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Climate funding could have cultural impact

The director of O Le Siosiomaga, Fiu Mataese Elisara is concerned Samoa has trouble saying “no” to funding that could cause cultural issues in the future.

He warned that not all funding is positive, while reflecting on the discussions on climate finance during the 24th Conference of the Parties to the Convention Framework on Climate Change in Katowice, Poland last month. 

Small countries have a “tendency” to accept all funding as good, Fiu said, but this should change.

“Unfortunately, with small countries we get the tendencies where once you get the money it’s great for us and we accept it,” he said.

“But you’ll find some of those funds are the same funds that are crucifying us in terms of the impacts on people’s rights, on peoples land, on peoples limited resources.”

Those dire consequences could potentially lie in future biomass or biogas projects. 

Today, Samoa is working towards using invasive species currently affecting native flora and fauna as feedstock to power biomass systems and generate energy.

But Fiu warns that source isn’t sustainable, and to create a reliable source of feedstock, local crops could be affected.

“Funds that look quite attractive, like biofuel and bioenergy – will it ultimately affect your food security when monoculture plantations to provide feedstock for biomass or bioenergy?

“For a small country you can’t afford that. I’d rather have my Palusami all the time than to find that our people are finding it more profitable to grow monocultural plantations for feedstock of a biomass operation.”

If plantations are established to replace local crops for biomass feedstock, Fiu is concerned this could go as far as affecting “food security, food sovereignty, land, horticulture and ultimately our identity as people.”

Worse still than replacing local food crops with plants to turn into fuel how monocultural plantations, or planting one type of species en masse, can affect the soil.

“These are the kind of ‘devil in the details’ we need to ascertain for the benefit of our people, and say something, because some of the investment programs from the donors are fundamentally investment programs,” Fiu said.

“They don’t care about the impacts on the social, on the environment, of destroying our very limited finite resources. 

Without sovereignty over the land, the Samoan identity and culture will suffer, Fiu warned.

But there is potential for positive investment from rich countries to Samoa, if the fine print is looked at.

International dialogue like COP24 in Poland, and the previous conferences before it has resulted in good relationships for Samoa, Fiu said.

“What little resources we get, in terms of Samoa’s scale that is huge. 

“At best, if we continue to actually mobilise those kinds of resources, and if they are targeting the right priorities for our people, looking at sustainable development of this country, then for Samoa there is a future.”

At the end of the day, Samoa and its leadership needs to “know how to say no” to certain funding opportunities and investments.

“Specifically, when you see the ultimate benefits that are driven by certain programs and projects will affect the social lives of our people, the culture, the limited finite environment and that kind of thing, we need to be selective in what we accept for Samoa,” he said.

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