Prime Minister Tuilaepa explains why sustainable land management critical

Samoans cannot fully adapt to the impact of climate change without a strong focus on land management.

So says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who has added his voice to the global push for sustainable land management (S.L.M.), as a mitigating tool against the adverse impact of sea level rise and coastal erosion.

“I am convinced that Samoa will not be able to fully adapt to climate change, nor be able to sufficiently protect its biodiversity and important natural resources without a stronger focus on sustainable land management,” Tuilaepa said.

“Sustainable Land Management is everyone’s business and responsibility, to ensure a sustainable future for Samoa.”

The Prime Minister, who is also the Acting Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), was speaking during the commemoration of the National Land Week.

The commemoration started at Lalomanu Aleipata on Monday and ended at Lano Savai’i on Wednesday. The Government chose the locations strategically given the impact of coastal erosion.

Just a few hundred meters from the pristine beaches of Lalomanu is the Tuiolemu landslide, arguably the biggest landslide in Samoa’s history.

It is there as a reminder of what could happen when sustainable land management is not exercised.

But what’s happening in Samoa is not isolated.

“Over the past two decades alone, 20 to 30 percent of the Earth’s vegetated surface has declined in fertility and productivity,” Tuilaepa said.

“Evidence clearly points to unsustainable management of land and water resources as the main culprit.  

“Although much has been achieved in the last 25 years, through the recovery and restoration of degraded landscapes using S.L.M. practices, much more remains to be done.  

“The recurrent and growing threats of forest fires, heatwaves, mass migrations, flash floods, sea-level rise and food and water insecurity are more evident now than ever.

“And so for the next 25 years, the World including Samoa, aspires to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality for a stronger land-based sustainable future, captured in this year’s global theme “Let us grow the Future together.”

The National Land Week 2019 was guided by the theme “Climate Proofing our Coastal Lands with Sustainable Land Management (SLM) tools and practices for the Future.”

“The theme puts emphasis on the importance of protecting coastal communities from coastal processes such as coastal erosion, flooding and landslides through greater awareness of their causes and effects as well as impacts,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa said.  

“Moreover, we wanted the focus of this year’s land week to be on the value of land, as defined for us long ago in the Book of Genesis.  

“That is, “God formed Adam (man) from the soil of the land, and out of the land, God made to grow every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, and out of the land God formed every animal of the field and bird of the air.”

“These biblical passages attest to the unity of traditional knowledge and science regarding the significance of land to mankind, and mankind’s special relationship with the soil, water, forests and biodiversity.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa also revisited recent devastation caused by land degradation.

“The Tsunami in 2009 and the alarming scale of the Tuiolemu landslide in 2018, along the open coast of Aleipata, are two of the most recent devastating events in the history of Samoa,” he said.  

“Today as part of the National Land Week, we remember the lives of our loved ones, lost 10 years ago in the 2009 Tsunami.  

“Today also, will see key findings from the geo-technical assessment of the coastal landscape from Lotofaga to Tiavea including the scientific discovery of the causes and impact of the 2009 Tsunami as well as the 2018 Tuiolemu landslide, presented for the first time to district communities and tourism operators.”

In Savai’i, the tragedy of the Tafua landslide where lives were lost was also looked at during a seminar where the results of the geo-technical assessment of coastal landscapes of Fa’asaleleaga Districts, from Tafua to Pu’apu’a, was presented.

The Prime Minister said the presentation disclosed key findings in connection to the “causes and effects of Tafua’s fatal man-made landslip in late 2018.”

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