A group of Leadership Samoa graduates has explored the potential of agritourism for Samoa, especially where underutilised customary lands are concerned.
Leadership Samoa Chief Executive, Seumanu Douglas Ngau Chun, said tourism is the backbone of Samoa’s economy.
So it was a natural choice for Team Manono to research the topic.
The research team of five came up with a proposal for an agri-tourism pilot centre on customary land in a rural village, for guests to stay at as a “cultural getaway”.
Surrounding areas for walks and hikes, bird watching, conservation education, farming practice and cultural handicrafts and experiences were all things that would be integrated into this concept village.
Sulimoniolesuafa Seumanutafa is one of the members of the team, and said while government and private sector have researched tourism before, looking into customary lands is relatively new.
“We needed to find what is not there and use what we already have,” she said.
They proposed a five-year feasibility test, before being able to introduce the concept to other villages that may benefit from it.
“We want this to build into different villages,” said team leader Mandy Fialogo Skelton Keil.
“Eighty percent of customary land is not used, and that was our main focus from the beginning. We have to look at the gaps.”
The concept can be applied to any family with any amount of land, said Sulimoniolesuafa to try and cover as much of that 80 percent as possible.
In the final research proposal, the group states:
“This nature-based tourism approach is also defined by its sustainable development results; conserving natural areas, educating visitors about sustainability and what our culture and our natural environment entails, and most importantly creating resilience and sustaining the wellbeing of local people in tourism, capitalising in rural culture and an environmental friendly and socially responsible tourism.
“Promoting the links between agriculture, ecosystem and tourism can contribute to improved economic and equitable growth, build resilience to adverse effects of climate change in communities and enhance sustainable development nation-wide.”
In their research, they addressed how a majority of tourism is located on Samoa’s coastal areas, like the various beach fale establishments, and beach resorts, and how there may need to be investment in tourism further inland.
“Although the economy is increasing through tourism that is not reflected in the lifestyle of Samoan’s going further inland, or developing our rural farming or agriculture products,” Poutasi Kamuta Seuseu said.
Their agritourism village hopes to answer that question.