S.L.C. seeking to divest 30,000 acres; villages object
The Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) is seeking to divest 30,000 acres, threatening to bring it into conflict with villages, who regard much of it as customary land.
“About 56 percent (20,928 acres) of S.L.C. lands remain to be divested by the Corporation,” Chief Executive Officer, Ulugia Petelo Kavesi, said.
The C.E.O.’s remarks are contained in the Corporation’s annual report for the 2019 Financial Year. The report says that 38 percent of land to be divested lies in Upolu and 67 percent in Savai’i.
The divesting of land is listed under “challenges” the Corporation is facing.
According to the report, more than 8,000 acres of the land in Savai’i and 3,850 in Upolu are presumed to be “customary land” by village councils but the Corporation regards them as its own property.
“Land factions located at the villages [in Savai’i and Upolu are] under the presumption by [the villages of] Alii and Faipule that they are customary land,” the report said.
“Approximately 8,431 [acres are] located in some villages in Savaii and 3,850 acres of lands in Upolu located in the villages Fagalii uta, Faleula, Matautu Falealili, Saleilua nad Vailele.
“Consultation with the village [council] was undertaken in the hopes to expedite divestment under lease basis. However whilst the message was conveyed and forthcoming at the consultation phase, implementation remains a challenge, with opposing views and claims.”
Other challenges the Corporation face include the surveying of the land to be sold; the report indicates that it holds 2,420 acres of unsurveyed land inland of Vailele.
Ulugia in the report noted that S.L.C. continues to face numerous challenges when dealing with land issues and markets (Savalalo, Vaitele and Salelologa).
“Land is a very delicate issue and it takes time to negotiate with village communities as they believe it’s their land taken over during the colonial era and should [be returned] to them for free,” Ulugia said.
“This is one of the main reasons behind the continued accumulation of arrears, with [people in villages] refusing to pay.
“However, [the] S.L.C. will continue to consult with individuals, groups and villages leasing on Government lands.”
Ulugia noted some assets had been successfully managed.
“Government has continued to encourage the development of the private sector through assisting and we believe this is another avenue to encourage them,” the C.E.O. said.
“The Malifa lodge and the main building of the Vaitele Market has been leased to the private sector and our next two projects (Sogi Flea Market and Rental Houses are expected to complete in year 2020-20210.”
Regarding the estates, the S.L.C. notes in their report they have commenced allocation and formalisation of 100 acres for the Vaiusu Village Council as well as 122 acres for the Malie Village Council for Agricultural leases.
The corporation has also formalised the lease of five and half acres for Saina and Toamua Primary School.