We’ve become so reliant on others

Dear Editor

Re: Talking is okay but we’d prefer to see some results

Like you said, there are many answers. Everyone has an opinion on how to fix poverty and hardship. 

The I.L.O. report says that Samoan people struggle with hardship and poverty as they fail to meet their basic food needs. 

So why are we failing to meet our basic food needs?

To answer that question we need to first of all, ascertain what the causes are. Over the years, people have been blaming everything else but themselves.

The government, the church, the lack of job opportunities, the high cost of living, the fa’alavelaves, and many other factors were responsible for their sufferings and pain.

They are partially correct but not entirely.

This may raise some eyebrows but I think part of our misfortune is self inflicted. We are subconsciously contributing to our slow decay without realising we ourselves are the culprits.

And we maybe unaware of this because we’ve changed our habits so much over the last fifty years. Not only that we’re doing things differently but there are also many things that we’ve stopped doing all together. For example,...

We don’t farm like we used to anymore.

People used to work their coconut and cocoa plantations like crazy. Visions of villagers drying copra and cocoa in their yards in readiness for export are long gone.

Today, take a drive around the islands and see the thousands of acres of overgrown and unfarmed land. The song goes, “Our Samoa, the greatest place of all.

She is green…” but that green is mostly weeds and vines twirling their way as high as our tallest palm trees. I see hundreds of our youth playing volleyball or rugby for the last two hours before sunset each day.

Imagine the difference and benefit if we have the mentality to convince each of them to grow one banana plant per day.

We don’t properly manage our land usage.

We spend so much money on petrol for our lawn-mowers and trimmers. We love our huge lawns so much that we’d rather keep their manicured looks even if we hardly have space left to plant anything edible or useful.

But here’s another option. If we know we don’t have secondary land for planting crops, or if we know we only have a small quarter acre to ourselves, then forget about the grassy sprawling lawn.

Start planting taro and bananas over your beautiful malae or muāfale. Believe me, in eight months time you’ll be much closer to meeting you basic food needs.

We’re so proficient at wasting electricity. Here’s how we do it.

Every paramount chief must have a maota. If non exists then one gets built. Today, they can be very costly depending on what the paramount chief sees fit as his legacy. OK.

Now it is built , it remains vacant with no one living in it. You can probably count with one hand how many times the maota gets used in a year. But this is what I don’t understand….every night, we leave the lights on for most of the evening (sometimes until dawn). I see it every time I drive through the villages at night.

There’s maota after maota with lights turned on like they’re shrines. The power company is making a fortune out of this practice. You could have fed the family with a decent meal from that money. There goes your basic food needs.

We don’t fish like we used to anymore.

Every family who dwells along the coastline used to have a paopao (dugout canoe) or two for fishing. In most villages, Saturdays used to look like a social gathering at sea with dozens of men spear fishing in the lagoons while women gather other varieties of edibles like tugane (cockles), ‘alu’alu (jellyfish), limu (sea weed), gau (sea slug), and so on.

Today, we’ve become allergic to this pastime. Our new flavour is found in processed food.

On Saturday nights, fishermen go out to sea with their Coleman benzene lanterns glowing along the horizon like fairy lights. 


That used to be their routine as they fish through the night (lama) for our Sunday to’ana’i. Today, you only see a speck of light here and a speck of light there. It’s become more convenient to just go to the fish markets.

The entire Papauta Girls College used to walk all the way from Papauta to Mulinu’u Peninsula on a Saturday morning in full uniform.

They would forage the sea floor for anything that resembles a meal, with the most common find being crustacean and sea slugs.

At the end of their hunt for food they would march, in a four line formation, all the way back to the hills of Papauta. Tired and exhausted but come evening time, they would feast on their catch with great content that it cost them nothing.

But there are also people who live by the sea who never gone fishing in the lagoons. Yes, I’ve met them.

While other poor economies turn to the sea for sustenance, here in Samoa, you find some of us who have their basic food needs within reach but don’t use it.

If you sit idle while there’s food for the picking just a short paddle away, that would be a shameful waste. Are there also people living inland who don’t plant crops? I don’t know. I haven’t come across any yet.

Our spiritual connection is somewhat fading.

Today’s faife’aus (priests) don’t cover the kind of mileage like they used to do on foot in years gone by. Gone are the days where on Saturday mornings , the faife’au dons his best suit with umbrella in hand, walks the length of the village to personally visit every family in his congregation.

That was a great way to touch base with his spiritual family. Today, the church seems to be the only place where the faife’au gets to meet with his flock except for funerals, weddings, birthdays, and other demands.

While the faife’au may not have any direct links with poverty and hardship, I thought it’s worth mentioning because whenever the going gets tough, we always seem to find that extra gear when our leaders pay us a heartfelt visit.

It’s like someone pulling you up after a fall, or feeling that pat on the back with the soft whisper of “fa’amalosi.”

So, while we struggle with hardship and poverty because of this guy and that guy, his fault and her fault, I think it’s fair to say that we are where we are today because we’ve allowed ourselves to be reliant on others.

I’m pretty sure we can all do our little part to make sure the next I.L.O. report reads more favourable.

Now, to find my next basic food needs, I’ll need that paopao. Does anyone know how to row this thing?



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