Marine protected area highlighted

A side event at the recent Interregional Preparatory Meeting of the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway Mid-Term Review featured Samoa’s most successful marine protected area.

The Savaia Marine Conservation Project is a village-based and run protected area in the south-western region of Upolu, which was established by the Savaia village council in 2001, and was fully funded by GEF-SGP with co-financing from NZ Aid or NZ PEF (Pacific Environment Fund). It is a community-based fisheries programme and implemented by fisheries division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

Lemalama Taaloga, community champion and high chief of the Savaia Lefaga Village, did a presentation on the project. It is now funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) with importance stressed on youth engagement and gender mainstreaming, 

He highlighted the significance of community involvement in the project and said it gave Savaians a sense of pride due to its success over the years.

In terms of project sustainability, Mr. Taaloga said it was his plan to expand the footprint of the valuable skills gained and lessons learnt throughout the entire Lefaga district, to ensure that all those who inhabit that area can lead sustainable livelihoods. 

UN Resident Coordinator, Simona Marinescu, led discussions among panelists and participants on the role of civic engagement for development impact, following feedback on a review titled titled “Empowered Civil Society for Sustainable Development: Best Practices from CSO-Government Dialogues”.

Representing the Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organisations (SUNGO), Chief Executive Officer Fuimaono Falefa Lima shared a video presentation (funded by GEF-SGP) to highlight SUNGO’s success stories as well as lessons learnt since the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), held in Apia back in August 2014. 

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He highlighted the success SUNGO has had in representing the region-wide initiative to develop a network of NGOs, which can be represented in both national and international forums, while pointing out the importance of capacity building for their numerous member organisations. 

Conference delegates were also given insights on Samoa’s first carbon offset initiative by the Samoa Conservation Society (SCS) president James Atherton. The initiative has seen over 10,000 native trees planted in the South Pacific’s oldest National Park, O le Pupu Pue. Also funded by the GEF-SGP, this project supports an existing partnership between the SCS and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), addressing a range of problems in a holistic fashion under the broad themes of environment and socio-economics.

“Trees are 50 per cent carbon, proving one of the most efficient carbon sinks on our planet,” he said, while warning that deforestation along with the increased rates of air travel are two of multiple factors that have pushed humanity into a pivotal third revolution – the “Sustainable Development Revolution”.

Wrapping up his discussion, Mr Atherton added that the effort should be stepped up - but only if each and every human assumes their responsibility - current species decline and land degradation within the natural environment can be reversed. 

To close the presentations, Toleafoa Fetoloa’i Yandall-Alama, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer CEO from the MNRE, touched on the document that aims to assist villages and communities to better manage their natural environment and infrastructure so that they can be more resilient to climate change and its adverse impacts.

After eight months of consultations, the initiative was signed by 41 districts in Samoa, covering 253 villages, to produce a genuine partnership between villages and governments in the integrated management of infrastructure, livelihoods and food security, natural environment and resources, and importantly village governance. 

“For Small Island Developing States, a strong partnership among State and non-State actors is a prerequisite for development progress in a context where resources are scarce, needs are mounting, and time pressure is critical. 

For SIDS, 2030 is too far away for SDG completion given the time pressures they are facing to strengthen resilience to national hazards and various forms of insecurity. 

UNDP and the GEF SGP teams are inspired by the high quality of engagement between the Government of Samoa, the NGOs and various community actors towards common goals. We wish to nurture that through everything we do,” Ms. Marinescu said.

She is the UN Resident Coordinator for Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

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