. However, Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is not large enough to generate fish licensing fees from distant-water fishing nations. Commercial farming of mussels, oysters, giant clams and prawns is also to be expanded (Government of Samoa, 1996).

2.3.3 Forestry

Forest reserves have been depleted to meet both subsistence and market agricultural production, since land use has not been intensified through increased capital or labour inputs. Forest resources were also degraded by cyclones in the early 1990s when 92 percent of plantation forestry was damaged. Although replanting had recovered more than 50 percent of the area under plantation by 1997, it does not yet provide wood for the domestic market, thus threatening indigenous forest resources. Only a portion of the indigenous forest area is merchantable and, at current deforestation rates of 3.5 percent per annum, merchantable forest is expected to disappear by 2005.

Forestry policy is guided by five fundamental principles (Samoa Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 1994). These are: i) optimal and sustainable use through maintenance of ecological and economic forest value and sustainability; ii) forest protection through the safeguarding of plant and animal diversity, protection from fire, erosion and damage to water catchment areas, and maintenance of sacred/historical sites; iii) provision of basic human needs including traditional forest products such as food, water, fuel, medicines, building and cultural materials; iv) recognition of individual and collective responsibilities through increased appreciation of forests and the recognition of various interests in their control and management; and v) recognition of the role of forests in economic development including reforestation for domestic use, export and recreation.

Policy objectives (Samoa Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 1994) aim to restore sustainable forest use. In the area of conservation, plans are to document and protect biodiversity, expand ecological reserves, ensure good forest management, and develop conservation programmes to protect threatened ecosystems and species. Water catchment areas are also to be better protected, and the clearance of forests for agriculture is to be discouraged. Indigenous forest utilisation is intended to be sustainable, necessitating the preservation of 5,000 ha of indigenous merchantable forest with 10,000 ha logged for decorative and customary purposes at a sustainable rate. Efforts to encourage community forestry conservation, reforestation and watershed management include increased royalties, community education, the promotion of multipurpose trees as cash crops, and tree planting on marginal land. Plantations and the timber industry are to be fully privatised with reduced capacity. Forest education will also seek to promote appreciation of the value of forests in biodiversity and human welfare and the interrelationship between development and conservation. Areas for recreation and tourism are to be identified and appropriate levels of protection ensured. These objectives also devote attention to improving documentation, research capacity and organizational structure.

2.3.4 Natural Resource Management

Landlessness does not exist in Samoa because of customary rights. Land is held by the extended family and all members have rights, though distribution is not necessarily equitable. More than 80 percent of land is held under customary tenure. While on average households control 15.4 acres, a quarter of all households control less than 5 acres which is considered the minimum for livelihood security. Government land is now being subdivided and leased and a new land use policy is under formulation.

Sustainability is threatened by a number of factors including the increasing use of herbicides and pesticides, and deforestation of upland areas for agricultural purposes. The area of land under cultivation has increased as a result of population pressure and cash cropping, but intensification has not taken place.

Women play an important and recognised role in environmental management. Traditionally environmental sanitation and protection measures have been part of women's roles. However, it is only recently that recognition has been given to the environmental impact of development projects and the Government now requires environmental (and social) impact assessments for all projects.

2.3.5 Rural Development

The heart of the Samoan economy is in the villages. More than 70 percent of rural households are engaged to some extent in agriculture, with two-thirds producing only or mainly for subsistence consumption (FAO, 1997). Thus the overall development strategy is to strengthen the involvement of the private sector in rural development. The strategy's central feature is the improvement of rural living standards, achieved through an increase in the productivity of land and labour, and the diversification of rural economic activities. Both employment creation and the expansion of livelihood options in rural areas are given importance. The equitable distribution of economic benefits through the traditional communal system is emphasised rather than the pursuit of individual profit (Government of Samoa, 1996).

Efforts to make land more easily available pertain only to Government land which comprised some 11 percent of the total in 1996. Since 1997, Government land can be subdivided on a 49-year lease. Leases are put to tender, with the highest bidder securing the lease. Rents are reviewed after five years. This system clearly discriminates against the poor, and consequently against women. The land is nevertheless divided into both large and small parcels, also catering for smaller farmers.

Diversification of the village economy is to include the encouragement of handicrafts (through the Development Bank and the Small Business Enterprise Centre) as well as small-scale food-processing and tourism, especially in conjunction with environmental protection. These areas are intended to benefit women. The Ministry of Women's Affairs is promoting economic capacity building through training in activities such as sewing, flower arranging, vegetable gardening, cooking and small business development. The National Food and Nutrition Policy for Samoa includes the encouragement of small local entrepreneurs in food processing industries. This policy also calls for income-generation activities in rural areas. The present policy applies the same business fee to informal traders and large formal businesses alike, and there is no policy framework to promote, support or regulate small traders. Similarly, there are no policy measures in place to ensure that small-scale credit is available to the informal sector, though a micro-credit scheme has been initiated by the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

Traditionally, faaSamoa7 has ensured an equitable distribution of wealth and acted as a safeguard for women's rights within Samoan society. FaaSamoa meant that all members of the extended family would have access to shelter and adequate food. Yet indications today suggest that customary mechanisms are now operating less effectively than in the past. Poverty, particularly amongst women, has been identified as an emerging concern (Samoa Ministry of Women's Affairs, 1995). Social impact assessments, now a requirement for all projects, may help to address this.

Rural development policies also seek to: improve education; address health issues arising from diet and lifestyle (including tobacco consumption); address the high natural increase of the population (2.4 percent per annum); increase the supply of electricity to meet demand; improve water supplies with the introduction of meters and charging; and improve sea and road transport (responsibility for plantation roads will pass to villages).

2 This project entitled "Incorporation of Women in Mainstream Development Planning" was funded by UNIFEM/AusAID/UNDP. It began in July 1990, initially for 2.5 years. The project aimed to increase the participation of women in all aspects of development through their incorporation in mainstream planning.

3 The 1993 policy mentioned in this section deals with all types of policy (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, social, economic, etc.) and was produced by the Central Planning Office of the Government of Fiji.

4 29 out of 35 extension workers were male in 1997 (personal communication with Mr. James Wasi).

5 Fresh pumpkin is currently exported to Japan, though more than half of the pumpkin crop produced fails to meet the strict size and shape requirements.

6 Personal communication with Mr. Ueta Faasili, 1997.

7 The term faaSamoa encompasses Samoan customs and traditions. FaaSamoa was founded on subsistence agriculture based on descent group tenure and land ownership. This system made basic resources available to all so that economic individualism was impossible. Egalitarianism was balanced by hierarchy, based on age and rank (Meleisea, 1987).

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page