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Background Information about Samoa

Author: IFAD


Economic Background
Samoa’s GDP is estimated at USD 864 million in 2011 which supports a population of 184,000 people. The average real income for Samoa was USD 3,190 for 2011 which barely grew by 0.7% in 2010, World Bank (2012). Real GDP grew by an average rate of 3.4% in the last ten years since 2000 but the rate of economic growth was rapid between the periods 2000-2007 which however became negative in 2008-2009 due to internal and external events. It has recently picked-up to about 1.7% in 2010 and is projected to be 2.1% for 2011. Samoa’s population which is mostly Polynesians grew at an average rate of 0.3% over the most recent inter-census period (2001-06). This can be attributed to net out-emigration mainly to the USA and New Zealand. Only 25% of the population live in urban centre which seems to have grown twice as fast as the total population growth. Agriculture share of GDP was small (10%) while services comprised the largest 63%. The manufacturing sector was about 27% in 2010, ADB (2012). Samoa’s land area is 2,830 sq km spread over the two main islands Savaii and Upolu. Samoa ranks 99 on global HDI scale with the HDI value of 0.688 in 2011 slightly higher than 0.685 in 2009.

Baseline Poverty Analysis
World Bank (2012) data show that about 80% of population lived in rural areas and the joint UNDP and the Government of Samoa (2010) analysis of the 2008 HIES data indicate that these were the most affected poor. Oxfam (2012) suggests that Samoa's poverty is on par with sub-Saharan Africa due to its vulnerability to external forces (natural disasters, geographic isolation and size, youthful population and foreign remittances) which affect its economic activities. The UNDP report suggests that despite the high rates of growth recorded in the period 2002-08, hardship and poverty experienced by the least well-off did not decline as many households are struggling to meet their basic needs. The head count poverty was 20.1% for all households but in the major rural areas (Upolu and Savaii) it was 20.5% and 21.9%, respectively. The head count averaged 27.7% 26.6% for rural populations and compared to 2002, has increased by about 12% on average. The national poverty gap index implies that household incomes would need to rise by 8.2% for them to move above the poverty line and by 8.5% for those living in the rural areas. The severity of poverty is estimated at 2.9 nationally and 3.1 for rural households. In per capita terms, the national and rural average weekly household expenditure for the top 10% of households was 9.4 and 8.1 times higher than their bottom counterparts and this gap slightly worsened in 2008 compared to 2002. The Gini Coefficient estimated at national level was 0.47 and 0.45 for the rural areas. These coefficients in 2002 were 0.43 and 0.40, respectively, indicating notable increase in income inequality.

The analysis also showed that 20% of households headed by females were poor and ranked at the bottom 30% of all households. Overall female headed households contained 20.7% of all children below 15 years and almost 40% of these children lived in the poorest 30% of the households.  Data show that less than 5% of all females both in urban and rural had not completed primary education but at the bottom three deciles, over 30% females remained to achieve basic education in 2008. There is gender parity and equal opportunities of female in education. Data also show that of the total population in agriculture, 30% were females who were actively involved in such activities and 4% of parliamentary seats were held by women in 2011. Youths account for about 20% of population and this presents serious youth issues for Samoa. IFAD (2011) show that drop-out rates from school were 39%-42% and 8%-39% for children and youths in 2006, respectively. With limited employable skills, youth unemployment and consequently hardship and poverty are high. 

Agriculture and Rural Development
Due to its small share on Samoa’s economic activity, in 2010, only 24% of land was under permanent crops and pastures while two-thirds were covered with forests. Data also show that only 40% of rural population was actively involved in agriculture. In the period 2005-09, growth rate in agricultural GDP has averaged slightly over 1%. Farm productivity remains low because of weed problems, feed costs, lack of production facilities/infrastructure, pests, diseases and inadequate market integration although demand for agriculture, mainly livestock, is high in Samoa, FAO (2012). Data from the FAOSTAT (2012) show that production volumes of oil-crops, fish meat and milk increased in 2009 relative to 2004. Fish production which was 20,220 tonnes in 2009 recorded a 33% increase in volume. Meat and oil-crops recorded a smaller increase of 23.8% and 3.7% amounting to 13,270 and 61,900 tonnes in this period, respectively. Samoa is ecologically fragile and vulnerable to environmental degradation and natural disasters. Although food production has increased by about 3% in the period (2007-2011), Samoa continues to import meat, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables mainly from New Zealand, Australia, USA and to some extent from Fiji. Food was 25% of merchandise imports and livestock accounted to 13% of GDP in 2010. Imports were USD 309 million in 2010 way over exports of just USD 60 million, World Bank (2012). The ADB estimates that about 15% of households rely on fishing as their primary source of food and incomes. Larger commercial fishing has also developed in Samoa. In the past, there was relatively large-scale logging on Savaii, but its production and exports have now declined. Taro exports collapsed due to taro leaf blight but copra, coconut oil, fish, fruits vegetables, noni juice and industrial goods remain important exports.

Investing in the Rural Poor
Samoa: Investing in the Rural Poor, IFAD's Rural sector performance assessment (RSP).  This publication may be found here.

Rural Development Indicators
Composite data about Samoa may be found here.

Language:  English (United Kingdom)
Development Themes: Agriculture Food Security & Nutrition
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