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Independent State of Samoa

Malo Sa'oloto Tuto'atasi o Samoa i Sisifo


FLAG: The upper-left quarter of the flag is blue and bears five white, five-rayed stars representing the Southern Cross; the remainder of the flag is red.

ANTHEM: The Flag of Freedom.

MONETARY UNIT: The Samoan tala (ws$) is a paper currency of 100 sene. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 sene and 1 tala, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 100 talas. ws$1 = us$0.35962 (or us$1 = ws$2.7807) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: British weights and measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's, 12 January; Independence Holidays (first three workdays of June); Anzac Day, 25 April; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays are Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 1 am = noon GMT.


Samoa consists of the islands of Savai'i and Upolu and several smaller islands, of which only Manono and Apolima are inhabited. The country, situated almost centrally both in the Pacific Ocean and among the South Sea islands, has a total land area of 2,944 sq km (1,137 sq mi), extending 150 km (93 mi) esewnw and 39 km (24 mi) nnessw. Savai'i and Upolu, separated by the Apolima Strait at a distance of nearly 18 km (11 mi), have a combined coastline of 403 km (250 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Samoa is slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island.


Located on the Pacific tectonic plate near the boundary of the Australian Plate, the country lies within the area of "Ring of Fire," a seismically active band surrounding the Pacific Ocean. The islands are, therefore, volcanic in origin, with coral reefs surrounding most of them. Rugged volcanic ranges rise on both islands. Volcanoes on Savai'i include Mauga Afi and Mauga Silisili, the latter of which is the highest point in Samoa, with an elevation of 1,857 m (6,094 ft). Mauga Fito is the highest point on Upolu, with an elevation of 1,116 m (3,660 ft). There are numerous swift-flowing, seasonal rivers on both islands.

Apolima is a volcanic crater whose wall is pierced by a passage that connects its harbor with the sea. Manono, about 70 m (230 ft) high, consists chiefly of coral sand. These two islands lie within the Apolima Strait. There are also a number of underwater volcanoes in the region.


The climate is tropical, but because of the oceanic surroundings, temperature ranges are not considerable. The hottest month is December, and the coldest is July; the mean daily temperature is about 27°c (81°f). The year is divided into a dry season (May to October) and a wet season (November to April). Rainfall averages 287 cm (113 in) annually, and the average yearly relative humidity is 83%. Although the islands lie outside the normal track of hurricanes, severe storms occurred in 1889, 1966, and 1968. Trade winds from the southeast are fairly constant throughout the dry season.


Lush vegetation covers much of the land. Along the coast there are mangrove forests, pandani, Barringtonia, hibiscus, and strand vegetation, commonly found throughout the Pacific. The adjacent lowland forest, which originally stretched inland over the lower slopes of the mountains, has been cut down extensively on Upolu and in more limited areas on Savai'i. Inland and at higher elevations, the rain forests contain trees and lianas of many genera and species. The higher elevations of Savai'i contain moss forests and mountain scrub.

Fifty species of birds are found; 16 of these are seabirds, many of which visit Samoa only during the breeding season. Sixteen of the 34 species of land birds are indigenous. Among the latter are small doves, parrots, pigeons, and wild ducks. The most interesting bird, scientifically, is the tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris Peale), which some ornithologists regard as the connecting link between bird life of the present and the tooth-billed birds of zoological antiquity.

The only indigenous mammals in Samoa are the rat (Mus exulans Peale) and the flying fox (Pteropus samoensis Peale). Numerous species of birds and mammals, chiefly domesticated, have been introduced by the Samoans and Europeans. Two species of snakes, several different lizards, and the gecko are found. Insect life includes many species of moths, beetles, spiders, and ants. The mosquito (Stegomyia pseudoscutellaris) is a carrier of human filaria.


Samoa's environmental problems include soil erosion, damage to the nation's forests, and the need for protection of its wildlife. The lack of adequate sewage disposal facilities, as well as siltation and industrial by-products, threaten the nation's marine habitats. Samoa's water supply is too small to support its current population.

Lake Lanoto'o (Goldfish Lake), located on Upolu, is a Ramsar wetland site. The deep lake fills a volcanic crater with pea-greencolored water; wild goldfish inhabit its shorelines. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species include three types of mammals, seven species of birds, one type of reptile, four species of fish, one type of mollusk, and two species of plants. Threatened species include the humpbacked whale, albacore tuna, hawksbill turtle, Samoan moorhen, and Samoan flying fox.


The population of Samoa in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 188,000, which placed it at number 173 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 41% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 108 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.4%, the highest growth rate in Polynesia and a rate the government viewed as too high. High emigration offsets the high birth rate. The projected population for the year 2025 was 193,000. The population density was 66 per sq km (171 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 22% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.82%. The capital city, Apia, had a population of 40,000 in that year.


Under German colonial rule, many Chinese laborers were imported to work on plantations. More recently, there has generally been a net annual loss of population through migration. Emigration occurs mainly through students going to New Zealand to continue their education and Samoans seeking work there. In addition, several thousand Samoans live in American Samoa and other parts of the United States. The migration rate in 2000 was -22.8 migrants per 1,000 population, falling to -11.73 in 2005.


Samoans compose about 92.6% of the total population. The Samoans are the second-largest branch of the Polynesians, a people occupying the scattered islands of the Pacific from Hawaii to New Zealand and from eastern Fiji to Easter Island. Most of the remaining Samoans are of mixed Samoan and European or Asian descent. Euronesians (persons of European and Polynesian descent) make up 7% of the total, and Europeans constitute 0.4%.

For many years, all inhabitants of Samoa were accorded a domestic status as Samoan or European. Residents are now officially classed as either citizens or foreigners. Among Samoan citizens, however, the distinction between persons of Samoan or European status is still recognized. Most Samoans live in foreshore villages, while non-Samoans predominate in Apia and its environs.


Samoan is the universal language, but both Samoan and English are official. Some Chinese is also spoken. Most of the part Samoans and many others speak English, and it is taught in the schools.


Over 99% of Samoans profess some form of Christianity, and religious observance is strong among all groups. The Congregational Christian Church of Western Samoa, a successor to the London Missionary Society, is self-supporting and the largest religious body in the country, representing about 34.8% of the population. The Roman Catholic (19.6%) and Methodist churches (15%) also have large followings. The Mormons (12.7%), Assemblies of God (6.6%), and Seventh-Day Adventists (3.5%) have grown in recent years. The country is home to one of seven Baha'i Houses of Worship in the world. There are a small number of Muslims.

The constitution provides for religious freedom but describes the state as "based on Chrsistian principles and Samoan customs." Though the right to choose one's own faith is generally respected by the government, local village chiefs sometimes choose the religious denomination that is followed by their group; there have been cases where members of the village tribe who did not adhere to this designated faith were punished by tribal leaders or banished from the village.


The road system in 2002 totaled 836 km (519 mi), of which 267 km (166 mi) were paved. Most roads are on the northern coast of Upolu. Buses and taxis provide public transportation. In 2003, there were 6,400 passenger cars and 6,700 commercial vehicles.

Diesel-powered launches carry passengers and freight around the islands, and small motor vessels maintain service between Apia and Pago Pago in American Samoa. Fortnightly cargo and passenger connections are maintained with New Zealand, and scheduled transpacific services connect Samoa with Australian, Japanese, United Kingdom, and North American ports. Apia is the principal port. Asau, on Savai'i, was opened as a second deepsea port in 1972. As of 2005, there was one cargo vessel of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 7,091 GRT.

As of 2004, there were four airports, three of which (as of 2005) had a paved runway. Faleolo Airport, 35 km (22 mi) west of Apia, is the principal air terminal. Polynesian Airlines provides daily air connections with Pago Pago and regularly scheduled flights to other Pacific destinations; through Pago Pago there are connecting flights to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Air Samoa and Samoa Aviation provide internal air service between Upolu and Savai'i, and Hawaiian Airlines provides direct service between Honolulu and Faleolo and commuter service between Faleolo and Pago Pago. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), 173,500 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Archaeological evidence on Upolu indicates that Samoa was colonized by maritime traders of the Lapita culture at least as early as the 1st millennium bc. From the mid-13th century ad, genealogies, important titles, traditions, and legends give considerable information on the main political events. The first Europeans to sight the islands were the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722 and the French navigator Louis de Bougainville in 1768. But the world knew little about Samoa until after the arrival of the missionary John Williams in 1830 and the establishment of the London Missionary Society.

Williams's arrival coincided with the victory of one group of chiefs over another, ending a series of violent internecine wars. Runaway sailors and other Europeans had already settled among the Samoans and assisted the chiefs in their campaigns. Whalers also visited the islands, and from time to time the warships of the great powers visited Apia to oversee the activities of whaling crews and settlers. Naval officers and missionaries began to consult with the dominant group of chiefs as if it represented a national government and treated its leader as a king. In time, semiofficial representatives of Great Britain and the United States were stationed in Apia. Between 1847 and 1861, the United States appointed a commercial agent, and Britain and the city of Hamburg appointed consuls.

Factional rivalries took a new turn as British, US, and German consular agents, aided sometimes by their countries' warships, aligned themselves with various paramount chiefs. Intrigues among the chiefs and jealousies among the representatives of the great powers culminated in civil war in 1889. In the Berlin Treaty, which followed, Britain, the United States, and Germany set up a neutral and independent government under King Malietoa Laupepea, and their consuls were authorized to constitute Apia as a separate municipality. The death of King Malietoa in 1898 led to a dispute over succession, and the three powers intervened once again. In 1899, they abolished the kingship, and in 1900, they signed a series of conventions that made Samoa a German protectorate. The German administration continued to experience difficulties, leading to the exile of several Samoan leaders and the suspension of others from office. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, New Zealand military forces occupied Samoa, and from 1919 to 1946, New Zealand administered the islands as a mandate of the League of Nations.

In 1927, local opposition to the New Zealand administration among both the Samoan and the European communities resulted in the formation of a nationalistic organization known as the Mau, which embarked on a program of civil disobedience. Its members withdrew from political life, from schools, and from all contact with the government. The protests lasted in one form or another until 1936, when the leaders of the Mau reached an agreement with the administration and reentered the political life of the territory.

In 1946, a trusteeship agreement was approved by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, and New Zealand formally committed itself to promoting the development of Samoa toward ultimate self-government. The passage of the Samoa Amendment Act of 1947 and a series of further amendments governed Samoa's subsequent evolution toward independence. An executive council was reconstituted in 1957, and the New Zealand high commissioner withdrew from the Legislative Assembly, which thenceforth was presided over by an elected speaker. In 1959, an executive cabinet was introduced, and in 1960, the constitution of the Independent State of Samoa was adopted. This was followed by a plebiscite under UN supervision in 1961, in which an overwhelming majority of voters approved the adoption of the constitution and supported independence.

On 1 January 1962, Samoa became an independent nation under the name of Western Samoa. Tupua Tamasese Meaoli and Malietoa Tanumafili II became joint heads of state. When the former died on 5 April 1963, the latter became the sole head of state. Fiame Faumuina Mataafa was independent Western Samoa's first prime minister (196270) and served again in that post from 1973 until his death in 1975.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Western Samoa suffered from a worsening economy and growing political and social unrest. A divisive public-sector strike from 6 April to 2 July 1981 cut many essential services to a critical level. The leadership of Tupuola Taisi Efi, who later became head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) and was prime minister in 1976, was successfully challenged by the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which won the February 1982 general election. Judicial rulings regarding electoral fraud subsequently nullified some of the election results, and Tupuola returned to power from September to December.

On 30 December 1982, however, a second HRPP government was formed, with Tofilau Eti, the new HRPP leader, as prime minister. Controversy erupted in 1982 over the signing of a protocol with New Zealand that substantially reduced the right of Western Samoans to New Zealand citizenship. Tofilau resigned in December 1985 after his budget failed to win approval, and Va'ai Kolone became prime minister in January 1986 as head of a new coalition government comprising 15 CDP members and 12 former HRPP members. Tupuola was named deputy prime minister of the new government. Tofilau Eti, leader of the HRPP, was reelected prime minister in April 1988 as a result of a contested election that was settled by a judge flown in from New Zealand. A gradual deterioration in the bilateral relationship between Samoa and New Zealand continued as the two nations disputed the special immigration quota applied to Samoans.

In October 1990, a referendum on the issue of universal suffrage narrowly passed. A proposal to establish an upper legislative chamber composed of traditional chiefs failed.

In 1991, in the first elections held under an arrangement of universal suffrage, the HRPP won 28 of 47 seats and Tofilau once again became prime minister. Among the new ministers appointed was Fiame Naomi, the first female cabinet member, becoming minister of education, youth, sports and culture, and labor. In elections held 26 April 1996, Tofilau Eti retained his post as prime minister.

In July 1997, following an affirmative vote by the legislative assembly, the country officially changed its name from Western Samoa to Samoa. Tofilau Eti resigned due to poor health in November 1998 and died in March 1999 at the age of 74. He was succeeded by deputy prime minister Tuila'epa Sailelel Malielegaoi. In elections held 2 March 2001, Tuila'epa retained his post as prime minister, with the HRPP taking 23 seats in the Fono. The Supreme Court ordered four by-elections, which were won by the HRPP, bringing its total to 30 of 49 parliamentary seats. The HRPP formed a government with the support of several independent members of parliament.

In June 2002, New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark issued an apology to the Samoans for injustices inflicted upon them during colonial times. During the time when New Zealand ruled the country (from 1919 to 1962), 22% of the population died as a result of an influenza virus introduced to the islands, and in 1929, New Zealand police fired upon and killed nine people during a rally for independence.

In the early 2000s, Samoa again faced economic concerns. Declining fish catches led the government in 2004 to appoint a committee to investigate the problem and to consider suspending fishermen's loan payments. In addition, the government banned scuba fishing with the hope of allowing the fish populations to rise. In 2005, Samoan doctors struck for higher wages and better working conditions. When their demands were not met, 25 hospital doctors resigned, while foreign doctors maintained a skeleton crew.

In December 2005, Samoa was still negotiating for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), for which it first applied in 1998. A key issue in the negotiations was the privatization of Samoan public services. Opponents of Samoa joining the WTO cited concerns that Samoa could lose control of its natural resources and find its markets saturated with cheap inferior goods from overseas.


Executive power is vested in the head of state. Although Malietoa Tanumafili II, head of state in 1962, had lifetime tenure, the constitution took effect 1 January that year; it provided for his successors to be elected for a term of five years by the Fono, or legislative assembly. The powers and functions of the head of state are far-reaching. All legislation must have his assent before it becomes law. He also has power to grant pardons and reprieves and to suspend or commute any sentence by any court. Executive authority is administered by a cabinet consisting of a prime minister and 12 other ministers appointed by him. The head of state and the cabinet members make up the executive council.

The 49-member parliament consists of the head of state and the Fono. Forty-seven Samoan members are elected out of the approximately 20,000 mataitraditional chiefs or heads of familiesin six two-seat and 35 single-seat constituencies. The election of the 47 Samoan members is by universal adult suffrage. Citizens of non-Samoan origin who qualify for registration on the individual voters' roll elect the two other members by universal suffrage.

The next elections are to be held no later than March 2011.


Technically, candidates for public office campaign as individuals, but political parties are becoming increasingly important. The Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) was founded in 1979 as an opposition party to the government of Prime Minister Tupuola Efi. Tupuola's followers, although not yet formally organized, had, in effect, constituted the ruling party; Tupuola later became the head of the Christian Deomocratic Party (CDP). Other parties winning seats in the 2001 elections were the Samoan National Development Party (SNDP), which took 13 seats, and the Samoa United People's Party (SUPP), which took one seat. Independent candidates won 11 seats. The next elections were to be held no later than March 2006.


With the exception of the Apia area, local government is carried out by the village fono, or council of matai and orators, and where and when necessary, through meetings of matai and orators of a district. The main administrative link between the central government and the outside districts is provided by part-time officials in each village who act as government agents in such matters as the registration of vital statistics; local inspectors represent the various government departments.


Court procedure is patterned after practices in British courts. Samoan custom is taken into consideration in certain cases. English is the official language of the court, but Samoan is also used. The Supreme Court has full civil and criminal jurisdiction over the administration of justice in Samoa. It is under the jurisdiction of the chief judge, who is appointed by the head of state, acting on the advice of the prime minister. The Court of Appeal consists of three judges, who may be judges of the Supreme Court or other persons with appropriate qualifications.

Magistrates' courts are subordinate courts with varying degrees of authority. The highest, presided over by the senior magistrate, may hear criminal cases involving imprisonment of up to three years or cases involving only fines. The Land and Titles Court has jurisdiction in disputes over Samoan land and succession to Samoan titles. Samoan assessors and associate judges possessing a good knowledge of Samoan custom must be present at all sittings of the court. Lawyers are not permitted to appear in the Land and Titles Court; each party appoints its own leader, usually a chief or an orator. Court decisions are based largely on Samoan custom.

Some civil and criminal matters are handled by village fonos (traditional courts), which apply a considerably different procedure than that used in the official Western-style courts. The Village Fono Law of 1990 affords legal status to the decision of the village fono and allows the appeal of fono decisions to the Land and Titles Court and to the Supreme Court. In July 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Village Fono Law could not be used to infringe upon villagers' freedom of religion, speech, assembly, or association.


Samoa has no armed forces and relies on its police force for internal security. The government foresees no military development because of financial considerations and the absence of threats from abroad. There are informal defense ties with New Zealand under the terms of the 1962 Treaty of Friendship.


Samoa became a member of the United Nations (UN) on 15 December 1976; it belongs to ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, UNCTAD, UNESCO, and WHO.

The nation also participates in the ACP Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, the South Pacific Commission, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (Sparteca), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the Pacific Island Forum. Samoa has observer status in the World Trade Organization.

An Inter-Samoa Consultative Committee, made up of representatives from Samoa and American Samoa, holds meetings alternately in both countries to discuss matters of mutual interest. By treaty, New Zealand is the exclusive representative of Samoa in the conduct of its foreign affairs outside the Pacific region. In environmental cooperation, Samoa is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The economy is based largely on agriculture, which, including fisheries, provides 50% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs two-thirds of the workforce, mostly in subsistence farming of food crops. In addition to agricultural exports, tourist revenues and remittances from overseas workers are also important sources of foreign exchange. Economic performance has suffered since 1990 due to the devastation to crops, tourism, and infrastructure caused by Cyclones Ofa and Val. In 199394 a fungal disease reduced taro production by 97%, threatening the island's basic food crop and causing negative growth in the economy. Samoa has the highest unemployment rate and the lowest wages in Oceania.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 1.9%, down from 3.5% in 2003. The inflation rate registered a sudden jump in 2004, to 16.4%, as a result of food shortages caused by hurricane damage early in the year; by the middle of 2005 the inflation had been brought back down to 7.6%, and it was on a continued downward trend. Great hopes are set for the tourism industry, with visitor numbers expected to double by 2010. The main engine of this growth trend is a new airlinePolynesian Blue, which operates flights between Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Samoa's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,600. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 14% of GDP, industry 23%, and services 63%.

According to the World Bank, in 2000, remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $45 million, or about $253 per capita, and accounted for approximately 19.5% of GDP.


In 2000, there were approximately 90,000 workers in Samoa. The majority were engaged in agriculture, and cash crops are raised as supplements to subsistence crops. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing account for 65% of wage employment; services account for 30% and industry for 5%. Although there are no data on unemployment in Samoa, underemployment is known to be substantial.

There are only two trade unions in the country, representing workers at the three major banks and the country's only factory. Although small, a trade union movement has been established. Public employees are represented by the Public Service Association. Approximately 20% of the workforce is unionized. Over the years, thousands of skilled and semiskilled Samoans have left the islands, drawn away mainly by better economic opportunities in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

Labor is generally restricted to a 40-hour week. Payment is in cash, and in many cases rations are also supplied to workers, either as part of their wages or in addition to them. In most cases, living quarters are provided for plantation workers. The minimum hourly wage was $0.47 in 2001. Samoan labor law provides for rudimentary safety and health standards, but these standards are not effectively enforced. Children may not work before the age of 15, but the law does not apply to service rendered to the matai, who sometimes require children to work on village farms. Moreover, increasing numbers of children work as street vendors in Apia.


Tropical agriculture occupies 46% of the land area, employs about 34% of the labor force, and makes up about 12% of gross domestic product (GDP). Most Samoans grow food crops for home consumption and cash crops for export. Village agriculture, in which the family is the productive unit, involves the largest areas of land, occupies the preponderance of the labor force, and produces the major portion of food and cash crops. Coconut products, cocoa, taro, and bananas are produced for export, and bananas, taro, and taamu are grown for local sale. Village plantings are invariably mixed, containing some or all of the following crops: coconuts, cocoa, bananas, taro, taamu, breadfruit, sugarcane, yams, manioc, and various fruits. Plantation agriculture has been controlled mainly by nonindigenous residents.

Exports of unprocessed copra have been largely replaced by coconut oil, coconut cream, and copra cake. In 2004, coconut production was estimated at 140,000 tons. Taro (coco yam) production in 2004 amounted to 17,000 tons. Taro production dropped 97% in 199394 due to leaf blight, and the government is working on methods to control the disease. Exports of cocoa have fallen in recent years, thereby discouraging production. Since 1991, no production over 1,000 tons has been reported. Banana exports fluctuate greatly from year to year. Exports of agricultural products in 2004 amounted to $5.6 million, while agricultural imports totaled $40.6 million that year.


Pigs and cattle form the bulk of the livestock. In 2005, pigs, which are common in the villages, were estimated to number 201,000 and cattle 29,000. A small number of cattle are kept for milk; the remainder are raised for beef. Nearly one-half of the cattle population is owned by Western Samoa Trust Estate Corporation (WSTEC), the most progressive cattle breeder. Other livestock in 2005 included an estimated 7,000 donkeys and 1,800 horses. Meat production in 2005 was 5,140 tons, 74% of it pork.


The government has sought to expand the fishing industry, but most fishing is still conducted along the reefs and coasts; deep-sea fishing, save for bonito and shark, is not developed. A $3 million fish market and wharf, built with Japanese aid, was completed in Apia in 1982. The local fish catch, however, steadily fell from 4,020 tons in 1982 to 565 tons in 1991; by 2003, the catch rebounded to 10,267 tons, with tuna comprising about 40%.


The nation's forest area is estimated at 105,000 hectares (259,000 acres). Reforestation projects are concentrated on Savai'i, which accounts for 80% of the nation's forest area. A large-scale timbermilling enterprise, established on Savai'i in 1970, began to produce kiln-dried sawn timber and veneer sheets for export. Roundwood production in 2004 was 131,000 cu m (4.6 million cu ft), with 53% used as fuel wood. Timber imports were estimated at $5.6 million in 2004.


No minerals of commercial value were known to exist in Samoa.


Samoa formerly depended heavily on imported energy, but hydroelectric power, first available in 1985, has greatly increased its generating capacity. In 2002, net electricity generation was 0.111 billion kWh, of which 50.5% came from fossil fuels and 49.5% from hydropower. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 0.103 million kWh. Total installed capacity in 2002 was 0.029 million kW.

Samoa has no reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, nor any refining capacity. All fossil fuel needs were met by imports of refined petroleum products. In 2002, imports and demand each averaged 1,020 barrels per day. Gasoline and distillates made up the majority of those imports at 400 barrels per day and 450 barrels per day, respectively.


The government has encouraged industrial growth, and manufacturing, geared mainly to processing primary products, is increasing steadily. Industries include food- and timber-processing facilities, a brewery, cigarette and match factories, and small individual enterprises for processing coffee and for manufacturing curios, soap, carbonated drinks, light metal products, garments, footwear, and other consumer products. A coconut oil mill, an additional coconut cream factory, a veneer mill, and a meat cannery began operations in the 1980s. In 1991, the Japanese Yazaki Samsa Co. began manufacturing automotive seat belts. The firm also produces electrical wiring systems.

In 2000, the industrial production growth rate was 2.8%, less than half the GDP growth rate in the same year and an indicator of an underperforming sector. In 2001, industry accounted for 23% of GDP; services were the main economic engine, with a 63% share. Although agriculture had only a 14% share in the economy, it employed two-thirds of the labor force and was responsible for 90% of total exports.


New Zealand provides extensive scientific and technical aid to Samoa. Other donors include Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has an integrated field office in Apia to promote science in the Pacific States. The National University of Samoa, founded in 1988 at Apia, has a faculty of science. The University of the South Pacific, founded in 1977 at Apia, has a school of agriculture.


Apia, the capital, is the center of commercial life. Many firms act as agents for shipping and airlines and for overseas commercial organizations generally. Outside Apia, trading stations, linked with the capital by launch and road transport, collect produce and distribute consumer goods. Several major firms operate about 200 stations in the outer districts and secure a large share of the total commercial business. There are also a number of smaller firms and independent traders. In Apia, various firms and small shops sell imported commodities and domestic products. Open markets sponsoring local produce vendors are a common food retailing situation for a nation where 65% of the workforce is employed in agriculture. The largest such market is Meketi Fou in Apia. Office hours are from 8 am to noon and resume from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.


The fact that Samoa has a limited number of exportsprincipally agricultural and timber productsrenders its economy extremely

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 87.1 150.5 -63.4
Australia 62.2 33.3 28.9
United States 11.4 20.9 -9.5
United Kingdom 3.9 1.3 2.6
Japan 2.8 7.8 -5.0
New Zealand 2.4 54.6 -52.2
Tokelau 1.2 1.2
New Caledonia 1.0 1.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 0.7 0.2 0.5
China, Hong Kong SAR 0.4 1.5 -1.1
Germany 0.3 0.2 0.1
() data not available or not significant.

vulnerable to weather conditions and market fluctuations. Imports consist chiefly of machinery and equipment, industrial supplies, and foodstuffs. The principal exports include fish, coconut oil and cream, copra, taro, garments, and beer. Foodstuffs and industrial supplies account for about 50% of the country's annual imports.

In 2004, exports totaled $94 million (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $285 million. Most of the exports went to Australia (67.2%), the United States (5.7%), and Indonesia (5.3%). Imports included food and live animals, mineral fuels, crude nonfuel materials, beverages, and tobacco and primarily came from New Zealand (25.1%), Fiji (21.5%), Taiwan (9.1%), Australia (8.9%), Singapore (8.5%), Japan (7.5%), and the United States (4.7%).


In the early 1970s, Samoa's heavy trade deficits were largely offset by tourism revenues, remittances from Samoans working abroad, and long-term investment capital. By the early 1980s, however, rising import costs and declining export earnings led to a critical balance-of-payments situation. By 1992, the external account deficit (excluding grants) had increased to about 28% of GDP. Samoa's external debt stood at $192 million in 1999.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Samoa's exports was $17 million, while imports totaled $90 million, resulting in a trade deficit of $73 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999 Samoa had exports of goods totaling $20 million and imports totaling $116 million. The services credit totaled $61 million and debit $25 million.

Exports of goods and services totaled $98 million in 2004, up from $86 million in 2003. Imports grew from $154 million in 2003 to $181 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative and on a downward pathfrom -$68 million in 2003 to -$83 million in 2004. An opposite trend was registered for the current account balance, which improved from $8 million in 2003 to $15 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold)

Current Account 18.2
     Balance on goods -97.5
         Imports -115.7
         Exports 20.3
     Balance on services 36.8
     Balance on income 0.4
     Current transfers 41.6
Capital Account 24.5
Financial Account -0.7
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Samoa
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities -0.7
Net Errors and Omissions 2.1
Reserves and Related Items -7.0
() data not available or not significant.

increased to $204 million in 2004, covering more than six months of imports.


Legislation in 1974 set up the Monetary Board to act as the central bank. The activities of the Monetary Board were taken over in May 1984 by the new Central Bank of Samoa. An Australian bank, ANZ, acquired the government's 25% stake in the Bank of Western Samoa (BWS), becoming its outright owner. The BWS is the largest bank in the country, with assets of about a$16 million (us$13 million). The government has sold its Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) to a consortium of local businesses. The bank, to be renamed the National Bank of Samoa, is the country's first locally owned commercial bank. The other banks are Pacific Commercial Bank (owned by Westpac, the Bank of Hawaii, and local shareholders) and the Development Bank of Western Samoa.

Parliament passed legislation in early 1988 to allow banks to set up offshore banking centers. More the 1,000 companies have registered in Apia under the new tax haven legislation, contributing substantially to the national budget. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $24.5 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $86.6 million.


There is a private life insurance company in Apia, National Pacific Insurance Ltd., managed by the National Insurance Co. of New Zealand.


Samoa's financial year ends on 31 December. Government budgets commonly show deficits.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 200102 Samoa's central government took in revenues of approximately $105 million and had expenditures of $119 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$14 million. Total external debt was $197 million.


Individuals and companies are liable for the payment of income tax. The basic nonresident corporate tax rate is 48%, and the resident corporate tax rate is 39%; rates for both domestic and foreign insurance companies are lower. Personal income tax rates range from 550%. There are also gift, inheritance, and stamp taxes.


Customs duties provide almost half of current government revenues and are levied on all imports except those specifically exempted. Preferential rates for imports from Commonwealth countries were abolished in 1975.


The government actively promotes the establishment of industries financed by overseas companies. These include milling and logging operations by a US company on Savai'i and by a joint Japanese-Samoan enterprise on Upolu, and a US hotel resort center near Apia.


The government has consistently stressed diversification of agriculture. It has also sought to promote growth in manufacturing, forestry, fishing, hydroelectric power, and tourism, which received a boost when the Falento Airport got a new terminal and runway extension in 1985. In 1989, an offshore banking center was launched. New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Community are major sources of development aid, and Japan and Germany have provided technical and financial aid. Assistance from the UN family of organizations totaled us$2.6 million in 1991. The country's fifth development plan (198587) called for an investment of ws$146.9 million, ws114.2 million of it from external sources. Investment increased significantly in 1990 and 1992, mainly due to increased public capital expenditures. External aid has been a major source of public investment financing, providing approximately 68% of capital expenditures in 1991 and 47% in 1992.

The Samoan economy remains dependent on foreign aid, remittances from overseas, agriculture (it employs two-thirds of the labor force and accounts for 90% of total exports), and fishing. Tourism is a sector of increasing importance, and the government is implementing infrastructure changes (most notably, a new airline) that it hopes will double visitor arrivals by 2010.


A social security system was established in 1972 under the Western Samoan National Provident Fund. It provides for employee retirement pensions, disability benefits, and death benefits. Employees contribute 5% of their earnings, and this amount is matched by their employers. Retirement is allowed at age 55. Workers' compensation is funded by employers and is compulsory. This program covers reasonable medical expenses and is paid for entirely by employer contributions.

Domestic abuse is common and considered culturally acceptable, except in the most extreme cases. Police are rarely notified and domestic issues are resolved within the village structure. Universal suffrage was enacted in 1990, and the following year, a Women's Affairs Ministry was established. The government sponsors literacy programs to assist in integrating women into the economic mainstream.

Human rights are generally well respected in Samoa.


The Department of Health oversees health care on the islands. The country is divided into 14 health districts, each under a medical officer. In 2004, there were an estimated 70 physicians, 202 nurses, and 18 dentists per 100,000 people. District nurses are stationed at strategic points throughout the islands. Child health clinics, particularly clinics for young children and infants, are a regular feature of their work. Approximately 91% of children were vaccinated against measles. A mobile dental clinic operates in the villages, while all schools in Apia are visited at regular intervals by a team of dental practitioners.

Diabetic retinopathy is common in Polynesian Samoans. The increase in diabetes has been linked to the Westernization of the Samoan diet. The life expectancy was estimated at 70.72 years as of 2005. During the same year, the infant mortality rate was an estimated 27.71 per 1,000 births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 15.5 and 6.4 per 1,000 people, respectively.

The immunization rates for children under age one were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 95%; polio, 95%; measles, 98%; and tuberculosis, 98%. Tuberculosis and AIDS are present but not considered major problems.


Most Samoans live in villages in traditional Samoan houses called fales. A fale is usually round or oval, with pebble floors and a thatch roof. It has no walls, being supported on the sides by posts. Coconut-leaf blinds can be lowered to exclude wind and rain. In areas more affected by contact with Europeans, the fale may have a concrete floor, corrugated iron roof, and latticework walls. Another fused Samoan-European type, much used by chiefs and pastors, is an oblong concrete house with some walls, often with separate rooms in each corner; like the fale it is open at the sides. Fales are grouped around an open area in the center of the village and have separate cookhouses behind them.

More modern housing has been constructed since about the 1990s, primarily through international assistance. Solid wall structures with concrete foundations and iron roofs have been built to withstand the natural elements of harsh wind, rain, and cyclones. However, low-income families are not able to purchase or build such structures without assistance. The Housing Corporation of Samoa was established by the Housing Corporation Act of 1989 to offer loans and assistance for prospective homeowners. In 2001, there were about 23,059 households in Samoa; the average number of members per household was eight.


Formal education is provided by the Department of Education and five religious missions. Government and mission schools have a uniform syllabus and common examinations. The government school system is more comprehensive, with almost all teachers holding Samoan teachers' certificates. Village schools provide four years of primary schooling. District schools draw the brighter pupils from village schools and educate them through the upper primary level. In the Apia area, urban schools provide a lower-through upper-primary curriculum. A major educational goal has been to make Samoans bilingual, with English as their second tongue. In the senior classes of the primary schools, all instruction is in English.

The government maintains secondary schools, in which the medium of instruction is English. Samoa College is patterned after a New Zealand secondary school; each year, 100 pupils from government and mission schools are selected for admission by competitive examination. Vaipouli High School, in Savai'i, provides a general secondary curriculum, and Avele College, in Apia, offers training in modern agricultural methods. In addition, the University of the South Pacific School of Agriculture maintains a campus at Alafua, on the outskirts of Apia. The medium of instruction in mission secondary schools is English, with curriculum and textbooks similar to those used in New Zealand.

In 2001, about 54% of children between the ages of three and four were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 98% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 62% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 27:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 21:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 16.6% of primary school enrollment and 31.7% of secondary enrollment.

Samoa was one of the founders of the regional University of the South Pacific. The National University, which was established in 1984, was upgraded and provided with a new campus in 1997. Other tertiary institutions include the College of Tropical Agriculture and a Trades Training College. In 2001, it was estimated that about 7% of the tertiary-age population was enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98.7%.

As of 2003, public expenditures on education were estimated at 4.8% of GDP, or 14.6% of total government expenditures.


The Nelson Memorial Public Library in Apia has 90,000 volumes. The library of the University of the South Pacific has around 22,000 volumes, and the Legislative Assembly has a library with 6,000 volumes. A bookmobile service operates on Upolu and Savai'i. The National Museum and Culture Center in Apia, established in 1984, includes a local museum, library, and theater and offers crafts workshops. Vailima is home to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, featuring the author's house and estate.


Internal and overseas wireless telegraph services are available. In 2002, there were 11,800 mainline phones and 2,700 mobile phones in use nationwide.

The government-controlled Samoan Broadcasting Service, in Apia, transmits radio programs on two stations in Samoan and English and provides direct broadcasts from the Fono. In 2004, there were five private radio stations and a satellite cable system available in parts of Apia. One of the two television stations was owned by the government. In 1997, there were 323 radios and 25 television sets in use per 1,000 population. In 2002, there were 4,000 Internet subscribers.

There are several bilingual weeklies, including Le Samoa and Savali, published in Samoan and English. There is one daily, the Samoan Times. The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to respect these provisions in practice.


The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry is based in Apia.

Youth clubs include the Boy's Brigade Samoa, University of South Pacific Student Association, and YMCA/YWCA. There are several sports associations representing such pastimes as squash, weightlifting, badminton, tae kwon do, and sailing. Many of these are affiliated with the national Olympic Committee and other international organizations.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International and the Calliope Lodge of Freemasons, are present. Women's organizations include Soroptimist International of Samoa, Mothers' Club, Federation of Women's Committees, and the South-East Asia and Pan-Pacific Women's Association. Mapusaga O Aiga Samoa is a national organization promoting public awareness of issues concerning child abuse and domestic violence. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Habitat for Humanity.


Until 1965, official policy in Samoa was opposed to tourism, but during 196667, there was a complete reversal of policy. The government hired international tourism consultants to advise it on long-term means of developing a tourism industry. Samoa joined the Pacific Area Travel Association, extended tax holidays and import-duty concessions to hotel builders, and appropriated money for the building of new hotels.

The major tourist attractions are the beaches and traditional villages. In Apia is Vailima, the residence of the head of state and once the home of Robert Louis Stevenson; Stevenson's grave is nearby. Pastimes include swimming, waterskiing, and fishing. Football (soccer), cricket, and rugby are popular local sports.

Travelers to Samoa must have a passport valid for at least six months, as well as an onward/return ticket. Visitors do not require a visa or entry permit for stays of up to 60 days. In 2003, 92,313 tourists visited Samoa. Hotel rooms numbered 939, with 2,131 beds.

According to 2005 US State Department estimates, the daily cost of staying in Samoa was $207 per day.


The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (185094) lived principally on Upolu from 1889 until his death. Samoans famous since independence include Malietoa Tanumafili II (b.1913), who was named head of state in 1962, and Fiame Faumuina Mataafa (d.1975), who served as prime minister from 1962 to 1970 and again from 1973 until his death. Tupuola Taisi Efi (b.1938) was prime minister from 1976 to 1982. Tofilau Eti (b.American Samoa, 192499) was prime minister from December 1982 to December 1985, when he resigned and was succeeded by Va'ai Kolone. Sailele Malielegaoi Tuila'epa (b.1945) has been prime minister and foreign minister since 1998 and was reelected in 2001.


Samoa has no territories or colonies.


Craig, Robert D. Historical Dictionary of Polynesia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2002.

Freeman, Derek. Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Gilson, R. P. Samoa 1830 to 1900: The Politics of a Multi-Cultural Community. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

Lockwood, Victoria S. (ed.). Globalization and Culture Change in the Pacific Islands. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004.

Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. London: Penguin, 1961 (orig. 1928).

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Independent State of Samoa

Malo Sa'oloto Tuto'atasi o Samoa i Sisifo



Located in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and just east of the International Date Line. The country consists of 2 large islandsSavai'i to the west and Upolu to the eastand several smaller islands. It has a land area of 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles) and a coastline of 403 kilometers (250 miles), making it slightly smaller than Rhode Island. The capital city, Apia is located on the north coast of Upolu.


The population of Samoa was estimated at 169,200 in mid-2000, an increase of 17 percent since the census of 1991. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 30.3 per 1,000 people, while the death rate was 6.4 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of only 0.6 percent between 2000 and 2010, Samoa would have 179,000 by 2010; the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook 2001 estimated the population at 179,058 for 2001, though. The low growth rate resulted mainly from a high rate of outward-migration, which in 2000 was estimated at 17.6 per 1,000. This migration is mostly to the United States and New Zealand.

The population is predominantly of Samoan (Polynesian) ethnic origin, although about 7 percent also have European origins. Only 21 percent of the population live in an urban area, with Apia accounting for most of this. The urban growth rate is twice as high as the general growth rate, but at 1.2 percent per year still relatively low by Pacific standards.


As a small island country in the South Pacific, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) has an economy largely based on agriculture, government and tourist services, and remittances from Samoans living abroad. The majority of households in Samoa are dependent on subsistence production for at least part of their food supply and other basic items. At the same time, most households rely on cash income to provide basics that are not available from subsistence. In other words, food products grown or caught for personal consumptionsuch as taro, coconut, banana, fish, and crayfishare also sold to generate cash for village households.

The export economy mainly relies on agricultural products. The most important of these are coconut products such as copra (the dried flesh of the coconut), copra meal, coconut oil, and coconut cream. In the early 1990s taro (a tropical Asian plant) was an important export but was destroyed by disease in 1993 and is only starting to re-emerge as an export. In the late 1990s the development of a commercial fishing operation illustrated the competitive advantage Samoa has in this industry, with its proximity to fish canning facilities in American Samoa. Timber has been a modest source of export income in the past, but is not likely to be significant for 25 years when recently planted trees mature.

Manufacturing in Samoa is mainly to supply the domestic market, although there have been some initiatives to foster export manufacturing using tax breaks. Tourism grew steadily through the 1990s and has considerable potential, especially if tourism infrastructure is developed.

Besides tourism, remittances and international aid offset Samoa's annual trade imbalance. Remittances from relatives overseas are an important source of income for many families in Samoa and a significant source of foreign exchange for the country. The largest source of remittance income, comes from the Samoan population living in New Zealand. Another substantial amount comes Samoan communities in Hawaii and California. International aid contributes about one-quarter of gross domestic product (GDP) and supports many of the govern-ment's development projects. The largest aid donors are Japan, Australia, and New Zealand followed by multilateral aid agencies such as the Asian Development Bank.


Traditionally, political power in Samoa was held by matai (chiefs), whose positions were generally inherited, although individuals with charisma and power can earn positions. The matai system survives to the present day, but was changed during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Political turbulence characterized the 19th century in Samoa, during which matai-lead governments formed and reformed, often with support from traders, missionaries, and other foreigners. In 1899 the colonial powers of Germany, Great Britain, and the United States resolved this impasse for their own purposes by signing a treaty granting Germany control of Western Samoa and the United States control of Eastern (American) Samoa. Western Samoa, however, was occupied by New Zealand during World War I and was a colony of that country until it gained independence in 1962. In the 1920s the Mau movement, advocating non-payment of tax and whose ultimate goal was independence, was formed. The movement was suppressed by New Zealander troops in the late 1920s but it remains a symbol of nationalism to the present day.

Samoa has a parliamentary system with the Paramount Chief of Samoa as the ceremonial head of state. Until 1991, members of Parliament were elected by the matai, but in that year universal suffrage for all citizens 21 years and over was introduced. Tradition is still maintained, however, since only matai can be elected to 1 of the 49 parliamentary seats. There are 2 main parties, the Human Rights Protection Party and the Samoa National Development Party, but these parties tend to revolve around personalities more than political positions that allow them to be labeled left, center, or right.

Until recently the main domestic sources of government revenue were trade tariffs and, to a lesser extent, income taxes . In 1994, a value added goods and services tax (VAGST) was introduced despite popular opposition. The VAGST of 10 percent is imposed on most items of consumption including imports, with exceptions including unprocessed local primary production, financial services, and hospital and educational services. Since this tax's creation, most individuals do not have to pay income tax and trade tariffs have been reduced.


The 2 main islands of Upolu and Savai'i are quite well serviced by 790 kilometers (491 miles) of roads, of which about 40 percent are paved. Nearly all villages can be accessed by road, and bus services reach most parts of the country. The 2 islands are linked by passenger and car ferries with frequent sailings. The size of the country and the existence of road and ferry services mean that internal air travel is relatively rare. The sole international airport, Faleolo Airport, on the northwest coast of Upolu, provides international air passage to New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Australia, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Polynesian Airlines, owned by the Samoan government, and Samoa Air are 2 of the main regional carriers. Samoa also has 2 unpaved airports on Savai'i for domestic travel.

While about 62 percent of Samoa's electricity is generated with the use of imported fuel, the remainder is generated by a local hydroelectric station. Telephone services extend to most parts of the country, although only about 1 in 4 households has a telephone and public telephones are rare. International telephone service is usually good. In 2000 there was at least 1 Internet service provider.

Country Telephones Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Samoa 8,000 1,545 (1998) AM 1; FM 3; shortwave 0 178,000 6 11,000 2 500
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].


Calculating the size of different economic sectors is very difficult for Samoa's economy because a large proportion of the population works in the informal subsistence sector. In Samoa, there has been a relative decline in subsistence activities during the 1990s dropping as a percentage of GDP from 29.7 percent in 1992 to 17.7 percent in 1998, according to the Asian Development Bank. Over the same period, agriculture declined slightly from 21.2 percent to 19.3 percent of GDP. On the other hand, industry increased considerably from 15.8 to 23.7 percent as did services from 32 to 38.6 percent of GDP. In the labor force data, much of the agricultural employment is in unpaid village workeither informal or subsistenceso that it is difficult to compare these data with those from other countries. Official counts, however, show about 23,000 workers in the formal sector out of a total labor force of 42,494.


About two-thirds of all households in Samoa depend on a mixture of subsistence agriculture and cash cropping . The non-monetary agricultural production of the country was estimated to comprise 17.7 percent of GDP in 1998, falling from 29.7 percent in 1992. This was partly a result of the growth of other parts of the economy, rather than a contraction of the subsistence economy. In 1998 non-subsistence agriculture and fishing made up 19.3 percent of GDP. Agriculture contributed about 30 percent of all export revenue in 1999. The main export products, in order of importance in the late 1990s were copra (dried coconut flesh), coconut oil, copra meal, coconut cream, and kava (a mildly narcotic drink traditional to the South Pacific). The importance of coconut products is obvious, but unlike many Pacific countries that only export copra, Samoa has added value to these products. For example, coconut cream canned in Samoa is worth several times its equivalent in copra. The vulnerability of dependence on a crop such as coconuts was illustrated when cyclones in 1990 and 1991 caused considerable damage to tree crops.

During the 1980s, Samoa identified an international niche market for taro, a traditional prestige root crop. The taro exported from Samoa was sold mostly to Samoan and other Pacific communities and, in 1992, made up more than one-half of all agricultural exports by value, surpassing the cyclone-depleted coconut products. In 1993, taro blight destroyed the whole crop, however, and by the late 1990s taro production was only beginning to recover.

In recent years, the government and international aid donors have been promoting agricultural diversification. Although there have been small amounts of other food crops exported (such as bananas), the only crop that has generated significant export income is kava, which has recently gained an international reputation as a soothing and therapeutic substance. In 1998, kava exports were valued at WST5.5 million (US$1.8 million), a sum similar to the copra exports in that year. Other agricultural products currently being promoted include cattle and tropical fruits.


The Asian Development Bank estimated that 30 to 40 percent of all households in Samoa fish for their own consumption and that 12 percent of households rely on fishing as their primary source of income. Many subsistence fishers may also sell some of their catch. Larger commercial fishing endeavors have developed, though, mainly resulting from the introduction of long-line tuna boats. Thus, fishing's contribution to GDP rose from 4 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 1999, with further expansion expected. Most of the catch is processed in the canneries of American Samoa, giving Samoa a competitive advantage because of the proximity of these facilities and because they allow access to the American market.


In the past, there was relatively large-scale logging on the island of Savai'i, but logging has become small-scale and limited mostly to customary (village owned) land. Exports of timber are small as most production is for the local market. Large-scale establishment of forest plantations began in the 1970s, but most of these forests were destroyed by the cyclones of 1990 and 1991. Recent planting of high-value hardwood species such as mahogany will take about 25 years to mature, so there are few prospects of timber re-establishing itself as an important export before then.


Of the formal labor force, about 17 percent worked in industry, with about half of these working in construction and just over one-quarter in manufacturing in 1991. More recent data show that all industrial sectors together accounted for 23.7 percent of GDP in 1998. This percentage has grown through the 1990s.


Much of the manufacturing sector, mostly located in Apia, serves the purpose of import substitution . Thus, the most important industries include food processing, beer production, furniture, and construction materials. There are, however, some export-oriented industries. Notable is the production of canned coconut cream, mainly for export. Beer and cigarette factories export some of their product. A small industries center has been established at Vaitele, near Apia. The most uncommon of the new endeavors, in a Pacific sense, is the Yazaki automobile electrical wiring assembly plant, which was transferred from Melbourne in 1991. This plant exports about US$50 million in automotive parts to Australia each year, however, the benefit to Samoa may be low since wages are low and the company pays no taxes or duties .


Services accounted for 51 percent of all formal sector employment in 1991, and this proportion has probably risen since then. In 1998 all services accounted for 38.6 percent of GDP, up from 32 percent in 1992. The largest subsector of employment was social and personal services, which accounted for just over half of all employment in the services sector, with many of these being government employees.


Through the 1990s there has been a steady increase in the number of visitors to Samoa, from just over 48,000 in 1990 to about 78,000 in 1998. Only about one-third of these can be considered as tourists, however, since another third are Samoan expatriates visiting friends and relatives while another third are traveling on business. Still, tourism contributed an estimated 15.4 percent of GDP in 1997.

Samoa has considerable potential as a tourist destination. It has a strong and visible culture and many Samoans consider their country Hawai'iki (the original home of all Polynesians). On this basis the Samoa Visitors Bureau presents Samoa as "The Cradle of Polynesia" in its international promotions. The visibility of Samoan cultureepitomized by traditional open-sided housesthe many beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and other features of a "tropical paradise" and the scale and architectural variety of Samoan churches exceed normal tourist expectations of a country its size. There are several international standard hotels, mostly in Apia and elsewhere on Upolu. Smaller hotels and guesthouses have seen growing competition from village-based tourist operations. Most local accommodations include fales (leaf houses), usually on a beach, with locally cooked food on offer. These are relatively low impact ventures, though, in which most of the profits stay in the village.


Following the example of Vanuatu and Cook Islands, Samoa established an offshore banking center in 1988. About 500 banks and other companies have established themselves in Samoa, although information is not available to identify the costs and benefits of this operation to the Samoan economy. Domestic financial services are provided by Bank of Samoa (owned by ANZ Bank), Pacific Commercial Bank (a joint venture between Bank of Hawaii and Westpac) and National Bank.


The retail sector is similar to that in other Pacific countries of similar size. Apia has a number of medium-sized shops and small supermarkets that sell food imported from New Zealand and manufactures from Asia as well as local produce. Elsewhere in the country, shops stock mainly basic items necessary for everyday life. The largest market is in Apia, selling fruit, vegetables, fish, basic manufactured goods, and handicrafts. Smaller markets are found in other towns where the range of products is related to the size of the local population.


The difference between the level of Samoa's exports and imports is considerable. In the years shown in the table, the trade imbalance ranges from just over 3 to 1 in 1985 to more than 10 to 1 in 1995, and the general trend is an increasing imbalance. The value of exports has not kept pace with the expansion of the economy, which requires increased imports. Also, 2 cyclones in 1990 and

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Samoa
Exports Imports
1975 .007 .037
1980 .017 .062
1985 .016 .051
1990 .009 .080
1995 .009 .095
1998 .015 .097
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

1991 and the taro blight in 1993 had a severe impact on the level of exports in the mid 1990s.

Australia has been the most important destination for exports in recent years, ranging between 50 and 85 percent of all exports between 1995 and 1999. New Zealand is the most important source of imports, but Australia, Japan, Fiji, and the United States are also significant.

The large negative balance of trade is possible because of other international transfers. Tourism contributes some international income. At the household level the most important source of income is remittances from relatives living overseas, particularly in New Zealand, the United States, and Australia. At the government level, international aid helps to counterbalance the trade deficit .


The Samoan tala has depreciated against the U.S. dollar since 1982. This may be partly attributed to the vulnerable export base of the country, but a range of other factors in the international economy are less easy to identify. In the late 1990s a strong U.S. dollar devalued most currencies of the Pacific region that most influence the Samoan tala, including the New Zealand and Australian dollars.


A total of 174 countries are ranked in the United Nations Development Program 's (UNDP) Human Development Report 2000 according to the Human Development Indicator (HDI), which measures a country's state of well-being using income, education, and health measures. The HDI rank for Samoa was 95 which puts it in the middle range of countries, similar to other countries in Polynesia but higher than Melanesian countries. GDP per capita in 1998 was US$998, about one-thirtieth that of the United States.

There is no adequate information on income distribution in Samoa, but this may be inferred from other

Exchange rates: Samoa
talas per US$1
Jan 2001 3.3400
2000 3.2712
1999 3.0120
1998 2.9429
1997 2.5562
1996 2.4618
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Samoa N/A 974 915 931 998
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Philippines 974 1,166 967 1,064 1,092
Solomon Islands 419 583 666 784 753
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

information. Another indicator developed by the UNDP is the Human Poverty Index (HPI). It measures conditions for those worst off in a country, such as their educational level, health status, access to health services, access to safe water, and incidence of malnutrition in children. Of 15 Pacific countries measured by the HPI, Samoa falls in the middle, meaning that the people worst off in Samoa are comparatively better off than the worst off in most Melanesian countries. On indicators of education, Samoa boasts 96 percent literacy and a high participation rate in education. School attendance is mandatory up to age 14 and there are no central government fees, although local communities may levy them to cover maintenance of buildings.

In health, the indicators are generally high, with universal access to health services and with most households having access to safe water. Health service is free and available through clinics as well as at 5 public hospitals. There is not a system of universal pensions, but those who have worked in formal employment are likely to have provided for a pension through the National Provident Fund. Most other older people depend on their nuclear or extended families, in Samoa and overseas. Since 1999, migrants returning from working in New Zealand are able to bring their New Zealand pensions with them, and this is expected to be an increasing source of income in Samoa as the number of these migrants increases.


There is a minimum wage in the private sector of WST1.40 per hour, which has been readjusted to the cost of living over the last 20 years. This rate makes living in town problematic, although many households will have some people working for wages as well as others undertaking subsistence production. The minimum wage is about 10 percent of the salary that a new senior manager might get in the private sector.

Men make up an estimated 78 percent of the formal workforce. In almost all sectors they predominate. In public service men comprise only 47 percent of the full-time salaried workers but two-thirds of the temporary government workers. The unemployment rate of 13 percent is quite high, but it would be even higher if all those in the rural sector who wanted paid employment were counted. There is no unemployment benefit. Unionization is relatively strong with the Teacher's Association being formed in the 1950s and the Western Samoa Public Service Association starting in 1969. In the private sector, unions have been a recent development with the formation of the Western Samoa National Union of Workers in 1994.


1721. The first European "explorer" visits Samoa. Metal tools and weapons are introduced.

1830s-1890s. A series of governments under Samoan chieftainship and foreign support come and go. German coconut plantations are founded.

1899. Treaties are signed between Britain, Germany, and the United States giving Western Samoa to Germany and American (Eastern) Samoa to the United States.

1914. New Zealand takes control of Western Samoa during World War I.

1920s. The nonviolent Mau movement, formed to oppose taxes and support independence, is suppressed by force; 11 Samoans, including a matai, are killed.

1962. Western Samoa becomes the first independent nation in the Pacific Islands.

1982. Samoa experiences a constitutional crisis with 3 governments in 1 year. Tension continues between parliamentary and traditional matai systems.

1991. Universal voting franchise is introduced for all citizens over age 21; previously only matai could vote.

1997. The country's name changes from Western Samoa to Samoa.


During the 1990s Samoa's economy experienced several blows related to natural disaster, but at the turn of the century, there is optimism about future development. The fishing industry has grown rapidly in recent years with further potential apparent. Tourism has grown slowly but steadily, and to some extent the degree to which this expands may depend not only on the government's promotion of it but also on the public's attitude to the desirable scale of the industry. The agricultural sector is likely to continue to be affected by weather, disease, and fluctuating world prices, but probably will continue as an important source of export income, even if the product mix changes. For many years there have been predictions that migrant remittances will eventually slow down as expatriates become more settled in their countries of residence, but so far this does not seem be the case. Though international aid payments are being reduced in some cases, most small Pacific countriessuch as Samoahave managed to attract high per capita levels of aid, and this ought to continue into the foreseeable future.


Samoa has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Samoa. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Key Indicators for Developing Asian and Pacific Countries." Asian Development Bank. <>. Accessed February 2001

"Samoa 2000: Building on Recent Reforms." Asian Development Bank. Manila: ADB, 2000.

Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

United Nations Development Programme. Pacific Human Development Report 1999: Creating Opportunities. Suva: UNDP, 1999.

Vaai, Kolone. "Recent Economic Development in WesternSamoa." Pacific Economic Bulletin. Vol. 11, No. 2, 1996.

Wardlow Friesen




Tala (WST). One tala equals 100 sene. Coins are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 sene and 1 tala. Notes are 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 talas.


Copra, coconut oil, coconut cream, taro, fish, and kava.


Food, machines and transport equipment, manufactures, and fuels.


US$571 million (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$17 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$90 million (f.o.b., 2000).

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ETHNONYMS: Tagata Sāmoa


Identification. There is no generally agreed upon explanation of the meaning of the name "Sāmoa." According to one Samoan version, the name is compounded of "Sā," meaning "tribe, people of," and "Moa," which means "chicken," referring to the "family" of the Tui Manu'a, the highest-ranking titleholder of eastern (American) Samoa. Another proposal suggests that linguistic evidence points to the meaning of Samoa as "people of the ocean or deep sea."

Location. The Samoan Archipelago (about 3,000 square kilometers in land area) lies in western Polynesia in the Central Pacific, from 13° to 15°S to 173°W. The Manu'a group (Ta' ū, Ofu, and Olosega), Tutuila, and 'Aunu'u comprise the Territory of American Samoa; 'Upolu, Manono, Apolima, and Savai'i make up the Independent State of Western Samoa. The islands are of volcanic origin. Beyond the coastal plains, the mountain ranges rise steeply to a maximum of 1,859 meters on Savai'i. The climate is tropical with abundant rainfall. Humidity averages 80 percent. The average monthly temperature ranges from 22° to 30° C.

Demography. In 1980, the Samoan population was about 188,000 (American Samoa: 32,000; Western Samoa: 156,000). In the middle of the nineteenth century, the aboriginal population of Western Samoa was estimated at 35,000; the aboriginal population of Tutuila was estimated at 3,900 in 1865. The Samoan Islands are the home of the largest concentration of full-blooded Polynesians in the world. Today, many Samoans live and work abroad, mainly in New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and California.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Samoan language belongs to the Polynesian Group of Austronesian languages. There are no dialects; except for minor local variants the same language is spoken on all the Samoan Islands.

History and Cultural Relations

Settlement of the Fiji-Tonga-Samoa area by people belonging to the prehistoric Melanesian Lapita culture took place Between about 1500 and 1000 b.c. Genealogical, mythological, and linguistic evidence suggests that relations with both Tonga and Fiji were maintained throughout the prehistoric period, with intermarriage occurring among the upper classes especially of the Samoan and Tongan population. The first European to sight the Samoan Islands in 1722 was the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, though he did not land there. In about 1800 some isolated European sailors and escaped convicts settled on Samoa, bringing with them the first notion of Christianity. In 1830, the missionary John Williams of the London Missionary Society (LMS) landed in Savai'i during a power struggle among factions, bringing with him native Polynesian missionaries from Tahiti and the Cook Islands. The first permanent European missionaries arrived in 1835 (LMS and Methodists), followed by Roman Catholic priests in 1845. During the nineteenth century, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States strove for influence among the diverse Samoan factions. In 1900, Western Samoa became a German colony (until 1914) and Eastern Samoa was claimed by the United States. From 1914 to 1962, New Zealand administered Western Samoa, which became an independent state in 1962, with kings Malietoa Tanumafili II and Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole serving as joint heads of state. Before World War II, administrative policies by the New Zealand administration led to the "Mau," a resistance movement (19261936) that mustered the support of about 90 percent of the Samoan population at its height. American Samoa remains a United States territory. After constitutional changes, Peter Tali Coleman became the first elected native Samoan governor in 1977.


The Samoans have been mainly a coast-dwelling people living in self-governing, autonomous towns (nu'u ) linked by Political and ceremonial alliances. Households center on the sacred central place (malae ) of each nu'u where the ranking high chief's assembly house is also situated. Town populations range between 300 and 1,200 persons and average 450 to 600 persons. In the middle of the last century, town Populations averaged 200 to 500 persons. However, a census taken of twenty-two towns in the district of Aana, Western Upolu, Manono, and Apolima in 1867 shows that town populations ranged between 40 and 310 persons only, the mean being 164 persons. In the nineteenth century, there were a few inland settlements, too. In recent years, there has been a tendency to give up settlements along the coast and to shift towns to newly built roads farther inland.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Samoans are horticulturalists, raising tubers (taro and yams) on a swidden basis. They also grow bananas, breadfruit, and coconuts and supplement their diet through fishing. They raise chickens and pigs, too, but pork is reserved as a special food for ceremonial occasions. Hunting for runaway pigs is still practiced with the help of dogs, but it's probably done more for sport than for food. Pigeon snaring also formerly served as an entertainment and as a sporting event. Terracing and irrigation are not practiced. There are small house gardens for raising staple foods in the back of the households, but the main taro gardens often lie 3-4 kilometers farther inland. The primary cultigens are taro and breadfruit. Contact with Europeans resulted in the addition of new sorts of bananas and vegetables, which are grown today mainly by the small Chinese population for consumption and sale. Many Samoan families earn a small income by selling coconuts to the Western Samoan Trust Estate Corporation, which does the processing. There are many small family businesses, shops, and guest houses, the majority of them in Apia, the capital of Western Samoa. In many local communities there is a small shop where locals can buy a limited range of products, many of them imported.

Industrial Arts. Aboriginal crafts included the making of bark cloth, house building, boat building, and tattooing. House builders, boat builders, and tattooers were organized in guilds. They met the demands of prestige consumption, since small boats and houses were and are built by the male members of each household. Mat weaving is practiced by women.

Trade. There was only a limited amount of interregional trade in precontact times. Samoan fine mats ('ie tōga ) were exchanged for parrots and red parrot feathers from Tonga and sometimes from Fiji. Intraregional trade, too, was Limited. Some regions and places were noted for their products, such as nets, which are said to have been made mostly by towns in the interior. Some places were noted for their boats, adzes, and kava bowls. After contact with the Europeans, trade of coconut products (oil and copra) was encouraged by the missionaries, but it became a regular and important activity only after the German firm of Godeffroy and Son from Hamburg founded a branch in Apia, Western Samoa, in 1857. Traders were stationed in Samoa and on other Pacific islands, but there was also direct trading with the Samoans. In 1865, the firm established its first coconut plantations. Today, Western Samoa is dependent on the world market, its three most important export items being copra, cocoa, and bananas. Western Samoan governments seek to promote tourism, and beer brewing may develop into a profitable enterprise, at least for the regional market.

Division of Labor. Men do the more strenuous agricultural work, such as clearing and planting with a pointed hardwood digging stick, while women may weed and help in harvest activities. Men are responsible for fishing beyond the reef and for cooking; they engage in toolmaking, house and boat building, and ornament making. Women look after the household, raise the children, and plait mats and fans; formerly they also made bark cloth. They collect edible wild plants to supplement the diet and they forage in the lagoon and reef for small sea animals.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally, the widest social unit for landownership was the community (nu'u). Its domain included all the territory from the central mountain ridge to the reef. The heads (matai ) of the different descent groups ( 'āiga ) of the community were entitled to claim blocks of land for themselves and their dependents. Overall authority over lands, however, was vested in the council of matai (fono), whose members could revoke ownership of the respective 'āiga. Individuals had the right to occupy and cultivate the land of the descent group to which they belonged. When Western Samoa became independent, 80.5 percent of its territory was still considered customary land, administered outside the statute law in accordance with traditional principles of tenure; 3.7 percent of the land was freehold; 11.3 percent was government land; and the Western Samoan Trust Estate Corporation owned 4.5 percent. American Samoa, too, has provisions that restrict ownership of land to Samoans.


Kin Groups and Descent. In Samoa there are overlapping cognatic descent groups ('āiga) with an emphasis on agnation. Each descent group has a localized section in a Community where its lands and chiefly (matai) titles traditionally belong; other members live in other communities on the lands of other 'āiga. Localized sections hold and allocate land to their members, regulate marriage, and control conflict among members. Between the descent groups there exist multifarious relationships that are genealogically explained, forming ramified descent structures, both at the community and at the supracommunity level. Not all of these structures are Descent groups in the strict anthropological sense of the term, however, since in some of them only matai are members. These structures are 'āiga in a metaphorical sense only. They play an important part in supracommunity territorial integration.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms follow a Hawaiian-type system.

Marriage and the Family

Marriage. Members of the father's and mother's descent groups are forbidden as marriage partners, and community endogamy is also discouraged. Bride and groom should be of similar rank. Today, a church wedding is an important and costly affair, but many marriages are still customary ones, man and wife living together with their parents' consent after the appropriate exchange of goods. Premarital virginity is highly valued and a girl's moral code prohibits sexual relations with a man unless she is recognized as his wife. Customary marriages among younger people frequently end in Divorce, however, and the partners may have undergone several such marriages before eventually contracting a church Wedding. Residence tends to be virilocal, but during the early stages of married life a couple frequently resides with the wife's family. In pre-Christian times, polygyny was practiced, although probably only by matai of high rank.

Domestic Unit. The localized section of a descent group, forming an extended family and living in a group of houses clustered around a common hearth, is the customary Domestic unit. In modern times, the nuclear family has become more frequent.

Inheritance. Members of the descent group retain rights to use and control of customary land occupied and cultivated by their 'äiga, regardless of where they live. The same applies to matai titles that are not subject to any automatic Inheritance rule. A family council will decide to confer a vacant title upon a memberusually malewhom they consider to be the best choice. Especially with regard to high titles, however, agnatic succession is preferred.

Socialization. Starting at about 1½ years of age, children become subject to an education Europeans would label as "authoritarian." They are expected to obey their parents and elders at once, without hesitation and without asking questions. Overt and direct expressions of hostility and aggression are discouraged, but musu, the state of sullen unwillingness to comply with orders, is a culturally tolerated outlet. Much of the actual education work takes place in the peer groups where older brothers and especially sisters are made responsible for the behavior of their younger siblings. Formal education in schools is considered essential for the well-being of the entire family today and parents usually encourage some of their children to remain in high school.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Rank goes with age and the position a matai title holds within the complicated title structure. An older sister ranks higher than her brother. The descendants of a sister still enjoy a special respected status within the descent group. Christianity has emphasized the status of the wife, however, and the sister's position is not as pronounced today as it once was. Within most descent groups, there are two sets of matai: aristocrats (ali'i ), who embody the group's dignity; and orators (tulāfale ), who take a more official role when they speak on behalf of the ali'i at certain formal public events. Each matai supervises and looks after the family under his immediate control and is responsible for it vis-à-vis the community.

Political Organization. Communities (nu'u) are Politically independent but are organized into districts and subDistricts for ceremonial purposes. Aboriginally, war, too, was a supracommunity concern. Ceremonies on a supracommunity level often focus on the life-crisis rites of certain very high-ranking titleholders, the tama-a-'āiga, which are not to be confused with matai and should rather be called kings. Formal political control within the community is exercised by the council of matai (fono) with the 'aumaga (the untitled men's organization) serving as executive body. Women's committees exist today in all communities, playing an important role in community affairs as an unofficial arm of local government. They replace or complement the aualuma, the group made up of the sisters and daughters of the community, which played an important ceremonial role in former times.

Social Control. Informal social control is exercised through gossip and was formerly aided by the open Samoan houses, which prevented privacy. Formal control is exercised through the fono, which retains the right to expel individuals and, in rare cases, entire 'āiga from the community and its lands.

Conflict. In aboriginal times and throughout the nineteenth century, conflicts over titles and lands often resulted in wars. Such cases are adjudicated today by special law courts. Competitivenesssuch as evidenced in, for instance, the zeal of untitled men to distinguish themselves as good servants to their matai, in oratory, in donations to the church, etc.adds areas of conflict to social life.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Today, Samoans are devout Christians, following diverse Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic church. Pre-Christian beliefs in ancestor-spirits (aitu ) are still widespread, but they are not openly confessed vis-à-vis Europeans. Aitu formerly were family gods, and they have retained their character as locally associated and kinship-bound deified ancestors. There was a belief in a supreme being, Tangaloa, but Samoa probably never developed a national cult like that of the Society Islands or Hawaii. Tangaloa was a deus otiosus who withdrew after having caused the emergence of the islands and set in motion the process which led to the evolution of natural phenomena and, ultimately, humans. Aitu were the active numinous beings who interfered directly in everyday life.

Religious Practitioners.

In aboriginal times, each matai was a religious practitioner responsible for the worship of the family aitu. Some matai played paramount roles as oracles of particular aitu of supralocal importance. Today, matai continue to lead family prayers (to the Christian God), but there are also native pastors, trained in local theological seminaries, and priests who conduct formal church services.


Many native ceremonies focus on life-cycle rites. Attendance is an expression of the rank of the persons involved. The kava ceremony, in which a beverage prepared from the 'ava root (Piper methysticum ) was consumed in Ceremonial style, was performed to honor important guests and to mark important social events, such as the deliberations of the fono.

Arts. Oratory, dancing, singing, and tattooing continue to be means of aesthetic expression. Today, hymns for church services are an important outlet for expressive needs. The traditional art of bark-cloth (siapo ) making and printing is not very widespread today.

Medicine. In aboriginal times, disease was supposed to be caused by the wrath of some particular aitu. Treatment was sought with the aid of the special matai, Taulāitu (whose name means "anchor of the Aitu"). They were asked to intercede with the aitu they represented. Various herbs and plants were administered and massage was also applied.

Death and Afterlife. Samoans believe in the dichotomous character of human nature. The separation of the "soul" (agāga ) and body (tino ) is tantamount to death. That the agāga continued to live after death as an aitu was the focal topic of the pre-Christian religion. There are various accounts of an afterworld, but no uniform picture of its nature can be gleaned from the historical and ethnographic sources.

See also Ontong Java, Rotuma, Tokelau, Tonga


Cain, Horst (1979). Aitu. Eine Untersuchung zur Autochthonen Religion der Samoaner. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Finney, Joseph C. (1973). "The Meaning of the Name Sāmoa." Journal of the Polynesian Society 82:301-303.

Gilson, R. P. (1970). Samoa 1830 to 1900. The Politics of a Multi-Cultural Community. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Holmes, Lowell D. (1974). Samoan Village. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.


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Independent State of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)

Major City:


Polynesians migrated from Southeast Asia to the Samoa Islands more than 2,000 years ago. Polynesian historical accounts go back to AD1250. The Samoa Islands may have first been settled by migrants from what is now Fiji or Tonga. The first contact with Europeans began as whalers, pirates, and escaped convicts landed on the islands. In 1722, the Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen recorded spotting the islands. Contact with Europeans was infrequent until the arrival of English missionaries under Rev. John Williams in 1830. Between 1847 and 1861, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany competed to align themselves with various Samoan royal families. The entanglements resulted in a civil war in 1889. In 1900, the colonial powers created a political boundary along the 171st meridian that divided the Samoan people. Under that convention, the United States annexed Eastern Samoa and Germany took Western Samoa. Eastern Samoa became the US territory known as American Samoa. New Zealand occupied Western Samoa in 1914 at the start of World War I, and from 1919 until 1946 New Zealand administered the area as a mandate of the League of Nations. From 1947 until 1961, a series of constitutional advances brought Western Samoa from dependent status to self-government. A constitution was produced in 1960 and it came into effect with independence on January 1, 1962.

The country dropped the "Western" from its name in 1997.



Apia, with a population of 33,000, is Samoa's capital and only major town. Apia is located on the northern coast of the island of Upolu. The country's largest industry is the Samoa Breweries plant that lies to the west of Apia. The Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation has developed a hybrid high-yield variety of cocoa on a plantation 3 miles from the city. Faleolo International Airport west of Apia handles the majority of arrivals to Samoa. The main interisland transport in the Samoas is provided by Samoa Air and Polynesian Airlines. There is also daily service to Pago Pago, American Samoa. The number of passenger cars in Apia and around Samoa significantly increased in the 1990s, and the city now has a number of traffic lights. Apia Harbour is the only port of entry for Samoa.

Recreation and Entertainment

The most popular sport in Samoa is rugby, which is played almost year-round throughout the islands. Apia Park, the site of the 1983 South Pacific Games, is used mainly for rugby, soccer, and field hockey. Lawn bowling, netball, squash, tennis, boxing, wrestling, and American football are popular sports. Cricket is a played throughout Samoa's villages. Samoan cricket (kilikiti) is a modification of the British form, in which the bat resembles a traditional war club and teams number 30-40 per side. The Royal Samoan Country Club features an 18-hole course. Jazzercise, weight training, and aerobic classes are also available in Apia.

Samoa's biggest commercial center is the Maketi Fou, a central market that operates around the clock. Assorted meat, fish, and produce are sold there, but the market is also a place where people meet and mingle. The Palolo Deep National Marine Reserve near Apia's wharf is a superb site for snorkeling and picnics. The Philatelic Bureau of the Post Office offers collectors a wide selection of Samoa's stamps. Commemorative and mint coins from the Treasury are available from the Treasury Department in the Central Bank.

The fale is a traditional oval thatched-roof structure without walls that serves as a home or a meeting house. Fale accommodations are available to visitors in Samoa. Foreigners who visit a traditional village will endear themselves to the people if traditional Samoan rules of etiquette are followed. There are many places in the Samoas, especially in the interiors of islands or on remote beaches, where no formal accommodation and not even village accommodations will be available, making camping the only option. In Samoa, there are four official camping areas, all on Upolu: O Le Satapuala Resort, Tafatafa Beach, Lotofaga Beach, and Return-to-Paradise Beach.

Apia has several historical monuments and colonial buildings along its waterfront. The Catholic Cathedral was constructed between 1885 and 1905, and was the most prominent building along the city's skyline for many years. The clock tower in the center of the city was built as a monument to Samoans who were killed in World War I. Apia also has a World War II monument and a memorial to missionary Rev. John Williams. The Mulinu'u Peninsula at the western end of Apia has German, British, American, and Samoan monuments. The tombs of two former Samoan chiefs are also located on the peninsula. In the cool hills above Apia lies Vailima, the estate of Robert Louis Stevenson. The house lies some 650 feet above sea level and is (in name only) the official residence of the ruling Samoan head of state. The home was recently renovated to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Stevenson's death in 1894. Stevenson's tomb is at the summit of nearby Mt. Vaea.

The Nelson Public Library contains a wide assortment of books pertaining to the South Pacific that are difficult to find elsewhere.

A fiafia is traditional Samoan theater or music. The fiafias performed today often cater to tourists. The fiafias offered in Apia are usually elaborate shows of singing and dancing offered by the larger hotels, the most famous of which is at Aggie Grey's Hotel.


Geography and Climate

Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The main islands are Savai'i and Upolu, separated by the 11-mile Apolima Strait. There are also several smaller islands, of which only Manono and Apolima are uninhabited. The islands have a total land area of 1,104 square miles, or slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island. Samoa's exclusive marine economic zone covers approximately 50,000 square miles.

The islands are volcanic, with coral reefs surrounding most of them. The rugged ranges rise to 3,608 feet on Upolu and 6,094 feet on Savai'i. Apolima is a volcanic crater whose wall is pierced by a passage that connects its harbor with the sea. Manono rises to a height of 230 feet, and is composed chiefly of coral sand. The islands have active volcanoes; severe eruptions occurred on Savai'i during 1905-11.

The climate is tropical, but temperature ranges are not considerable. The hottest month is December and the coldest is July; the average daily temperature is 81°F. The highland areas of Savai'i and Upolu are cooler year-round. The dry season runs from May to October, while the wet season lasts from November to April. Rainfall averages 113 inches per year. Leeward shore areas such as Apia are drier than the windward shores and the Manu'a Islands, which can receive up to 200 inches of rain. Samoa lies in the middle of the Pacific's notorious cyclone/typhoon belt.


Samoa has an estimated population of 235,000, with a population density of about 195 people per square mile. Over 70% of the population lives on Upolu. There has been massive emigration to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States (especially Hawaii). Many Samoans also live in American Samoa. Samoans are the second-largest branch of Polynesians, and account for over 90% of the population. Most of the remaining Samoans are of mixed Samoan and European or Asian descent. Europeans, other Pacific islanders, and Asians make up less than 1% of the total. Over 99% of the population adheres to some form of Christianity. About half the population associates with the Congregational Christian Church of Western Samoa, a successor to the London Missionary Society. Other faiths include Congregational, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Latter-Day Saints, and Seventh-Day Adventist. Samoan is the universal language, but Samoan and English are official. Samoan is a Polynesian language similar to Maori, Tongan, Hawaiian, and Tahitian.


During the 19th century, Great Britain, the United States, and Germany were in competition to gain control over the Samoa Islands. The three countries began to align themselves with rival Samoan factions, culminating in a civil war in 1889. After a brief reconciliation in 1898, in 1900 the governing powers split up the islands and made Western Samoa a German protectorate. New Zealand occupied the territory during World War I, and it administered the islands as a mandate of the League of Nations during 1919-46. In 1946, the territory was made a trusteeship of the United Nations, and New Zealand formally committed to promote the development of Western Samoa toward ultimate self-government. Legislative elections began in 1957, and a constitution was adopted in 1960. On January 1, 1962, Western Samoa became an independent nation.

Executive power is in the hands of the head of state. Chief Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II has lifetime tenure, becoming sole chief of state in 1963. Upon his death, a new chief of state will be elected by the Legislative Assembly to serve a five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the chief of state with approval of the Legislative Assembly, and the cabinet is appointed by the chief of state with the prime minister's advice. The unicameral Legislative Assembly (Fono) consists of 49 seats; 47 are elected from territorial districts by ethnic Samoans districts while the other two are chosen by non-Samoans on separate electoral rolls. Universal suffrage was extended in 1990.

Only matai (chiefs or head of family) are able to run for the Legislative Assembly. There are more than 25,000 matais in the country, about 5% of whom are women.

The prime minister is chosen by a majority in the Fono and is appointed by the chief of state. The prime minister's choices for the 12 cabinet positions are appointed by the chief of state, subject to the continuing confidence of the Fono.

The judicial system is patterned after practices in British courts. Samoan custom is taken into account in certain cases. The Supreme Court has full civil and criminal jurisdiction for the administration of justice in Samoa.

Samoa's flag is a red field with a blue canton. The canton contains five white five-rayed stars representing the Southern Cross constellation.

Arts, Science, Education

Village schools provide four years of primary education. District schools draw the brighter pupils from village schools and educate them through the upper primary level. In the Apia area, urban schools provide a lower-through upper-primary curriculum. A major educational goal is to make Samoans bilingual, with English as a second language. The language of instruction in secondary schools is English.

The University of the South Pacific School of Agriculture has a campus on the outskirts of Apia. The University of Samoa has courses in the arts and sciences. New Zealand provides extensive scientific and technical aid to Samoa.

Commerce and Industry

The economy is based primarily on agriculture, which accounts for about half of the gross domestic product, two-thirds of employment, and about 90% of exports. The bulk of export earnings comes from the sale of coconut oil and copra. Tourism has become the most important growth industry. Remittances from overseas workers and foreign aid are also important sources of foreign exchange. Production of taro, the primary food export crop, dropped 97% in 1993/94 when a fungal disease threatened the country's basic food crops. Samoa has one of the highest unemployment rates and lowest wages in Oceania.


Most major roads are tar-sealed, but secondary roads are predominantly dirt and gravel, and may be overgrown. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for travel on these roads. Travellers should be aware that vehicle safety regulations are rarely enforced and traffic violations occur routinely. Night driving is dangerous and not recommended.

Most of the paved roads are on the northern coast of Upolu. Buses and taxis provide public transport, but buses may run irregular schedules. Diesel-powered launches carry passengers and freight around the islands. Small motor vessels maintain services between Apia and Pago Pago, American Samoa. Cargo and passenger connections to New Zealand are made every two weeks. Scheduled oceangoing vessels connect Samoa with Australian, Japanese, UK, and North American ports. Apia is the main port on Upolu, and Asau is a deep-water port on Savai'i. Polynesian Airlines flies daily from Apia to Pago Pago, where there are connecting flights to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Air Samoa and Samoa Aviation provide internal air service between Upolu and Savai'i.


Internal and overseas telecommunications services are available; the islands have one Intelsat satellite earth station. The government-controlled Samoan Broadcasting Service in Apia transmits radio programs on two stations in Samoan and English and provides direct broadcasts from the Fono. There is no domestic television service, but broadcasts are received from American Samoa. The Samoan Times is the only daily newspaper; Samoa Weekly, Samoa Observer, and South Sea Star are bilingual weeklies.

Health and Medicine

Health care facilities in Samoa are adequate for routine medical treatment, but are limited in range and availability. A national hospital is located in Apia and district hospitals are available on Savai'i and Upolu

The increase in obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems in recent decades is linked to the growing popularity of a Western diet high in processed starches, canned food, and sweets.

Medical Facilities

Health care facilities in Samoa are adequate for routine medical treatment, but are limited in range and availability. A national hospital is located in Apia and district hospitals are available on Savai'i and Upolu. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Travelers to Samoa may wish to consider obtaining typhoid immunizations before arrival, because immunizations are not currently available to the public in Samoa. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage including provision for medical evacuation may prove useful. Information on health matters can also be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through its international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559 or via the CDC home page on the Internet:


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

Mar.(2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day

June 1-3 ANZAC Independence

May/June Whitsunday/Pentecost*

May/June Whitmonday*

Aug. 7 Labor Day

Oct.(2nd Sun & Mon) Children's White Sunday

Nov. 7 Arbor Day

Nov. 24 Women's Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day

Dec. 31 New Year's Eve



Passage, Customs & Duties

A passport and an onward/return ticket are required for travel to Samoa. Visas are not required for a stay of up to 30 days. Further information about entry requirements may be obtained from the Samoa Mission to the United Nations at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 599-6196, fax (212) 599-0797.

Samoa's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Samoa of items such as fruit, pets, firearms, and drugs. It is advisable to contact the Samoan Mission to the United Nations for specific information regarding customs requirements.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Embassy. The U.S. Embassy in Samoa is located in the John Williams Building, Fifth Floor, Beach Road, Apia. The Embassy is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every morning and by appointment at other times. The Embassy's mailing address is U.S. Embassy, P.O. Box 3430, Apia, Samoa. The telephone number is (685) 21-631. The fax number is (685) 22-030. Americans may obtain updated information on travel and security for Samoa at the U.S. Embassy or by visiting the Embassy's home page at

Currency, Banking & Weights and Measures

The Samoan tala (ST) is broken into 100 sene. Notes are available in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2 tala. Coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 4, 10, 20, and 50 sene and 1 tala. The exchange rate is about 3.34ST=US$1 (January 2001).

Credit cards are accepted on a limited basis. Travellers checks are generally accepted in major hotels, banks and tourist shops.

Disaster Preparedness

Samoa is located in an area of high seismic activity. Although the probability of a major earthquake occurring during an individual trip is remote, earthquakes can and will continue to happen. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet at, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at


Swaney, Deanna. Samoa: Western & American Samoaa Travel Survival Kit. Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1994.

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Official name: Independent State of Samoa

Area: 2,860 square kilometers (1,104 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mauga Silisili (1,857 meters/6,093 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Western

Time zone: 1 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 150 kilometers (93 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest; 39 kilometers (24 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 403 kilometers (250 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is located almost centrally in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific. It consists of the two main islands of Upolu and Savai'i and seven small islets, of which only Manono and Apolima are inhabited. At 2,860 square kilometers (1,104 square miles), the total land area of Samoa is almost as large as the state of Rhode Island.


Samoa has no territories or dependencies.


Samoa has a tropical marine climate. The hottest month is December and the coldest is July. Due to the oceanic surroundings, the temperature ranges on the islands are not appreciable. The mean daily temperature is about 27°C (81°F) year-round. The dry season runs from May to October; the wet season extends from November to April. Rainfall averages 287 centimeters (113 inches) annually, and the average yearly relative humidity is 83 percent. Because the interior of the islands is mountainous, there is also a considerable difference between the rainfall on the coast and that of the inland jungle. Average annual rainfall varies from 500 to 700 centimeters (200 to 280 inches) on the southern windward side to 250 to 300 centimeters (100 to 120 inches) on the leeward side. Trade winds from the southeast are fairly constant throughout the dry season.


Samoa's islands are volcanic, with coral reefs surrounding most of them. They have narrow coastal plains with rocky volcanic mountains in the interior.


Samoa lies in the central Pacific Ocean.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Coral reefs nearly surround the Samoan island, broken in only a few places by constant wave action or by lava flow. The total reef area is 1,269 square kilometers (490 square miles). The southern coast of Savai'i island is known for its blow holes, places where ocean waves create geyser-like spouts as they crash through underground lava tubes (hollow tubes left by the flow of molten lava).

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Apolima Strait separates Upolu and Savai'i.

Coastal Features

The Fagaloa and Safata Bays are located on the north and south coasts of Upolu, respectively. There are ports and harbors at Apia and Mulifanua on Upolu, and at Asau and Salelologa on Savai'i. The southern shore of Upolu has a series of beaches. Toward the eastern end of the island are Aganoa Black Sand Beach and Salamuma Beach, both of which draw snorkelers to their coves and shallow waters. At the extreme eastern end of Upolu are spectacular turquoise reefs.


Crater lakes are fed by rainfall that averages 300 centimeters (118 inches) annually at Apia. On Upolu, there is a very deep lake, Lake Lanoto'o (Goldfish Lake), in the center of a volcanic crater. There is also a freshwater pool at Piula that extends from a cave nearly all the way to the shore.


Both islands have numerous, swiftly flowing rivers with plenty of rapids and waterfalls. most of the rivers, however, flow only during the wet season. Sinaloa Falls on Savai'i is 183 meters (600 feet) high.


There are no deserts in Samoa.


Both Savai'i and Upolu have narrow coastal plains. Upolu's central volcanic range slopes down on both sides to hills and coastal plains. The island's south coast is particularly known for its scenic beaches, which have picturesque coves, rock pools, and palm trees.


Rugged ranges are prevalent on both major islands, reaching 1,100 meters (3,608 feet) on Upolu and 1,857 meters (6,093 feet) on Savai'i. The significant peaks are Mauga Silisiliat 1,857 meters (6,093 feet) the highest point in SamoaMauga Loa (1,176 meters/3,857 feet), and Mauga Fito (Va'aifetu) (1,116 meters/ 3,660 feet). The islands are in an area of active volcanism that has recently progressed westward. Savai'i, geologically the youngest island, last experienced eruptions from Matavanu from 1905 through 1910 and Mauga Mu in 1902. Other volcanoes on Savai'i are Mauga Afi and Mauga Silisili. The volcanoes on Upolu are Mauga Ali'i and Mauga-o-Savai'i.


The numerous caves on the Samoan islands are located within lava tubes, places where molten lava flowed under existing fields of solidified lava.


Savai'i's central volcanoes are surrounded by lava plateaus that descend to hills and coastal plains.


A unique star-shaped formation on Savai'i, called the Pulemelei Mound, is thought to be the oldest man-made structure in Polynesia. It consists of a central pyramid 12 meters (39 feet) high, surrounded by four smaller mounds.


Vailima, a house built by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the classic adventure tale Treasure Island, is located on Upolu at Apia. He named the place Vailima, meaning "five waters," for the small streams that ran across the property. Stevenson is buried on the island, and tourists often visit his gravesite.



Dahl, Arthur L. Regional Ecosystems Survey of the South Pacific Area. Noumea, New Caledonia: South Pacific Commission, 1980.

Tamua, Evotia. Samoa. Auckland, New Zealand: Pasifika Press, 2000.

Vaai, Saleimoa. Samoa Faamatai and the Rule of Law. Western Samoa: National University of Samoa, 1999.

Web Sites

Samoa Observer Online. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Samoan Sensation. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Independent State of Western Samoa
Region: Oceania
Population: 179,466
Language(s): Samoan (Polynesian), English
Literacy Rate: 97%

The Independent State of Samoa, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, comprises nine islands that are volcanic in origin. The capital is Apia and is located on Upolu. The government is described as being a constitutional monarchy, and Samoan and English are the official languages. As of July 2000, approximately 179,466 people were in the country, and the literacy rate was 97 percent.

In 1900 Samoa was appropriated by Germany. During World War I, the armed forces of New Zealand occupied the country. After the war, Samoa remained under the control of New Zealand for the next 41 years. In 1961 the people voted for independence, and the United Nations General Assembly voted to terminate the trusteeship. Western Samoa became independent on January 1, 1962.

In 1995, the government formalized its education plan, which ensures a policy framework and strategy for educational development across the area. The documents include segments on early childhood education, primary education, secondary education, teacher education, special needs education, department and school management, as well as postsecondary education and training.

The Samoan educational system is patterned after that of New Zealand. In 1994, school attendance was made mandatory for all children from 5 to 14 years of age or until completion of the eighth grade. There are 139 primary schools, 21 junior secondary schools, and 4 senior secondary schools that are administered by the Director of Education and four assistant directors. The Department of Education is headquartered in Malifa.

Twenty-two educational districts are attended to by 23 field administrators. The people are responsible for supervising staff performance, staffing of schools, and transferring of teachers. They also oversee school administration and educational programs. Families and the government share the responsibility of school financing. The government is liable for the salaries of teaching and administrative personnel, while the village or district owns the school buildings and equipment.

There are 38 nongovernmental schools that are run by their own directors and school boards. These schools are largely self-financed, but some funds do come from the government. The villages that own them run the primary and junior secondary schools. School committees, which are called Komiti fa'atino oAoga, are the school managers. The committee consists of the principal, inspector, pastor (pulenu'u ), and villagers.

There are 157 schools located throughout the country. Primary school enrollment is approximately 36,000 students. Forty-eight percent of the students are female; however, their attendance is irregular. Some of the schools are overcrowded and in a state of disrepair.

During the first six years, students are taught in Samoan, with English being introduced orally during the third year. In the seventh and eighth years, English is the language of instruction.

After eight years of school, students take a national examination. The rationale behind the exam is the need to rank students for selection into secondary schools.

Throughout the secondary education system, the mode of instruction is English. Samoan can be taken as a separate course. The secondary program is five years in duration and is divided into a three-year junior secondary program, which is followed by a two-year senior secondary program. Entry into the senior secondary program is highly selective.

Progress through the system is tied to three examinations. The tests are administered locally, utilizing trained examiners with assistance provided by the South Pacific Board of Educational Assessment team. Students in their thirteenth year are given the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. Performance in this test is instrumental in determining the students' academic future; the most successful gain entry into the university preparatory year.

The National University of Samoa (Le Iunivesite Aoao O Samoa ) was created in 1984 with 45 students who were actually in the university preparatory year. The first degree, a Bachelor's in Education, was offered in 1987. In 2001, the university offers bachelors degrees in Samoan studies, English, history, sociology, geography, education, and commerce. The institution also offers certificates and diplomas in various disciplines, and there is one graduate program in teaching.

Tuition at the university is very reasonable. Students who are citizens of Samoa are charged $60 per course for degree programs, while international students pay $150.

It appears that Samoan education is in the midst of a growth period. Since 1995 they have established minimum standards for buildings, furniture, restrooms, equipment, and water supplies. The system is also enforcing established teacher-learner ratios. Additionally, there is a program to facilitate the development and distribution of curriculum materials to grades one through eight, and a pre-service and in-service teacher training program focusing on literacy and bilingual teaching methods has been developed. However, some of the school facilities are still in poor condition and inadequately equipped, and many of the teachers are under-trained.


Chandra, Subhas. Catholic Education in Western Samoa: A Review. SUVA, Institute of Education University of the South Pacific, 1990.

Howe, K.R. Where the Waves Fall: A New South Sea Islands History, from the First Settlement to Colonial Rule. Hawaii, 1984.

Johnson, R.T. Observations of Western Samoan Culture and Education. Unpublished manuscript. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Bureau of Educational Research, 1962.

National University of Samoa, 2001. Available from

Morgan Peterson

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Independent State of Western Samoa
Region (Map name): Oceania
Population: 179,466
Language(s): Samoan (Polynesian),English
Literacy rate: 97%

Samoa, a group of nine volcanic islands in the South Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and New Zealand, was known as Western Samoa until 1997. Formerly governed by Germany, New Zealand took over its administration at the outset of World War II. Samoa declared independence from New Zealand in 1962, becoming the first nation in the region to reestablish independence in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, Samoa is considered to be one of the world's least developed countries. The official languages are Samoan and English. The population is around 179,000, and the literacy rate is 97 percent. The state is led by a chief, who serves until death. A prime minister heads the government and presides over a 49-seat Legislative Assembly. Samoa's economy is highly dependent on fishing and agriculture, but is trying to diversify by promoting tourism, offshore banking and light manufacturing.

Media freedom in Samoa is extremely limited. Opposition parties have no access to print media and only limited access to radio and television, which are state-run. The country's main daily newspaper, the Samoa Observer, is independent, but has been sued repeatedly for reporting on alleged corruption and abuse of public office. Attacks on the newspaper include a suspicious fire that burned its printing press, an assault on the editor by relatives of a government minister, and withdrawal of advertising by local businesses. The Samoa Observer prints every day but Monday, and is available online. The country's other daily is the Samoa Times. Both dailies publish in English. Le Samoa, a weekly, appears every Tuesday in both English and Samoan. It archives English-language articles online and is developing its own Web site. Savali, a government-run newspaper, publishes every fortnight in Samoan and English. It is developing a Web page on the government's Web site.

There are four radio stations, one AM and three FM, serving around 178,000 radios. Six television stations broadcast to around 11,000 televisions. There are two Internet service providers.


"Country Profile: Samoa." BBC News. (n.d.). Available from

"Country ReportSamoa." Australian Press Council (n.d.). Available from

"List of Past Publications." Le Samoa. (2000). Available from

"Samoa." Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In The World Fact Book 2001. Available from http://

Savali. (1999). Available from govtsamoapress/savali_newspaper.htm.

Jenny B. Davis

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Samoa (country, SW Pacific Ocean)

Samoa, formerly Western Samoa, officially Independent State of Samoa, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 177,000), South Pacific, comprising the western half of the Samoa island chain. There are nine major islands: Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima, Manono, Fanuatapu, Namua, Nuutele, Nuula, and Nuusafee, with a total land area of 1,097 sq mi (2,842 sq km). Apia, the capital, is on Upolu.

Land, People, and Economy

All the islands are mountainous, fertile, and surrounded by coral reefs; extensive volcanic activity occurred on Savai'i early in the 20th cent. The population is predominantly Polynesian and Christian, mainly Protestant. Samoan (a Polynesian language) and English are spoken. The people are engaged largely in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Industry consists of agricultural processing and the production of auto parts. Tourism and remittances from family members working abroad are also important. The chief exports are fish, coconut oil and cream, and copra; imports include machinery and equipment and foodstuffs. The main trading partners are Australia and New Zealand.


Samoa, a constitutional monarchy, is governed under the constitution of 1962 as amended. The head of state, who is chosen from among the royal families, is elected by the legislature for a five-year term, with no term limits. The head of government is the prime minister, appointed by the head of state with the approval of the legislators. The unicameral Legislative Assembly (Fono) consists of 47 chiefs elected by village-based districts, and 2 members elected by voters without village affiliation, mainly non-Samoan or part Samoan voters; all serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 11 districts.


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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Samoa (island chain, SW Pacific Ocean)

Samoa, chain of volcanic islands in the South Pacific, comprising the independent nation of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), and E of long. 171° W, the islands of American Samoa, under U.S. control. The Samoan islands extend c.350 mi (560 km), with a total land area of c.1,200 sq mi (3,110 sq km), and lie midway between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Sydney, Australia. The major islands are volcanic and mountainous and are surrounded by coral reefs. Soil in the interior is rocky; most cultivation takes place along the coast. Temperatures range from 90°F (32.2°C) in December, the hottest month, to 75°F (23.9°C) in August; the annual rainfall is 190 in. (483 cm), with the rainy season occurring between December and March.

The natives are Polynesians who may have arrived in the islands as early as 1000 BC From Samoa they swept out across the Pacific (c.AD 1200), carrying Polynesian civilization to innumerable other islands. The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to visit (1722) Samoa. Subsequent European expansion into the islands led to disorder and violence, which was compounded by tribal warfare. The first European missionaries arrived in 1830. Between 1847 and 1861, the United States, Great Britain, and Germany sent representatives to Samoa, and in 1878 the United States and the Samoan kingdom signed a treaty giving the United States certain trade privileges and the right to establish a naval station at Pago Pago. Germany and Great Britain were accorded similar privileges in 1879. A tripartite treaty in 1899 between Great Britain, the United States, and Germany recognized U.S. interests east of long. 171°W; Germany was granted the western islands, and Great Britain withdrew from the area in consideration of rights in Tonga and the Solomon Islands. New Zealand seized the German islands in 1914 during World War I and received a mandate to administer them from the League of Nations in 1920. In 1946 they became a UN trust territory held by New Zealand. In 1962 the independent nation of Western Samoa was created from the New Zealand territory; it was renamed in 1997. The eastern islands remained under U.S. control. Since 2011, when Samoa moved to the west side of the international date line to align its days with Australia and New Zealand, the two Samoas have been on different sides of the date line.

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Samoa (Formerly Western Samoa) Independent island republic in the s Pacific Ocean, encompassing the w half of the Samoa island chain. The capital, Apia (on Upolu), has 66% of the total population. Western Samoa comprises the two large, volcanic, mountainous islands of Savai'i and Upolu, the smaller islands of Manono and Apolima, and several uninhabited islets. Extensive lava flows on Savai'i have made much of the island uninhabitable. The cradle of Polynesian culture, the islands became a German Protectorate under the terms of an 1899 treaty. New Zealand seized the islands in 1914, and they were administered by New Zealand from 1920 to 1961 – first under a League of Nations mandate, and then a United Nations' trusteeship. Resistance to New Zealand rule led to a plebiscite and, in 1962, Western Samoa became an independent state within the Commonwealth. Under a friendship treaty, New Zealand administers the republic's foreign affairs. In 1997 it changed its name to Samoa. Much of the workforce engages in subsistence agriculture. The chief exports are coconut oil, taro and copra. Area: 2840sq km (1097sq mi). Pop. (2000) 171,000.

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Culture Name



Identification. Oral tradition holds that the Samoan archipelago was created by the god Tagaloa at the beginning of history. Until 1997, the western islands were known as Western Samoa or Samoa I Sisifo to distinguish them from the nearby group known as American Samoa or Amerika Samoa. The distinction was necessitated by the partitioning of the archipelago in 1899. All Samoans adhere to a set of core social values and practices known as fa'a Samoa and speak the Samoan language. The official name today is Samoa.

Location and Geography. Samoa includes nine inhabited islands on top of a submarine mountain range. The largest islands are Savai'i at 703 square miles (1820 square kilometers) and Upolu at 430 square miles (1114 square kilometers), on which the capital, Apia, is located. The capital and port developed around Apia Bay from an aggregation of thirteen villages.

Demography. The population is estimated at 172,000 for the year 2000, 94 percent of which is is ethnically Samoan. A small number of people of mixed descent are descendants of Samoans and European, Chinese, Melanesians, and other Polynesians who settled in the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Linguistic Affiliation. Samoan belongs to a group of Austronesian languages spoken throughout Polynesia. It has a chiefly or polite variant used in elite communication and a colloquial form used in daily communication. Samoan is the language of instruction in elementary schools and is used alongside English in secondary and tertiary education, government, commerce, religion, and the broadcast media. The language is a cherished symbol of cultural identity.

Symbolism. A representation of the Southern Cross appears on both the national flag and the emblem of state. The close link between Samoan society and Christianity is symbolized in the national motto "Samoa is founded on God" (Fa'avae ile Atua Samoa ) and in a highlighted cross on the national emblem. The sea and the coconut palm, both major food sources, also are shown on the emblem. An orator's staff and sinnet fly whisk and a multilegged wooden bowl in which the beverage kava is prepared for chiefs are symbolic of the authority of tradition. A political movement, O le Mau a Pule, promoted independence in the first half of the twentieth century, calling for Samoa for Samoans (Samoa mo Samoa ) and engaging in confrontations with colonial powers over the right to self-government. For some, the struggles of the Mau, in particular the martyrdom of a national chief in a confrontation with New Zealand soldiers, are symbols of the nation's determination to reclaim sovereignty. Samoans celebrate the peaceful attainment of constitutional independence in 1962 on 1 June.

The national anthem and a religious anthem, Lota Nu'u ua ou Fanau ai ("My Village in Which I Was Born") are sung to celebrate national identity. Samoans refer to their country in these anthems as a gift from God and refer to themselves in formal speech as the children of Samoa, brothers and sisters, and the Samoan family.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In the mid-nineteenth century, Germany, Britain, and the United States established consular presences and attempted to impose their authority. Mutual suspicion, disunity, and a lack of military resources meant that the powers were largely unsuccessful until they agreed to "rationalize" their Pacific interests at the turn of the century.

The western part of the archipelago came under German control, and the eastern part under American naval administration. The German administration was determined to impose its authority and tried to undermine the Samoan polity and replace its titular heads with the kaiser. These attempts provoked varying degrees of anger between 1900 and 1914, when a small New Zealand expeditionary force, acting on British orders, ended the German administration.

After World War I, New Zealand administered Western Samoa under a League of Nations mandate. It too was determined to establish authority and pursued a course similar to that of the Germans. It proved an inept administration, and its mishandling of the S.S. Talune's arrival, which resulted in the death of 25 percent of the population from influenza and its violent reaction to the Mau procession in 1929, left Samoans suspicious and disillusioned. These and other clumsy attempts to promote village and agricultural development strengthened Samoans' determination to reclaim their autonomy. Their calls found the ear of a sympathetic Labor government in New Zealand in the mid-1930s, but World War II intervened before progress was made.

After World War II, the United Nations made Samoa a trusteeship and gave New Zealand responsibility for preparing it for independence. A better trained and more sympathetic administration and a determined and well-educated group of Samoans led the country through a series of national consultations and constitutional conventions. That process produced a unique constitution that embodied elements of Samoan and British political traditions and led to a peaceful transition to independence on 1 January 1962.

National Identity. The national and political cultures that characterize the nation are unambiguously Samoan. This is in large part a consequence of a constitutional provision that limited both suffrage and political representation to those who held chiefly titles and are widely regarded as protectors of culture and tradition. These arrangements continued until 1991, when the constitution was amended to permit universal suffrage. While representation is still limited to chiefs, the younger titleholders now being elected generally have broader experience and more formal education than their predecessors.

Ethnic Relations. Samoan society has been remarkably free of ethnic tension, largely as a result of the dominance of a single ethnic group and a history of intermarriage that has blurred ethnic boundaries. Samoans have established significant migrant communities in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, and smaller communities in other neighbors.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The spatial arrangement of villages beyond the capital has changed little. Most villages lie on flat land beside the sea and are connected by a coastal road. Clusters of sleeping houses, their associated cooking houses, and structures for ablutions are arranged around a central common (malae ). Churches, pastors' homes, meeting houses and guest houses, and women's committee meeting houses also occupy prominent positions around the malae. Schools stand on land provided by villages and frequently on the malae.

The availability of migrant remittances has transformed the design and materials used in private homes and public buildings. Houses typically have large single rectangular spaces around which some furniture is spread and family portraits, certificates, and religious pictures are hung. Homes increasingly have indoor cooking and bathing facilities. The new architecture has reshaped social relations. Indigenous building materials are being replaced by sawn lumber framing and cladding, iron roofing, and concrete foundations. The coral lime cement once used in larger public buildings has been replaced by concrete and steel.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Samoans eat a mixture of local and imported foods. Local staples include fish, lobster, crab, chicken, and pork; lettuce and cabbage; root vegetables such as talo, ta'amu, and yams; tree crops such as breadfruit and coconut; and local beverages such as coffee and cocoa. Imported foods include rice, canned meat and fish, butter, jam, honey, flour, sugar, bread, tea, and carbonated beverages.

Many families drink beverages such as tea throughout the day but have a single main meal together in the evening. A range of restaurants, including a McDonald's, in the capital are frequented largely by tourists and the local elite.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Sharing of food is a central element of ceremonies and features in Sunday meals known as toana'i, the feasts that accompany weddings and funerals and the conferring of chiefly titles, and annual feasts such as White Sunday. Special meals are marked by a larger than usual amount of food, a greater range of delicacies, and formality. Food also features in ceremonial presentations and exchanges between families and villages. The presentation of cooked whole pigs is a central feature of such events, and twenty-liter drums of salted beef are increasingly popular. Kava ('ava ), a beverage made from the powdered root of Piper methysticum, made and shared in a ceremonially defined order at meetings of chiefs (matai ) and less formally among men after work.

Basic Economy. The agricultural and industrial sectors employ 70 percent of the workforce and account for 65 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The service sector employs 30 percent of those employed and accounts for 35 percent of the GDP. Much of this sector is associated with the tourist industry, which is limited by intense competition from other islands in the region and its dependence on economic conditions in source countries.

The economy ran large trade deficits in the 1990s. Products are exported to New Zealand, American Samoa, Australia, Germany and the United States, and imports, intermediate goods, foods, and capital goods come from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and the United States. The economy is highly dependent on remittances from expatriates in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and American Samoa and aid from New Zealand, Australia, and Germany. These remittances are declining because overseas-born children of migrants have attenuated their connections with the nation, whose geopolitical significance has declined since the Cold War ended.

Land Tenure and Property. Much agricultural production comes from the 87 percent of the land held under customary tenure and associated with villages. The control of this land is vested in elected chiefs (matai), who administer it for the families (aiga ) they head. The remaining 13 percent is land held by the crown and a small area of freehold residential land around the capital.

Trade. Samoa produces some primary commodities for export: hardwood timber, copra and coconut products, root vegetables, coffee, cocoa, and fish. Agricultural produce constitutes 90 percent of exports. The most promising export crop, taro, was effectively eliminated by leaf blight in 1993. A small industrial sector designed to provide import substitution and exports processes primary commodities such as coconut cream and oil, animal feed, soap, biscuits, cigarettes, and beer. A multinational corporation has established a wiring harness assembly plant whose production is reexported; and a clothing assembly plant is planned.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Samoan society is meritocratic. Those with recognized ability have traditionally been elected to leadership of families. Aside from four nationally significant chiefly titles, the influence of most titles is confined to the families and villages with which they are associated. Title holders gained status and influence not only from accumulating resources but also from their ability to mobilize and redistribute them. These principles work against significant permanent disparities in wealth. The power of chiefs has been reduced, and the wealth returned by expatriates has flowed into all sectors of society, undermining traditional rank-wealth correlations. The public influence of women is becoming increasingly apparent. A commercial elite that has derived its power from the accumulation and investment of private wealth has become increasingly influential in politics.

Political Life

Government. The legislative branch of the government consists of a unicameral Legislative Assembly (O Le Fono a Faipule ) elected to five-year terms by universal suffrage. A twelve-member cabinet nominated by the prime minister is appointed by the head of state, Malietoa Tanumafili II, who has held that position since 1962. Forty-seven members are elected by Samoans in eleven electorates based on traditional political divisions. Two members at large represent general electors. Only holders of matai titles can be elected to the Fono.

Legislation is administered by a permanent public service that consists of people chosen on the basis of merit. The quality of public service has been questioned periodically since independence. Concern with the quality of governance has led the current government to engage in training programs aimed at institutional strengthening.

The judicial branch includes a Supreme Court, a court of appeals, and a lands and titles court. These agencies deal with matters that cannot be dealt with by village polities. Village polities (fono a matai ) are empowered by the Village Fono Act of 1990 to make and administer bylaws for the regulation of village activities and to punish those who break them.

Social Problems and Control. The role of village politics in the maintenance of order is important because the state has no army and a relatively small police force. This limits the ability of the state to enforce laws and shapes its relations with villages, which retain significant autonomy.

Samoans accept and trust these institutions but have found that they are ineffective in areas such as the pursuit of commercial debts. Recent cases have pointed to tension between collective rights recognized, emphasized, and enforced by village polities, and the individual rights conferred by the constitution in areas such as freedom of religion and speech.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government is responsible for health, education, and welfare in cooperation with villages and churches. Health care and education are provided for a nominal cost. Families provide for their members' welfare. The state grants a small old-age pension, and the Catholic Church runs a senior citizens' home.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The most influential nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are the churches, in which 99 percent of Samoans participate actively and which actively comment on the government's legislative program and activity. A small number of NGOs work for the rights of women and the disabled, environmental conservation, and transparency in government. Professional associations exert some influence on the drafting of legislation. These organizations have a limited impact on the life of most residents.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The organization of traditional production was clearly gendered, and the parts of this mode of production that remain intact are still gendered. The constitution provides for equality of opportunity, and there are no entrenched legal, social, or religious obstacles to equality for women. There is some evidence of growing upward social mobility by women.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Samoan society is composed of extended families (aiga potopoto ), each of which is associated with land and a chiefly title. All Samoans inherit membership and land use rights in the aiga of their parents' parents. They may choose to live with one or more of aiga and develop strong ties with those in which they live. Choices are determined by matters such as the availability of resources and status of various groups and personal preference. Aiga potopoto include resident members who work the land, "serve" the chief, and exercise full rights of membership and nonresident members who live outside the group but have some rights in its activities. Resident members live in clusters of households within the village, share some facilities and equipment, and work on family-land controlled by the matai.

Inheritance. Rights to reside on and use land are granted to members of a kin group who request them, subject to availability. Rights lapse at death, and matai may then reassign them. There is a growing tendency to approve the transmission of rights to parcels of land from parents to children, protecting investments in development and constituting a form of de facto freehold tenure. Since neither lands nor titles can be formally transmitted without the consent of the kin group, the only property that can be assigned is personal property.

Many residents die intestate and with little personal property. With increasing personal wealth, provision for the formal disposition of wealth may assume greater importance. This is not a foreign concept, since matai have traditionally made their wishes known before death in a form of will known as a mavaega. The Public Trust Office and legal practitioners handle the administration of estates.


Child Rearing and Education. Younger people are expected to respect their elders and comply with their demands. Justification for this principle is found in Samoan tradition and Christian scripture. The only exception exists in early childhood, when infants are protected and indulged by parents, grandparents, and older siblings. After around age five, children are expected to take an active, if limited, part in the family economy. From then until marriage young people are expected to comply unquestioningly with their parents' and elders' wishes.

Great importance is attached to the family's role in socialization. A "good" child is alert and intelligent and shows deference, politeness, and obedience to elders and respect for Samoan custom (aganu'u fa'a samoa ) and Christian principles and practices. The belief that the potential for learning these qualities is partly genetic and partly social and is defined initially within the family is grounded in both Samoan and Christian thought.

Formal education is provided in secular and religious institutions. There are elementary, intermediate, and secondary secular schools run by the government or churches and church-linked classes that provide religious instruction. There is great respect and desire for higher education, and a significant part of the education budget is committed to supporting the National University of Samoa, the nursing school, the teachers training college, the trades training institute, and overseas training.


Religious Beliefs. Samoa is overwhelmingly Christian. The major denominationsCongregationalist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Latter-Day Saintshave been joined recently by smaller ones such as the SDA and charismatic Pentecostal groups such as Assembly of God. Clergy and leaders are prepared at theological training institutions at home and abroad. Small Baha'i and Muslim groups have formed in recent years.

Medicine and Health Care

Parallel systems of introduced and indigenous knowledge and practice coexist. Certain conditions are believed to be "Samoan illnesses" (ma'i samoa ) that are explained and treated by indigenous practitioners and others to be "European illnesses" (ma'i papalagi ), which are best understood and treated by those trained in the Western biomedical tradition.


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Cluny Macpherson

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Samoa Volcanic island group in the s Pacific, comprising the independent state of Samoa and the US-administered American Samoa. Extending c.560km (350 mi), the islands are predominantly mountainous and fringed by coral reefs. The majority of the population are indigenous Polynesians. The first European discovery of the islands was in 1722.

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Samoaanoa, Balboa, blower, boa, foregoer, goer, grower, hoer, jerboa, knower, Krakatoa, Lebowa, lower, moa, mower, Mururoa, Noah, o'er, proa, protozoa, rower, Samoa, sewer, Shenandoah, shower, sower, spermatozoa, Stour, thrower, tower •shadower • widower • racegoer •theatregoer (US theatergoer) •churchgoer • echoer •follower, swallower •snowblower • lawnmower • genoa •winnower • harrower • winegrower •borrower • burrower • vetoer

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