Exploring Community Engagement in Climate Change Planning: The Case in Samoa
Coastal communities within Pacific Island Countries (PIC) are vulnerable due to the rising and volatile nature of the sea as a result of climate change. Adaptation strategies and community-based approaches have increasingly been advocated for by environmental organisations, policy makers and researchers. Community-based approaches have, in turn, begun to promote the values of meaningful community engagement and integration of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into adaptation planning. This research explores the extent to which community engagement and TEK is utilised at both the national and local level adaptation planning in Samoa. An assessment of policies and plans assesses the national level context, whilst the community level context was explored through a study of the coastal village of Tafitoala. A qualitative approach is employed in which semi-structured interviews were used to collect the perspectives of community members, government personnel, and Non-governmental Organisations (NGO) staff to provide a range of viewpoints. Using Samoa as my case study, the research findings demonstrated that community ideologies and values, and community governance structures determine the efficacy of adaptation programmes. Findings also emphasised that although there is a vast amount of TEK used within local communities, documentation and verification of TEK is required in order for it be integrated more effectively into adaptation planning. Whilst the need for meaningful community engagement had already been identified by government and NGO agencies as a priority for effective adaptation, with agencies currently implementing strategies to encourage its integration, more is required for strategies to be strongly embedded into the practices of local communities.