Two new rainforest Community Conservation Areas (C.C.A.s) were officially opened this week on Savaii.
They are the first new rainforest community conservation areas established in Samoa for several years. The 25 acre (10 Ha) Taga C.C.A. is located less than 1km from Taga while the 30 acre (12 Ha) Gataivai C.C.A. is located 5km from Gataivai.
Community Conservation Areas are an approach to conserve critical areas of forest under communal land ownership where the communities have full control over all management decisions but are supported by technical partners to develop and manage the reserves.
The C.C.A. approach builds on traditional approaches in Samoa to conserve natural resources such as tapu areas (areas that are off-limits) and seasonal bans on the harvest of birds, bats or particular fish to ensure long-term sustainability.
Development of the C.C.A.s has been done as a partnership between the village communities, the Samoa Conservation Society, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Forestry and Protected Area Management (F.P.A.M.) Project implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the Forestry Division of the M.N.R.E.
Funding was provided by the Global Environment Facility.
The C.C.A.s were established by the chiefs and orators of Taga and Gataivai to safeguard remnant patches of lowland rainforest.
Lowland forest is now rare in Samoa and covers less than 20% of its former area as a result of logging, agricultural activity, the spread of invasive plants and cyclones. Whatever lowland forest remains is very valuable because of its high biodiversity, especially in terms of plants and birds.
Many native birds can be seen in the C.C.A.s including pigeons and fruit doves, Samoan Broadbill, Samoan Whistler, Kingfisher and Parrotfinch as well as native skinks, snails and insects. The Taga C.C.A. also has a large colony of fruit bats (taulaga pe’a) in a banyan tree.
At the opening events for the two C.C.A.s Matai of both Taga and Gataivai expressed their great appreciation to the partners who supported the establishment of the two reserves and expressed their pride to conserve their biodiversity for current and future generations.
The Fono (council of chiefs) of both Taga and Gataivai have agreed on a number of rules to protect the biodiversity in the two C.C.A.s including a ban on logging, agricultural activities and shooting birds and bats.
The two villages hope to expand their reserves in the future to protect more of their rainforest and biodiversity and to plant native trees and manage invasive plants to improve the quality of the rain forest and to provide timber for village use.
Both reserves are open to the public and accessible by car or by foot along plantation roads. However, after heavy rain a 4WD may be necessary to drive to the sites.
The Taga C.C.A. has a fale, picnic table and two short trails while the Gataivai C.C.A. has an existing plantation road crossing it that is also a good walking track.
Look for the direction signs at the main coast road that mark the C.C.A.s. Please stop by, take a stroll in the forest and listen to the birds!