|THE SAMOA AND GRANDINES COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Samoa within the Geographic Region of Oceania
Map of Samoa
Flag Description of Samoa: red with a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side quadrant bearing five white five-pointed stars representing the Southern Cross constellation; red stands for courage, blue represents freedom, and white signifies purity
Official name Malo Sa’oloto Tuto’atasi o Samoa (Samoan); Independent State of Samoa (English)
Form of government mix of parliamentary democracy and Samoan customs with one legislative house (Legislative Assembly )
Head of state Head of State: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi
Head of government Prime Minister: Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi
Official languages Samoan; English
Official religion none
Monetary unit tala (SAT)
Population (2013 est.) 190,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 1,075
Total area (sq km) 2,785
- Urban: (2011) 19.6%
- Rural: (2011) 80.4%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 69.8 years
- Female: (2012) 75.7 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2011) 97.2%
- Female: (2011) 98.8%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 3,430
1 47 seats are reserved for ethnic Samoans.
Background of Samoa
Samoa, country in the central South Pacific Ocean, among the westernmost of the island nations of Polynesia.
According to legend, Samoa is known as the “Cradle of Polynesia” because Savai’i island is said to be Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland. Samoan culture is undoubtedly central to Polynesian life, and its styles of music, dance, and visual art have gained renown throughout the Pacific islands and the world. The country’s international image is that of a tropical paradise inhabited by tourist-friendly, flower-wreathed peoples. Yet this belies the economic, social, and political challenges of this diverse and evolving Pacific microstate. Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand in 1962 after more than a century of foreign influence and domination, but it remains a member of the Commonwealth. The country was known as Western Samoa until 1997. Its capital and main commercial centre is Apia, on the island of Upolu.
Geography of Samoa
Samoa lies approximately 80 miles (130 km) west of American Samoa, 1,800 miles (2,900 km) northeast of New Zealand, and 2,600 miles (4,200 km) southwest of Hawaii. Samoa, which shares the Samoan archipelago with American Samoa, consists of nine islands west of longitude 171° W—Upolu, Savai’i, Manono, and Apolima, all of which are inhabited, and the uninhabited islands of Fanuatapu, Namu’a, Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, and Nu’usafee. (The six Samoan islands east of the meridian are part of American Samoa.) The total land area is smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island but about 2.5 times larger than Hong Kong.
Relief and drainage
Savai’i, the largest island, covers 659 square miles (1,707 square km) and rises to a maximum elevation of 6,095 feet (1,858 metres) at Mount Silisili, a volcano at the island’s approximate centre. Mounts Māfane, Mata’aga, and Maugaloa are also imposing peaks. Upolu, the other large island, lies about 10 miles (16 km) to the east across the Apolima Strait. Upolu is more elongated and uneven in shape than Savai’i and has lower average elevations. It occupies an area of 432 square miles (1,119 square km), including five offshore islets, and rises to 3,608 feet (1,100 metres) at Mount Fito. Manono and Apolima are smaller islands lying in the strait between the two main islands.
All the nation’s rivers are shallow, are limited in extent, and radiate directly from the central highlands to the coast. The islands are rocky, formed by volcanic activity that progressed from east to west within the past seven million years. They are ringed by coral reefs and shallow lagoons except where the shorelines are marked by cliffs formed by lava flows. Mount Matavanu on Savai’i last erupted intermittently during 1905–11. Samoa’s volcanic soils support lush vegetation but are easily eroded by runoff.
The climate is tropical and humid. Precipitation varies from more than 100 inches (2,540 mm) on the northern and western coasts to 300 inches (7,620 mm) inland. Temperatures vary little, averaging 80 °F (27 °C) and ranging between 73 and 86 °F (23 and 30 °C) throughout the year. The southeast trade winds prevail, varying occasionally to northerlies during the wet season (November or December to April), when severe storms are liable to occur. Typhoons occasionally cause widespread damage.
Plant and animal life
Samoa’s lush vegetation includes inland rainforests and cloud forests. Large sections of the coast have been covered with taro plantations and coconut groves. The islands support limited animal life, although more than 50 species of birds are found there, at least 16 of them indigenous, including rare tooth-billed pigeons. The only native mammals are flying foxes, which are endangered, and other species of smaller bats. Rats, wild cattle, and pigs have been introduced. Among the smaller animals found in Samoa are several species of lizards, two snakes of the boa family, centipedes and millipedes, scorpions, spiders, and a wide variety of insects.
O Le Pupu Pue National Park (1978), Samoa’s first national park, occupies some 11 square miles (28 square km) on south-central Upolu. Conservation efforts have been lax in many Samoan communities. Soil erosion, resulting from farming steep slopes and clear-cutting forests, has produced runoff that has damaged many of Samoa’s lagoons and coral reefs. Industrial and residential pollution has become a concern in and around Apia. Wildfires in 1998, which were started by farmers clearing land for cultivation, destroyed nearly one-fourth of the forests on Savai’i.
Demography of Samoa
- Ethnic groups
Samoans are mainly of Polynesian heritage, and about nine-tenths of the population are ethnic Samoans. Euronesians (people of mixed European and Polynesian ancestry) account for most of the rest of the population, and a tiny fraction are of wholly European heritage.
The Samoan language, believed to be among the oldest of the Polynesian tongues, is closely related to the Maori, Tahitian, Hawaiian, and Tongan languages. A large number of Samoan words reflect maritime traditions, including names for ocean currents, winds, landforms, stars, and directions. Some verb forms indicate the relative positions of objects, including directions of movement toward or away from the speaker. English is widely spoken as a second language.
Samoans traditionally had a pantheistic religion, where family elders performed most rituals; they appear not to have had a dominant priestly class. They readily adopted Christian teachings following European contact, and even the more remote villages built churches, often of grand proportions. The Congregational Christian Church in Samoa (formerly the London Missionary Society) was dominant until the late 20th century, but it has since lost many adherents to the Mormon church. Mormon and Congregationalist groups now account for roughly one-fourth of the population each. About one-fifth of Samoans are Roman Catholics, and about one-ninth are Methodists. Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, and other Christian groups have more limited memberships.
- Settlement patterns
Most Samoans have lived in coastal villages since the region was first settled, and about four-fifths of the population is still rural. Apia, on the northern coast of Upolu, is the nation’s only town as well as the main port and centre for services and trade; it contains approximately one-fifth of Samoa’s population.
- Demographic trends
The birth rate in Samoa has been high since the 1950s, when the population reached about 80,000. Although that number had doubled by the mid-1990s, the population’s rate of increase remained markedly lower than the world average because tens of thousands of Samoans had emigrated to New Zealand, the United States, Australia, and elsewhere. Life expectancy at birth is 67 years for males and 72 for females. About two-fifths of Samoans are less than 15 years old.
Economy of Samoa
Close kinship ties within the villages traditionally bound Samoans into a collectivist society, but a cash economy developed following European contact, mainly based on agricultural exports. Tourism, services, and light manufacturing became increasingly important after 1950. Other major sources of capital now include remittances from Samoans living abroad (mainly in the United States and New Zealand), which account for as much as one-sixth of household income, and grants from the United States, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, and other foreign entities.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture accounts for two-fifths of Samoa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly two-thirds of the workforce; however, production does not meet local demand, and large quantities of food are imported. Major crops include coconuts, taro, pineapples, mangoes, and other fruits. Typhoons caused widespread damage in the 1990s to several crops, including taro, which was also devastated by taro leaf blight. Cattle, pigs, and poultry are raised for local consumption. Forestry has made increasing contributions to the economy, partly because of the government’s replanting programs. The Samoan fishing industry remains small, based primarily on catches made from outrigger canoes.
- Resources and power
Samoa has few natural resources apart from its agricultural lands, surrounding waters, and pleasant scenery and climate; nearly half of the land area is covered by forests. Hydroelectric power provides most of the nation’s energy needs; petroleum-fired thermal generators account for much of the remainder.
Samoa’s diversified light manufactures include beer, cigarettes, coconut products (mainly creams and oils), corned beef, soap, paint, soft drinks and juices, and handicrafts. Most are produced for local markets. A Japanese-owned electric assembly plant, which opened in the 1990s, is Samoa’s leading employer after the national government.
The currency of Samoa is the tala, which consists of 100 sene (“cents”). The money supply is controlled and regulated by the Central Bank of Samoa, which was established in 1984. Samoa also has several commercial banks. Banking and finance account for only a tiny fraction of employment, although numerous companies have registered in Samoa since offshore banking services were initiated in 1988.
Samoa has a persistently negative balance of trade. Major trading partners include New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, the United States, Japan, and American Samoa. Food, industrial supplies, machinery, consumer goods, and petroleum products are the main imports. Coconut products, copra, cacao, and beer account for a majority of exports.
Government (including education) and tourism are the foundations of Samoa’s service sector. Tourism has been an increasing source of foreign exchange, with a steady supply of visitors from American Samoa and growing numbers from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Europe. Popular tourist sites, in addition to Samoa’s white-sand beaches, include Mulinu’u, where the parliament and traditional meeting and burial grounds are located; Fuipisia Falls, which descends some 180 feet (55 metres); and Vailima, where the head of state now resides in the last home of the 19th-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.
- Labour and taxation
Nearly two-thirds of Samoans are farmers or agricultural workers. About one-fifth of the population works in government, tourist, or other service sectors, and the central government is Samoa’s single largest employer. There are several trade unions in Samoa, though only a small percentage of the country’s workforce are members. The majority of the country’s workforce are men, but women are expected to play an increasing role. In 1991 the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was established to encourage and promote women’s employment.
More than half of the government’s revenue comes from taxes, and nearly one-third is from grants. In 1994 a value-added tax on goods and services was introduced amid great protest.
- Transportation and telecommunications
International flights connect the islands with American Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Regular shipping services link with ports abroad, including those in Hawaii and California to the northeast and Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia to the southwest. About two-fifths of Samoan roadways are paved, including many coastal highways and the major streets of Apia. There are no railways.
Samoa has several thousand telephones in use, as well as international phone connections via undersea cable and satellite. The number of cellular phones in use has increased rapidly since the mid-1990s.
Government and Society of Samoa
- Constitutional framework
In 1962 Samoa promulgated its constitution as the first independent microstate in the Pacific region, and in 1970 it joined the Commonwealth. Samoa has a parliamentary government that blends Samoan and New Zealander traditions. The constitution originally provided for a constitutional monarchy under two coheads of state, with the provision that when one died (as happened in 1963) the other would continue as sole monarch and head of state for life, after which future heads of state would be elected by the Legislative Assembly (Fono Aoao Faitulafono) to five-year terms. The prime minister is elected by the assembly and appoints a cabinet from among its members. The Legislative Assembly has 49 members. Two are directly elected by the nation’s non-Samoan and mixed ethnic groups. The remaining 47 are directly elected from among candidates who are Samoan matai (chiefs).
- Local government
Samoan local government is the responsibility of more than 360 villages in 11 administrative districts, five of which are based on Upolu—A’ana, Aiga-i-le-Tai (with Manono and Apolima islands), Atua, Tuamasaga, and Va’a-o-Fonoti—and six on Savali—Fa’asaleleaga, Gaga’emauga, Gaga’ifomauga, Palauli, Satupa’itea, and Vaisigano. Each of Samoa’s several thousand aiga (extended families) designates at least one matai to lead and represent it; the matai, in turn, form village councils to administer local affairs.
- Justice and security
The justice system is headed by a Supreme Court, whose chief justice is appointed by the head of state on the advice of the prime minister. Supreme Court judges also preside over the Court of Appeal. Among the lower courts are the Magistrate’s Court, which hears most criminal cases, and the Lands and Titles Court, which handles civil matters.
Samoa has a police force but no standing military. New Zealand is bound by treaty to provide military assistance upon request.
- Political process
Universal suffrage for Samoans aged 21 years and older was instituted in 1990. Political parties first appeared in Samoa in the late 1970s, and by the turn of the 21st century there were more than five. The major parties are the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and the Samoan National Development Party (SNDP). Women participate in government but hold few elected offices.
- Health and welfare
Immunization programs since the late 20th century have greatly reduced the incidence of disease, particularly among children; however, there are few doctors, and the quality of hospital care is limited. Obesity and poorly balanced diets are leading health concerns. The leading causes of death are congestive heart failure, cancers, cerebrovascular diseases, accidents, pneumonia, and septicemia. Water shortages are common because of the islands’ porous soils and limited watersheds; wells and cisterns are the only water source for much of the rural population.
Nearly all Samoans are literate. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 14; however, only a small fraction of the population has completed secondary school. Selected pupils receive higher education at government- or mission-run secondary, vocational, or teacher-training institutions. The University of the South Pacific has its School of Agriculture at Alafua, near Apia. Some students attend the National University of Samoa (1984) and Avele College (1924), but most enroll at overseas institutions such as Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, the University of Hawaii, and Brigham Young University–Hawaii.
Culture Life of Samoa
History of Samoa
All of the Samoan islands west of long. 171°W were awarded to Germany under the terms of an 1899 treaty among Germany, the United States, and Great Britain. New Zealand seized the islands from Germany in 1914 and obtained a mandate over them from the League of Nations in 1921. The United Nations made the islands a trusteeship of New Zealand in 1946. New Zealand rule was unpopular, and in the 1930s a resistance movement (known as mau ) emerged among Europeans and native Polynesians. In 1961 a United Nations–supervised plebiscite was held, and on Jan. 1, 1962, the islands became independent as Western Samoa. The nation was renamed Samoa in 1997. Chief Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II became co-head of state in 1962 and sole head of state in 1963, serving until his death in 2007; Tuiatua Tupea Tamasese Efi, a former prime minister, was elected to succeed him and has been reelected since then. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been prime minister since 1996. In 2009 Samoa suffered significant destruction from a tsunami, especially on the south and east coasts of Upolu, and in 2012 a tropical cyclone also caused significant damage, especially around the capital.
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