An island nation in the South Pacific, Samoa changed its official name from Western Samoa to the Independent State of Samoa in 1997. The Polynesian Samoans are known for their friendly demeanor and smiles with which they greet visitors to their islands. The two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i are home to 185,000 people, with about the same number of Samoans living overseas in such locations as New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and the US mainland.
While Samoa is surrounded by coral reefs and filled with thick growths of coconut trees, the lives of the Samoan people are encumbered by many problems shared with island nations around the world. Formed of volcanic rock, the ground does not retain water, so despite the warm, plentiful rains, rainfall flows directly into the ocean, making it difficult to secure a stable supply of drinking water in many villages. Electric power is provided by diesel generators, and due to the soaring cost of oil recently, electricity rates have been putting a great deal of economic pressure on people’s lives. Another problem faced in Samoa is infectious diseases such as filariasis, dengue fever and tuberculosis, which have not yet been eradicated. Waste is generated largely from the distribution of imported goods and thus disposal is a major problem as well. Another matter of great concern to the Samoan people is protection from natural disasters.
Japanese government has made immense contributions to development in Samoa. Examples of infrastructure development include port facility construction at the distribution base of Apia Harbor, ferryboats for connecting Upolu (where the nation’s capital Apia is located) and Savai’i, and a fish harbor and adjacent fish market. With regards to education, the government of Japan has assisted with the construction of the National University of Samoa. JICA has provided support for training human resources by dispatching experts primarily in the fields of education, health, environment and economic development as well as Japan Overseas Cooperation and Senior Volunteers.
As an island country, Samoa is among the first of the world’s nations to be impacted by problems such as climate change and other environmental issues, and thus the nation seeks the collective knowledge from the world against those. JICA will continue its cooperation and assistance, hoping to be a piece of that knowledge.
Manabu AIBA, Resident Representative
JICA Samoa Office