Resilient Coast: Climate Change and coastal living in Samoa

Jun 4, 2015

Families and villagers are empowered to take ownership of their own surroundings. Photo: Reis Lopez Rello.


The majority of Samoans live by the sea. They rely on nature for their food, water and livelihood.

Nature, however, is changing rapidly.

Climate change is magnifying the environmental problems the coastal communities are facing in Samoa. Greater rainfall variability means longer dry periods, which means the groundwater become increasingly saline and polluted. The climate-induced decline of freshwater security is affecting the rural communities.

Financed by the Adaptation Fund, a project entitled “Enhancing resilience of coastal communities of Samoa to Climate Change” is being implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, with the support of the UNDP. The government has helped the rural community to upgrade and climate-proof water storage systems to secure supply of high-quality drinking water through surface water management.

The implementation of this project has now changed things for Sia, her family and many others community members.

A system has been set up to ensure water tanks and pumps are maintained and working properly even after the project ends, community members are organised to cooperate when the repairs are needed.

Ella Tavita,from Lelea village, states that there is nothing more important than having clean water for her kids.

“We use water carefully and will take care of the new system. We have set up rules for using the water, put up some money among community members, so that if the water tank is damaged, we can fix it quickly.”

Before the project started, rural communities used their own financial resources to commission private pipes to deliver safe drinking water and to buy fuel used in water pumps that had an impact on families’ income and savings.


A 1.4 km road in Fusi/Saoluafata is being built in Samoa. It provides nearby villages with secure access to inland areas from the coast. It means that when disasters hit vulnerable coastal locations, communities can reach inland areas easier and faster. 

The government is now climate proofing coastal and inland roads and related infrastructure. These include hard coastal protections such as revetments and groynes, as well as the maintenance and reconstruction of some seawalls to protect roads and in some instances the relocation of short sections of road further inland.


In the village of Saleia, a kava ceremony is performed as an important ritual held on special occasions. The ceremony marks the beginning of the project in their community and also provides a platform for local dialogue to be heard by government and UNDP staff.

This is a unique stage that allows the people from Samoa to sit down to talk candidly and openly. Here, the construction of a rock and seawall is starting with great expectation from the local community.

The seawall will help to protect communities’ assets from climate-induced hazards such as waves, storm surges and coastal floods. 

Leulu Maoae is one of the key mediators between local communities and external agencies during the ceremony, he is the liaison officer from the Ministry of Women in Samoa.


More and more communities in Samoa will benefit from initiatives such as this that will support the most vulnerable to cope with shocks associated with a changing climate. 

Cooperation through engaging the community has enabled everyone to gain an understanding of the adaptation activities needed to tackle climate change. Communities in Samoa will benefit from the project through increased incomes and welfare thereby allowing them to take ownership and reap the rewards of sustainability.

Story and pictures by:

Reis Lopez Rello & Catherine Jones.  Edited by Jin Ni.

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