Since we opened our Pacific islands-focused USAID office in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in October 2011, the agency has funded four significant projects here in Samoa. I talked about some of the projects in a post that I wrote when my friend Dennis Wendel, USAID’s Pacific Islands Office Director, visited Apia last year. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to observe USAID’s C-CAP project firsthand.

Joe Foltz of USAID surveying taro that is part of SPC's climate ready crop program.  I am told that this taro looks and tastes like the Samoan taro, but is actually a hybrid variety, that is less susceptible to disease.

USAID’s Joe Foltz surveys disease-resistant taro in Samoa.

I am pleased to report that our USAID colleagues are busy working on another climate adaptation project in Samoa, formally titled Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change, which is intended to strengthen food security within farming communities. To maximize the efficiency of this multi-million-dollar effort, we will be executing the project through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

In addition to Samoa, the countries of Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Kiribati will be included. Joe Foltz, Deputy Chief of USAID’s Office of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change for the Pacific, came to Apia last month to launch the project. He held discussions with Samoan farmers about their observations of changes in growing seasons and precipitation as well as about the future challenges that they are anticipating.

My Charge d'Affaires Chad Berbert with Scientific Officer for the Climate Service of the Government of Samoa Cecilia Amosa conducting a village assessment with Savaia resident Rev Kaisara Sisiga.

Chargé Chad Berbert and Cecilia Amosa (in red), Scientific Officer for the Samoa Climate Service, conduct a village assessment with Savaia resident Rev Kaisara Sisiga.

In addition to consulting with many local farmers, Joe collaborated with Ministry of Agriculture officials on refining the structure and benchmarks of the project, and participated in village-based survey and assessment meetings. He led a team of SPC representatives who spent two days in villages interviewing families and collecting data on food availability, consumption history, and changing patterns in the weather and crop growth.

The goal is to identify options for addressing food security and climate change at the community level. One intended outcome is to establish a seed-source nursery in each village that emphasizes crop varieties particularly resilient to climate change, such as the climate-ready taro that was featured at a recent Talomua in Apia. Meaning “first fruits,” Talomua is a competition run by the Government of Samoa to encourage improvements in farming methods and cropping.

Joe, SPC staff, and residents of Savaia following completion of a village agricultural assessment in the area.

USAID visitors, SPC staff, and residents of Savaia after completing a village agricultural assessment.

I am delighted that USAID is engaging so vigorously here in Samoa, that the agency has launched yet another substantive, highly impactful project in our region, and that the focus is practical, immediate, and village-based. With so much work to be done, it’s best to get straight to it. 

I very much look forward to welcoming Joe, other USAID colleagues, and our SPC friends back to Samoa as our current projects proceed and as we develop new ones.