Without soil, without land, we have absolutely nothing

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 24 May 2018, 12:00AM

And so Samoa is celebrating the importance of the soil this week. 

Since Monday, the Government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and their partners have been drilling home the message that “without soil, without land (there is) no life.”

That’s the theme of the Land and Soil Week, which started in colourful fashion on Monday morning with a Float Parade along Beach Road. There were some wonderful floats, paying tribute to the importance of the soil. 

It was a sight to behold. Well done to everyone involved.

At the same time, the event was used to promote the message that if we care for this planet, we need to start caring for the soil, which feeds us. 

The Land and Soil Week is a wonderful initiative, that’s for sure. 

The only question is why has it taken so long to realise the critical value of the soil to our lives today. After all, we live in the country where we have a national day for just about everything – including toilets believe it or not.

So to wait until 2018 to finally start hammering home such an important message, after all these years of neglect and abuse of the soil, one would think that it’s a little delayed. 

But then better late than never. 

And perhaps mankind – or Samoa for that matter – has finally woken up to the harm it has been doing to the soil all these years so that today, the relevant authorities are finding it extremely difficult to ignore the damage anymore.

The good news is that they are doing something about it. And in commemorating Land and Soil Week, the Government is highlighting that the soil is not only an asset; it is also a natural resource that is constantly under threat from man-made problems.

So what is wrong with our soil today? One of the biggest problems we have is land degradation. People in the know will tell you that land degradation is caused by land pollution, which harms the earth’s surface as a result of human activities.

The impact is enormous. It includes the loss of soil structure; soil nutrients, soil salinity and it can go as far as polluting our rivers and oceans. 

All these issues are interlinked but they all point to a man-made problem. For years, we have been neglecting our environment so that today, those problems are coming home to roost and we are finding that unless we act decisively and quickly, our home as we know it is under threat.

At the beginning of the week, the Acting Prime Minister, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, said the Government is committed to protecting our soil at all costs.

Said he: “The two million tree planting campaign is considering a number of degraded land areas in both Savaii and Upolu, the upgrading and rehabilitation of the entire Vaisigano Water Catchment area from ridge to reef, and the implementation of the Community Integrated Infrastructure Management Plans (C.I.M’s) to ensure community’s robust resilience to climate change,” he said.  

“Therefore, provided the coverage of all these aspects of the Land and Soil week, this should provide substantial awareness and clarity to our local and national stakeholders of the importance of Lands and Soils to an individual, a farmer or a land owner, a family, a nation and state like Samoa and its people.” 

“May I once again remind you all of the key message and theme for this week is ‘Without soil, without land, without life.’ Therefore ‘Caring for Planet Earth starts from the Ground!”

Well said, Acting Prime Minister, we couldn’t agree more. 

But there is one little issue. When we think about the soil, we think about land, our fa’asinomaga and our inheritance. Perhaps it is worth remembering that without land, there is no soil. Which brings us to fears about the alienation of customary lands that have been well debated. 

As we commemorate the importance of the soil, let’s remember that if our customary lands are under threat, we will have no soil whatsoever. The soil will belong to someone else. 

Let’s remember the points raised by the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi last month in relation to our land, our fa’asinomaga.

 “We have faced many challenges as a nation since regaining Independence but this is the most serious. To overcome this challenge, we must first recognise that the challenge now comes not from outside but from within,” he said, pointing out that Samoa is now at a significant cross-road in her governing history. 

 “Not just in terms of trying to figure out how best to protect our customary land from foreign or alien interests, but also how to protect ourselves from ourselves.” 

 “Since Samoa regained Independence we have taken our Fa’asamoa for granted. We as leaders have assumed that so long as we have governing control over ourselves, Samoa mo Samoa, we will never lose it. But the loss of culture and core values can happen slowly, subtly and stealthily, and on our own watch.”

 “Today it has become clear that we can no longer escape the reality that as leaders we must take a public stand against allowing the ambiguity of Article 102 of our Constitution to persist.” 

 “We must admit that in light of the accumulating evidence (some of which I will speak to shortly) this ambiguity has been exploited in ways that now seriously undermines the integrity and purpose of Article 102, i.e. to protect customary lands from alienation.” 

 “Today I make a plea that as a nation whose faasinomaga (identity) and tofi (inheritance) are inextricably connected to our customary lands that we stand together and demand that this ambiguity be properly attended to, and that following this the Article be accordingly amended. This is our right; it is our right as suli (heirs) of all customary lands in Samoa, whether you live in Samoa or not.”

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 24 May 2018, 12:00AM

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