Conservation of traditional knowledge through “replenishing” the environment

Apr 14, 2015

Members of the Vailoa, Palauli Community. Photo credit: Vailoa Community.

The community of Vailoa, Palauli located in the South East Coast of Savaii, Samoa is on a mission to give back to their environment and landscapes, which would in turn sustain traditional knowledge of siapo or tapa making for generations to come. Vailoa Palauli Community is one of the few communities in Samoa that is nurturing the culture of siapo making, a traditional product and knowledge still kept and preserved by very few skilled women of this community mostly in their mid-70s. Siapo, according to the Women’s Committee of Vailoa is one of Samoa’s traditional clothing attire and it must be conserved as was done by our ancestors. Faamuli Salū, President of the Vailoa Women’s Committee and one of Samoa’s ambassadors for siapo making is concerned that the next generation of women in her village would not continue this tradition.  

“There is little interest among the young women in the village to learn about siapo making, and more worryingly is the limited or no supply of the paper mulberry, the natural resource that produces siapo.” Says Faamuli Salū. 

The paper mulberry tree or U’a in Samoan and Broussonetia papyrifera as its scientific name is becoming extinct in Vailoa village due to not only destruction from roaming pigs, but the overuse without replanting. 

A consultation workshop hosted by Vailoa village for its own community on Friday, 10th April 2015 attracted more than 100 villagers. In his opening remarks, the village’s Church Minister for the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, Rev. Siaosi Leleimalefaga supported this initiative, saying that “The relationship between people and the environment was in the beginning of time, when God made the earth, the environment and everything in it before he made man and woman.”

“We must replenish the environment God gifted us with to live and enjoy and that is by giving back to the environment through replanting and rehabilitation of all natural resources degraded and extinct from our lands” Rev. Siaosi  added. 

One of the village’s elderly matais, Mata’afa Amani said that this initiative “Is very timely for our community to work together to conserve siapo making and our environment at large not just the U’a plant but other natural resources that cater for our livelihood and protection.” 

The Vailoa village through its Council of Chiefs attended the consultation and showed full support of this initiative. They encouraged the involvement of the village youth, young untitled men, young women, children and other minority groups to support the women group leading the initiative. They will also be working more inclusively with the women committee to construct village by-laws suggested by the partners within their community and technical partners to minimize human related activities and other activities affecting the success of the initiative. 

The workshop was well attended by the community with representatives from Forestry Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), and the United Nations Development Programme/ Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP/GEF-SGP). Discussions of gender mainstreaming through the design, implementation and review of their proposed project enabled the community to draw a more inclusive approach that will benefit the community at large and not just the women group leading the project. 

“It was one of the key milestones achieved during the workshop”, says Ofusina Toamua-Ieremia, UNDP-GEF-SGP representative present at the workshop. 

The overall outcome of the consultation included the village commitment to prioritize the replenishment of her landscapes through tree planting of the most degraded areas and building a community nursery that can sustainably supply the planting of native trees and U’a. A proposed video proposal format to capture these initiatives will be submitted to the UNDP/GEF-SGP for funding consideration in partnership with MNRE for technical support. 

UNDP/GEF-SGP has awarded the community with a planning grant of more than SAT $6,000.00 to conduct the consultations to gauge the village support and increase their awareness of environmental merits for sustainable land and forestry management prior submission of a full proposal. 

UNDP/GEF SGP in partnership with the Vailoa community welcome partners from the government, private and civil society sectors who might see fit the initiative of Vailoa as a co-financer and to provide technical expertise, voluntary support, other opportunities etc. Potential partners can contact Project Contact Person Misa Richard Aiolupotea directly on mobile number +685 722 1670.


Ofusina Ieremia
+685 7521393

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