Paradigm shift, needed in climate change adaptation in Samoa

21/09/2009 08:38

By Cherelle Jackson

APIA- Living for each day, to ensure there is food on the table and the whole family is fed, is how the majority of Samoans operate.
But such an attitude may need a little shift with the visible impacts of climate change albeit gradual in it’s appearance.
Climate Change Officer of the United Nations Development Programme, in Samoa, Mr. Peniamina Pipi Leavai says this is a challenge that climate change workers must address.
It is not the understanding of climate change, but rather an understanding of ways to address the impacts of climate change.
“As a climate change officer, I feel that the Samoan people understand to a certain extent and that different people have different understandings. In general, people get the idea. It is how to address the impacts that I feel 'most' do not know how to address in a systematic manner,” Leavai said.
“That is the challenge because Samoan people (Pacific people) are not used to addressing such issues in the western paradigm of 'systemisation'.”
The Climate Change Officer says this involves planning in the long-term, anticipation of impacts, reactive planning and social post modern society forms such as globalization and capitalism.
According to him, maintaining a certain way of living and being aware of the changes is key.
“What people have yet to know is that it’s cultural practices of exchange of gifts during funerals, weddings, etc. are forms of resilience to changes in environment. These are adaptive measures that must be sustained and encouraged. This is a point already been researched and shows that our cultural practices have made us resilient in the face of changes in a stationary climate in the past.”
But he says things are changing: “ Yet, today, climate change is getting more dangerous by the year, environmental changes are so rapid it’s not funny, coupled with our social ways eroding at the same time such as social aspects from FaaSamoa sustainable ways of living to modern consuming society such as high consumptions and extraneous wants versus needs.”
He says that our economical way of living, communalism to individualism further contributes to a decay in traditional sustainable ways even more. “This creates a higher vulnerability to life that is again continuously exaggerated by climate change impacts.”
Leavai says that UNDP encourages Samoas implementation of adaptation efforts already proposed in the countries National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) as submitted to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“UNDP hopes that the NAPA becomes the national adaptation strategy where all adaptation related projects and programs from other donors and development partners are addressed, “ Leavai said.
“ Further, Samoa must aim to concentrate all its efforts into institutionalizing a climate change division or ministry and ensure that national budget address the capacity needs of this institution. This will be a significant step forward if Samoa is to live up to taking climate change as a high national and political priority,” he said.
UNDP has specifically contributed to climate change adaptation in Samoa by seeking and securing funding for climate change projects, advocating for adaptation measures and policy development at all levels of development intervention.
It also advocates for Samoa as a Least Developed Country, highly vulnerable from adverse climate change impacts requiring immediate and urgent attention for not only climate change adaptation but equally on mitigation projects, programmes and measures
In the community UNDP currently contributes through the Small Grants Programme - dealing directly with communities, offering policy program advice, technical advice, facilitation of consultations, seeking expert advice and consultants, listening to community needs.
They also assist through the Community Based Adaptation Program whereby Samoa is one of 10 countries in the world where the CBA program is trialled.