There has been no empirical study to assess the current status of land degradation in Samoa or to determine the extent of the problem. Although Samoa has ratified the UNCCD in 1998, little work has been done at the national level to address the issue of land degradation. There is a general understanding that human-induced activities have left scars or patches of land fallow because of poor soil conditions. The National Action Plan is yet to be completed before it can identify a specific area of focus for land degradation. The collective view from Samoa’s First National Report to UNCCD in 2002 indicates that agricultural practices and deforestation are viewed as the most significant drivers behind land degradation. According the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Meteorology (MAFFM), Crop Division, the only programme that they have started in collaboration with Women in Business is the Organic Farming Project, which is funded by the European Union. This project encourages the use of organic fertilizers but discourages the application of chemicals to any type of farm, which is registered under this programme. Thus, individual farmers have been awarded a certificate to certify their farm or garden as organic, which is intended to provide an incentive for farmers by helping to promote the marketing of produce national and overseas.
Challenges and Issues
Two of the challenging issues that are having severe implications upon Samoa’s environmental resources and contributing to land degradation are commercial logging and agricultural expansion inland which has depleted and degraded the remaining forest resources. The need to develop sustainable mechanisms that can prevent further degradation of forest resources and rehabilitation of fallow land requires urgent attention. It is expected that MAFFAM working with village communities through its extension officers should develop further research and practical means of assisting communities in land reforestation programmes and sustainable agricultural use.
Global environmental problems, as defined by the GEF, are the loss of biological diversity, climate change and pollution of international waters. Land Degradation, primarily deforestation and desertification, was eligible for funding during the first decade of GEF if related to the three GEF Focal Areas mentioned above. In October 2002, the GEF Assembly approved land degradation as a new focal area taking into account the objectives of the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). By mid 2002, SGP's grant portfolio included over 400 projects (out of 3,200) related to land degradation, with an approximate combined value of $8 million.
Initiatives include: conservation and restoration of arid and semi-arid areas; efficient stoves and biogas to reduce forest loss; integrated watershed management; soil conservation; afforestation; prevention of forest fires; and organic farming among others. A number of projects address policy and other barriers to mitigating land degradation (e.g. land tenure, access to natural resources).