Fa'a Samoa : an aid to livelihood recovery following the Samoan tsunami? : a case study examining two Samoan villages : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Natural disasters are destructive, traumatic and expensive. Costs associated with natural disasters are increasing, while simultaneously, there is a call to minimise or optimise development spending. With this in mind, this study examined the ways in which the cultural framework of Samoa, fa’a Samoa, influenced Samoan livelihood recovery following the 2009 tsunami. Fa’a Samoa is widely considered to consist of three major components, matai (chief), church, and aiga (family), supported by a variety of other factors including land, ceremonies, respect, service, love, hospitality and compassion.
This research was undertaken through qualitative research, using critical case study analysis. Semi-structured interviews within an unaffected donor village, an affected village and with key informants provided primary data. The data was evaluated against the Samoan cultural framework, fa’a Samoa, using key themes such as Christianity, love, family, customary land, reciprocity and village governance to ascertain trends or attribute meaning. Research findings show that central to the recovery of Samoan communities following the tsunami, and their development in general, is fa’a Samoa. By drawing on fa’a Samoa, Samoan communities were able to recover their livelihood with the provision of less official assistance than would have otherwise been required. As a result, the principal conclusion of this thesis is that development should employ an approach in which the acknowledgement of cultural frameworks moves from desirable, to an essential requirement of policy and practice. Additionally, to aid livelihood recovery, non-affected communities should be called upon to provide assistance during the response and recovery phases and procedures should be put in place to enable families to connect with and help their affected kin.