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25. Samoa

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/% of total land


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)


Population total 1995 (million)/Annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1995 (%)


GNP per person 1993 in US$


Source of data: FAO - State of the World’s Forests 1999

General information

Samoa is composed of four inhabited and five uninhabited islands. Upolu is the most developed and densely populated (72% of the country’s total population) while Savai’i is the largestin area. More than 70% of the land is under customary ownership. The country’s economic potential lies primarily in agriculture, tourism and small and medium-scale industry.

The main agricultural commodities are copra, taro, fish, bananas, cocoa, beef, pork, passion fruit and poultry. Industrial production is based on agriculture raw materials, some of which are imported from Tonga and elsewhere. These products include coconut oil, electricity, beer, cigarettes, timber, coconut cream, soft drinks, soap, copra meal, corned meat, veneer, matches and paints.

In the past, the forests supplied the majority of the country’s sawn timber needs, poles, building materials, fire wood, certain food and medicines. Paid employment in the forestry sector supported 10% of the labour force.

Over the past 20 years the forests have provided export earnings. Notable achievements of forestry functions and the contribution to the socio-economic welfare include the National Forest Policy, the National Environment Management Strategy, Village Conservation Agreements, and the setting up of environmental NGOs. Thus, the support to forestry development from politicians, policy makers, business persons, and urban and rural communities had been quite encouraging.

Forest resources

The Samoa land use pattern is predominantly one of indigenous forests rather than agricultural cultivated lands. Forest in Samoa is unique in its biodiversity. It supports 775 vascular plant species, of which 30% are found nowhere else. There are more native flowering plant genera than in any other archipelago in Polynesia. There are 21 butterfly species and 11 species of reptiles, including 7 lizard species and 1 snake type. There are 43 resident bird species, of which 8 are found nowhere else.

The overall land use of the country is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Land use

Land type

Area (ha)


Merchantable forest



Forest protected under village conservation agreement



Watershed areas



National parks and reserves



Land available for reforestation



Agriculture and crop land



Recent lave flows



Unproductive forest areas






Note % = of the total land area

Due to the termination of the New Zealand bilateral assistance forestry development in Samoa was reduced to a new level of operations. Therefore, the emphasis has been on the accountability of output performance measures. The level of plantation development has also been reduced by about 4%.

Policy and legislation

The Government has approved the National Environment Management Strategy (NEMS). In addition, the Village Forests Conservation Agreement has been approved and environmental NGOs have also been setting up. These are evidence of the Government’s and the people of Samoa’s commitment in their efforts to conserve the forests and the environment.

The principal forestry legislation are the Forest Act, 1967 and the Forest Regulation, 1969. Other related Acts include the Lands Survey and Environment Act, 1989, National Parks and Reserves Act, 1974, Alienation of Customary Lands Act 1965, Lands Act, 1964, and the Water Act, 1965. On the basis of these legislation and other national management plans, two policy documents have been formulated and have been approved by the Government, i.e. the National Forest Policy, 1995 and the Watershed Protection and Management Regulations, 1992.

Five guiding principles provide the foundation for the forestry policy:

· Optimal and sustainable use of the forest resources;

· Forest protection;

· Basic human needs;

· Individual and collective responsibility; and

· Economic development.

The formulation of the Forest Policy, 1995 followed a long process and several phases, including the following:

· review and consultations (June-July 1991);

· policy formulation (July-September 1991);

· post-cyclone re-assessment and consultations (1992);

· final draft (April 1994).

The Forest Policy will be used as the basis for the formulation of programmes and projects to strengthen the forestry sector and to seek donor support and national funding. The sector analysis should take into account on-going programmes and related activities.

Forestry is one of the Divisions under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries, and Meteorology. The Forestry Division is responsible for the implementation of Government policies related to forestry development in the country. There are 4 main sections under the Forestry Division, i.e. Reforestation, Research, Indigenous Forest Monitoring, and Watershed Protection and Management.

The country has supported the Code of Logging Practice (COLP). This is one of the important steps towards the implementation of sustainable forest management. The draft is almost completed. In addition, the Reduced Impact Logging Guidelines (RIL) have been drafted to complement the COLP implementation. However, intensive training and awareness programmes for all the stakeholders have to be undertaken.

The SPC/GTZ/Pacific Regional Forest Programme is currently implementing a sustainable indigenous forest management project in Samoa. An area of 400 ha of natural forest has been identified and demarcated, and pre-inventory has been completed. A logging system will be developed based on the principles of sustainable forest management

The policy related to indigenous forestry production has been given a higher priority that calls for the sustainable utilisation and management of the remaining merchantable indigenous forests. The following strategies were adopted by the Government:

· Liaise with industry, landowners, timber merchants, and end users on the implications of the forest policy;

· Increase the royalty rate;

· Prescribe an administrative levy to reflect the cost of Government supervision on logging;

· Strict enforcement of logging and utilisation standards, with higher penalties for non-compliance;

· Lower duty on imported timber; and

· Fire protection.

A National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS) is also being completed with assistance from UNDP, UNEP, and WWF. Another achievement in the field of policy and legislation was the adoption of the Watershed Protection and Management Regulation, 1992, which created a better legal framework and co-ordinating mechanism among agencies involved, directly or indirectly, in the protection and use of water resources.

In addition, conservation farming using the concept of agro-forestry is being practised at the demonstration level under the on-going watershed management and conservation education project. Tree planting on individual farmer’s plantations located on or adjacent to watersheds is being promoted.

Research and extension

There are plans to strengthen forest research and development with the appointment of professional staff to redefine objectives and priorities. Among the new objectives are the management of indigenous forest and natural resources, watershed management, and community forestry.

A complete National Ecological Survey, finalised in 1992, identified 14 key sites for conservation of biodiversity in the coastal lowlands. Recently, a non-governmental agency was established, and two conservation agreements with villages have been negotiated.

Several research studies have been undertaken with support from several bilateral institutions, including the following: a) the establishment of field trials for priority tree species in collaboration with SPRIG; b) slow release fertilisers and testing other alternative growing media studies in collaboration with ACIAR; c) testing of silvicultural systems appropriate for natural regeneration; d) assessment of indigenous tree species suitable in line planting; e) community forestry; and f) weed control.

In regard to community participation, considerable efforts had been made to encourage people in tree planting. Workshops and meetings with farmers and villagers have been conducted. In the near future it is hoped “to develop and establish an effective, well-structured community forestry extension section, with programmes and services that provide the delivery of reliable, professional, technical information, training and shared experiences and supports the needs of the community for both environmental and economic gains”.

In regard to training, substantial financial support has been provided by NZODA, ADB and UNDP/FAO, for both long- and short-term training using overseas and local teaching institutions.

Focal point
Malaki Iakopo
Assistant Director Forestry
Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries, and Meteorology
P.O. Box 1874
Apia, Samoa
Tel (685) 22565


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