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Society steadfast with environment protection

Thirteen years after its establishment, the Falease'ela Environment Protection Society continues to protect the environment and promote eco-tourism in the region.

In 2007 a few matai from the village of Falease'ela agreed that action needed to be taken to protect their environment, especially the river that ran past the village. 

F.E.P.S Project Manager Tuiafutea Orisene Vaafusuaga told the Samoa Observer in an interview that littering was a major challenge, and the village’s waste management challenges were compounded by the lack of rubbish stands.

“We live in Falease'ela and the river is the heart of who we are. There was rubbish everywhere and we didn’t have rubbish stands so we identified that. I talked with the matai and agreed that something needs to be done,” he said. “When you drive in there is a marsh and there were pigs and rubbish there and it interfered with our water pipe, which came from the watershed further up so there were health issues as well so we got together and decided to work out a plan.”

The village was able to receive funding to undertake a clean-up and then consider solutions for the other challenges that they faced.

According to Tuiafutea, the organisation hosted workshops for the village, where they discussed how their waste could be disposed of to ensure it did not impact their health.

“We got forty rubbish bins and we put them in the right places in the village, then after that we did small projects,” he said.

In 2014, when Samoa hosted the Small Island Developing States Conference, delegates visited Falease'ela and were shown the village’s waste management system and its impact in terms of conservation. 

Tuiafutea said that they started the eco-tourism business in the village prior to embarking on the conservation of the environment.

“We do hikes all around our natural resources, coastal hike and waterfall hike. We have the river fales and we also host schools to learn about the aganuu, about the village life,” he added. “It brings together what village based tourism is all about and what the village can do to protect or to enhance their natural resources that are being given by the good Lord.”

Over the years since the setting up of the F.E.P.S. in 2007, the organisation’s membership kept on growing. The tree planting programme along the banks of the river started in 2014 to prevent soil erosion.

Tuiafutea said that they worked hard to ensure that the tree planting programme was successful.

“We have worked hard to maintain it. We plant the trees on both sides of the river. It started in 2014 and is still continuing. We also maintain the mangroves area and plant trees there,” he said.

When asked about eco-tourism in the village prior to the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, he said business was good that time as they had a lot of visitors and it started to have spinoff benefits such as the setting up of a car rental as well as beach fales.

He added they are still working on different projects in partnership with New Zealand’s Auckland Zoo, specifically in rodent management in the area.

Falease'ela is also one of the homes of the endangered Manumea bird, the national bird of Samoa.

When asked if this has attracted international bird watchers into the village, Tuiafutea said it has always been part of their goal as an ecotourism operator to consider different eco-activities, and bird watching is one of them. 

Four nurseries for seedlings have also been set up in Falease'ela for different tree species.

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