Social change and deforestation : a case study of Western Samoa : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
Deforestation has caught much attention within wider concerns about the
global environmental crisis. Though it is often large countries with rich forest
resources which have caught most attention globally, forests in Western
Samoa are worthy of attention as they have experienced some of the highest
per capita rates of loss.
The causes of deforestation reveal an intricate mix of social, cultural,
economic and political factors within a specific local context. At the same
time, external factors, which exist outside the national borders, also influence
on the state of the forest.
Deforestation in Western Samoa is an example of such complex relationships.
It is not commercial logging operations which cause deforestation in Western
Samoa, and most deforestation is occurring on communal land. Recent
studies have claimed that the modification of land tenure system, caused by
the influences of Western individualism and the cash economy, induces
Samoans to cut down trees. However, this study has found that the main
cause of deforestation is the land conversion for agricultural use by villagers
who seek increased money income. At the same time, changes in the
traditional Samoan society have had significant influences on deforestation.
Factors, such as an increasing number of matai (chief) and the advent of
nuclear families, have interacted to encourage villagers to clear forests.
No society is constant. Forests in Western Samoa have been lost in the
continuing friction between traditional and modern values in the society.
Conservation of the forest depends on the views and values of Samoans
themselves, seen through the lens of their culture, and on the decisions made
based on such perceptions and attitudes.